The recent sunny weather has opened up some early season hiking within an hour’s drive of Dolores at Hovenweep National Monument.
The Holly trail begins at the campground next to the visitors center in Utah and ends 4 miles later at the impressive Holly ruins site in Colorado.
The trail has dried out, and temperatures the past two weekends have been in the mid-60s.
Shortly after the trailhead, hikers negotiate a narrow slot canyon, then drop into a warm sandy wash. The trail is well marked with cairns and signs, as it goes in and out of Little Ruin Canyon, then up Keeley Canyon.
After 3 miles, hikers come across the first ruin, an unexcavated site featuring a pile of building stones, hidden walls and depressions of ancient rooms.
The next mile gains the Keeley canyon rim and continues on to the standing Holly Group ruin site. A short trail leads to some petroglyphs nearby.
Holly House, Tilted Tower and Holly Tower date to the 1200s, when Ancestral Puebloans lived in the region. The masonry is from hand-cut stone quarried nearby. An original roof beam has been dated at 750 years old.
Holly Tower balances on a large boulder in the canyon, and was built from the inside without scaffolding. Each floor was built from the inside, one floor at a time. Looking at Holly Tower, you can still see the steps or hand holds that were pecked into the boulder below the entrance.
In addition, archaeologists suggest these towers were usually paired with kivas (Puebloan religious structures), and the towers may relate to how the kiva connects with the outside world.
The deliberate location of towers and kivas at the heads of canyons goes beyond architecture, and has everything to do with the hydrology of the canyon and the way Puebloans envisioned their world. Some of the towers and kivas are placed virtually on top of the springs and seeps that emerge from these canyons, perhaps to protect them.