Friday, August 28, 2015

Trail Of The Ancients: Cave Towers, Cedar Mesa, Utah

Tower ruin, Cave Towers. 
I went to see the Cave Towers ruins on Cedar Mesa recently. They are not hard to get to, as long as you have proper information. They are called other names, adding to the confusion. No matter: if you're meant to find them you will seek out the proper (usually local) sources. 

Besides, it's about the journey, right? Exploring a new area is a great journey. As long as it's on public land.

The evening was mostly overcast. For many visitors from far away, especially international visitors, they would not have liked such conditions. They have this image (rightly so) of southern Utah as this high desert red rock canyon country with perpetually clear blue skies. They want them in their pictures. But somehow they think we never get clouds or rain. Imagine that.

I, on the other hand, adapt to the conditions. It was overcast, so what? That makes for lower contrast, softer light than normal. It can bring out details that would otherwise be overwhelmed. 

The drive in from Highway 95 passes through a gate. A public gate, no "No Trespassing" sign. Merely open the gate and close it behind you. The road then quickly turns rocky rough, over and down some slickrock sandstone bedrock. It's just fine for an AWD vehicle, let alone a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle. Sedans and vans can just pull over and walk the rest of the way, it's not far.

At the end of the road there is a parking area (meaning a wide open slickrock area to turn around, nothing constructed. A heavily used fire ring indicates popularity. Not far away is a sign planted firmly in the only other direction down which you might wish to try to drive. It says no coming at the ruins site. Meaning the site must be down that gentle wash. 

And not far down you come to it. A tower ruin. Another pile of rubble almost beside it that could have been another tower, or maybe a different structure. Looking across the head of the draw I see another tower.

Tower ruin, Cave Towers.
I walk around, seeing now that there is a vast canyon right below these towers. They were built on the edge. Why built towers when you're already on the highest point around? It's the same mystery of the even more splendid tower ruins at Hovenweep National Monument about 90 minutes drive east of here. 

There is another tower ruin not far west of here that you can park in a paved lot and take an easy stroll to (not the one pictured). The interpretive signs there suggest that tower and these towers were line of sight in their locations. Thus signal fires could be seen between them, to assure all was well (no fire) or emergency. Signaling at the speed of light. 

Since the ancient ones had no written communication, we can only surmise. It's a detective story, sifting through clues left behind. In this case, they left this area about 800 years ago, so it's a really cold trail. 

I poke around some more. I am impressed by how deep the canyon is immediately below. The landscape had changed from flat mesa top to...abyss...just like that. 

On the next ledge below I could see some cliff dwelling ruins. So that's where they lived. Or lived at times, and stored their precious grown grains (corn and beans). 

Cave Canyon panorama
I walked to the far side of this head of the canyon rim. To the other prominent tower ruin. Now from this side I could see more cliff dwelling ruins underneath where I had been previously. 

This was obviously a special place. A prime location: water flowing down the little wash, over the ledge, to more places for collection down below. 

Were the towers built to say: we own this place? Or we live here, don't come here unless you walk in peace? Or were they like round vertical church towers, a symbol of worship, of thanks for the life giving surroundings?

Such questions occurred to me as I wandered, photographed, and then headed back to my truck before dark.

Cave Tower ruin, evening panorama.

Photo location: Cedar Mesa, San Juan County, Utah.

Prints and photo products are available on my Fine Art America sales website:

Copyright © 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Monday, August 17, 2015

San Juan Mountains Sunrise

Sunrise glow on high peak clouds
Dawn at my camp on the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. I'd settled in at dusk, nobody around. Two pickup trucks had passed by on their way out. Going wherever home was.

Then, rain. Ah, sweet drumming on the steel roof of my SUV. It had cooled down enough for me to be comfortable inside with the windows closed and the dashboard fan running to bring air in, preventing any mosquitos and moths from joining me for the night. 

It rained off and on during the night. I tried to awaken whenever it did, but I don't have any way of knowing how successful I was, or not. It doesn't matter. I appreciated, and it soothed me. 

Awakening before first light, I'd dozed. Then jerked awake later, the light bright by comparison. The dew was heavy on the inside of the truck windows, from the cool of the high mountain night and my breath. But I could see sunrise colors outside. Dang, slept too late. 

Sunrise fire boiling from below the forest horizon.

Tumbled outside my rig with my camera in hand. No time for the tripod, those colors would fade by the second. Shoot now, or just stand there gaping at it. 

Such a Rocky Mountain palette: high peaks towering above timberline, dark conifer forests and verdant alpine meadows below. The oranges and yellows of the sunrise reflected off the clouds. 

Sunrise mountain mist.
Back onto the main forest road, I stopped to photograph this rustic cabin. That's the kind of place for me.

High country cabin, San Juan Mountains.

Morning in the mountains, the way it should be.

Prints and photo products are available on my Fine Art America sales website:

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg