We stayed for a week at Blue Mountain RV in Blanding, Utah. Blanding is a perfect spot to stay to access the hiking trails to ruins and petroglyphs in the vicinity of Comb Ridge. Our site was at the upper level with good views over to the Bears Ears and to Monument Valley. We had a few nice sunsets, too.
The first hike we did was to a wall of petroglyphs beside the San Juan River.
There were hundreds of petroglyphs; some faded and some very clear, like this lizard-like creature.
The trail went down from the slick rock parking lot (at about the same level as the highway) via an old wagon road into Butler Wash. The map labelled it as “Emigrant Road” and we could see the grooves in the sandstone from wagon wheels. The road traverses the slope at about the level of Doug’s hat and if you look carefully you can see the rocks that were placed to make the trail wide enough for a wagon.
The next day we went back to Lower Butler Wash. To get to this ruin we had to route find and down climb. We thought we wouldn’t have trouble getting back up because we knew that it is usually harder to climb down than up. This ruin was in a natural alcove on a bench above the wash.
It had “moki” steps, which are depressions that have been made in the rocks to allow a foothold. They didn’t seem to have a purpose unless they were to access a roof of a structure that is now long gone. Perhaps they were a sort of practice climbing wall for children, we’ll never know.
The next day, we went in search of the “Big Crane” petroglyph. We’d seen pictures of it and every time we came to some petroglyphs we’d search the wall for it. But we hadn’t yet seen it in person. When we were at the San Juan panel, we talked to some other hikers who gave us a lead about where to find the crane.
Once we parked in the right spot, the trail was fairly straightforward, but we walked past the crane anyway. Backtracking, we used binoculars to scan the cliffs above, and picked it out, all by itself. We made our way up the ramp, and soon we were beside it.
Here’s a closer view of the “Big Crane,” likely a rendition of a Sandhill crane.
We were back at the truck before noon, so we drove a couple of miles to a trailhead for Double Stack ruin. Along the trail were the remains of a Navaho sweat lodge.
The ruin had numerous handprints high on the wall. Maybe the people who put them there were standing on the roof of a structure?
After a rest day, we set out for Canyonlands National Park: Needles section. This part of the park is a pretty long drive from any nearby city, so we hadn’t visited it yet, but we were intrigued. So we got up early and drove the hour and a half to the trailhead at Squaw Flats Campground.
Here’s the first bluff that we climbed up and over on the Big Springs Canyon trail.
We could just see the tops of the Needles in the distance.
Soon we were at the head of the canyon and following the cairned route to the saddle in order to continue to Squaw Canyon. We worked our way up ledges and across this wet spot.
From below, it didn’t look like there was a way up. Here’s a photo of Wendy working her way up the passageway. The sandstone was quite “grippy,” so it was a series of friction moves.
Soon we could walk up it.
Here’s a view of Big Spring Canyon from near the top of the saddle.
Then we had to go down into Squaw Canyon! But it wasn’t quite as steep as the other side. It was a bit like walking on a slanted sidewalk, and we worked our way down by picking the flattest places to put our feet.
The rest of the hike on the rock ledges was pretty straightforward, although there was a sort of a rock slot that Wendy had to work up the courage to jump across.
Soon we were off the rock and on a regular trail again. We found a spot for an early lunch, then continued on, reaching the trailhead by 1:30, making it a 4 1/2 hour hike of 12 kilometres.
On our way back to Blanding, we stopped at the famous “Newspaper Rock.” There are hundreds of figures pecked into the rock. Most of the figures are Anasazi, however some Fremont and modern Ute figures occur.
We hadn’t done any mountain biking for awhile and we were missing it a bit. So we drove just over an hour to Cortez, Colorado to one of our favourite mountain biking trails at Phil’s World. The trail has some challenging (but doable) uphill and some amazing downhill sections. Doug especially likes “The Ribcage,” a series of roller coaster-like whoops.
After our ride, we checked out a newer brewery in Cortez: Wild Edge.
Blanding is a fairly quiet (and dry) community, but their motto is: Base camp to Adventure, and for us it was a great base camp for our adventures.
We have one more destination on our agenda: Moab, Utah. More mountain biking and hiking to come!
2 thoughts on “Blanding, UT: Anything but bland”
Wow, amazing petroglyphs.
Great post. Moab is an excellent place to visit, too. Especially if you’ve got a 4 wheel drive vehicle and want to test it out. You’ll like it a lot.