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Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Bushwhack, AZ
mini location map2021-10-02
20 by photographer avatarJohn10s
photographer avatar
page 1   2
 
Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Bushwhack, AZ 
Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Bushwhack, AZ
 
Hiking3.20 Miles 1,107 AEG
Hiking3.20 Miles   5 Hrs   14 Mns   0.98 mph
1,107 ft AEG   1 Hour   59 Mns Break
Linked   none no linked trail guides
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ishamod
This was my third attempt to reach a cliff dwelling in the Sierra Anchas that I'd researched and previously only seen from a distance. Weather interrupted the first attempt, then I ran out of time on the second try. This time, my friend and I took advantage of a closer starting point to cut the mileage and hopefully leave more time to spend at the ruin. I knew exactly where it was located; it was just a matter of getting there, and this approach gave us plenty of time.

Some of the brush was still trimmed out of the way from my last attempt in August, but I told my friend to bring gloves and handheld clippers, and we did a lot more clearing as we worked our way off-trail toward the ruin, but we still picked up a lot of scratches along the way. Trees and brush blocked our view of the cave where the ruin is located for much of the way, so we could only aim in the general direction as we scrambled up a steep slope with brush and talus, but we ended up exiting the brush in a decent spot and emerged directly below the cave entrance to make the final climb. If I go back, I'd probably take a slightly different, more direct route to avoid some of the brush, but this worked.

I was pleased to see that there was a lot more to the dwelling than we'd been able to see from a distance. From zoomed-in pictures I'd taken previously, all I could see was a single wall with a hole where a wooden beam once rested. There were two other small walls near the cave entrance, and there was a passageway on the left side of the cave that led to a back room with a wall with a nice doorway, framed by wood on two sides, that turned the back part of the cave into a separate room. I noticed later that there was a hole drilled in one of the wooden pieces along the door where archeologists took a sample to date the wood.

[ youtube video ]

I'd read that the roofs of the structure were destroyed in a fire nearly 100 years ago, which was too bad--the front room, especially, was probably much more impressive when it was fully intact. Based on the spider webs in the cave, it doesn't get many visitors, which makes sense given the remote location. There were quite a few large pot sherds in the cave, and the mortar on the walls of the structure had a lot of visible finger marks where the mud was pressed against the rocks during construction. Outside the cave was a wide ledge that extended to the west, and there was another small wall there, though it looked like it might be of more recent construction.

The downside of the site was the wasps...we noticed a lot of them as soon as we arrived, and we were lucky we were able to explore the cave at all with so many flying around. We spent quite a bit of time inside, and the wasps seemed curious but not threatened at first, but the longer we stayed, the more they were hovering around our faces, landing on our packs, and taking more interest in us than we liked. We ended up sitting down below the ledge outside the cave and away from the wasps to eat something before we started back down the slope, but the wasps started finding us there, too, and we postponed our break until we were out of there. Fortunately, neither of us ended up getting stung.

We took a more direct route down the talus slope to avoid some of the brush on our way back. We explored another large (but empty) cave before we finished off the hike. It was a low-mileage day, but they were mostly slow, hard-earned miles, and I was happy to finally see this site up close on the third try. This was the second cliff dwelling site I've visited of the three main ones in the general area. Now I can turn my attention to the final site. I have a general idea where that one is located, and it should be a fun search...
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