Sunday, October 18, 2009



We found a really nice BLM campground in Bluff, right on the San Juan River. We have been having great clear weather with cold nights but warm days in the high 70’s. The trees in the campground are all turning gold making this the prettiest place we’ve stayed so far.

As I mentioned in the last entry, we’ve come here to explore some cliff dwellings which after hiking to, you can explore on your own. No rangers or guided tours. Our first exploration took us to a place called Mule Canyon, where after hiking about 1.5 miles we came to our first ruin. With easy access we scrambled up the slickrock to a small cliff dwelling located under the cliff overhang. The popular name for this ruin is, “House on Fire”, and if you look at the photo below you can see why. There were several small individual “rooms” at this site possibly used as granaries.


We next continued up canyon to another small ruin. At this point the ladies decided to head back to the truck because, “once you’ve seen one ruin, you’ve seen them all”. Gary and I continued on finding one more ruin high on the cliff. We could climb to a spot about 15 feet below it, but we couldn’t scale the vertical wall to make entry.


I had read about a ruin called “Moonhouse Ruin” located in the area, so the following day, Gary and I headed out to see if we could find it. I had some detailed directions found on the internet and in a book I purchased but I had some doubts if I could make it. You see, I am very afraid of heights, especially those which involve me walking on narrow ledges over deep canyons. (Well actually anything over about 8 feet) Reaching this ruin involved walking on these kind of ledges in addition to climbing down what in these parts is called a pourover, but is more commonly referred to as a waterfall. The only positive that I could see was that the waterfall was dry. There was a second positive of sorts and that was if I fell, at least Gary could point out the location of the body to the authorities.

So with my fears firmly in check, at least for the drive to the trailhead, we headed out. After a 9 mile sometimes 4 wheel drive road we managed to locate the spot where one must take his life in his hands and climb over the edge of the cliff. So with Gary’s encouragement we started down. This was a pretty deep canyon with Moonhouse on the opposite side. The trail, if you call it that, was marked with cairns (piles of little rocks) and was very steep. The first obstacle was the pourover. Gary went first so that I could see that it was possible and of course if he fell over then I would be the one who pointed out the body. Once Gary made it, then it was my turn. Some kind soles had made a large pile of rocks at the bottom of the fall, thus making the traverse slightly less scary. By sliding down the near vertical rock on my butt, I gingerly lowered myself down until my feet were firmly on the nice, but wobbly pile of rocks. Now that I was down that part, I began to wonder if I could make it back up.

It wasn’t over yet because next we had to walk a narrow ledge for about 75 yards with a sheer drop off of several hundred feet to the canyon bottom. So by clutching my walking stick, like that would keep me from falling, we inched along. After some more down climbing we finally made it to the bottom. Now we had to go up the other side, which was steep and mostly on slickrock, but a piece of cake compared to what we had already been through.



Once we reached the ruin, I decided the terror I had experienced getting there was possibly worth it, but I wouldn’t make that final judgment until such time as we were back in camp. Moonhouse consists of 49 rooms, some which are behind an outer wall which creates a hallway leading to the entrances of the interior rooms. The condition of much of Moonhouse is excellent considering that it was built so long ago. Scientific studies suggest Moonhouse was built in three stages between 1226 and 1268 AD. Don’t ask me how anyone determined these dates, but needless to say, the place is old. I think perhaps an old Indian told them. There still exist some of the painted decorations on the walls consisting of a wide white stripe with numerous little “moons” painted over it. There were other rooms separate from the main structure many in very good condition.

Since we were high on this cliff ledge, which was pretty wide and not too scary, we walked along it for some distance exploring several other ruins, before heading back.

Because you are reading this blog entry, you can assume that I made it back safely, which I did with only minor scrapes and scratches on my shins and knees received when crawling up the aforementioned pourover. If someday some of you would like to see Moonhouse, give me a call and I’ll put you in touch with Gary.




(notice white paint on wall behind Gary)

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