Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dry Wash Trail-Blue Mountains

The Dry Wash Trail is labeled as Road 5385 where it makes a junction with Forest Road 095 about 1.3 miles west of the Nizhoni Campground area in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. This area is reached from the Dry Wash Forest Access Road on the north side of Blanding in southeast Utah

The trail travels north along a rough forest road. In the distance there are some alcoves visible in the sandstone cliffs. I thought there might be ruins sites in this area, but I didn't know where they might be.

As the trail climbs, the alcoves are obscured by the rich forest and go out of sight and it is easy to walk past them. I stayed on what appeared to be the main trail for about 1.5 miles and then followed a cow trail for about 0.5 miles further, checking the sunlit side canyons for signs of ruins. The forest here is a mix of Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs, Aspens, Maples, Narrowleaf Cottonwoods and Gambel Oak.

On the return hike, after not seeing any ruins, I walked up an east leading side trail that is less than 10 minutes from the starting point that appeared to head for the alcoves that are visible. This trail climbs and passes below the alcoves and then arrives at a T junction of trails. Staying to the left there is a bench and interpretive sign. There aren't any trail markers to guide you to this spot, but if you arrive there is a place to sit and enjoy the view.

Up above is the Dry Wash Cave Ruins. The interpretive sign says that this is a food storage site, built in about 1250 AD. To the right, there is some intact stonework built around a frame of wood. To the left there is only a minor amount of stone remaining but many wooden poles that have fallen into a tangle. The interpretive sign says that this site was reached with the help of ladders and that visitors should not attempt to climb up.

The trail head elevation is about 7400 feet and the ruins sites are at about 8000 feet. The interpretive sign says that the Ancestral Pueblo People came this high into the mountains for the water supply, just as we do today. Past the ruins view area there is a pipe visible that is conducting water to the town of Blanding.

Returning to the T junction and continuing around the canyon shelf, there is another view point about 0.2 miles away that shows two more storage sites visible.

In the smaller site the stone work appears to be well preserved.

I followed this trail for another 0:10 minutes where there are views that include Mt. Linnaeus, the alcoves, and the canyon area north of the alcoves. From this point it took 0:30 minutes to return to the trail head. My total hike took 3:30 hours including 2:00 hours of being off the direct track to the ruins sites. I carried 2 liters of water on a 60 F degree mid October day. There were no other hikers in the area on the day I hiked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skyline Trail Loop-Blue Mountains

The Skyline Trail is in the Blue or Abajo Mountains in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeast Utah. The Dry Wash forest access road leads north from Highway 191 on the north side Blanding 11.6 miles to a forest road junction near the Nizhoni Campground. Forest Road 095 on the left leads west 5.8 miles to a trail that is marked No. 013.

A short distance up Trail 013 is marked as the Blue Creek-Allen Canyon Trail and it is noted that it is 2.3 miles to the Skyline Trail. The trailhead elevation is about 8500 feet and the climb to the junction with the Skyline Trail is about 1340 feet up to about 9840 feet. This trail is open to hikers and horse riders.

On the way up there are good views of Mt. Linnaeus at 10,958 feet. The trail is gravelly most of the way and climbs steadily. The lower segment of trail is mostly Gambel Oaks with scattered Ponderosa Pines.

The views to the south overlook the upper end of the Allen Canyon area. The road leading to the trailhead also has views of this canyon area. The Bears Ears are visible in the distance.

It took me 1:30 hours to reach the junction with the Skyline Trail. There aren't any trail markers at the top but the junction is clear. The Skyline Trail is 5.1 miles long and this junction is near the middle. In addition to the views of Mt. Linnaeus and Allen Canyon, there are skyline views into Tuerto Canyon.

I turned left to descend back toward Forest Road 095. Between the Blue Mountain peaks to the north, the La Sal Mountains are faintly visible in the distance. At this high elevation Spruce and Fir trees replace the Ponderosa Pines.

The descent from the skyline is about 2.3 miles and much of the way passes through Aspen forest. As the trail nears the forest road the Gambel Oaks come back and there are also Maples and a few patches of the evergreen Manzanita.

It took me a total of 3:05 hours to arrive back at the Forest Road 095, leaving a 3 mile walk back to my starting point to complete the loop. This trailhead for the Skyline Trail is well marked and the same hike in the opposite direction could start here. There are good views to the south all along the road. A large alcove is visible that may have an arch on the right side.

About 1.3 miles west of the Skyline trailhead is a view point called the Causeway. I saw more than 10 deer on this trip and two groups of turkeys. My total hike took 4:20 hours for about 7.6 miles. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on a 65 F degree mid October day.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Allen Trail near South Cottonwood Road

The South Cottonwood Road access to the south side Manti-La Sal National Forest is 6.4 miles west of Blanding, Utah along Route 95. This junction is well marked. About 8.3 miles north along the Cottonwood Road there is a Forest Road junction with Road 092 to the left and Road 106 to the right heading north.

