Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Comb Ridge North of Cold Spring Cave

The Cold Spring Cave Trail is one of the better known routes in the otherwise obscure Comb Ridge area, a few miles west of Bluff in southeast Utah. On this hike I was exploring the area just to the north of Cold Spring. I parked along the main Butler Wash Road 8.3 miles north of the south gate.

From this starting point there is an old fence where I found cow trails to follow toward and across Butler Wash. I was heading for the small canyon that is north of the large patch of desert vegetation that covers the lower slope of the otherwise bare Navajo sandstone of Comb Ridge. On a previous hike I had noticed a small storage sized structure from the rim overlooking this small canyon.

This small site appears to be very well preserved and is nicely protected in a small south facing alcove. The walk up this small canyon was easy and it took me about 0:40 minutes to arrive here. There is another alcove at the head of this canyon that had some piles of rocks but didn't appear to be a ruins site.

To the east of the well preserved ruin there is a rough constructed rock wall. There is a climbable slope on the north side of this canyon and I continued to hike north to the rim of the next canyon. I scanned the next canyon with binoculars but didn't notice anything, so I continued around the canyon head to the next rim. The sandstone rock surfaces are mostly smooth and easy to walk on.

I was surprised to find two large alcoves with ruins spaced a couple of hundred yards apart. This is a view of the more eastern of the two. There is a fairly easy ramp leading down directly across from this site. I was 1:25 hours into my hike when I enjoyed this spectacular view. I hadn't been aware that there were ruins here and it was exciting to find these two sites.

The eastern down canyon site has a small structure that appears to be dry wall without any mortar. On each side there are some low walls still standing. On a boulder in front there are some grinding grooves with some minor petroglyphs alongside the grooves.

The up canyon site has a larger alcove to work with and has a larger standing structure. In early spring the trail between the sites has several pothole pools of water to step around.

Part of the front wall has collapsed but otherwise most of the large room has held together well. I checked the canyon wall approaching the right side of the alcove but didn’t notice any rock art.

The alcove behind the structure has some water seeping through the rocks and some maidenhair fern is growing on the rock walls.

Although these two sites are probably not as well known as others in the Comb Ridge area, there is a trail leading to them up the canyon. I followed this trail down canyon and there is one major pour off to get past. There is a wide ledge on the north side of the canyon that provides a route. In this view I’m on the ledge looking back at the pour off.

Like most of the Comb Ridge trails, there aren't many markers showing the way. Past the pour off down canyon, there is another large alcove that didn't appear to have any structures but I noticed some faint mountain sheep petroglyphs on the right edge. Near the canyon mouth, there is a trail junction with a path leading to a north arm of this small canyon system.

This trail has a side road leading to it off of the main Butler Wash Road. It is about 9.3 miles north of the south gate and was about 1 mile north of where I started my hike. In early March it was about 45 F degrees at 10:45 AM and about 60 F degrees at 2:05 PM. My total hike took 3:20 hours for about 5 miles. I carried and drank 2 liters of water.