May and June in Southeast Utah- Nancy Patterson, Amtrak, and Grand Gulch

25 July 2016

We usually make a trip to southern Utah each year later in June, staying into July. This year we planned it so that trip was moved up to late May and into June. It made for more bearable and longer days at Nancy Patterson Village, and easier walking in the canyons later on. Of course there has been another trip since then where we enjoyed temperatures in the high 90’s and low 100’s.  We’ve had such a full summer so far there just hasn’t been time to get to a blog post until now.

Nancy Patterson Village
For the third season we spent a couple of weeks at Nancy Patterson Village doing archaeology. We finished the interior excavation of the room where we began in 2014. We have so much data at this point that it may take us into next summer just analysing and writing it all up. It was our assumption that our unit, being on the edge of the village, was late in date. We confirmed this, and we also confirmed our speculation that the room was built over an earlier midden. Our unit was in the eastern-most room of what I would call a patio group. The approximate size of the group is 13  by 13 meters. It is U-shaped, being open on the east side.

Collared lizards at Nancy Patterson Village. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Working at Nancy Patterson Village would not be complete without our daily visits from collared lizards. Here a pair watches us from our backdirt pile.

Data collected from throughout the patio group indicate the earliest occupation is centered on the western side, or bottom of the “U”. The latest occupation appears to be our unit, the end room on the northern leg of the “U”. It is likely that the end room opposite us, to the south, is coeval with ours. There are other rooms and room blocks beyond our patio group out in the periphery; isolated rooms, those laid out in a linear fashion, and possibly an L-shaped group. These rooms are all unexcavated and the dates are unknown, but we assume they are closer to the date of our unit which was likely abandoned toward the “very end”, somewhere around the early to mid-1200’s. More about Nancy Patterson will be posted as we continue analysis and writing.

The young archaeologist at work. Nancy Patterson Village, Mesa Verde corrugated sherd being removed. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

The young archaeologist at work at Nancy Patterson Village with a large Mesa Verde corrugated sherd from a post-abandonment artifact concentration just removed.

 

Amtrak as Part of Our Adventures
After our time at Nancy Patterson Village we had a few relaxing days at a couple of our favorite camps before Nicolai headed home. For those unfamiliar with the area around Interstate 70 north of Moab, a rail line roughly parallels the highway from Glenwood Canyon in Colorado to just past Green River in Utah, where it turns north toward Salt Lake City. The line is used by freight trains and by Amtrak as well. Since we hadn’t been on the train in a number of years, we decided to use it to get Nicolai back to Colorado. We boarded in Green River at about 8 AM and arrived in Glenwood Springs about noon where we met the missing member of our party (mom gets to hold down the fort when we are off in the bush.) The train ride, if there are no long delays, is scenic and enjoyable. You get to see a lot of country along this four hour stretch, and it’s best seen from the observation car. Unfortunately the trip back to Green River was not as quick nor as enjoyable. Just outside Glenwood Springs the train hit a truck which delayed us for about 4 hours. Believe it or not, the driver of the truck crawled out and walked away. The conductors on the train called it miraculous, and likened the train hitting a truck to a semi truck running over an empty soda can. The lesson- be careful at all railroad crossings, especially those without arms that come down to block traffic.

Amtrak train at Green River station, Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Ready to board, green River station platform.

Grand Gulch
With Nicolai safely back in Colorado I had the next week or so to myself. So it was off to Grand Gulch for some alone time. I hadn’t been in Pine Canyon in some time, so I used it as my entrance. I parked at the drill hole at the end of the road and was in the canyon in no time. It’s a fairly easy walk all around- across the mesa, the climb in, and the walk down to Grand Gulch. I found the canyon very different from the previous trip about 7 weeks before. During our April backpack the canyon bottom was filled with water; we were faced with skirting around pools and hopping across water running down Grand Gulch. This trip, water was barely visible in the bottom of Grand Gulch. There were a few green, debris covered pools here and there that were of course drinkable, but it was like night and day compared with two months before. The weather was warming at this point, and the heat and lack of water ensured that I was the only one in the canyon- I didn’t hear or see anyone on this trip.

