Webb's been coming here since he was less than a year old -- it was, I believe, his first camping trip. I, myself, have found myself out and about at Hovenweep National Monument for more than two decades now. It is, in a terra-erotic (terrotic?) sorta way, the navel of my personal homeland.
And it's an inny.
Last weekend the now-teenaged Webb and I and a friend of his made a quick 24-hour pilgrammage back to this sandstone bellybutton -- hiding behind the Sleeping Ute, swallowed up by the grander Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a ways off McElmo Canyon and over the dome from the Dolores Canyon, and laying low and unnoticed, a sort of doormat to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley and the greater Canyonlands over yonder. Hovenweep just ... sits out there, somewhere.
It used to be remote out here. Twenty-some years ago, when I worked at Natural Bridges National Monument, it was an adventure we directed to only those who wanted a backcountry 4x4 Four Corners experience -- just getting there. Even when the last road was paved to Hovenweep ten years or so ago, camping out here was a backcountry experience: a dirt circle with a few unimproved campsites -- aside from a picnic table and metal fire ring. No resident rangers. No visitors center. No water. Pit toilet. No fee. And usually no one else, especially in the cool of late autumn.
A welcome alternative to the surge of development in the movement to make the parks profitable.
I will admit: Last weekend we found that it's still a quick-yet-remote getaway. It still feels like out there -- with the campground's immersion in seemingly-empty broken canyon country and long views to the Sleeping Ute and the Chuskas and the Abajos.
But, of course, industrial tourism hath started to show its telltale boils and pimples, even here: Now, an official Visitor's Center, erected in '01. Permanant ranger residences, with water and sanitation. Pavement. Nice bathroom. Paved walkways. Finely groomed and adorned campsites (more than half of which were occupied -- more than I probably saw camped there in all the years total before pavement. Or so it seems ... )
And: $6 entrance fee plus a $10 camping fee.
Still. Still ... Still it was grand.