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Sewemup Mesa Canyon, Gateway CO

Boondocked below Sewemup Mesa, Gateway CO, April 28, 2011
Boondocked below Sewemup Mesa, Gateway CO, April 28, 2011

Point of Interest

From the roadside POI sign along Rt-141 10 miles south of Gateway CO:

Sewemup Mesa is one of the ecologically pristine areas in western Colorado, having been isolated from development by its almost impassible belt of encircling sandstone cliffs. A striking band of thousand-foot-high cliffs of Wingate Sandstone encircles more than 75% of Sewemup Mesa. Many huge ponderosa pines line the canyons of the mesa top and grow directly from sandstone terraces along the mesa's western cliffs. The cliffs provide nesting sites for the endangered peregrine falcon, as well as for the golden eagles. Bald eagles winter along the Dolores River at the area's edge. Mountain lions rule the mesa, and the lower slopes are important big-game winter range for deer and elk.

The legend of Sewemup Mesa began in the late 1800's as a real true cattle-rustling operation. A local rancher "rustler" would drive stolen cattle, from both Utah and Colorado up into the well concealed "pockets" of the mesa. There he would rope them, tie them down and with a sharp knife, cut out the piece of the hide containing the brand. He would then sew them back up with bailing [sic] wire and rawhide. After the wounds healed, the cows would be branded with the rustler's own brand. Then they would be put back on the range with the other cattle and no one was any wiser.

Sewemup Mesa Canyon is a limited, rough, but picturesque boondocking site along the BLM primitive road into the canyon below Sewemup Mesa, a half mile off CO Rt 141 about 10 miles south of Gateway CO.

Sewemup Mesa Canyon, Gateway CO

Nights I've camped here

A Siberian dog signal-howl

A camp in the middle of a clear, dark winter's night presents a strange, wild appearance. I was awakened, soon after midnight, by cold feet, and, raising myself upon one elbow, I pushed my head out of my frosty fur bag to see by the stars what time it was. The fire had died away to a red heap of smouldering embers. There was just light enough to distinguish the dark outlines of the loaded sledges, the fur-clad forms of our men, lying here and there in groups about the fire, and the frosty dogs, curled up into a hundred little hairy balls upon the snow. Away beyond the limits of the camp stretched the desolate steppe in a series of long snowy undulations, which blended gradually into one great white frozen ocean, and were lost in the distance and darkness of night. High overhead, in a sky which was almost black, sparkled the bright constellations of Orion and the Pleiades--the celestial clocks which marked the long, weary hours between sunrise and sunset. The blue mysterious streamers of the aurora trembled in the north, now shooting up in clear bright lines to the zenith, then waving back and forth in great majestic curves over the silent camp, as if warning back the adventurous traveller from the unknown regions around the Pole. The silence was profound, oppressive. Nothing but the pulsating of the blood in my ears, and the heavy breathing of the sleeping men at my feet, broke the universal lull. Suddenly there rose upon the still night air a long, faint, wailing cry like that of a human being in the last extremity of suffering. Gradually it swelled and deepened until it seemed to fill the whole atmosphere with its volume of mournful sound, dying away at last into a low, despairing moan. It was the signal-howl of a Siberian dog; but so wild and unearthly did it seem in the stillness of the arctic midnight, that it sent the startled blood bounding through my veins to my very finger-ends. In a moment the mournful cry was taken up by another dog, upon a higher key--two or three more joined in, then ten, twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, until the whole pack of a hundred dogs howled one infernal chorus together, making the air fairly tremble with sound, as if from the heavy bass of a great organ. For fully a minute heaven and earth seemed to be filled with yelling, shrieking fiends. Then one by one they began gradually to drop off, the unearthly tumult grew momentarily fainter and fainter, until at last it ended as it began, in one long, inexpressibly melancholy wail, and all was still.

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