Bucolic Butler Wash
Ruins or ruination?
Butler Wash – Cedar Mesa area, Utah
October 16 - 19, 2009

Text and photos © copyright by Rob Jones
Pano - Procession Panel
Pano - Procession Panel
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Pano - Butler Wash from Procession Panel hike - left-Comb Ridge; center-Abajo Mtns; right-Butler Wash
Pano - Butler Wash from Procession Panel hike - left-Comb Ridge; center-Abajo Mtns; right-Butler Wash
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     Summary: This is a report of a brief (4 days) exploration of canyons, syncline, arches, ruins, and petroglyphs and pictographs in the Butler wash area. GPS tracks are not mapped in this report because of the sensitive nature of archaeological resources and the tendency for (some) locals to vandalize these resources. I have given GPS coordinates for the two arches we spotted, because these appear to be features that will endure for awhile. We visited the Wolf Man Panel, Double Stack Ruin, Monarch Cave, Cold Springs Cave, the Procession Panel, and Fish Mouth Cave before we were rained out.

     There is no zest like that of exploration, no longing like that for desert places, no call like that of the unknown. anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn

     There are some people that do like to live in a rural, bucolic setting, but not many. Randall Berg

     Bucolic = relating to or typical of rural life; idyllic

Day 1 - Wolfman Panel
Day 1 - Wolfman Panel
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Wolfman Panel - articulated toes
Wolfman Panel - articulated toes
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silver bells from Central America?
silver bells from Central America?
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Wolfman Panel - sun shield?
Wolfman Panel - sun shield?
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owl and corn
owl and corn
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panel porn?
panel porn?
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(Photos and the narrative of the trip continue below.)

     Day 1: Wondrous Wolf Man: We drive to Bluff and fill the gas tank for the adventure, then start up San Juan County Rd 262. Using the Tassoni book about the Cedar Mesa area (A Hiking Guide to Cedar Mesa by Peter Francis Tassoni, 2001, University of Utah Press, ), we bump along the rutted clay road and then walk into Butler Wash looking for the Wolf Man panel.
     A gorgeous, yet bullet hole riddled, panel inscribed into the desert varnish by old timers from yore. It has apparently become much more popular than when I last visited, as told by the cairns and the well-pounded trail to the panel. Articulated toes and fingers highlight the Wolf Man gracing the panel.
     Continuing along the dirt road, we see an arch in the edge of a long chocolate-colored outcrop paralleling the East side of the road. It appears to be an undocumented, per the WAD (World Arch Database), arch, and it is easily seen now because of the sun angle. A photo session ensues, with documentation to be forwarded to The Archman!, Bob Fagley. (insert link)
     Easing into Butler Wash amidst Cottonwoods in partial Fall bloom and luster, we find a good campsite replete with a fire pit and finely-ground poofy dust. Bucolic. A good place for camp, yet destined to be cooler because we are in the cold air slump at the bottom of the wash. We’ll take it. Temps have been above average, and we are in shorts until the time of local sunset.

Pano - Syncline from Procession Panel - left-Procession Panel; center-syncline and Butler Wash; right-edge of Comb Ridge
Pano - Syncline from Procession Panel - left-Procession Panel; center-syncline and Butler Wash; right-edge of Comb Ridge
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Day 2 - climb the syncline
Day 2 - climb the syncline
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Double Stack ruin
Double Stack ruin
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Double Stack picto
Double Stack picto
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Double Stack petro
Double Stack petro
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Double Stack ruin - top stack
Double Stack ruin - top stack
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wall detail
wall detail
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(Photos and the narrative of the trip continue below.)

