Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ancient Ones

Tucked away in the Southeast corner of Utah are some really incredible canyons. Again, I won't tell you exactly where they are because it's important that you find and explore them on your own. We usually visit them during early spring or late winter to avoid other hikers. Sane people are usually home huddled around a nice, warm fire, but not Dangerous. He stuffs me in the dog carrier and off we go. Most of the time he can con Utah Jack into joining him or some other unsuspecting soul. He feeds them a line about great adventure then hikes them up and down narrow, cold canyons looking for crumbling rock walls or inaccessible structures perched high above their heads.

You should see Old Dangerous' eyes light up when we round a canyon bend and find a ruin or rock art panel. The speculation starts immediately. He wonders out loud about the canyon's past inhabitants. From the potsherds and lithic scatters, usually discovered by Utah Jack, Ole Dangerous trys to recreate the past. Before you know it, he is describing turkeys gobbling and dogs barking all around him. All I can ever hear are the ravens beating their wings against the wind as they fly up and down the canyon. He tells us regularly that we would probably have smelled the place before we heard all the noise from the families and animals living there 1,200 years ago. I have a keen sense of smell, but it doesn't extend that far back into the past. He really gets carried away imagining what the place was like a thousand years ago.

When Dangerous and his hiking pals were younger, they tried to access even the ruins placed precariously high on the canyon walls. They still find "Moqui steps" cut from the solid sandstone that lead to granaries built high above their heads. It has been years since they have been able to climb these stairs to the sky. At one spot, Dangerous always stops and tells the story about his dog Abbey and her mother Murphy. To reach a Kiva perched on a ledge, you have to scramble up a tree. In the past, Dangerous would leave Abbey and Murphy sitting at the base of the tree, and he and Utah Jack would climb up to see the ruin. As sheep dogs will do, Abbey and Murphy protested loudly when left alone. As Dangerous tells it, he couldn't figure out why the barking had stopped until he looked down and found Abbey standing beside him. The only way up was the tree, and Abbey had climbed it. I hope he doesn't except the same from me.

Dangerous and Utah are always on the look out for something called Kivas. These structures are supposedly where ancient religious rituals and clan activities occurred. They get really excited studying the intricate roof systems when they find one intact. What really gets them going are the finger prints that are still visible in the mortar pressed between the stones supporting these and other ruins. There is a special ruin that we visit occasionally that has a baby's foot prints pressed into the mud. Dangerous imagines a mother or father holding their baby up to the new wall and pressing the baby's tiny feet into the fresh mortar.

I enjoy these canyon hikes, but the ruins and rock art don't interest me much. Maybe there are places like this that capture your interest. I'd like to know what attracts you and why you like to visit these places. Love to hear from you!


Bluester said...

An old feller, just before he died, told a friend of mine, there is a cave out there that is full of stuff, just like when it's original inhabitants lived in it. That would be swell to come across, not to touch or handle the artifacts, but just to look at them where they were left long, long ago.The real bonus, is the old feller who talks of this cave left his pistol in the cave sitting on a metate, and it's still there. Probably a little rusty by now. But he asked my friend to find the cave and he told him he could have his pistol. He looked last summer but couldn't find it. So, something to do this summer. There is a bunch of country off of the "east side" we haven't even touched. We need to get busy. Whoever finds the old pistol gets it.

Oh, and then there are the stories from old Keith about the Spanish Silver in the cave down along the Escalante. And don't forget, Montezuma's treasure is supposed to be up on the Fish Lake somewhere too. We could easily spend the rest of our lives checking the nooks and crannies. Best from the Fremont

Becca Hatch said...

I've seen those baby feet, and it still moves me to think about it. What Dangerous knows but doesn't talk about as much is that not only can you imagine the sounds and smells that are in such places, but you can feel the feelings that were there. 1200 years or not, I like to think that the way those parents felt about their baby is the same way I feel about my own.