Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Butler Wash Ruins

April 15th -- There is a very well-known set of ruins about 4 miles east of where I’m camping, complete with highway signage, a parking lot, a restroom, and a warning that the 1 mile r/t hike “… can be considered easy to strenuous depending on ability and physical condition.” There are actually lots of known ruins in the Butler Wash drainage, all the way from here to the mouth of the wash at the San Juan river.

The hike starts out on a trail through juniper and pinion but runs across slickrock for the last portion of the hike. Already, I could see the tops of what could be alcoves or caves with an orientation to the east. These locations are the most likely locations to find structures.

The path across the slickrock was marked with cairns, but not just any cairn. These came complete with mortar, and even then, the top rock must have “blown away.”

Reaching the edge of the canyon, structures were immediately spotted in a large alcove near the top of the cliff.

The structures on the right side of the alcove, as you’re facing it, were more complete

than the structures on the left side of the alcove. If you click on the pictures to get a larger version, you’ll note that in both cases, the cave continues back behind the visible structural remains.

Where there is one, there are usually more. The quality of what you could see of this structure in a very low clearance cave was impressive. This picture required full zoom (26x) to capture.

I spotted yet another structure as I looked down canyon, just above the trees in the bottom of the wash.

What was unusual about this one was the two different colors of mud mortar, suggesting the right hand portion had been built later or had been stabilized more recently.

Whenever I see structures in locations like this, I wonder how people accessed them. While I’m happy to photograph from a distance, the original inhabitants had to be able to get to this location somehow. I finally spotted what I suspected. A series of “moki steps” carved in the sandstone wall. They start near the bottom right corner of this picture, traverse to the left center, and then work their way upward out of frame.

Here’s a close-up of the section in the corner between vertical and horizontal. For me it begs a question of child rearing. At what age do you let them go “play in the yard?”

The parking lot for this viewpoint is easily accessible for any size rig, and well worth the stop.

This post was uploaded and scheduled thanks to the wifi at the Blanding Visitor Center on my 2nd visit!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

April 15th -- I stopped by the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding. It’s another place we’ve bypassed for years as we hurry to Moab for our Green River trips. The Museum (and Repository) are built immediately adjacent to an archeological site.

I was very impressed with some of the pots that were on display in glass cases in the lobby. Not only did they have these incredible pots, they also had the stories of discovery by the people who found the pots.

Turns out, pots are a major component of their collection. They built a portion of their repository with glass walls so that even a portion of the stored collection can be viewed.

Throughout the building, the walls were painted with replicas of rock art. At the front desk, they loaned each visitor a book explaining the style and the assumed meaning of each panel.

On the second floor, in addition to more pottery, there was a collection of arrow heads,

and a series of photographs of rock art panels that had been taken expressly as documentation of these panels. The artistry of these panels was exquisite. They’d even tell you where they were located, if the name of the county and the state were enough information!

Outside, part of the site has been restored, resulting in a very nice interpretive ruin.

Although it is a State Park, it does not include any camping facility since it is located in a residential neighborhood. Don’t let that scare you off – the streets are very wide. The parking lot is striped primarily for autos, but they do provide some RV parking as well.

This post was uploaded and scheduled thanks to the Blanding Visitor Center on my 2nd visit!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Valley of the Gods

April 14th -- I left the trailer in the campground at Sand Island and headed to Valley of the Gods. The east entrance is very close to mile post 29 on Highway 163. It is a fairly steep slope from the highway. No problem up or down for 2WD when it’s dry, but I’d like the extra confidence of 4WD if I was planning to pull our Scamp out the east entrance.

Near the entrance was a standard BLM sign board, complete with a container for guides that provided names for some of the buttes. This one is called Seven Sailors, although one of them was hiding from my camera angle.

Sitting Hen


Much of the road was in very good condition. There were some spots that had significant washboard, some tight turns, some steep and abrupt slope changes, etc. With everything dry, I’d be willing to pull the Scamp through here, but there are a couple slopes where I might be grateful for my locking rear-end. I wouldn’t consider driving a beast sized rig or one with a long overhang through here.

There are lots of available boondock spots along, or very near, the road. There is a small handful of spots that are further away from the road. This one is a Mercedes van.

This is called Castle Butte. It looks like it may be falling apart.

I thought the road around the north side of Castle Butte would be challenging for a trailer because of the tight turns and sudden slope changes. This is the view south after making the turn.

I asked this fellow which way he’d come. He’d come in the same direction I did, so obviously, the turns and slope changes weren’t that big a deal. While I was chatting with him about his Scamp, a 26ish ft. class C passed us headed the other way.

