A few years ago I was a fortunate enough to go adventuring in Cedar Mesa, which is now part of the new monument. We camped along the edge of a beautiful canyon many miles and a four wheel drive road away from civilization. At the end of canyon just below our campsite we spied our first ruin, an ancient granary, the first of many relics we would find that weekend. My companions had been there once before, and knew a few of the secrets of the area. Aided by GPS we hiked a mile or two to find our first major ruin; a very well preserved seven room dwelling. Amazed by the integrity of the rock work, and ancient wooden beams, it was hard not to ponder what life was like for the people who inhabited this home 800 or a thousand or two thousand years ago. Was there more water back then or did they need to haul water from the canyon floor? How many people lived here? Did each room house a family? What did they eat back then? How do you keep kids safe when you live on cliff? Where did they grow the corn? What do all the petroglyphs mean? As we sat and ate our lunch in front of this rock dwelling, it was hard not to feel a connection with ancient people of the past, who all those years ago, probably sat and ate a meal there too.
Returning to camp we spoke to two fellows had also set up camp near ours, they proved to be quite educated about the area and told us of another major ruin located far down the canyon. The next morning we decided to try to follow their directions and find this other ruin. We had a long hike along the canyon rim until we found a spot where we could descend down the rocky cliffs and pick our way to the canyon floor. We had to cross the canyon and then climb back up the other side, where we eventually found the site perched high on the rocks. This ruin was even larger, had numerous rooms, and what seemed to be a large kiva. Inside the smoke charred kiva there was a small round room made of adobe covered sticks. We even found piles of tiny ancient corn cobs. This place had a different feel to it than the other ruins we had seen. There was a large marking high on the cliff, a huge circle divided by four lines. Clearly it was meant to be seen. An ancient billboard? A warning sign? The site's position closer to the mouth of the canyon, and it's expansive views, made us wonder if this was more of fortress or lookout or perhaps a meeting or trading place. We could only speculate about it's purpose, but it clearly felt like a place of importance.
Our destination, from across the canyon near our camp
We spied more ruins and petroglyphs as we made our way back to camp. As we crossed the canyon floor, enjoying the wildflowers and rocky landscape one of my friends made an amazing find: in a the middle of a clearing on the canyon floor there lay a mano and metate, an Indian grinding stone. The mano was neatly cradled in the matete, as though it was just waiting for a native gal to come and grind more corn. When was this last used? 800 years ago? 1000 years ago? Yet here it still is, intact, untouched, waiting to be used again. You could almost feel the presence of the ancients, a connection across the millennia.Ancient mano, resting in the metate
This of course was just one small weekend adventure, in one small corner of this newly minted national monument. We hiked many miles, found many interesting places, but were certain that there were many more treasures hiding in that canyon, and thousands and thousands more in the area. This is an area worth preserving on so many levels; ancient history, unique ecology, spectacular geology. Thank you President Obama, for doing the right thing and preserving this magnificent area.
Sadly, here in my home state there has been much opposition to the creation of Bears Ears. The republican leadership of Utah have all come out with statements opposing this action. I find it embarrassing to be represented by individuals who have no appreciation for our state's environment and rich ancient history, features we should preserve and be proud of. Things that can not possibly be replaced once destroyed. I am thankful that our nations president recognizes this. Ironically, my trip to Cedar Mesa came at odd time in history, a shutdown of the federal government due to the republicans being unwilling to pass a budget. Our national parks were closed that weekend, but Cedar Mesa was accessible, the area where we camped had a self-service sign in box at the beginning of the road. As we left the area we stopped to add our names to ledger, and found the following editorial attached to the sign out-box. It seems just as apropos today:.