Saturday, September 5, 2009
pictured: vandalized "Wolfman Petroglyphs"
This area held one of the greatest caches of artifacts in the southwestern United States. Alas, that brought pot hunters. Much of what was saved became (dis)located to museums. Astonishingly, there is still enough in situ that we can still inhale the spirit of the place. Due to the unprotected nature of this Bureau of Land Management land, I'm not going to tell exactly how to get to these places.
The Butler Wash area is very disorienting and rewarding. Here's what I recommend: Stay at the Recapture Lodge in historic Bluff, Utah. Make some friends there. You will be among people with outdoor interests and the owners are very knowledgeable. If they sense sincerity they may help you find these great sites.
It took me 3 tries to find the "Procession Panel"4*. It entails a 6.6 mile drive north up unimproved Butler Wash Rd. (San Juan Co. #262, impassable when wet), which is 4 miles west of town. Then turn 100 yards west to the trail head above Butler Wash. It's then a 1 1/4 mile hike each way to the petroglyph panel.
It took me several tries to find "Eagle's Nest" ruin. Wow, what a testament to paranoia and guts that is!
The hikes into the 2 "bowl" sites are as rewarding as the grand finales.
Although access trails are short to sites, the Butler Wash area is very dangerous. Orientation is difficult and it is very arid. No potable water is available. Be careful and be aware of precise landmarks.
This is a no-fee area unless you take a guide. Please consider a guide if you are not back country savvy. The problems are the "no trail" slickrock and many intersecting wrong turns in the wash. A guided San Juan River trip is the only way to take in the "Desecration Panel".
HERE'S SOME GENERAL MILEAGES TO SOME OF THE BEST STUFF:
Monarch Ruins(4*)-Access to the trail 7.2 miles north of Rt. 163 on Butler Wash Rd.
Eagle's Nest Ruins(5*)-Access to the trail 8 miles N of 163 on BWR.
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel(4*)-Access to the trail 1 mile N of 163 on BWR.
Fishbowl Ruins(3*)-Access to the trail 1 mile N of 163 on BWR.
Butler Wash Petroglyph Panel (on the confluence with San Juan River)(5*)-Access to the trail on Rt. 163, just west of the wash. This is simply a 2 mile walk and bushwhack each way, heading south in Butler Wash. Besides the great panel at the end, there are some ruins on the way.
"Airport" Petroglyphs(4*)-Located on the sandstone bluffs facing the San Juan River. Access about 1 mile east of Butler Wash, at the airstrip.
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Follow the directions for Slickhorn #6 hike, but take the first clearly defined track west (this will be about 4 mi. from the pavement) after bearing south where the Government Trail turnoff goes north. This westbound track (right) takes you to the trail head and primitive campsite at "First Fork" of Slickhorn Canyon.
This kiva is indeed perfect, although the ladder is replicated. Can't have everything. 700 years will do that sometimes.
There is no maintained trail into First Fork, which will head you in a southwesterly direction. 15 minutes brings you to a pour-off which can be detoured to the left via a shallow side canyon. A mile past this easy circumvention there is another pour-off, this one not so easily negotiated. Here, climb to a bench just below the mesa top on the south side of the canyon. Look for cairns. When you are on the bench, look across the main canyon and downstream for a large sandstone monolith. This monolith is your landmark for descending back to the main "First Fork" canyon. Look for cairns again. (If you are short of clues, perhaps Rangers have knocked cairns over. I can't blame them, sorry.) Now, 200 yards downstream from the monolith, look for the trail up to "Perfect Kiva Ruin". You will not see the site from the canyon bottom. IT'S SWEET!
We turned back here, but hiking 1 1/2 miles more down canyon brings you to "Second Fork". There are several small ruins there I heard, including a fine granary.
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Like Horseshoe Canyon with "Great Gallery", The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park (fee area) offers great Barrier Canyon style art work in a beautiful mural, via a hike. This too-cool pictograph style is about 2000 years old or more, and it's survival depends on us. Thankfully, not too many vandals will go to the trouble here.
Getting there is half the fun (or torture, depending on your back and butt). Don't even try to access this hike without a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. And then you better know how to handle a CJ or Cherokee well.
Turn east on a dirt road between Hwy. 95 mile marker 46 and 47 into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This dirt track is technically Rt. 633 here. In the beginning you will wonder what the problem is for cars, until you get to the Teapot Rock area. Scenic paved Utah Hwy. 95 runs from Blanding to Hanksville, Utah. It is an awesome road in itself. I especially like the White Canyon area heading west from Blanding.
Anyway, it's over 5 hours from the turn off of the pavement to the Chimney Rock campground (primitive) in the Maze, even though it's less than 50 miles. Get your camping permit from the Hans Flat Ranger Station reserved. (We were able to do it by phone.) Believe it or not, park personnel do patrol this most desolate region. You probably will get busted without a permit.
