Monday, April 9, 2018

Fallen Roof Ruins & Seven Kivas - Road Canyon (Cedar Mesa) - Bears Ears National Monument - 4/4/18

Fallen Roof Ruin

Seven Kivas

Granary Ruin

Getting Started
Road Canyon is found in Cedar Mesa of the Bears Ears National Monument. It runs parallel to a high clearance dirt road called Cigarette Springs. This dirt road is found turning east from Highway 261 around 9 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. The ranger station was our first stop this morning in preparation for our point to point hike in Road Canyon. Parking permits must be displayed at the trailheads. From there, we drove out Cigarette Springs Road for 3.5 miles to the Fallen Roof Ruins access trail and trailhead parking. There was some confusion about the car shuttle issues (there always is) but, suffice it to say, we placed a car at the end of the Seven Kivas 4WD approach road (6 miles from 261) and returned to the waiting hikers at the first trailhead. Finally ready to go, we hiked out through the forest with crytobiotic soil all around.

Dropping into Road Canyon
The trail led us to the canyon access and we dropped down a few switchbacks and scrambled down a few rocks. This put us in a tributary of Road Canyon.

Heading into Main Drainage
The trail was well-marked with cairns and we followed it to the main drainage. After only about one mile of hiking, we came to the Fallen Roof Ruins. We could see them up in the cliffs on the north side of the canyon.

The Surfboard

Climbing up to Falling Roof Ruins
We scrambled up the side of the canyon finding easyish routes by zigzagging our way up. When we arrived at the ruins, we saw that the layered rock roof of the ruins had partially fallen ... thus the name. We scampered around the ruins taking photos and peering inside the little dark rooms. The openings of the rooms were small but the park officials do not want you to go inside anyway. Hikers using the side walls to help themselves into such a tight space could and would probably deteriorate the structures. We looked around and showed respect to the ancient habitations.

Fallen Roof Ruin from Below
The ruins were in good shape with the exception of the fallen roof but it was relatively small with only three or four individual rooms.

Inspecting with Respect
We didn't see any other structures to the right or left of this one and after a small break, we descended the side of the canyon to get back in the drainage.

Starting down Canyon on Trail

Waterway underneath Slab of Canyon
There is a good trail that is worn down through the canyon. Only a couple of sections were necessarily up the side of the walls. Otherwise, we followed the trail without difficulty. Large old cottonwood trees grew within the wash and some areas were covered with dry grass. Occasionally, a small pool of water covered the center of the wash. Many interesting rock formations kept us entertained as we hiked down looking for the other small ruins that were supposed to be up in the cliffs on the north side. We passed a small granary and another small ruin then came to a large pourover.

Water Erosion
Our information advised us to climb up to our right to be able to view a medium sized ruin on the opposite wall of the canyon. We could also see a feasible down climb on the left side.

Top of Pourover (Go around in Cliffs at Right)
We chose the right side and hiked one of the more interesting sections of the day. We followed cairns along a cliff overhang and had to sidle around a somewhat scary corner.

Pointing out Ruins across the Canyon

The Cliffy Go Around
Regardless, our view of the ruins on the opposite wall were pretty good! Next, we had to follow cairns down the cliff to get back into the wash. Yep! There is actually a way to do it pretty safely! One by one, we made the drop onto preset rocks and we gathered again at a wide area not far down canyon. (The park newspaper mentions that rangers will maintain the cairns and rock steps, etc. once a year after flood season.) When everyone was down the cliff safely, we continued through the cottonwoods and around the corner of the beautiful walls of the canyon.

Ruins across from Cliff
About five miles into the hike, we came to the exit route. This is the access point for the Seven Kivas hike. We continued down the canyon.

Following Cairns down Cliff
About one mile past this access point, we rounded a bend and came to the Seven Kivas. They were perched up the north canyon wall on a shelf.

We made it down!

Gathering Again
In order to keep everything the way you found it, the best way to get up to the Kivas is by passing the shelf and making a sharp left turn to climb up the rocky slope. When you are up there, be very careful that rocks and logs are not disturbed. On the rock of the shelf's back wall, there is a box with the sign in book and information. Also, people have placed potsherds and corn cobs here. They are interesting to look at but stop there! The rangers prefer that all found potsherds be left where they lay. It's all about context, etc. We looked around at the seven kivas which were in various states of ruin.

Hiking the Trail through Cottonwoods
Wikipedia - A kiva is a room used by Puebloans for religious rituals and political meetings .... Those used by the ancient Pueblos of the Pueblo I Period and following, designated by the Pecos Classification system developed by archaeologists, were usually round and evolved from simpler pithouses.

Passing Exit Route and Heading to 7 Kivas
For the Ancestral Puebloans, these rooms are believed to have had a variety of functions, including domestic residence along with social and ceremonial purposes.

The Canyon Dwarfs Rita

Water Pooled in Canyon Wash
Each time we entered or gazed upon one of these ancient ruins, whether it was a house or kiva or granary, our imagination soared. It was fascinating to walk in the same space that the anasazi walked while trying to realize the life that they led. Sometimes you could "feel" the women keeping the children away from the cliff's edge. Sometimes you could feel the men keeping watch up and down canyon or coming in from a good day's hunt. You could imagine the younger men and women playing while practicing their skills on the rocks. Then, in the kivas, you imagine the sharing of peyote or the meetings at night with torches lighting the ceremony.

Seven Kivas
We stayed at the kivas for perhaps twenty minutes then we gathered to go. The plan was for the drivers to head out first but many of the others caught up quickly.

Inside One Kiva
The day was getting late and light in the canyon was waning. We hurried back up the easy canyon bottom to the exit access point.

Seven Kivas Ruins

Kivas from Below
The climb back up to the rim was steep with lots of scrambling. When we reached the top of a large pourover, many of the front hikers missed the trail and ended up continuing straight up. The second half of the hikers found the trail around to the west and went up an easier way. Nevertheless, we all made it to the rim in some way. Then ... we all had to hike out the 4WD approach road because the shuttle car had been placed at the Cigarette Springs Road junction. This was almost one mile. After all was said and shuttled, we exited the dirt roads in the late afternoon when the evening light was shining on the Bears Ears Buttes and Comb Ridge. What a great way to end a fantastic adventure!

8.5 miles (point to point); 1000 feet elevation gain; 5.75 hours (hiking only)

Back at the Exit Access Point

Steep Climb up to Trailhead

Passing through Comb Ridge in Late Afternoon

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