Even though I was tired from barely sleeping, at one point I did manage to marvel at all the millions of stars that dotted the night sky. Never in my life have I’ve seen so much intensity and brightness that one didn’t even need a light to see, as the starlight was more than enough. After fully waking up at about 6:45, 15mins before the sunrise, we packed up the camping gear and prepared to go hiking in the Picketwire Canyonlands.
Parking closer to the trialhead we made sure of our provisions: beef jerky, bananas, multiple types of trailmix, granola bars and about two gallons of water. Not to mention the 30 pounds of camera gear that I carry just about everywhere. The trail began on top of the canyon rim and steeply descends into canyon bottom over about a quarter mile. Even though it was only 7:30AM the weather was really starting to heat up with temperatures in the 50′s and forcasted to be in the mid 80′s. Hiking over the jeep trail it was easy to see that this was going to be a long day due to the utter lack of any shelter/shade from the intense sun and wind.
As we started to hike along the trail we noticed numerous old ruins and found quite a lot of petroglyphs (rock art) on the darkened boulders. It is said that not much is known about the early people that inhabited the area but one can find petroglyphs just about anywhere. And by the looks of it the majority of them are hundreds if not thousands of years old. Eventually after 4miles of hiking we arrived at the Dolores Mission & Cemetery. The remnants of the buildings and cemetery is marked by a few remaining headstones and a few walls. According to the Visit La Junta Website:
“In 1871 a group of New Mexicans migrated up the Purgatory River to settle. The group led by Damacio Lopez consisted of 11 families and they were the first to establish a permanent settlement in the canyonlands. Traditionally most New Mexicans of the time were Catholic. The tiny settlement founded by Damacio did not have a church or priest. This was a quandary for the religious settlers at the mouth of Minnie Canyon on the Purgatory River. In order to attend church services they would have to travel to Trinidad many miles away. Finally Damacio found a priest that would be willing to travel to their small community for services and in 1898 he sold a piece of his land to the priest. The community built a small church which became known as the Dolores Mission.”
After a short break at the mission we continued on our way to the dinosaur tracks alongside the Purgatoire river.
2-day/1-night Trip Total: 11hrs 12mins of driving 594miles, 12+ miles hiking.