Friday, April 19, 2013

Part 50 - Exploring the Cliff Dwelling

Several years later, sitting on a large rock at the edge of the ledge, I was able to discern a path that the ancient inhabitants had carved out of the rubble to reach the ledge, but which was now mostly eroded away.  Likewise, thirty-five years later, in my early sixties, I brought my wife to this same spot, but no longer had the courage to scramble up through the rock debris and rubble to reach the ledge.
I couldn’t tell for sure, but it was possible we were the first ones to visit this location since it had been abandoned.  It didn’t look to be disturbed.  The area was quite isolated and unless a person had a specific reason to enter this section of uninhabited land, one would never come here.  On the sandy floor of the ledge were the remains of numerous fires.  We discovered pot shards, arrow shafts, arrowheads, corn cobs, cordage made from bark, animal bones, etc.  We took nothing with us, but what we did find, we placed on a large flat rock for others to see. 

In years to come, as river trips became more popular on the Daily section of the river, and as dirt bikers and ATV riders would descend into the backcountry, this location would be discovered by others.  Over a period of twenty years, I would continue to bring groups of rafters to visit this unique, hands-on museum in the desert, but the site eventually became desecrated.  Large holes were dug in the floor as looters would sift through the sand looking for anything of value.  After awhile, I stopped bringing people to visit the site; there wasn’t much left to see. 

On this first visit to the cliff dwelling, as I stood on the floor of the ledge looking out at the surrounding terrain, I spotted, at the base of the cliff of which the ledge was a part, car parts and other automotive debris.  I saw old rubber tires and metal rims, discarded oil filters, a truck axle, spark plug cables, and other assorted metal objects that I couldn’t identify.  As there were no roads into this area, the debris must have come from over the top of the cliff high above us.  I decided to go in search for the origin of this junk, and invited the rest of the group to join with me.  Almost in unison they said, “Let’s go.”  

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