About 2.7 miles north on Road 106 there is an unmarked minor dirt road that makes a right turn and is a beginning for the Allen Trail. The Allen Trail leads north and south and is about 7.5 miles long. The north trailhead is inside the Manti-La Sal Forest but the south end of the trail is outside the boundary.

I started hiking at the beginning of the minor dirt road. For the first 0.5 miles there are views to the west toward the lower end of Hammond Canyon. Allen Canyon and Hammond Canyon are tributaries to Cottonwood Canyon.

In this general area there are Ute Mountain Indian Reservation Restricted Areas but this road and trail didn't have any posted restrictions. There might be a very old Ute settlement in this area and the agriculturally suitable land has been allotted to the tribe.

The minor dirt road fizzles out and the route continues as a trail along the sandstone shelf above the floor of Allen Canyon and below a mesa top area to the east. In the distance the high peaks of the Abajo or Blue Mountains are visible.

The Allen Trail appears to be lightly used. It appears to be used mostly by horse riders. The trail is faint in a few places but is mostly easy to follow. There are many good lookout points on the sandstone shelf.

There were several alcoves visible along the way, mostly in the white sandstone layer. I scanned them with binoculars but didn't see any visible ruins sites. The trail area vegetation is Pinon Pine and Utah Junipers. Down below in the canyon there are wide sagebrush fields and Cottonwoods are visible in some places.

I went about 3 miles in 1:20 hours to a point where there was a wide side canyon joining from the west.

The map I have showed an area that is called the Bee Hives along this segment of trail. I didn't see anything that reminded me of Bee Hives unless it was the banded mesa top area to the east of the trail. Maybe it is the combination of these mesas sitting on the red shelf that supports the trail. My return hike took 1:20 hours for a total hike of 2:40 hours for about 6 miles. I hiked on an 80 F degree early October day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Government Trail to Grand Gulch

The Government Trail is one of several that provide access to Grand Gulch in the Cedar Mesa area in southeast Utah. The access road is a west turn from Utah Route 261, 9.9 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station onto the road that appears to be marked as the Cigarette Springs Road. Then it is 9.2 miles to the trailhead.

There are three junctions where you stay to the right, two of them marked. The last 1.5 miles is narrower and much bumpier.

At the trailhead, there are some information signs and a trail register. The Grand Gulch area has a $2 per hiker permit fee for day hiking. There is a 2.5 mile or so segment along an old road through mesa top desert vegetation before reaching the canyon rim. A sign at the trailhead says 3 miles but I don’t think it is that far. Polly’s Canyon is visible on the right as the trail heads north to the rim.

It took me 0:55 minutes to arrive at the rim where there are views across to the formation known as Polly’s Island. From here there is a switchback constructed trail that leads about 0.8 miles to the canyon floor. This area is about 26 canyon miles downstream from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station trail head.

With binoculars, there is a ruins site visible just below the rim of Polly’s Island. Several doorways are visible and some open rooms are spread out along the ledge. There might be more ruins sites on top but it was hard to tell. 

There might be a ruins site on the northwest side of Polly’s Island but there is a lot of thick brush and a steep climb up the sandy banks. I went part of the way there but didn't go far enough.

The main attraction of this hike is the Big Man rock art panel up the canyon about 1.5 miles. After looking around briefly to the left I continued up canyon to the right. Most of the trail is along the canyon floor where it is mostly wide and smooth. There were several muddy spots where a recent flood had left pools of water.

Most of the extreme muddy spots had side trails around them but I think the flooding had disrupted these trails somewhat. Much of the vegetation close to the banks appeared to be pushed over by the flowing water. I by-passed the Polly’s canyon on the right where there is an arch. 

The Big Man panel is high above the trail on the face of a rocky point. I was checking the map frequently and even when I thought I was near it I didn't see it right away. The view up is obscured both by the angle and the many Cottonwood trees along the canyon floor.

I was slightly past it when I saw it. The trail to climb up is on the left side and is steep. The two large reddish figures catch the most attention.

There is an interpretive sketch in an ammo box at the site that identifies the male figure on the right as Tawa’ Ki and the female on the left as Tawa’ Ka. It points out that a spiral, scarf and handbag are associated with the female.

To the left, there some white figures and some red handprints but no interpretation is offered. It took me about 3:00 hours to arrive at the Big Man Panel. I didn't notice any other ruins or rock art along this section of canyon, but there may be some.

My return hike took 2:30 hours for a total hike of 5:50 hours for about 9 miles. It was about 70 F degrees in the morning and 82 F in the afternoon on a mid September day. I carried 3 liters of water and needed every drop. I didn't see any other hikers during my hike.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Road to Lime Creek Canyon

A dirt road leading to the south rim of Lime Creek Canyon is 13.1 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station along Utah Route 261 in southeast Utah.