The first 30 miles on the dirt road are easy driving, where you come to a four way junction. Turn right and learn how to drive or get high-centered. DO NOT EXCEED 5MPH IN THE TEAPOT ROCK AREA. You will go from Glen Canyon NRA to Canyonlands NP just after the "Golden Stairs" about 40 miles from Rt. 95. Good news! If you make it this far, you''ll make it to your Chimney Rock campsite (which is the trail head), after passing "The Wall" and "Standing Rock" campsites. All are primitive.
THE HIKE: There are three cairned trails at Chimney Rock campground. Take the left most, continuing to bear left, then descending into a drainage which is Pictograph Fork. After the descent, the walking is easy in a northwesterly direction. The Harvest Scene panel about 1 1/2 hours northwest from camp is the focus. After a good look, continue down canyon (north) about a mile to a large drainage right. You do not want to miss this turn, or you may be in dehydration and/or search party trouble. Eventually the trail will ascend up this drainage on the right side. When you get up on top, you can see Chimney Rock to the right or south, your landmark for camp. Pete's Mesa is left. The route to camp should be cairned on slickrock. This is about a 9 mile loop as described. Allowing time to study the pictograph panel is the main consideration, other than not getting lost. But this one is not too hard to follow. If one can get to the camp site, obviously one is cognizant.
Hey, this baby is a real pain all the way around, and worth the trouble. This hike can not possibly be done without an overnight, primitive camping experience. Don't try to drive around here if it's wet.
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These 200 million plus year old monoliths, of the Moenkopi and Cutler sandstone/mudstone formations, appear to be melting. The tallest, Titan, is 900 feet tall. Perhaps you will see some technical climbers on the hike. (The climbing is expert rated.) The trail is easy to find, on scenic Utah Hwy. 128, which runs from Interstate 70 on the north to Moab on the south. Mile marker 21 is where the 2.2 mile road takes off from 128 to the trailhead. The whole of Hwy. 128 is awesome scenery, with the towers being some of the best of the best. The trail is approximately 4 1/4 miles out and back. It's not too tough, but you will want to allow some sightseeing time. The trail should be well cairned. Nearby sights which can be seen on the hike include the underrated La Sal Mountains and Castle Rock. If you are a John Wayne fan you will recognize Castle Rock from some "oaters". Moab, Utah is about 23 miles from the trail. Be ready to fall in love with this beautiful Colorado River gorge area. DID YOU BRING YOUR BICYCLE PLEASE? It's not allowed on this track, but there is plenty of good riding in this "Mountain Biking Mecca".
If you are claustrophobic, there is no way that you will handle Spooky Gulch narrows (pictured). I was walking sideways and I weigh 150. It is so narrow, locals say, rattlesnakes drop in from the top, as they cannot sense the chasm. Stick to Dry Fork Coyote Gulch's narrows if you don't like it tight. Nonetheless, Spooky is awesome, if indeed intense. Peek-a-Boo Gulch presents natural bridges (almost immediately from the south end, which is the access here described).
Steve Allen has a nice loop description in his "Canyoneering 3" (hike 19). It includes the southern ends of Spooky and Peek-a-Boo.
It's hot and dry (except when it flash floods) in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Be cautious.
To access this area use the Dry Fork Coyote Road (high-clearance), which is 26 miles south on Hole-in-the-Rock Rd., to the left or easterly. Hole-in-the-Rock begins just east of Escalante, Utah, off of Rt. 12.
The hiking trail begins at the parking area, 1.7 miles down DFC Rd. The trail northeast will be marked, as it is popular. Do not get on the sand dune as you pass right of it. Stay right and descend into the gulch. When the Dry Fork Coyote Gulch is reached, Peek-a-Boo is the first slot on the left, as you travel down canyon, or east in Coyote. A climb up into Peek-a-Boo is required. Spooky is about 15 minutes east of Peek-a-Boo.
Brimstone Gulch is the next slot downstream from Spooky, but we did not explore it. It is difficult, as are the northern reaches of Spooky. Further along yet, past Brimstone, is a side canyon that contains a natural bridge.
Less tight are the narrows of Dry Fork Coyote in the opposite direction (up canyon), where a loop can be made to the parking area by exiting DFC Gulch left and hiking cross country SE to the vehicle.
I have no time designations for the area hiking. When the water is half gone, return to the vehicle. This is more a photographer's playground than a hike. But it is challenging.
Approximate mileages from trail head: Dry Fork Coyote Gulch 1/3 mi., Peek-a-Boo Gulch is a very short walk down canyon, Spooky Gulch additional 1/2 mile dc, Brimstone Gulch additional 1 mile dc.
If you want to see more of Dry Fork Coyote Gulch, use the Red Well Road. It travels east, 30.7 miles south (down) Hole-in-the-Rock Rd. The trail head is 1.3 miles down Red Well Rd. Dry Fork Coyote confluence is left, a half hour down the trail, as it heads east.
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