Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Treasures of Hovenweep

The Ute Indians named this remote area on the Utah-Colorado border Hovenweep, meaning “deserted valley”.  The name is appropriate; as Tim and I drive south from Blanding to Hovenweep National Monument we’re the only vehicle for miles around.
We pull into the campground on a warm Friday afternoon in March.  The campground, set among junipers and pinyon pines, affords spectacular views of the  snow-capped San Juan mountains to the east.

A Room With a View - Campsite at
Hovenweep National Monument.

After making camp we walk the two mile interpretive trail near the visitor center.  This trail winds along the edge of a canyon and near ruins belonging to the ancient Pueblo Indians.  These structures, built from AD 1230 to 1275, are in remarkably good shape.  How many of our modern-day dwellings will survive 800 years?  As we walk we speculate on what life was like for the peoples of the Colorado Plateau all those years ago:  no roads or campgrounds; no noisy pick-up trucks hauling recreational vehicles; no radios blaring; no jet contrails in the sky.  For a moment I think I would’ve liked to have lived here in AD 1275.  Reality sets in though as we cook dinner at the campsite and I reflect on how convenient it is to have a propane stove heating our stew, to have a vehicle transporting us and our gear to this place.  After dinner we relax by a roaring fire—reading, talking and gazing at the stars.

Ruins Along the Rim Trail.

The following morning after a nourishing breakfast of eggs, hash browns and sausage we prepare to hike the Holly Ruins Trail.  The trailhead starts from the campground; it’s an 8-mile long out-and-back hike.  Near the trailhead the path cuts through a narrow crevice in the rocks; we get a kick out of squeezing through this fissure. The ruins at trail’s end are perched high on a canyon rim with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and deserts.  Archeologists theorize that the Indians built here for defensive purposes and that’s likely true.  But I wonder...could it be that they liked the view just as we do?  Why do we assume that ancient tribal cultures had no sense of aesthetics, that they were only interested in the utilitarian nature of things?
         Tim and I enjoy the easy pace of the hike back to the campground.  Throughout the hike canyon wrens keep us company with their trilling whistles.  You can listen to the song of the canyon wren here:
This evening we relish our dinner of spaghetti, followed by s’mores around the campfire.  Tomorrow we’ll drive back to the 21st century but for now we’re savoring time spent in the shadows of ancestral Puebloan civilization.

Perched on the Rim - Townsite of the
Ancestral Pueblo Indians.

For more information on the ancient Pueblo Indians visit this website:

To plan your trip to Hovenweep National Monument visit this site:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rita,

    This trip to Hovenweep sounds like heaven - just the kind of vacation I love: history and hiking. I loved your thoughts about the people who lived in this valley century upon century ago. I bet they would've loved your s'mores!

    Thanks for sharing this adventure!