Ruin in Pine Canyon, southern utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Round ruin in Pine Canyon with very interesting architectural change in structure- due to available materials or aesthetics? Note vertical slabs down low, with regular, coursed masonry above.

I could go on as always, but will save it for another post. Next up- more on our new inReach SE, rock art in a boulder field, and parallel stone alignments leading the way to Spirit Bird Cave. For more on our desert adventures, gear reviews, and our archaeological endeavors, visit the Desert Explorer website.

 

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Dirty Devil River, Desert Explorer Update, Four Corners Fugitives

26 January 2008

Dirty Devil River Float-
I made a decision this week to float the Dirty Devil River earlier than I had originally planned. Since I am going to ride the White Rim in August, the plan now is to float solo at the end of May, over the last two weeks of the month. I had thought about floating in August, but was worried about the flow of water then. In May that should be less of a problem. I am giving myself 10 days to do it, but will allow two or three days extra in my itinerary in case I find canyons that must be explored. From all the information I have found on the river, much of it, in the upper reaches at least, seems to be a muddy stream. But I am sure there is plenty to see along the 90 or so miles of the trip from near Hanksville down to Hite. There are some really amazing canyons along the way, judging by the topography on the map. Of course I will carry a pack and hiking gear; I will likely carry a larger pack for an overnight or two if my research and map reconnaissance deem it necessary, and I will make sure they do.

Logistically the only hurdle to work out is a shuttle from Hite to the put-in above Hanksville. I will call Tag-A-Long Expeditions in Moab in the next week or so to see if they have any plans to be in the area at the end of May. It is probably too early for them to know their schedule for sure, but I will let them know that I am interested. Once I park my truck at Hite Marina, and get the ride to the put-in, I am free for the next couple of weeks to explore. I am really looking forward to the float, even though it may be challenging in terms of navigation- dragging the boat across sandbars and through shallows, in the heat of the summer no less, will be a big part of the float from the little I have read about it.

Desert Explorer Website-
I added three new pages to the Cedar Mesa Trip Guides page on the website this week. Kane Gulch Ranger Station to Toadie Canyon Loop; Green House Canyon, Grand Gulch, Pine Canyon, Step Canyon Loop; and Coyote Canyon to Shiek’s Canyon Loop are now online. I will revisit them in the coming weeks to edit and add to the content, and post another photo or two once I locate the images.

I did some editing of the Backpack Foods Page this week, added more content, the first recipe. This page will see more work in the near future as well- I will add at least a few more recipes this week. As with all my pages, I create them and add to them as time allows. My goal is to at least post introductions on the topics that I feel are necessary and important to desert backpacking and hiking. Then I can work on them when I have the time, 10 minutes here, a half hour there. I still have much work to do to get the site to a point that I feel makes it comprehensive. I am about half way to my ultimate goal. So keep checking back.

Four Corners Fugitives Search-
This week I went back to my notes about the Four Corners Fugitives and began work on Chapter Five. It should be ready for posting this week. If you are unfamiliar with this topic, I will offer a summary:

In late May of 1998 a water truck was stolen near Durango, Colorado. Three local men, Jason Wayne McVean, Alan Lamont Pilon, and Robert Matthew Mason were ultimately responsible for the crime. On 29 May the three were spotted in the truck and stopped by officer Dale Claxton. They opened fire on the officer, apparently with automatic weapons, killing him before he could exit his police cruiser. The three then sped off into the remote Cross Canyon area along the border of Utah and Colorado, but not without other incidents. Mason was eventually found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot on 04 June, 1998, 50 miles from where they abandoned their escape vehicle. Pilon was found in the same condition on 31 October, 1999, not two miles form the vehicle. McVean was finally found on 05 June, 2007, just miles from where the truck was abandoned. He had died of a self-inflicted gunshot, probably the very afternoon of his escape.

To read more about the Four Corners Fugitives and the largest manhunt in western history, visit www.DesertExplorer.us .