     Day 2: A Double off the route: From our camp, partly selected because it is near the probable trailhead for Double Stack Ruin, we set out across the monocline that leads to Comb Ridge, a delightful angle of polished Navajo SandStone (SS) lilting from the wash to the sharp escarpment of the Comb.
     Our description to the ruin lacks specificity and we are off-route before long. Reorienting, we think we see an alcove that matches the description – and delight in finding that there is an arch in the top edge of this alcove. We dub it Double Stack Ruin Arch, in the hope that we will find the ruin. We continue to explore along the SS and soon see a canyon that more likely contains a ruin. We explore down what we now suspect is a loop up canyon, along the Comb, and back down another arm of this canyon, past water-filled potholes and a tank containing some cattails. At the junction of the canyon “Y,” we find Double Stack Ruin, and assorted pictos/petros too.
     Back at the truck, we continue along the poorly-maintained county road, looking for the launch off spot for the Procession Panel. After a false start, the way is clear and we climb the monocline nearly to the top of the comb and to the panel. Panorama city! Panorama of the Procession Panel. Panorama of part of the monocline and part of Butler Wash.
     One wonders how come a country so driven to try to eliminate all lands from wilderness classification refuses to maintain a fairly major county road? Later, I read in a SUWA posting that the counties are attempting some sort of 'extortion' because they have lost an appeal where they claimed any track or wisp of footprints should be classified as a 'road' and therefore the whole section is ineligible for wilderness classification. Whining, the county has apparently refused to maintain even undisputed routes, such as the Butler Wash Road. The blue smoke horde, ORVs, are harmful to the earth and its inhabitants, including people, and are yet another negative factor in climate change and over-dependence on foreign oil. ORVs support terrorism. Certainly, they should be treated like cigarette smoking - banned from all public places (lands) because they are hazardous to all, present and future. We return from the Procession Panel late enough that we do not wish to move from the TH because we will be far into the crepuscular, beyond local sunset. With thrill, we strap the sun shower to the top of the campermobile and enjoy a shower as the sun sets. Then, with an old metal garbage can lid serving as a fire pan, we enjoy a warmer night on this open bench, being just above the cold air slump of Butler Wash.

Day 3 - Monarch Cave
Day 3 - Monarch Cave
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Monarch Cave
Monarch Cave
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Monarch Cave
Monarch Cave
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Day 3 Coldspring from kiva
Day 3 Coldspring from kiva
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Coldspring ruin
Coldspring ruin
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Coldspring from kiva
Coldspring from kiva
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Coldspring picto
Coldspring picto
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Coldspring petro
Coldspring petro
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Coldspring Kiva
Coldspring Kiva
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(There are - More photos below the trip narrative.)

     Day 3: Ruin Rambler: Off in search of the next monocline adventure along Butler Wash, we start a search for Monarch Cave. Seeing cairns, an elaborate series of cairns, we believe we are on the route paralleling the deepening gulch to the North. Climbing higher, I continue to assume that our route will drop us down into the gulch, avoiding some of the brush whacking. Not so, it appears to be a false route placed by lost and anxious Californians searching for Monarch Cave. The assumed anxiety caused the plethora of cairns. We double back and slip into the gulch – nearly back to the truck.
     Monarch Cave – a grand place with some interesting pictos/petros. The main structures are perched on the edge of a pour-off, in dominion over a deep, dank plunge pool a rope pitch or more below. The 1892 exploration vandals (Illustrated American Exploring Expedition of 1892), and some current ones have left their dishonorable scribbling.
     Cold Spring Cave is also scribed by the 1892 vandals and sits silently in a polished wash not far from Butler Wash. This pueblo area, like Monarch, has its own water source – hence the modern name. It’s a peaceful setting and we relish in this, then consider going up the other arm of the gulch to the tip of the Comb, and instead return to the truck to continue our ruin ramble.
     Fish Mouth Cave lords over the wash, big bass mouth gaping, frozen edges drooping in SS curves. The route in is littered with pieces of wall and other bits from prior habitation. This, I discover later, is really the best part of the exploration. The slickrock bowl below the cave mouth is interesting, and the scramble up into the mouth a bit arduous. In the cave, disappointment. The place has been looted by a series of pot hunters. What remains are bits of thatched roofs (floors?) and lots of recent graffiti by idiots of all ages and persuasions. Banners of Julio loves Carnita, Bowser loves Bonnie, and republicans for screaming "No!" to everything good deface the cave.
     It’s windy and getting on toward sunset when we get back to the truck. So, we go directly across the Wash road and find a camp slightly protected by the SS walls. Again, a sun-warmed shower delights. The wind subsides somewhat.

Day 3 - from Fish Mouth Cave
Day 3 - from Fish Mouth Cave
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(There are - More photos below the trip narrative.)

     Day 4: Rain rider: We awake in the early morning to the preliminary patter of rain. I jump out and gather the drying towels and other things left out during the night. Then, it starts raining with purpose. Kathleen becomes concerned about the road – thinking: clay surface + water = disaster. I reluctantly agree and we speedily pack up and get rolling. Clumps of richly red mud spray if we go too fast, huge clumps clunk off the undercarriage and plop into car parts, permanently gluing themselves in situ. Yet mostly the Northern section of the Wash Rd. has more sand stretches than the South section.
     We see the highway, and it takes another wandering two miles of clay to get there. Of course, the rain has quit by now, as we visit the Butler Wash ruin turn-out and sit behind the truck eating cereal ignored during our early escape. Then, we drive home, Kathleen having lost her quest for adventure. Along the way, I photograph a scenic toilet in Comb Wash. (link to scenic toilets) We had anticipated an exploration of Butler Wash, followed by a return leg of exploration along Comb Wash, something that awaits the next questival.

Day 1- Butler Wash Road Arch
Day 1- Butler Wash Road Arch
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Butler Wash Road Arch
Butler Wash Road Arch
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Butler Wash Road Arch
Butler Wash Road Arch
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Butler Wash Road Arch
Butler Wash Road Arch
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Day 2 - Double Stack Ruin Arch
Day 2 - Double Stack Ruin Arch
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Double Stack Ruin Arch
Double Stack Ruin Arch
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Double Stack Ruin Arch
Double Stack Ruin Arch
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Double Stack Ruin Arch
Double Stack Ruin Arch
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Day 4 - Butler Wash Ruin NB
Day 4 - Butler Wash Ruin NB
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     Butler Wash Road Arch:
    Cedar Mesa Area, Utah
     From Hwy 163 between Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah, turn North onto San Juan Country Rd 262 at MP 40.5. This turn is about 5 miles West of Bluff. This is the Butler Wash Road.
     Drive this dirt road North approximately 2.2 miles. Look in the top of the chocolate bluff to the East for Butler Wash Road Arch, which can be seen from the road, just above a spur road off the main road.
     Coordinates for this arch are:
    UTM 12 S 0621072E; 4127745N; WGS 84

     Double Stack Arch
     Butler Wash Road
     Cedar Mesa Area, Utah
     From Hwy 163 between Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah, turn North onto San Juan Country Rd 262 at MP 40.5. This turn is about 5 miles West of Bluff. This is the Butler Wash Road.
     Drive this dirt road North approximately 3.8 miles. At this mileage, turn West onto a dirt track and drive to the edge of Butler Wash. Park near the Wash, at approximately UTM 12 S 0621395E; 4130614N; WGS 84.
     You are about 17.2 miles South of Hwy 95 (turn South onto Butler Wash at MP 112.3).
     Look West for the alcove in the slanted white Navajo SandStone. Double Stack Arch is in the rim of this alcove. It's about a 20 minute hike to the arch. This arch is named for nearby Double Stack Ruin.
     Coordinates for this arch are:
    UTM 12 S 0620379E; 4130601N; WGS 84 at about 4860'

     Butler Wash Ruin NB
     Cedar Mesa area - Utah
     Drive south from Moab on Rt. 191 to Blanding. Four miles south of Blanding, turn west onto the Bi-Centennial Highway (Rt. 95). About 10 miles west of the turnoff, a sign indicates "Butler Wash Ruins". The ruins are visible from an overlook at the end of a half mile hike from the parking area. One has to walk up-canyon along the fenced overlook beyond the end of the fencing to view the natural bridge.

Links:

Previous WV Reports about The Cedar Mesa area:

Dare to say Dark Canyon (2008) - Horse Pasture to Sundance Trail - with after-backpack excursions to Upper Salt Creek and Natural Bridge

Cedar Mesa Somewhere (2001)

Related Sites:

Click here to see The Archman's site on Utah and area arches.

WAD - World Arch Database.

Abbey's Web -- The man who is Desert Solitaire.

Ben's Scenic USA - Picture of the Day.

Steve's excellent photos - birds in flight, panoramas, etc.

Even utahans ought to know - We Are Breeding Ourselves to Extinction (click here for full article)

SUWA - Dedicated to conserving the canyons of Southern Utah

The Utah Wilderness Coalition (UWC) seeks to protect wilderness values on public lands in Utah

A Hiking Guide to Cedar Mesa, Southeast Utah, by Peter Francis Tassoni (2001)


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