Tuesday, March 8, 2011

theBrigade's Bogus Journey...

So it's March and theBrigade has now been on two trips.  This one was to the same area as the last, but it was a day longer and the discoveries were much more rewarding.  Allow me to fill you in...

As soon as we got home from Owl Creek, Jeff and I started researching other places in Southern Utah that may hold Anasazi ruins.  I was fortunate enough to come across a summary of Mule Canyon, a hike just a few miles from Owl Creek.  The first ruin in this canyon has been photographed by Rodney Lough, the photographer that I mentioned in my "Light up the Night" post,  so I immediately wanted to go check it out.  Luckily it didn't take much convincing on my part to get Jeff onboard, and Jake liked the idea too, so that was that.  We started getting ready to go.  The original date we'd planned to go was over Presidents day weekend, but due to certain complications it was pushed back a week, and then another week.  Finally March 3rd was the concrete departure date.  Weather looked to be in our favor and we were stoked to be leaving.

Getting there was almost the same story as before.  Jake picked me up and we picked Jeff up at his favorite Thai restaurant.  We started leaving Salt Lake City and soon began the usual odd road trip conversations.  We passed through Utah County as quickly as possible, without throwing up, and managed to leave with a few Brandon Davies jokes that will never be forgotten (not sure if that's a good thing...)  This freak storm came up as we travelled down highway 6 and threatened the whole trip for a few minutes, but we kept going and made it through just fine.  We passed the McDonald's in Price, but we did hit up a gas station in Wellington, where I bought two fruit pies simply because the lady behind the counter looked like she was about to die of boredom, so the two seconds of helping me may have saved her life, I'm just nice like that...  After Wellington I took the seat behind the steering wheel and we headed towards Moab.  The driving went quickly, Jeff snapped a few awesome shots of semis as they drove past, leaving light streaks on the images, tight!

In Moab we stopped at Maverick for some frozen yogurt, and I also found the movie Maverick, which I bought.  Jeff makes fun of me for buying Maverick at Maverick, but what does he know,  Maverick is a ten gallon hit!  When we got to the cashier to pay for our goods, she tried to make conversation about the red velvet frozen yogurt we held, and how it took a while to get people to start buying it, weird...  We got back in the truck and I continued to drive up until Blanding.  On the way we hit another freak storm, it was puking snow and hail like crazy and I almost stopped, but then it just disappeared, I mean like one second we can barely see out the window, and the next we can see stars, very weird...  We topped off the tank in Blanding and Jake took control of the truck at that point.  I skipped eating any beef jerky to avoid any complications like the previous trip, and eventually we arrived at the trailhead without any other incident.

We quickly set up camp and went to bed, anxious to get an earlier start than we had at Owl Creek, but first I took in all the stars.  Wow!  There were so many, it was a crystal clear night and one night away from the new moon, perfect gazing weather.  I stood in awe for a few minutes and then climbed into the tent.  Jake played us a short movie about how to set a snare for animals, should we need to,  and we learned there are four ways to snare an animal.  You can choose to either strangle, dangle, tangle or mangle (say it super fast with an Australian accent, you'll laugh too!)  After learning our daily survival skill we called it a day.  Jake snored just like the last trip (which he insists only happens when he's extremely tired)  while Jeff and I complained about it.  But soon we didn't care anymore and we fell asleep too.

The next morning we got up around seven and found clouds covering the sky.  That put a damper on things, but we weren't too worried.  By the time we started the hike the clouds had all disappeared and it was warming up quickly, so no harm done.  While packing up we found quite a few coyote tracks that we hadn't seen the night before, they were right next to the tent! I kind of wish I could've heard them snoop around, but it was still cool to see the tracks.  We ate breakfast, locked the truck, snapped our trailhead photo, and took off.

The trail was a piece of cake by any trail standards and we made awesome time.  I slowed us down to search a cliffside for ruins, but once I got back down we travelled quickly again.  The first ruin was only about a mile from the trailhead and it was awesome.  It's called house on fire because the rock above it looks like a flame.  This is the ruin Rodney Lough has photographed and it was easy to see why he'd been there, it was in great condition and it was beautiful.  This Ruin alone made my trip worth it, but it wasn't anywhere near over yet.  We spent some time exploring the area for anything else we may find, but it was pretty barren, so we got our packs back on, and continued up the trail.  I searched another cliff area that again, didn't yield any ruins, but did have a great view, and we messed around on a big rock to jump off (We'll never grow up!)  Eventually we found the second ruin, a single one with an odd wall sticking straight out, which didn't seem to serve any purpose, but I guess when you have a full day to kill, why not build a wall in your free time?

After the second ruin we found a place to eat some lunch back in the trees.  We had hoped to get out the constant wind that had been lingering all day, but the trees didn't do a whole lot to cut it down.  Either way, we had a wonderful lunch, while enjoying a little sun and down time, but soon wanted to go explore more of the canyon.  It only took a few more minutes to find the next ruin, the coolest one of the trip, which we now refer to as "The Fortress" for obvious reasons.  The ruin was on a cliff about twenty feet, that was impossible to scale without a ladder.  It had a sturdy retaining wall that provided perfect cover for arrows or rocks thrown at the inhabitants.  There were four structures total that were all in great shape.  As stated, we couldn't get up to it, so we just looked around the area and took a few pictures before moving on.

Next came the kiva, which has a whole wall missing, but it was still incredible!  This ruin gave me a huge amount of insight on how advanced this culture really was.  The architecture was perfect,  There was even a draft chute that acts as a flue in a fire place.  The rock walls were sealed in a mud stucco that was completely different from every other structure we'd seen.  It was clearly an extremely special place in the Anasazi culture.  We spent quite a while here because it was almost in complete sunlight and Jake wanted to nap.  I found a place against the cliff wall that was baking in the sun and within a few minutes was nearing sleep.  Luckily Jeff stood up and it gave me a second wind, so I got up and took a few more pictures of the area.  Then Jake got up and we went back down to our backpacks, ready to find the next ruin.

