- Comb Ridge, see http://hikearizona.com/photocodeZOOM.php?ID=5467
- Saturday May 17th - Paul and I got up before sunrise (and 40 degree temperatures - brrr!) to get an early start to launch the paraglider from CR262 near the Fishmouth Cave Ruins trail head. The 4WD road was flat and relatively obstacle free here and the land to the immediate east could serve as an alternate take-off and landing area. It was too early in the morning to stir Mike and Steve (besides, they were on breakfast duty charged with having it ready when we returned from our aerial assault). Take-off one from the roadway was aborted, so we moved onto the bench lands to the immediate east. Take-off two was smooth and the paraglider soared towards Fishmouth Cave. Paul made several circuits towards the west and the precipice of Comb Ridge, but reported that the thermal turbulence was too hazardous to get any closer. The plan was for Paul to complete an initial assessment of crosswinds, turbulence, etc. and then touchdown to pick me up for a tandem ride and to hopefully snap off a few aerial pics. Let's just say it didn't happen because the landing resulted in a cracked carbon fiber propeller. I can report that no human was harmed during the making of these pictures...
- Butler Wash Ruins (0.83 miles) - After a hearty breakfast courtesy of Mr. Mattes, we broke camp and continued north along CR262 until the junction with Hwy 95. We had planned this as a rest stop and took advantage of the facilities. We also decided to make the short trek to see the ruins and the natural bridge. Maybe next time will continue further north up the wash to explore the 3 sets of "Ballroom" ruins...
- Comb Wash Rock Art (0.25 miles) - We passed through the dynamited rock cut allowing Hwy 95 to pierce through Comb Ridge and descend the 500-750 feet into Comb Wash. It was decision time - continue west along Hwy 95 to seek out "House-on-Fire" Ruins within Mule Canyon and the "Cave Towers" Ruins within Cave Towers Canyon? Or push on south along Comb Wash and up onto Cedar Mesa? We chose the latter, sticking to the loose plan of taking advantage of having two 4WD vehicles to explore the more remote ruins. We turned south off of Hwy 95 onto Comb Wash Road (CR235 on topo maps) on the west side of Comb Ridge. Check out p.203 of the 4WD bible "UTAH Backcountry Adventures" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson (I'm sure most of us have their ARIZONA book). The side canyons of Comb Wash are also reported to be riddled with numerous cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and other ancient artifacts. As we continued south along the Sandstone Spine, we could se numerous boulders with flat surfaces covered with desert varnish - essentially an Anasazi canvas for rock art. We stopped to investigate, and yes many of these surfaces contained petroglyphs and pictographs...
- Moon House Ruins (3.25 miles) - After traveling about 15 miles south on Comb Wash Road (CR235), we came to the unsigned junction with Snow Flat Road (CR237). This is the old Mormon Emigrant Trail (aka "Hole-in-Rock" Trail) connecting Escalante to Bluff. After traveling about ¼ mile along Snow Flat Road, we encountered a BLM Fee Kiosk. Cedar Mesa is a fee area - $2 per person per day. This is also your overnight, trail head camping fee (overnight canyon backpacking requires a special permit). We ascended "The Twist", a series of short switchbacks blasted into the slickrock allowing us to climb onto Cedar Mesa. Much to our surprise, the Jeep thermometer crossed the 100 degree mark - how could this be with the forecast of mid-80's temperatures... We found our 4WD spur leading to the Moon House Ruins trail head. Although we were the only ones there, we decided to scope out the primo camp site and deposited some equipment to declare our intentions. We readied our packs and prepared to locate the ruins. I had a reference photo showing 2 large balanced rocks acting like sentries guarding Moon House Ruins located on a mid-band ledge on the north side of the canyon. As we approached the canyon rim, we could easily pick out the guarding sentries and distinctive ruins lying in the shadows next to them! The Bear's Ears could be seen on the horizon. Cairns guided our route towards a slickrock pour-off with some exposure. This was the toughest section of the hike. Having negotiated the pour-off, the trail follows the canyon ledge at the same level as Moon House Ruins located on the opposite side of the canyon. Once we scrambled down into canyon bottom and back up to the ledge containing the ruins - WOW! Truly an amazing set of ruins... After exploring the outer sets of ruins and granaries to the east along the same ledge, we could see the sun was starting to get low in the sky. Time to head back to our trail head camp and some superb steaks grilled up by Chef Paul!
Day 2 total mileage = 4.33 miles
Day 2 campsite at Moon House Ruins trail head...
- see Valley of the Gods http://hikearizona.com/photocodeZOOM.php?ID=5503