There were lots more spots along the western section of the road, including one that was hidden behind a little hill, but with a massive, private view to the southeast.

Most of the Valley of the Gods has reasonable 3G cell connectivity from the same tower to serves Goosenecks State Park.

I spotted this cowboy on the way home and couldn’t resist including it for Ellen.

This post was uploaded and scheduled thanks to the reasonably fast and complementary wifi at the Blanding Visitor Center.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wolfman Panel

April 14th -- I based at Sand Island BLM campground while I visited the Wolfman Panel and drove the Valley of the Gods road.

San Juan County road 262 heads north from Highway 163 about 1.8 miles west of the Sand Island road. It is gated (unlocked but close it behind you) and unmarked at the highway, but is exactly across the road from the marked entrance to the Bluff airport. BTW, the Trails Illustrated Grand Gulch Cedar Mesa Plateau map #706, updated in 2013 is incorrect. The airport entrance passes the marked drill hole headed to the southwest end of the airstrip.

I followed 262 west and then north for one mile to the cattle guard. This is the first cattle guard on the road so it’s really hard to miss. Turn left on the south side of the fence line and drive about 400 feet to a small parking lot. Kelsey’s book says 4WD can continue further, but the track beyond the first parking lot now has posts in the roadway.

There were a few cairns in place when I visited, but I initially chose to ignore them because I’d heard of ruins on the other side of the wash. As soon as I spotted the top of a potential alcove, I headed that way to spot the remains of some mud plastered walls

and a very nice structure tucked back into the deepest part of the alcove.

To get to the panel, I found the old cattle trail that heads south down the east wall of Butler Wash. Towards the top of the trail, a large rock now blocks the way. Skinny people may be able to go left. Published accounts suggest you can go right around the rock. I elected to go over it.

Once past the large rock, an alcove in the east wall is apparent. The famous Wolfman is on the dark varnished wall near the right edge of this picture.

The Wolfman petroglyph has been damaged by some thoughtless person who apparently mistook it for a target.

It was fun to study the wall a bit. In addition to the obvious Wolfman, there were lots of other interesting details.

In some ways, I liked the goose with a tiller on its dory, just left of the Wolfman. Given the time period when these petroglyphs were created, apparently the artist was thinking of something else or was a prophet.

There were other, much fainter petroglyphs closer to the alcove, although I didn’t notice them on my initial approach.

Of all of the images, I think this geometric design was my favorite. Once again, marked by target shooting. Of all the pictures I took of this, I liked this view up the wall the best, so that’s what you get.

Here’s the view of the stone blocking the trail from the lower end. The route around the outside looks workable in the picture, but I decided it was too much exposure for me. I went up and over on the way uphill as well.

This post was uploaded and scheduled on fast complementary wifi while I was eating dinner at the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Goosenecks State Park

April 13th -- I stopped in Kayenta to try to upload two blog posts, but the wireless was slow enough that the laptop battery died before the second post was finished. With everything done that could be done, I headed north through Monument Valley,

following the local water delivery service part of the way.

I was pleasantly surprised at the air quality. After the wind the night before, I didn’t have much hope for visibility. While it wasn’t perfect, it was better than we’ve seen sometimes.

I dropped down the hill and around the corner to cross the bridge at Mexican Hat,

just in time to spot a couple inflatable kayaks drifting down the river. Next stop for them will be Clay Hills, shortly before the San Juan river gets swallowed up by Lake Powell.

Before I turned off of Highway 163 onto Utah Highway 261/316, I stopped to get a picture of the sombrero, the town’s namesake.

Goosenecks was my destination for the day, but not because of nearby ruins or petroglyphs. Twelve years ago, I had a permit for a San Juan river trip from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills. I passed that permit off to a friend that was going on the trip and flew to Washington with BJ for her Dad’s funeral instead. Turns out, I’ve never seen this stretch from the water. This trip was a chance to see it from above, and to give thanks for Joe’s part in my life.

Campsites are where you want them along the rim. Those closest to the entrance include a table, trash can, and fire ring but no improvements such as grading. I had to walk about 30’ from my door to get the previous picture.

As if the view to the south isn’t good enough, there is also an expansive view to the north. The cliffs in the distance form the southern edge of Cedar Mesa. I’m not taking the direction route, choosing to NOT tow the trailer up the Moki Dugway. There are places to visit before I get there, but the Cedar Mesa is an upcoming destination.

This post uploaded and scheduled thanks to the fast Wifi with dinner at Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah.