October 2 – 6, 2017
Cedar Mesa is the largest portion of the Bears Ears National Monument and is the focus of this adventure. It resides in South East Utah at an altitude of between 7400 to 4200 feet. Grand Gulch and it’s tributaries are the primary drainage and eventually reach the San Juan River. The total area is around 4000 square miles in size. Grand Gulch is over 50 miles in length.
I was joined by Daisy and Bill on this 4 night, 5 day trip. We all have experience in this area and know something of it but it gives up it’s secrets grudgingly. We have undertaken more than one attempt (sometimes several) to reach places of interest.
After a flurry of emails, we decided on three goals for this trip:
Green House Alcove with particular focus on the Green Mask pictograph. This location sits near the confluence of Sheiks Canyon and Grand Gulch and is the shortest path into the Gulch from the mesa top. The big negative is the need to overcome 2 large and 1 massive dry falls. There are areas of exposure that have to be negotiated. Partners who had accompanied me balked at going past the flat part of the canyon. Travel to Sheiks Canyon includes a trip to Yellow House ruin with it’s vigas, still bound with yucca twine, 800 years after abandonment.
The Citadel, which sits in a spectacular location above the two branches of Road Canyon. This site is justifiably one of the most popular locations in the monument and will become more so. The hike is moderate at only 5 plus miles but like many area in the area, the journey requires negotiating some exposure.
Collins Canyon. This is a lower and warmer portion of Cedar Mesa that has a high concentration of artifacts of the past including a cowboy camp from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, along with Basket Maker, Dine, and Ancestral Puebloan ruins and rock art. Our concentration was Bannister House which had eluded me on a previous trip.
We were successful on reaching our first two goals but navigation problems overcame us (especially me) while in Collins Canyon. This despite my having successfully been through this area once before. The geography is complex and we weren’t the only ones having trouble. Several other parties were wandering around asking each other where things were. Luckily hiking the canyons is spectacular and would be worthy goals even if there were no traces of the past to be found. Bannister House is now left for a third attempt. This has been typical for me in the past.
About photos. My main camera was on the fritz so I was left with a a cell phone. I leaned pretty heavily on Daisy and Bill to document the journey and they obliged. Their photos are in the following linked galleries. I got very few pictures of Green Mask Alcove. Most of the documentation is in their galleries. Mine are in the gallery the end of this post.
About locations. I don’t publish GPS tracks or specific locations for archaeological sites.
…and finally. Thanks to Bill and Daisy for coming along and contributing to this trip!