Fish Mouth Cave

Trip Start Feb 28, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Monday, June 29, 2009

     Allison I decided to take it easy this weekend and just do some short hikes to some Anasazi ruins on Cedar Mesa. Now that we have a truck we can access a lot more places, so we took a rough dirt road that is supposed to lead passed a lot of ruins. All of them are only about a one mile hike from the road. We thought we would hike to two or three, but we didn't count on the heat. I think we both learned that there is a reason people don't hike here in the summer. The Cedar Mesa Ranger Station even shuts down in the summer because of a lack of visitors. Foolish Montanans! It must have been in the mid-90's. We only ended up hiking to the first major ruin, Fish Mouth Cave. We both realized how hard it was going to be to hike in the heat right away. The desert seemed extra fragrant with sage and juniper. I think it was because everything was slowly cooking. We hiked up a small wash and found two separate alcoves with ruins in them. It was such a relief to get to each one, because it was so much cooler in the shady alcoves. It was a hands-on demonstration of why they built their houses where they did. These ruins seemed to be pretty well-intact compared to others we've seen. There were a lot more pottery fragments of all different designs, strange colored rocks and flakes, grinding stones... you could see hand prints in the clay masonry from when they were building the walls... From the wash where the ruins were up to the actual Fish Mouth Cave was a steep climb up bare rock and then boulders and scree. This was the hottest and hardest part of the journey. When we got to the cave I was amazed how big it was. It was huge. But I was also surprised to see that there were only a couple small walls of dwellings still standing off to the side. The ground seemed really unstable and it looked as though parts of the ceiling had collapsed, So I assume that mother nature has pretty much destroyed whatever was there. There were still lots of signs that it had been inhabited though. There were some pictographs on the wall, big boulders with areas that had been used for grinding corn, lots of old corn cobs, pieces of pottery... There was also more recent signs of activity. There were many names written on the walls of the cave, dating all the way back to 1895. One person wrote, "Party on, dudes." My expert archaeological dating analysis tells me it was written in the early 90's. By the time Allison and I made it back to the truck, we both decided we had enough for the day. The truck doesn't have air conditioning either, so it was a long hot drive back home. I think we'll move on to hiking in the mountains of Colorado until September, when things start to cool down again.


  Yes, as Silas said, Sunday was HOT!  But before I write about Sunday, I'm going to mention a couple things we did on Saturday.  On Saturday we slept in (I think it's only the second time we've slept in on a weekend since we've been here!  Whew!  No wonder we were so tired!)  We had decided to take our time getting ready before heading to Cortez, CO for grocery shopping and possibly hitting the farmer's market if we made it there in time. 
  Well, we ended up just missing the farmer's market but that was okay...I'm sure we'll make it there one of these days.  So we parked downtown and walked to Spruce Tree Coffeehouse- a coffee shop I've been wanting to go to since we moved here.  It's in a building that used to be a house right on the main strip through downtown- it was very cute inside.  It still had the feel of an actual house with several different rooms with tables and chairs and lots of books- it was very homey.  We  were headed to the back patio area, but then we passed a little room just big enough for two chairs with a beaded curtain in the doorway so we decided to sit in there- very cozy!
  After that we finished up all our 'chores' and headed home.  On the way home I wanted to try to take what I thought was going to be a shortcut back to 491 (the road back to Monticello)  I wish I had a map of the town to put up here so that this would make more sense...but I've looked at a map since then and, needless to say, I was a little off on my geography of the area.  Anyway, it turned out to be kind of a nice drive through the country- that's where the picture of all the weird pipe people came from- it was just in front of someone's house out there- very weird! 
  Our last stop on our way out of town is always at Mac's Liquor- a liquor store that's about 10 miles out of Cortez (we have to stock up on 'normal' beer before going back to Utah!) So as we were driving on all these backroads I kept saying, 'As long as we don't come out past Mac's, I'm fine with this drive'  As we came to what looked like the main road, I couldn't belive it when I saw that we were coming out right at Mac's!  It's hard to convey here what my level of excitement was, but I was VERY excited!
  Okay, so on to Sunday- like Silas said, we decided to go on a hike at Fish Mouth Cave- as we pulled up at the trailhead we realized how hot it was!  It was only 1 mile to the cave, but the trail was pretty overgrown so it took much longer than a mile would normally take.  Luckily there were two ruins along the way, so we could get out of the sun for a few minutes at each of them.  I was really surprised that the ruins were so intact- but I guess 10 miles of really rough road leading up to it probably helps to keep a lot of people away.  As we were leaving one of the ruins I found a pot shard on the ground that's the most detailed piece I've found so far- very exciting!  (Of course I left it there- you can only imagine how many pots and artifacts you'd still be able to see today if EVERYONE left things like they're supposed to)
  The cave itself was really big- but there was very little left of whatever had once been there.  We stayed in the cave for quite a while reading all the names on the walls and resting.  I was dreading the hike back, but it turned out to not be nearly as bad as the hike in- but still hot!  When we got back to the truck we decided that we would wait until it cools off to do any of the other hikes in the area. 
  We continued down the road which comes out just south of Bluff and went to Sand Island (the put-in for the San Juan River) to eat our lunch.  After resting in the shade for a while we headed to Bluff with hopes of making it to the coffee shop before it closed for a such luck- it was already closed.  So we settled for an ice cream sandwich at the store and sat there enjoying the air condiditoning for a while before continuing on.  One last stop at a gas station just outside of Blanding brought an unexpected sight- two OLD Model T Fords!  All of a sudden one drove around the corner and pulled up to the pump...and then another!  I watched the couple who were in the first one get out, then lift up the seat and put the gas nozzle right down into there to fill it up.  I went and grabbed my camera then asked the man if it was okay if I took a picture, he said yes and was very nice to answer all my questions.

Me: 'What kind of car is this?'
Man: 'It's a 1917 Model T Ford'
Me: 'So you have to take the seat out to put gas in?'
Man: 'Yep, and to start it you have to crank the handle in the front'
Me: 'Wow!  Where are you guys from?'
Man: 'Kansas'
Me: 'Whoa, you guys drove all the way here?'
Man: 'Yep'

  I think that was about how the conversation went.  We sat and watched as EVERY other person who came up to the gas station did a double take at the cars, then went up to the two couples and asked a series of similar questions.  They must be used to that.  We were ready to leave, but I really wanted to stay and watch when the man started the car- I'd never seen anyone start a car like that before.  The man put the seat back in, the woman got in, and then he walked to the front of the car and gave it a crank and it started right up.  Cool!  We caught up with them down the road a ways and I took another picture- It really amazed me not just that these cars were almost 100 years old, but that they would drive them so far!  Amazing!
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mom717 on

Now I get it
This explains why Allison said she was happy to be home on Sunday evening. She never did explain what she meant by that, but after reading your blog, I understand. And I'm the first to comment on any of this..... =)

myamamoto on

I love reading about all the things you and Ally are getting to see and do--it must be so amazing to see all of these archaeological sites! The thought that you're standing in the same place as Natives lived over a hundred years ago...yeah, I'm a bit of a history nerd! I also think it's impressive that your training has taught you to date 'cave writings.' hehe!

Yay! I'm number two...ahead of Sarah!
Mel =)

syamamoto on

Silas, your 'party on dude' thing was hilarious! See, this is why you need to write entries more often :)

mom717 on

Silas, I also loved your 'party on dudes' comment.

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