Sharon Sullivan

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April 4, 2013
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ADVENTURE: A visit to the ancient ruins around Cedar Mesa

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - When our Fruita friends, Susan and Tim Crosby, invited my husband John and me along on a backpacking trip in Road Canyon in southeast Utah, we jumped at the chance.

It'd been a long, cold winter and I needed to get outside. Only problem was that forecasted temperatures during spring break were in the teens at night - and I don't like being cold!

Fortunately, my desire to go camping for a week won over my fear of freezing.

I like carrying a backpack with just the basic essentials, and being able to walk far enough where the only other sounds (other than the four of us) come from birds, not cars. Max, our friends' donkey, lightened our loads somewhat by carrying extra water and much of the food.

Road Canyon is one of many canyons of Cedar Mesa, a 400-square-mile area extending from Elk Ridge to the north, Comb Wash to the east, the San Juan River gorge to the south and Grand Gulch to the west. Natural Bridges National Monument is located to the northwest.

Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the canyons and mesa tops between 700 and 2,000 years ago, and many cliff dwellings and rock art sites remain in excellent condition.

One of our destinations was a remote and well-preserved ruin that we ended up accessing from the top of Cedar Mesa after consulting the Kane Gulch Ranger Station.

The Cedar Mesa area is managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. A backcountry permit is required for camping.

As we hiked on the red dirt through pinyon and juniper forest, we often stopped along the rim to peer through binoculars across the canyon where we spotted several other cliff dwellings above the creek at the canyon's bottom.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 4, 2013 03:43PM Published Apr 4, 2013 03:42PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.