This road doesn’t seem to have a number or a name but it is marked as a designated route for vehicles in this area. The road has some eroded spots. I chose to start my hike here at the junction with Highway 261. It is about 1.3 miles through Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest to a junction with a dirt road that connects to the Cigarette Springs Road that is about 3 miles to the north.

Before arriving at the junction, a rocky outcrop with some rubble on top is visible to the left. Other rocky hilltops are visible straight ahead, and the road continues past the junction toward them. This rocky hilltop is actually on the northeast side, slightly past the road junction.

I followed a faint trail from the road junction toward the rocky outcrop and passed what looks like a Navajo sweat lodge.

Climbing up onto the rocky outcrop there are several ruins structures and views toward Lime Creek Canyon.

This site might be known as the Lime Creek Watch Tower, but doesn’t seem to be very well known. If you drive to this area to hike in Lime Creek Canyon you might pass it without noticing it. 

None of these structures seemed to have any mortar remaining. The rocky outcrops further to the east didn’t have any visible structures on top. Often these lookout points have a line of sight to other lookout points, but I didn’t notice one here.

From where I started it took 0:40 minutes to arrive at this hilltop ruins site. From here, I continued north to the Lime Creek Canyon rim and hiked east, scanning the layered canyon walls. (The hike continues on the next post.)

Lime Creek Canyon South Rim

Lime Creek Canyon is one of the southernmost canyons of the Cedar Mesa area of southeast Utah. The access roads are south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station along Utah Route 261.

I started at the dirt road that is 13.1 miles south of the Ranger Station. From the rocky outcrop hilltop ruins site that is near a road junction, it took me about 0:20 minutes to walk to the south rim. (See the previous post for the hilltop ruins views.)

It is possible to hike at the bottom of the canyon, but there are small ruins sites visible near the top of the north rim canyon walls that probably aren’t visible from below.

You need binoculars to spot the small ruins sites. Even if you can’t find them, the Lime Creek Canyon is very scenic. In the upper part of the canyon, I couldn't see any water flowing below.

More or less across from the rocky hilltop near where I started, there is a small two or three room ruin in the first small alcove below the rim.

In this area, there are two short side canyons to walk around. Ahead, on a ledge near the rim on the right, there is a scatter of boulders. There are small structures hidden on the ledge on each side on the boulders.

These shadow hidden sites look mostly like storage sites. It looks like the ledge would be hard for the residents to access, but maybe a ladder by the boulders was possible.

Further on, there are some eroded needle-like formations visible. To the right of the needles on a ledge near the top, there is a small structure visible. I turned around here after 2:30 hours of hiking. There are some alcoves visible down canyon further to the right that appear to be likely sites, but I couldn't tell. Along this section of canyon I saw three definite ruins sites and one or two others that I couldn't tell for sure.

On the return hike I cut through the forest toward the rocky hilltops where the dirt road ended. My return hike took 1:20 hours for a total hike 3:50 hours for about 5.8 miles. It was an early September day, about 70 F degrees in the morning and about 80 F in the afternoon. I carried and drank 3 liters of water. I didn't see any other hikers during my hike.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Harts Draw Scenic Route-Blue Mountains

The Harts Draw Scenic Route travels west from Monticello, Utah up along the north side of the Blue or Abajo Mountains in southeast Utah. It passes several campgrounds and small lakes before turning north and descending to intersect Utah Route 211, the route to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

The total route distance is about 20 miles. The west turn from Highway 191 is at the Monticello Visitor Information Center.

At a high point before the north turn, there is a lookout point with two interpretive signs and sighting tubes pointing out some of the Canyonlands features that are visible in the distance.

One of the sighting tubes points to the Shay Mountains. One of the interpretive signs describes Mountain Building. Magma bulged up under the sandstone surface 27.9 to 25 million years ago. The overlying sandstone has mostly eroded away leaving the igneous rock to form the peaks.

About 2 miles east of the lookout point is the small Monticello Lake. It is possible to walk all the way around this small lake and get views of the north side of the Blue Mountains. North, behind the lake there is a deep canyon with sandstone bluffs on the west side.

I tried a hike along the road marked as Forest Road 105 that makes a junction with the Harts Draw Road at Monticello Lake. This road travels north and passes through foothills vegetation of sagebrush, Pinon Pines, Juniper, Gambel Oak and Serviceberry, with a few Ponderosa Pines. In the distance the mountain hillsides with Aspens, Spruce and Fir are visible.

In the distance to the north, some of the Canyonlands area formations would be visible if it were a clear day. There are several side roads along the main forest road. Some of them are marked as ATV routes.

I walked about 2 miles north on the forest roads and returned to Monticello Lake. My total hike was for 2:45 hours for about 5 miles. 

Groups of wild turkeys are frequently sighted along this scenic route. It was a 75 F degree early July day. I carried and drank 3 liters of water. In early July 2012, Forest Road 79 that leads to the Red Ledges Trail area was closed during the week for roadwork.