Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Procession, Wolfman and Sand Island Panels - (Comb RIdge) - Bears Ears National Monument - 4/6/18

 Procession Panel

Procession Panel

Comb Ridge (Procession Panel Canyon)

Large Tree in Butler Wash

Trailhead view of Canyon
 Our explorations went to the southern end of Comb Ridge today. This sandstone anomaly holds within it many anasazi ruins and petroglyph panels. Wikipedia ~
 Comb Ridge (Navajo: Tséyíkʼáán) is a linear north to south-trending monocline nearly 80 miles long in southeast Utah and northeast Arizona. Its northern end merges with the Abajo Mountains some eleven miles west of Blanding. It extends essentially due south for 45 km (28 mi) to the San Juan River. South of the San Juan the ridge turns to the southwest and is more subdued in expression as it extends for an additional 67 km (42 mi) to Laguna Creek 9 km (5.6 mi) east of Kayenta, Arizona.

Three Dips Wash (Butler Wash)
 It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976 as the only North American location of tritylodont fossils. Parts of the ridge in Utah are protected as part of the Bears Ears National Monument.

View South from Sandstone Slab
 The geologic formations involved in the east dipping strata of the fold include the Jurassic aged Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta Formation, Wingate Sandstone, Chinle Formation, Triassic Moenkopi Formation and Permian Organ Rock Formation. The structure is the surface expression of a deep fault along the east margin of the Monument Uplift.

Climbing Cairned Slab

Descending into Canyon Bottom
To access the ridge along Lower Butler Wash Road, turn off of Highway 163 south of Bluff, Utah onto a dirt road across from a sign for the Bluff airport. This used to have a gate that you were required to open and close behind you. Now there is a cattle guard ... (the 1st cattle guard). This is Lower Butler Wash Road and as of this day, the road was in very good condition. It can become very sandy in places. Passing the 2nd cattle guard after one mile, we continued down the road until we came to a short trailhead approach road on the left around 6.75 miles from Hwy 163. We started hiking from here and the first thing we had to deal with was a triple dip Butler Wash crossing. Just followed the trail!

Trail up other Side of Canyon
After the wash, there was a little more trail in the dirt then cairns began leading the way on slab sandstone.

View over Top of Comb Ridge
 We followed the cairns up the slab on the left (south) side of the canyon in front of us.

The Procession Panel

Keith Views the Panel
The cairns took us steeply down into the canyon bottom where we turned to hike up the wash. Soon, the trail started leading up the opposite side of the canyon in the dirt and rocks. We could not see the wall that holds the Procession Panel until we rounded the corner to the right. Then, there it was. It is a large panel with relatively small figures pecked into the desert varnish. But, what makes this panel special is that there are many human figures in three different lines moving toward the same center circle ... or three "processions."

A Few Details of Panel
 Several of the human figures are different because they are carrying something like fire torches or are leading animals to the ceremony.

The Next Canyon Over
 This is significant. Perhaps this is how the anasazi shared their knowledge or made trades.

Hikers climbing to Top of Comb Ridge

Next Cut Over
 There was a Friends of Bluff site monitor there to make sure we didn't touch the wall ... and he answered a few of our questions. Some of us explored the area by hiking over to the neighboring canyon or climbing up to the top of the Comb to see the view. After a break, we started down. Some of the group followed the wash bottom all the way down to a pour-over where they then joined the ascent trail to return. This is beautiful landscape and it made me want to explore more of the Comb Ridge canyons.

3 miles; 750 feet elevation gain; 2 hours

Returning to Panel

Leaving on the Slab

Group returning to Trail

 Wolfman Panel
Wolfman Panel Site

Anasazi Ruins near Wolfman Panel

Hiking over to Canyon
 We got back into our cars and turned back in the direction from where we came. When we reached that 2nd cattle guard (which is the first one heading in our direction), we turned right on the approach dirt road immediately following. This short road runs along a fence on its right side and ends at a small trailhead parking circle. We used to be able to drive all the way out to the sandstone slab and park but it appears that that is now frowned upon. We started out the old two track road, followed cairns across the sandstone in the same direction and found the cairned trail leading down the side of the cliff. (This was after we got off track to the left and came to a high steep canyon overlook.)

Part of the Descent Trail
 A few hikers in the group also got side-tracked when they spotted the anasazi ruins in the box canyon to the right.

Through the Alcove to the Panel

Viewing the Panel
 We gathered again and started down that cairned trail. There is a required squeeze between a large boulder and the wall here. Then the route drops off a rock ledge onto the ledge below. (Just a little bit of a scramble above a little bit of exposure.) The trail then follows the wall and traipses through a large alcove. We found that the easiest way to get down from the alcove is to go all the way to the other end of it and use some natural steps. This put us right at the left end of the Wolfman Petroglyph Panel.

A Few Details
 This panel is the most artistic panel that I have ever seen and many hikers in the group just stood back and admired it.

Enjoying the Site

Climbing Out
 Yes, there are bullet holes, but no one mentioned them. The panel is beautiful. We stayed there for around fifteen minutes then headed back up to the top through the squeeze. We, again, noted the anasazi ruins at the end of the canyon and noted that the ruins were in disrepair. Our joke was that, "Artists are seldom very good at that scientific stuff like building long lasting architecture!" Just kidding. Maybe the structures were meant to be temporary. All together again, we headed back out to Highway 163 and turned left.

1 miles; 125 feet elevation gain; 1 hour

The Anasazi Ruins Nearby

Long View of Canyon

 Sand Island Panel

The Sand Island Panel

Drawing of the Entire Sand Island Panel

Near the road, the site has to be fenced.
 Going east on Highway 163, we turned right into the Sand Island Campground and Boat Launch in 1.75 miles. Down the hill, we turned to the right and followed the sign to the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel. The panel is right next to the dirt road and we parked at the pullout. A short quarter mile perusal of the fenced site showed us the panel that is disorganizedly filled with various shapes and figures. The nearby ranger station has a few interpretations of the rock art. There are also interesting toe holds in the wall that may have been used by the artists. This was the perfect ending to a day filled with rock art of the anasazi. Afterwards, we ate a late lunch at the Twin Rocks Cafe in north Bluff. The cafe was very accommodating and the food was pretty good, too.

0.25 mile; 20 feet elevation gain; 15 minutes

A Few Details

Original Boundaries of Bears Ears NM

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