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After a long pandemic-related hiatus, SAR relaunched member field trips on May 13 with a four-day journey to Bears Ears in Utah.  Given the scale of this new national monument—more than 2100 square miles—we couldn’t possibly do justice to its diverse mesas, canyons, and nearly uncountable archaeological sites. But we managed to cover some memorable ground during 2.5 days of canyon hikes, mostly focused on Ancestral Pueblo settlements and rock art.  Our home base was the village of Bluff, whose welcome sign says, “Established 650 A.D.”

From the genial confines of the Recapture Lodge, we were expertly guided by personnel from Wild Expeditions. On two evenings, we benefited from informal lectures by Ute educator Becky Hammond, who introduced us to the history of the region’s Ute communities, and archaeologist Carol Patterson, an expert on the region’s petroglyphs and pictographs.

Bears EarsWe managed to visit two of Bears Ears’ most popular destinations: House on Fire, an Ancestral Pueblo ruin sheltered by a striated rock ledge that appears aflame in the bright sunlight; and the famous Big Kachina Panel, located near the banks of the San Juan River. Other sites on our itinerary were less well known, but each possessed unique features reflecting the millennia of Indigenous occupation of the region.

Part of the Big Kachina Panel, enhanced to show design elements. Photo credit: Michael Brown

Double Stack House. Photo credit: Michael Brown

We returned to Santa Fe tired and dusty but also enriched by the scenery and the sense of deep time.  If there had been more time, we might have been able to probe deeper still, given the region’s paleontological riches, which reach back at least 300 million years.  Another archaeological field trip will be announced soon in the SAR website.

I’ll close with two images by Michael Mudd, a professional photographer who joined us on this trip, and a one-minute video collage by Jan Avent.  For the latter, you’ll need audio for the best experience.

Photo credit: Michael Mudd

Double Collared Lizard posing obligingly for visitors. Photo credit: Michael Mudd

Jan Avent video (1 min., mp4)

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