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Spring 1999
Explorer Run
Arch Canyon / Hotel Rock

Front to back: Jack Lobdell-New Mexico, Paul Gagnon-Canada,
Paul Sabin-Washington, Trace Allen -Utah, Rick Horwitz-Arizona

A Dozen More Photos

Paul Gagnon's Trip Report

Introduction by:
Rick Horwitz

Near the end of a long winter, Jack Lobdell contacted me and said we needed to get away for a Spring Explorer run. The next scheduled run which was set for August in Southern California was still a long way off, we got the itch to go out and enjoy the Spring weather in South East Utah.

Jack being very familiar with this part of the state suggested we base our group in Blanding for the weekend. We could then explore Arch Canyon and Hotel Rock devoting a full day to each run.

Besides great fourwheeling Jack
introduced the group to Anasazi ruins.

Joe "Gonzo" Cushing at the entrace of the Hotel Rock site

Sherd from a black on white bowl
All artifacts were left were they were.

Gray corrugated ware 
The only thing we took were photos.

Now on to the wheelin'

Left-Jack Lobdell descends slope
leading away from Arch Canyon
overlook. Above-Trace crawls down 
a trail near Hotel Rock.

That rear tire is in the air, unfortunately a two
dimensional photo doesn't do it justice. This is 
Paul Gagnon's Explorer.

Paul Sabin's ARB locked Explorer Sport successfully climbs a hill near Hotel Rock.

Paul Gagnon's Explorer had ARB's but they were not yet wired in. The open diffs wouldn't allow this Explorer up the hill.

Paul Sabin's Explorer on the edge of cliff

Text by:
Jack Lobdell

The Arch Canyon and Hotel Rock trips started up with fine clear and windy weather.  Joe Cushing from Austin just happened to show up at my house and made a quick decision to take the jump seat of my í92.  Joeís a great spotter and Ďwheeler from many outings with me in New Mexico. 

We got a later start than planned but met up with Rick Horwitz that afternoon in Blanding, Utah.  That night we went to an informative talk at the Edge of the Cedars Museum about GIS uses in understanding the ancient Anasazi.  It was early to bed and nobody even heard the whine of Paul Gagnonís big Thornbirds come in as he finished a high speed cruise non-stop, except for a few Zís in the Explorer, over 1300 miles from Calgary Alberta. 

Paul stumbled out earlier Friday morning than I would have with so little sleep, sucked a quick mini-pot of coffee and was ready to go do some scouting with us.  Rick had a small power steering leak and opted ride with Paul and fix the problem later that night.  After a few false starts getting GPS units working right, we found both trails and proceeded up the Hotel Rock trail to an overlook and then back up the main trail.  It was great rockiní until we found that off-camber notorious shelf about half way up.  Explorers are so wide that there was only about 4" total to spare and the corner over a roll and drop was so soft we decided to think about it.  If you missed hitting the shelf just right, you would be upside down 20í down.

Discretion being the better part of stupidity, we opted to go to Hotel Rock the back way.  Itís a haul but goes up pretty Cottonwood Wash to a ponderosa covered high mesa with forever views and down switchbacks to the Rock.  We got back late enough that Joe and Paul worked real late trying to get his auto tranny to shift better into 2nd to no avail but Rick did the minor fixes on his power steering.  By that time Trace Allen from Hurricane, Utah got in and so had Paul Sabin from Tacoma, Washington, another 1300-mile driver!

Saturday was a pleasant but a bit dusty drive and crawl to Hotel Rock.  We stopped at Cottonwood Wash to see a huge surface archaeological site that once had over 500 rooms.  There was pottery and tools everywhere.  We climbed to the top of this big mound and looked at all types of ancient things from the past.  This site once commanded all the people of the wash and surrounding area.  This is one of the capitols of the ancient Anasazi world that once had more than 100,000 Pueblo Indians! 

At the top of the mesa you can see Hotel Rock, all of Arch Canyon and Comb Ridge.  There are few vistas like this anywhere in the world.  Thereís a great obstacle on the way to Hotel Rock, the descent is one thing, coming back later is another!  At Hotel Rock it was time to see the unique ruins.  This little granaries protected corn from pests and raiders.  One of the structures may have been a sentry house.  There once little farms all over the mesa.

