I’m sure you can go on-line and find some pretty precise directions to the Anasazi petroglyphs called the Procession Panel, but we’re part of the group of stubborn hikers who like to pretend that we’ve found these cool ancient sites all on our own. Not sure what that’s about, really, except that I guess we all make up our own rules for our individual treasure hunts. So, according to our rules, it’s fine to look up the starting point for a site, but beyond that, we’re generally on our own. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that neither of us are particularly chatty when we’re out on the trail, so we’re not tempted to seek out hints from the occasional hiker we meet when we’re out searching.
The Procession Panel was only discovered by hikers about 30 years ago, and it is a beautifully preserved example of Ancestral Pueblan rock art. I’d read about the large panel that shows a procession of people and animals that stream from both sides of the rock face toward a large incised circle, and we wanted to find it.
We found the trailhead, about 14 miles north on the pretty rough Butler Wash road. Butler Wash is a tributary of the San Juan River, and was clearly quite populated a thousand years ago; there are ruins and rock art all along the Butler Wash road between Bluff, Utah and Highway 95 near Blanding, Utah.
We knew that the panel was near the top Comb Ridge, a long monocline that runs the length of Butler Wash. Here’s a view of Comb Ridge from the steep western side:
The biggest obstacle to climbing Comb Ridge from the east is crossing Butler Wash, which has steep 20 foot banks on each side, and is choked with tamarisk. If the weather had been wet it would have been rough going, but we were able to beat our way through with no difficulty. Once we emerged from the wash, we could see that we had a choice of two drainages we could follow to get to the top. We chose the southern one. We were following cairns most of the way, so were pretty confidant that we were on the right trail.
Along the way we scrambled up to the base of the cliffs, looking for the panel. We found some old, faint petroglyphs that were very cool,
but no Procession Panel. Once at the top of the Ridge, though, the view was a huge reward.
Stunning views, but we were pretty worried that we would have to go down without finding the Procession Panel. After lunch I scoped around with the binoculars, and managed to find the panel that way! It was one drainage over (we chose the wrong one down at the bottom), and we’d have to go about halfway down and then climb up again, but we were pretty darned pleased with ourselves. We packed up our lunch, and headed down and across, and this time we found it. And I’m so glad that we did. It is one of the best rock art panels I’ve seen. And, I’ve got to say, it was actually more rewarding to kind of discover it for ourselves than it would have been if we’d walked right to it.
Here it is!