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.