Monday, July 12, 2010

False Kiva

The ride into Moab was beautiful, I had rented a high clearance, 4 wheel drive for the journey. A red sunset painted the mountains and increased my excitement, which already was in overdrive. I was heading into Anasazi country, to hike into canyons looking for the remnant ruins of Ancient Pueblo generations who somehow thrived in this seemingly desolate country. The sacredness of the Anasazi lies in their kivas, temples lying beneath the floors of their homes. Kivas were places of gathering, and served many purposes: spiritual ceremonies, school, workshop, and family communion. The walls of the kiva were decorated with pictographs and petroglyphs, the precise meanings of which are unknown. Their homes were organically built into magnificent rock walls, with beautiful views and easily defensible positions located above any potential attackers. Gravity was strategically on their side when it came to enemies, though that also made daily chores, hunting, and farming a difficult trudge up and down rock strewn canyons.

The homes literally blended with the surroundings, made of the same rocks as the expansive canyon walls they were nestled into, using the surrounding dirt as wet mortar for insulation and protection from the elements, insects, and small animals. It's a testament to both the homes and the environment that thousand-year-old homes and petroglyphs remained in place, with pottery shards, hand-spun string, and discarded corn cobs still present at some sites.

False Kiva, pictured here, is hidden under a vast alcove at the edge of Island of the Sky, and there are no maps to the spot. The trailhead is found along the road out to the Upheaval Dome. It's steep and rocky and a bit treacherous due to the loose stones underfoot. After a three hour hike in one hundred degree temps, a small sun-filled alcove appeared in the amphitheater walls, though I never would have known there was an Anasazi ruin in there if I didn't have a destination in mind already. Criss-crossing the boulder-strewn base of the cliffs, I hiked steeply up to the alcove. Once there, the foundation of a round kiva overlooked the vast canyonlands and buttes beyond.

Debate rages on whether to disclose the exact location of False Kiva as it enjoys a semi-protected status and it does not appear on official maps of the park. Because of the remoteness of the location, the site itself is not protected from vandalism of any kind. The exact coordinates for False Kiva are occasionally divulged on forums, but GPS users should be aware that these GPS coordinates can place hikers 500 feet directly above False Kiva which would then require the hiker to repel down the steep vertical walls of the mountain.

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