February 2015 - Sierra Ancha

Canyons, water, and cliff dwellings far from anywhere.
The back country east of Phoenix in the Tonto National Forest. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Climbing into the canyons on the east edge of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness is a three-dimensional experience. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  The cliff walls are steep and multi-colored. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Life still finds a way to cling to the cliff face. Water seeping through cracks in rocks helps. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
Loren appreciates the many-layered, 3D-ness of Pueblo Canyon. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  To add to the natural beauty of the canyon are cliff dwellings—seen behind Loren—believed to be from the Salado people from about 900 years ago. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  It's amazing that people could live on ledges as narrow as these, in inhospitable country. They were more easily defended, at least... : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  When there has been enough rain, the people could find running water in these canyons—like this waterfall—beyond the seepages commonly found in the walls. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
Verticality. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Most of the structures of the cliff dwelling peoples are composed of rock held together by clay material. The dwellings contained cross beams, like the one shown here, for extra support or other unknown uses. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Jenny examines the wall of one dwelling. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  When there's water, the canyon can be a surprisingly lively place. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
Looking up near sunset. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  The next day, we ventured up another, nearby canyon: Devil's Chasm. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Ben photographs some rock with amazing colors. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Pools of water cascade down the rock, creating eddies and pools along the way. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
Reflections. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Looking back down part of what we climbed reveals the extreme changes in elevation that accompany this amazing terrain. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  More layers. We were really climbing! : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Some encouragement on the way up. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
It was a good cloud day, too! You can also see the mesa, perhaps as far above us as we've already climbed from below. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Our final destination: a veritable castle built on a ledge. Storming this dwelling would be nearly impossible, and the overhang above it would prohibit dropping things on it even if someone were able to climb to the mesa another thousand feet higher. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Loren, Jenny, and Ben as we approach the (fortunately undefended) dwelling. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Ben peers from inside the cliff dwelling with its extensive series of rooms. This was like the penthouse suite. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings 
Loren, Ben, and Jenny. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  There used to be something like three stories to this dwelling, made of flat rocks supported by narrowly spaced cross beams. This was the only remaining floor we saw. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  The rock colors vary so widely by layers. Geologists must love this place. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings  Goodbye Devil's Chasm. We shall meet again. : backpacking, canyon, hike, cliff dwellings