By this time I'd noticed that with all these ruins we hadn't seen any petroglyphs or pictographs, and I was kind of mad that there weren't any.  I really don't know why I was feeling this way, because I'd seen some amazing things throughout the day and I was still on cloud nine.  I guess I just wondered why they'd go to all this trouble with these elaborate homes and then not bother to write their story on the wall.  Luckily, the last ruin didn't disappoint.  Ruin number five was soon in view and we dropped our packs and ran up the rock face to check it out.  As I reached the flat area just below the ruin I found a whole wall of petroglyphs, seriously, the whole wall!  I was so happy to finally find some that I almost didn't even bother to look at the ruin, but where's the sense in that?  We also found many shards of pottery that had all sorts of patterns on the clay.  To get to this ruin we had to climb up a log that had been propped up as a makeshift ladder.  Right at the top of the ladder was the foundation of a structure that was pretty big, and what seemed like an old retaining wall.  If it had still been there we wouldn't have been able to get up to see them, which makes me wonder how the inhabitants did it, they were tricky people, that's for sure!  Along with the foundation there were three other structures, one of which had been pretty badly destroyed, but it was still standing.  The other two didn't have any sort of roof on them and it didn't look like they ever had, so I don't really know what purpose they served, but they were awesome!  The three of us spent time taking pictures and pointing out small details to each other.  I started to get a little bored so I went to hike down when I found more petroglyphs, it's crazy how they can be right in front of your face and you can't see them unless you really look.  These ones were way above my reach, so they must have built some sort of scaffold to get up on the rock and carve them, but at least they still exist right?  I went back down to check out one more little structure and we soon moved on.

The goal was to hike out the canyon and drop down into the next canyon to make a loop out of the trip, but pretty soon the sun was beginning to go down and we thought it would be best to stop for the night.  We camped close to the last ruin down by the riverbed.  I worked on getting the tent set up while Jake built the fire using flint and steel, something he's very proud of, as he should be, because he rocked it!  Soon we were relaxing by the fire while eating dinner.  Jeff and I messed around with some night shots with our cameras, which didn't really turn out, but it was fun to try!  Then we called it a day and went to bed.

The next day we got another early start.  The night before we'd discussed going back to the fortress and building a ladder so we could get a little closer, and in the morning we decided that we really wanted to try, so we did.  After the morning routine we headed back to the fortress, and began scouting out some good logs for our ladder legs.  We got two, hauled them up the rock face, and lashed some rungs to them.  It worked great!  We were up in no time, checking out more Anasazi handiwork.  This ruin was completely different because the rocks had been chiseled to make all of the walls perfectly square.  I can't imagine how much time it must have taken them to build their homes.  We spent quite a while and got a bunch of pictures.  As we climbed back down our ladder we were all happy we'd taken the time to go back and check it out.  We tore the ladder apart and threw the logs back down near the riverbed, which was really fun actually!  About this time I was getting kind of hungry, so I was excited to get back to my pack and eat some lunch, Jeff had other plans...

Jeff was still doing a little exploring and found a waterhole that appeared to be deep enough to jump into.  Jake wanted to jump in, and Jeff was soon to follow, they tried to get me in on it, but that water was cold!  I used the excuse that they needed a camera man, which they agreed to, even though they knew I was just using that to avoid getting in the water.  We built a fire so that once they got out of the water they could warm up, and then Jake did it.  That animal jumped right in!  The water was so cold that when he came up he couldn't really breathe all that well, and he was struggling to tread water, Jeff and I both thought we'd have to go in after him, but he recovered in a few seconds and came out of the water cheering.  Jeff went next and had pretty much the same experience.  Those two are champs, they do the insane just for fun, and they do it with rock star style!

After they changed into dry clothes, we decided to have lunch right there.  The red rock was warm and it was perfect to chillax while eating some tasty food.  We took and little nap and I headed back up to the fortress one more time. (I'd forgotten my rope and didn't want to be one of those litter people)  Later we packed up and headed down the trail, we'd planned on leaving the canyon and then driving to another canyon to camp in for the night.  I wanted one more look at house on fire so we stopped there, and then continued on.  Soon Jeff realized he'd left his new knife back at the swimming hole and he wanted to go back and get it.  We changed our plans and found a campsite so that Jeff could drop his pack and run back up the trail.  Jake decided to go with him so that they could have two sets of eyes looking for it, while I set up camp.  It only took them half an hour to find it and get back, but I already had the tent set up and the fire burning.  We ate a little dinner, sat around the campfire, and went to bed.

Sunday morning came with clouds, but it was really warm and that helped me to get up and get the fire going again.  We quickly packed up camp and headed out of the canyon, anxious to get home.  We did make one more stop at Butler Wash, an overlook point of more ruins, but we were on the road a little after ten.  We drove straight home, back into the gloomy weather of the Wasatch front.

I've decided the best part of backpacking with theBrigade is that there isn't ever a rush to get anywhere.  Most groups that backpack have a schedule to keep and they miss the chance to see the best the trail has to offer.  We plan big, but if we don't make it then we don't care, we simply find another alternative that seems interesting.  And really the only way to thoroughly enjoy nature is to do it slowly, to go with the flow, to stop and take a deep breath of fresh air.  Another thing about the brigade is that when we're hiking out, we're already discussing our next trip, figuring out what sounds fun, and possible dates to go.  I love that I'm apart of the group, thanks guys!  Here's to the next trip!!

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