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Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ
mini location map2022-05-14
18 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ 
Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ
Hiking13.84 Miles 3,298 AEG
Hiking13.84 Miles   8 Hrs   54 Mns   1.81 mph
3,298 ft AEG   1 Hour   16 Mns Break
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The plan today was to locate one of the upper Sierra Ancha cliff dwellings that's been on my list for nearly a year and, time permitting, reach the site. I had the general location narrowed down, but I knew the cave was difficult to see when approaching it directly and wanted to confirm the exact spot by viewing the dwelling from a cross-canyon vantagepoint, which would also hopefully provide some insights about the best approach route to access the hard-to-reach cave.

The on-trail portion of the hike went more smoothly than anticipated--I expected a lot of overgrowth on the trails and carried loppers all day to deal with thick brush, but someone had done a lot of trail maintenance work, which sped up the hiking quite a bit. And all my previous hikes in the upper Sierra Anchas have been in the fall, so maybe the foliage hasn't a chance to get too out of control at this point in the year. Still, the loppers came in handy to clear some remaining branches away from the trail and were especially useful on the off-trail segments. There was plenty of color from a variety of wildflowers, but also some poison ivy and a lot more dead trees across the trail than on previous visits.

Just reaching to the vantage point where I could see the cliff dwelling from a long distance required pushing through a lot of thorny brush and manzanita, so I still picked up a lot of scratches, but it was worth the effort. Getting up there confirmed that the ruin was where I expected, and it did provide a view of the best--and probably only reasonable--route to reach the cave, which was consistent with what I'd assumed from reviewing the topo map beforehand. Even knowing where to look and zooming in to 60-80x with a zoom lens, it was hard to see, and the walls were barely discernable in the shadows.

I could tell we wouldn't have time to reach the cliff dwelling today...we intentionally started from a more distant trailhead, and with the slow additional mileage needed to reach the vantagepoint, it wasn't going to happen. But with the time remaining before we needed to turn around, we got back on the trail and made our way over to the opposite side of the canyon so I could hopefully see as much of the route as possible for a return visit.

We left the trail again, and TBoneKathy waited nearby while I started descending into the canyon, once again through a thick, thorny wall of brush. I did a lot of lopping on my way down but continued adding more scratches to the day's collection. I ended up making more progress than I expected with the remaining time, but I came up at least a few tenths of a mile short before starting back.

By the time we got back to the trailhead, the day had been almost equal parts hiking and landscaping work with all the trimming I hands were coated in black residue from the rubber grips on the loppers, and my arms, legs, and hands were covered with scratches. We ended up seeing one other hiker on the trails today (one more than we usually see out there), and the weather was very comfortable, in the upper 70s and perfectly clear. Despite not reaching the ruin, I considered the day a success after confirming the location and making some progress exploring the route down. The plan is to get back out there very soon with an earlier start so I have plenty of time for that final approach...hopefully in the next few weeks before all that work I did trimming gets lost to regrowth :).
 Culture [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Salado Habitation
 Named place
 Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Sierra Ancha Wilderness
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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