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.