Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cold Spring Cave Trail

The Cold Spring Cave Trail is one of the several short hikes on the east side of the massive Navajo sandstone Comb Ridge, west of the town of Bluff in southeast Utah. I started my hike 7.6 miles north of the south gate of Butler Wash Road, then a short distance down a bumpy side road.

This starting point is less than 0.5 miles north of the trail head area for the Monarch Cave Trail. None of these interesting trails are pointed out with signs.

I noticed that Bluff has new signs at the edge of town indicating the town was founded in 650 AD. The Comb Ridge area was the home of some of the early settlers. From the trailhead area, the Cold Spring alcove is clearly visible, even some of the wall sections of the structures are visible. The trail leading across Butler Wash is easier to follow than most of the other trails and not much of the route crosses bare sandstone before reaching the canyon mouth area.

At the entrance to the canyon, there is a rubble pile ruin perched on a high point on the opposite side of the canyon mouth. There isn’t an easy way to cross over and look closer, though it looks like it is feasible. The location of this site is interesting as it appears to be a lookout point. I haven’t noticed other ruins structures positioned like this in the Comb Ridge area.
The alcove is very long with small wall sections along the lower end and larger structures in the upper and deeper end. Besides the remaining structures, Cold Spring seems to have more interesting features than many of these sites. It took me about 0:30 minutes to arrive at the alcove.
Cold Spring is particularly rich in hand print pictographs. There are several panels spread all along the canyon walls and they use a larger variety of colors than is usually seen.
The other prominent feature here is the number of small grooves that appear to be for grinding. These small side by side grooves are a different style than the larger grinding stones that are on display at the major sites at Mesa Verde and other interpreted sites. One of these several grinding stations has petroglyph images built into the horizontal surface.

Near the entrance to the deep part of the cave there is a circular kiva where some of the stonework looks to be well preserved with some of the plaster still in place. The water source for the site is in the deepest part of the cave. Water can be seen seeping from rocks and supports a growth of maidenhair ferns, and trickles down into a small basin.
Near the kiva on the right side of the deep part of the cave there is an historic inscription from 1892. At Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly and other places on Cedar Mesa, some of the early explorers left inscriptions. This is the only one I know of in the Comb Ridge area.
I visited the Cold Spring Cave for about 1:00 hour. On the return hike I explored the area to the north, following cow trails across the drainages for about 1 mile and scanning the visible alcoves with binoculars. There is more to find in this area.

My total hike with this side trip was 3:30 hours. It was 43 F degrees when I started at 11:30 AM and 56 degrees at the 3:00 PM finish on a sunny late March day. I saw two other hiking groups during my hike, a total of seven visitors. The parking area for the nearby Monarch Cave Trail had several vehicles with tents pitched.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Double Stack Trail at Comb Ridge

The Double Stack Trail is one of the several hikes on the east side of the Navajo sandstone Comb Ridge, a few miles west of Bluff in southeast Utah. I started my hike 3.8 miles north of the south gate on Butler Wash Road, then a short distance west on the side road that leads to the edge Butler Wash.

From this starting point, there is a large alcove visible directly west. I hiked toward the alcove, crossing the overgrown Butler Wash using cow trails, then walking on the sandstone and descending into the drainage. This isn’t the most direct route for finding the Double Stack Ruins site, but makes a loop route and allows for some exploration and good views.

The more direct route is to hike northwest toward the next canyon to the north. The benefit of going directly west is that the upper edge of the visible alcove appears to be an obscure arch.

Climbing out of the canyon to the left of the alcove, I looked to see if I could hike back down the next canyon to the north. That route leads toward the ruins site but has pour over points that looked too risky get around and I climbed back up to the sandstone area between the adjacent canyons. Walking down the bare rocks toward the rim, there is a survey monument at the section corners, helpful if your map shows section corners.

Continuing, I found an overlook view of the Double Stack Ruins and there was an easy route to descend down slightly to the east of the overlook. From above, there are some standing walls on the lower left and an upper level structure to the right.

Approaching from the right, there is a line of large boulders surrounding a mound of dirt. The largest wall remaining section appears on the right. There is a large log still in place, supported on the support columns of a kiva.

On the back wall, there is a set of small storage like structures. Above these small boxes are red and white hand prints. I saw one other set of handprints further to the right. The trail in the canyon bottom was visible close to the ruins site but I lost track of it near the canyon mouth. There are at least two conical arrangements of Juniper logs along the canyon bottom trail east of the Double Stack Ruins. Other structures I’ve seen like this were referred to as Navajo sweat lodges, but these could be something else.

My total loop hike took 3:10 hours on a 56 F degree early March day and I carried and drank 2 liters of water. The return hike from the ruins site took about 0:40 minutes, so this can be a short hike if you find the direct route.