Completely missing the road to the Visitor Center we arrived at the Cliff Dwelling’s trailhead. It is here we are to make payment for our visit. As I study the instructions on the “pay at the box” sign, a man with a broom approaches me. Exchanging greetings, I am told, “ The canyon is cold this morning, you will need a warm jacket or coat. Once you hit the cliff wall you will be carrying them; it is nice and warm there”. “Why the broom?” I ask. “Oh, I have been up sweeping the trail of leaves” he replies. I soon learn the man with the broom and the other guides we will meet today are all volunteers.
When I was last here we crossed the river by way of a large log (you can still see it next to the visitors center) but now a regular footbridge has replaced it. In the 1976 visit we were escorted across the river and directly into the cliff dwellings; gaining access to them by way of a ladder. Today, we are told our tour is self-guided. From the canyon trail you can enter the dwellings without climbing any ladders but you will climb a few rugged stairs.
Crossing the bridge we veer to the left taking the canyon trail upward. In the frozen soil we see the deep tracks of those that have ventured here in previous days. We think back to the volunteer we had talked to at the trail head, his words “once the path warms up it can become very slippery”; now were understood.