June 7, 2012
From the town of Cortez, if you are traveling this area, the Hovenweep Little Ruin Canyon is 42 miles distance. The drive to it takes you through a landscape of massive boulders. Giant boulders balanced on smaller rocks, leaning precariously upon each other, looking as though you could climb up like a naughty child and push them down on unsuspecting drivers. Hovenweep is a Ute, Paiute word meaning deserted valley. The ancient Puebloans built here and the above photo is a sweep of this small canyon, their houses, towers, and how they chose to locate their community on both sides of the canyon walls.
You may be looking at a roofless house with a window and a few walls intact, but you have to wonder about them. How is it that these supposedly simple buildings are still standing after 1200 years? Had they not abandoned them, surely they would be whole today.
This family chose to build inside of a naturally hollowed out boulder.
This round tower, why was it round and other buildings square?
And, a tower at the bottom of the canyon with no doors? It had to be built with tall ladders. What did they use it for? Did they fend off enemies from inside this tower? Or protect something precious?
The Little Ruin Canyon is quite shallow at both ends, deeper and wider at the center, but rough and tumble surfaces don’t translate into an easy place to live and build.
And at first glance, we thought the buildings were made of adobe bricks. Not so. Look closely and you’ll see that each rock was selected to fit with another one. They were talented architects, and it took time to choose each rock. I’ve built a 120 foot rock retaining wall and it is like working a puzzle. You might have to try 3 or 4 rocks to fit a certain spot.
But they did it on the very edge of the canyon walls. I guess you can tell I am impressed with their complexity.
How did they build these twin towers? From the inside, the canyon face side first, is my guess. What a feat. So tall and straight.
The walk around the rim and down into the canyon and out is two miles. We walked to the “castle” above, but Jim was feeling like he could make the full circle, so we pushed on.
There are places where one misstep could find you wedged in a deep crevice. Not a place to walk at night or alone.
And I became fascinated by the unusual pastel baby blue colored lichens. We often see bright neon green and orange, reds, greys, and browns.
And, an occasional brightly colored rock.
And this very handsome lizard.
It is a nice easy hike if you are not injured and a fascinating ruins. We talked about what it must be like to see a billion stars at night without a hint of light pollution.
We imagined the quiet of living with only natural sounds, whispering breezes, animals and birds, thunderous waters cascading down the canyon walls during rains.
The walk down into the canyon and back out was steep, and Jim struggled some with his recent injury, but it is a beautiful place to visit. The Historic National Monument has two other ruin sites along the road. They are off dirt roads for our type of vehicle, but the Little Ruin Canyon was enough for us. We continued back to Cortez traveling a full circle continuing in the same direction we started. Only this scenery was without boulders. We saw miles and miles of green, green hay and alfalfa fields being harvested. Huge wells, small ponds, even a couple of oil wells. Yet the distance to Cortez from either directing leaving Hovenweep is 42 miles.