This was time to talk environmental resources as well.  There is good reason to stay on the trail as some soils here are actually alive!  I pointed these out and talked about some of the critters in the area.  We had already discussed accepted behavior at archaeological sites.  Leave it all in place, take nothing, stay out of the insides of ruins, stay off of walls, no exceptions!  But take lots of pictures and memories of these the most endangered of places.  If damaged, they will never recoverÖnobodyís making any more of them. 

 These must have been interesting times some 1000 years ago.  Imagine a large population farming these dry mesas.  With a big drought beginning in AD 1290, the people vanished.  There was probably mass starvation and survivors migrated out to other areas.  We know some got to the Hopi mesas in Arizona and others got to the Rio Grande in New Mexico, but the Anasazi, a Navajo word for the "Ancient Ones," are no more.

Everyone seemed to appreciate learning about these environmental things.  Joe finally ask, "So what do I do if I see an endangered animal, eating an endangered plant, on endangered biologic soil, in the middle of an endangered archaeological site?"   As a well-trained scientist, I can definitively answer, "Iím clueless!"

After lunch we opted to descend the Hotel Rock trail and got almost all the way back to the notorious shelf.  There are a couple of obstacles that require lockers, with real bad saddles, but we got most of the way down.  It was getting late and we had a long drive back.  Both Paul Gagnon and Trace Allen, both unlocked rigs, had zero problems coming back over the steep obstacles of the Hotel Rock trail.  That sandstone is not really "slickrock"Öitís gritty and traction is good.

That drop-off on the return above Hotel Rock was another story!  Itís got loose silt everywhere, goes off-camber to miss a big step, and only the three locked rigs made it.  Both Paul and Trace gave it a good try, but the ledges were spaced just perfectly for their 4-door rigs to trip up.  We thought about some winching practice, but decide to use the quick drive-around instead.  It was back up the switchbacks and heading for Blanding.

Sunday was even clearer and warmer.  Trace had to head home but the remaining four rigs crawled Arch Canyon without difficulty.  This may the best canyon Iíve seen with its bright red and stark white sandstone and green ponderosa pines.  The creek was running good. 

The cliff dwellings are awesome.  Itís hard to imagine how anyone got home from work to some of these.  There was a system of ladders, hand holds, and ropes.  One particularly interesting ruin is Jailhouse Rock.  In a natural cave, masonry wall was built around wood lattice.  Some of the wall is gone, leaving it looking like a jail cell.  Itís hard to imagine how anybody got to it, except being lowered over the cliff! 

The two-track trail is just over eight miles long and ends at the confluence of Texas and Arch Canyons just below Cathedral Arch.  This is one of the nicest camp spots Iíve seen.  There is a perfect circle of shady ponderosas around a nice fire circle with old logs for benches.  We declared lunch!

Exploration after stuffing our faces was an easy mile and a half on the Arch Canyon hiking trail.  We got the best views of both arches that way.  Cathedral Arch looks just like an old New England church with its spire and the arch.  Angel Arch has a shorter spire and "wings"  beside its arch.  The creek was full of life, with some chubs lurking about and water skimmers looking for minnows, and real cold from the recent snows.  We saw or saw tracks and scats of deer, quail, raccoon, coyote, and even mountain lion.

Heading back out was an uneventful, well almost, ramble back out of the canyon.  Paul Sabin got hung up on his right rocker panel on a mongo rock while steeply descending into a creek crossing.  After using the high-lift, "trail-trained physicists" ramped the rock along the leading edge.  We got his front wheels turned way over left and he drove off avoiding any more damage by a scant inch.  Only a small ding and some scratches!  Strange, he wanted to talk about nerf bars that night!  Paul Gagnon took quite a whack on his front diff, but no biggie other than a little bruised pride.  Hats off to Paul G. for doing the majority of the run with no middle gear! Everybody got a little "Utah Pinstripping" from the treesÖjust a few reminders of memories from a spectacular canyon, ruins, and weekend.

We ended up one last time on the Arch Canyon overlook for the steep slickrock climb fun and just to say goodbye to the great chasm.  It was almost sunset as we put the wheels right up to the edge of the cliff.  It was hard to leave such a beautiful spot.  This was great run, the folks in Blanding are really nice, and you sure canít beat the scenery.  I personally want to reunite with all the participants again for more fine Explorer exploring.