Colorado Plateau Exploring – 2017
By Gordon Howe
Day five, our goal was the old cowboy backcountry abode known as the Scorup Cabin. The cabin is located at the end of a 10 mile 4x4 trail corridor 66’ wide in the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area. The trail down Peavine Canyon was fun four wheeling, but part of the trail in Dark Canyon itself was like fingernails scratching a chalkboard; big sagebrush with a bad attitude. Then there were the tributary dry washes that had eroded to a point that they were impassable. We made it across the first one, but wisely chose not to attempt the second.
Deep Dry Wash
From there we hiked 1.5 miles to the cabin and a geocache. The adjacent cliffs were 400’ high and eroded into fins, pinnacles and even a couple of arches, so the hike was far from dull.
On our return to the junction of Peavine and Dark Canyon, where we planned to camp, there was an unplanned activity.
The trail leader, who after the long string of jeeps turned around in the sagebrush walled trail, was now the tail gunner. Unfamiliar with this position, he managed to narrowly avert a catastrophic 4x4 boo-boo while crossing one of the deeply eroded drainages. It still required bringing out Larry’s winch. It’s a long story. The lesson learned is to be sure you’re properly lined up when crossing a makeshift bridge only slightly wider than the jeep, constructed out of 4” diameter sticks. Back at camp, we found that despite being 1000’ lower than the previous evening, it was even colder and immediately at dusk. Still it was a camp with a spectacular view of sandstone cliffs, Peavine Arch, and a green corridor of vegetation along the valley floor.
On the sixth day we four wheeled up Peavine Canyon, much to Stacey’s trepidation. Jeff provided encouragement and spotting for her over the worst obstacles. She did just fine.
Leaving Peavine Canyon
At the intersection of the main Forest Service road to Beef Basin, Larry informed us that one of the front lower control arms on his JK had essentially lost its threads and was not very well engaged with the spherical joint insert. So, Paulette and Larry took the same Forest Service road back out to the highway and proceeded to search for a mechanic with welding skills. That didn’t happen, so they carefully limped all the way to Mead. The rest of the group entered Beef Basin and directly to Ridgetop Ruin. The few miles up Ruin Canyon presented an even worse section of big sagebrush.
Ridge Top Ruin
Ridge Top Ruin was a couple hundred yard uphill hike and very much worth the effort. After we all completed our inspection of the remains, we were off to check out Hilltop Ruin, which was on the way to our proposed campsite. It was much smaller than Ridgetop, but still worth the effort, with even a single striped pottery shard for us to view. Our last night out was spent on a low rocky knoll, just a short distance out in the basin with views of over 30 miles. Nice and warm, no freezing overnight.
On our last day, we had 100 miles to cover to reach Moab and our showers. As we drove through Beef Basin and Ruin Park we stopped to peruse a number of easily accessible ruins.
One more geocache was located as we exited Beef Basin. Miles and miles later we lunched at the trailhead for the Salt Creek hiking trail, with great views and one more geocache. As we neared Indian Creek, while still in Cottonwood Canyon we located a cliff dwelling high up the side of Bridger Jack Mesa, just under the Wingate sandstone cliff. None of us had seen this one before. There was not time to climb up for a closer look so telephoto images were the best we could do this time. Very soon we were at Newspaper Rock and it was pavement all the way to Moab. We had the most perfect window of weather. We had left the Front Range in snow while crossing the Colorado summits, yet we had no precipitation for the entire time out in the backcountry, but ironically it began raining as we entered Moab on the last day.