Saturday, March 14, 2009

Top of Comb Ridge Trail-Procession Panel

Comb Ridge is a massive wedge of uplifted sandstone that runs north and south for 80 miles in southeast Utah. The east side of Comb Ridge along Butler Wash Road has many eroded canyons that offer interesting hiking.

One of the trails allows a moderate route to the top of Comb Ridge and also has the Procession petroglyph panel.

Butler Wash Road starts about 5.0 miles west of Bluff along Highway 163, near the San Juan River. The trail that begins about 6.6 miles north of the south gate of Butler Wash Road offers a route to get to one of the high points of Comb Ridge offering wide views of the remote Cedar Mesa area, an area rich with small Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites.

 This trail starts on a short side road from the Butler Wash Road and doesn't have a BLM sign in box or any trail head information.

The trail is mostly over sandstone without a marked route. Head for the reddish ridge and stay to the south of the deep canyon, working along the south rim. There are visible trail segments on the areas that aren't bare rock.

The trail leads to a view point between two rugged peaks of Comb Ridge. To the right are some flat vertical south facing cliffs. The environment here is scattered Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper trees with Mormon Tea, Prickly Pear Cactus, and maybe Blackbrush. This area is very hot in the summer with spring and fall being the best times to visit.

To the upper west end of the cliffs is the Procession petroglyph panel. The trail doesn't lead directly to the petroglyph panel so you'll have to steer up to the right.

There doesn't seem to be any ruins in the vicinity of this panel, though ruins are present in the adjacent canyons. This panel features three long lines of small figures marching toward a circle along with several animal figures.
I notice that among the marchers are a few larger figures, with birds on their heads and carrying long staffs.
The nearby Sand Island petroglyph site has several flute player figures, and ducks on the heads of figures are also found there and  in several other sites.

The line of marchers extends around the natural corner of the rock and they keep coming. Another petroglyph site that appears to show a procession is along the Hidden Valley Trail near Moab, Utah.

Some of the marchers seem to be in particularly good spirits, waving to the viewers from across the gap of deep time. I spent about 2:30 hours on this hike and walked about four miles, including the walk past the petroglyphs to the top of Comb Ridge. At the top, there is a ruins site in view in one of the canyons to the north.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hobbs Wash Exploring

Hobbs Wash is a short tributary to Lower Butler Wash, about five miles west of Bluff in southeast Utah. There are no official trails into the wash but the area has some Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites and petroglyphs to hike towards and the distance is short.

I started my hike at the Historical Marker that is on the west side of Butler Wash and still east of Comb Ridge on the north side of the highway. Crossing to the south side of the highway, it is a short walk down into Hobbs Wash, but quickly the wash reaches a pour over point.

I explored further south along the rim looking for an easy route down, but didn't see anything reasonable, though I think others have found an easy way.

To the right of the pour point, there is a rocky slope that isn't easy, but is feasible to descend to the canyon floor. It is a little tangled going down the small wash but once you reach the junction with Butler Wash, there are some hiker made trails up and down Butler Wash.

At the junction, I turned left, or north and hiked back towards the highway. There are some alcoves in small Hobbs Wash that look like feasible sites for ruins but I didn't see anything still standing. I did notice one small petroglyph on the north wall. Looking to the south, I think there must be another ruins site nearby, but I didn't go that way to see it.

A few hundred yards to the north I found a small site. This site is very close to the highway and vehicles can be seen racing by. The sandstone layer here sits on top of a thick layer of soil that has eroded into steep dirt cliffs with sluggish water flow winding in between.
The bottoms area is thick with vegetation and there is a meandering stream. Even though the distance is short back to the highway it didn't look very hikeable.

This site has two small structures and a reddish pictograph on the back wall. The historical marker on the highway commemorates four scouts that sought shelter in this area on December 27, 1879. The scouts were exploring a route for Mormon Hole in the Rock pioneers.

I retraced my steps without searching further south along the Butler Wash, climbing up the rocky slope. I spent about 2:00 hours on this hike, much of it looking around on the rim for the route down.
I don't think I visited the better known Hobbs Wash Ruin. This is an area where it might be good strategy to spot the sites from the east side of Butler Wash first.