Sierra Ancha Treasure (12/19/2009)
Within the Sierra Ancha Mountains lies a rugged unnamed butte that is home to one of the most unspoiled ruin sites of the entire mountain range. I stumbled onto this location by nothing short of blind luck. Prestons recent luck must be spreading. The ruin site is not noted on topo maps. My day started out like any other weekend adventure. My plan was an off-trail mountain summit hike of a really cool butte that I had seen from prior trips to the area. Nice half-day hike with lunch and a view. With my GPS in hand and all loaded up with fresh waypoints, I was off on my adventure. Little did I know what was coming...
The morning was absolutely beautiful. Cool and crisp but not cold. Perfect! The visibility was excellent and the views were stunning. My camera was getting worked like a rented mule that morning. Along the way to my destination I discovered a beautiful hidden riparian area high up in the hills that I never knew was there. Running water, lush vegetation, cottonwoods, and sycamores. Another hidden gem not noted on my topo maps. Talk about a bonus! I could not believe the timing on the fall colors. I love finding that kind of stuff. Something like that just makes my day. How could my day get much better? Ha! I can now laugh at that thought in retrospect...
With a huge grin on my face, I pushed on. The hike was now starting to get a little more intense. I could see the ominous rocky butte all morning. The closer I got, the nastier it looked. I have got to get up that thing somehow. I stopped to survey the situation and analyze the route. I think it's doable! Sometimes you just have to be on the slope to really know what you're up against. Judging it from a distance always makes it look worse than it sometimes is. My progress was slow and the terrain was terrible. Very steep slope, jagged boulders, loose rubble rock, cliffs, and narrow shelves were the special of the day. Things were getting sketchy but a manageable route was still appearing before me. I don't like high exposure levels. I have gotten myself in trouble before... I was now standing in front of a rugged jagged face about fifteen feet in height. Only fifteen feet stood between me and the next segment of the climb. I can see some solid steps to hold my weight and the handholds looked good. The question keeps coming to mind... Can I get down this!? Going up a steep face is one thing, but coming down is something else all together. I stood there for about five minutes pondering the risk. So close yet so far. Ah!! This is killing me. I chickened out. I had to turn back. Loose rocks that were falling from the area above my hands were literally tumbling all the way down to the bottom of the approach. This does not look good. Completely deflated, I turn back. This really sucks!!
Before heading back down I just had to look around for a bypass. There has to be some way through this. I spotted an elevated narrow shelf above me to the right heading around a cliff face. Hmm... I have to try it. While working my way around the rock face I am looking at a huge forty-foot cliff directly in front of me. There is no way this is going to work. About four steps later, I look to my left and see a perfect narrow shoot paralleling the cliff face. Nice sturdy bushes to hang onto, manageable pitch, and solid boulders for stepping on. Very cool!! I was on my way again! The remaining segments of the climb were completely within my comfort zone. I was almost to the top. A little bit of random zigzagging and perfectly placed boulder stairs were the only remaining obstacles leading to the summit.
With the skyline coming into view I literally stopped dead in my tracks. Before me was the main front wall of an ancient ruin site silhouetted across the skyline. I was speechless. You have got to be kidding me. Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing? I climbed up the last few boulders and cautiously approached the site. I could not believe what I was seeing. A piece of Arizona history completely frozen in time. Artifacts were everywhere. Pottery, metates, grinding manos, crystal cutting tools, and crystal spear points lined the ground. A prior visitor before me had displayed some of the pottery on a slab and set a mano on top of a broken metate. This was amazing! My mind was in sensory overload. You had to keep your eyes glued to the ground as you walked around the site to keep from breaking pottery pieces. The more I looked around, the more I realized that this was not a typical postage stamp Indian ruin. It was like a small city. Various rooms and walls covered the butte. Defense walls were perfectly intact along the cliff edges surrounding the summit. All sides of the summit consisted of steep cliffs and bluffs. This was a perfect defendable site with only minimal access routes. Absolutely incredible! What an amazing location. The views were epic and far reaching. I cannot properly describe what it was like to stand up there. Could this get any better? To my surprise, it actually did... While eating my lunch, a large hawk was sitting on a rock ledge only about fifty yards behind me. I never new he was there. I heard the bird's wings as he flew off. The beautiful bird soared above the ruin site for a few minutes directly above me. I sat on the summit for well over an hour just soaking in the experience. I did not want to leave. This was a rare life-changing day that I did not want to end.
I typically share all of the locations I visit, but this trip is different. Due to the sensitive nature of this unique ruin site, I simply cannot divulge the specific location. After about two days of deliberation, I determined that I could not post this as a detailed hike description. A place like this is extremely unique in this day and age. Truly unspoiled and minimally impacted by man. If you can piece together the location from my trip log and subtle photo clues, you have deserved to experience this destination. Please respect the ruin site and leave everything exactly like you find it. I promise you that I did.
Places like this change a person. I have never in my life experienced anything like what I did on Saturday. This was not a hike. It was a journey. HAZ members were recently discussing "Defining Trips" on the forum. This was by far my defining trip. I won't soon top this.