BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

In Cortez, slinking about the Canyons of the Ancients

Flying Great Lakes Airlines is somewhat of a cultural experience. You board the tiny Beechcraft 19-seater from the underbelly of Denver International Airport, where the number of Stetsons among the decidedly more rugged-looking clientele seems a bit higher than that among the general hustling and bustling crowds at DIA.

Last weekend, we flew to Cortez, Colo., to spend one last weekend with a friend of ours before he ventures overseas for a year. Over the last several years, we've visited Cortez at least twice each year, a ritual I'll miss tremendously.

Cortez is one of the few Colorado towns that retains its edge, because, as our friend John described it in the film "Two Spirits," Cortez is a border town. It's on the edge of the Rez — the Navajo Reservation. It's on the edge of Colorado, near the Four Corners. It's probably more closely tied to Aneth, Utah; Shiprock and Farmington, N.M.; and Kayenta, Ariz., than it is to Denver. Surrounded by Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez has a history that feels much deeper than that of other Colorado cities.

And so, our short hike along the rim of Sand Canyon at Canyons of the Ancients was a brief history lesson of its own, with dozens of ruins along the trail proving the canyon walls have many more stories to tell than simply those of its tumultuous geologic past.

Canyons of the Ancients is often considered one of the most endangered national monuments in the country, with its edges eyed for oil and gas development and vandalism threatening its spectacular Ancestral Puebloan ruins.

I wonder what Sleeping Ute has to say about that...