Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Butler Wash's Roadside Ruin; Another Taste of Cedar Mesa.

In yesterday's post, I began my stories about State Route 95 with Mule Canyon Ruins along the roadside. Now I did warn my readers that I would be skipping around from state to state, region to region; not only to keep it interesting, but because of which memory wants to dominate my mind at the time. Anyway, I'm backtracking a little (about six miles east) towards Route 191 to visit Butler Wash Roadside Ruins; yep, you guessed it, there are more ruins further back in this area. Map time!

To get to the Roadside Ruins, after parking in the lot, begin walking along the marked trail that begins at the wooden fence; the fence doesn't last for very long, so you'll just have to keep your eyes open for the rocks marking the trail.  Most of the time you will be walking along slickrock which is easy to walk on when it is dry; when wet, you'll understand perfectly why it is called slickrock.  Here and there will be little trails that will catch your attention and you might want to explore; just keep the main trail in sight as you can get very easily lost in this area.  Stay on the slickrock, do not walk on any of the soil areas as they may be covered with a cryptobiotic crust; you know what, if it's black or dark brown, crusty looking stuff, DON'T walk on it.  Better to be aware, than destructive.

The trail to the Roadside Ruins is only a half mile walk (one mile round trip); depending on how long you take at the ruins, the whole trip might be about an hour in time.  You will be climbing upwards at certain points, and the landscape is beautiful.  Along the way, take time to notice the various plant and animal life in the area; awesome specimens of cacti, and the Collared Lizards are so colorful.

Last leg of the walk, before you get to the ruin overlook will be upward on slickrock. I'm posting two photos of it and one is of me walking up the trail. Notice I have a white hat on, and a small backpack hanging off my shoulder; besides identification, snacks, first aid kit and sunscreen, there are two full bottles of water in that backpack. It gets hot, in the 90's the day we were at Butler Wash, but the very low humidity fools you into thinking that you, yourself, are not getting too warm, or dehydrating.  Don't be turned off by how steep the walk looks, if I could do it, anyone can.  The feeling, when you finally reach the top, is exhilarating!!!

Now something you should know about slickrock is that the elements of wind and rain tend to develop potholes in the stone. When these potholes fill with water, microscopic life emerges; remember those "sea monkeys" you may have had when you were a little kid; those are actually brine shrimp and can be found in these potholes. It must have rained before we got to Butler Wash, as we found many of the potholes filled with water, but without a magnifying glass, we couldn't tell if anything was swimming around. I can't fit everything into that little backpack!

At the top of this little world is the overlook of some of Butler Wash's ancient ruins; cliff dwellings dating as far back as 500 - 1200 AD (please excuse my hubby's arm in the informational board photo).  The Anasazi used ropes and wooden ladders embedded into the stone walls to climb up to the cliff top, or from ledge dwelling to ledge dwelling.  At Cave Spring, in Canyonlands National Park - The Needles District; I climbed up and down one of those ladders and am still wondering how I didn't kill myself.  So trying to imagine how the ancient Native Americans lived this life on a daily basis is astounding to me. 


If you're feeling more adventurous, once you get back to the parking area, take a potty break, perhaps have a picnic lunch and then head out to the Upper Trailhead.  Here's the information you need to travel it; and yes, this is still on my "to-do" list.

To get to the Upper Butler Wash Ruins, cross the fence on the north side of the bridge from the trailhead; you'll see the trail register here. Walk this trail about 5-10 minutes to where the canyon and trail forks; go left here, following the canyon bottom as it deepens and turns to slickrock. About 30-45 minutes from the trailhead, you will see ruins on the left; about 5 minutes ahead will be another set of ruins; there will be a ladder there you can use to climb up to them. You'll also notice a side trail that will climb steeply upward for about 5 - 10 minutes before leveling out; you will be overlooking more ruins, and on one wall will be a painting of a target, hence the name "Target Ruins" for this area. You might also see two shallow holes in the slickrock; this is where a ladder once was for traveling up and down to the dwelling by the Anasazi. This will take 2 to 4 hours round trip depending on how much you want to see, how much time you want to spend there, and how easily, or not, the trail is to walk.

Here's your other sample of the Cedar Mesa area, and I do hope you're developing a taste to see more and more.  Don't forget to always make sure your gas tank and water bottles are full; but most of all, have fun!

Mary Cokenour 

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