Farm House Ruin in Ruin Park.
Shortly past noon, the Lone Riders arrived at the Beef Basin registration box. They made a left turn and then another to enter Beef Basin Wash. A short distance later, they arrived at the parking area for the cliff dwelling Lone Writer calls "Showcase Ruin."
In getting to this point, they had already bypassed dozens of small cliff dwellings. Nearly every road in Beef Basin leads to some sort of structure left behind by the Ancient Ones. Some were no more than storage rooms where grain could be kept for future use. Others were used as lookout towers, and others were used to simply protect the Ancient Ones against the environment created by Tawa and Spider Woman.
The hike to Showcase Ruin is a strenuous one. Those with a sharp eye can bring it in close with binoculars from a position in the center of the valley. Due to a thick stand of trees, Showcase is not visible from the parking area, but numerous trails are worn into the landscape from those who have climbed the rocks to get a closer look.
Lone Writer led the way up the steep cliffs while the others followed. One by one, the followers dropped out until the only one reaching Showcase was the leader. He took some photos and leaned back on a huge rock to think about the people who had built it. Where did they go?
By the time Lone Writer returned to his car, the others were anxious to go. They took the road back to the registration box and stopped by a dwelling that was shaped like a tower or silo. It once had more than one floor and included a kiva with a sipapu hole from which Spider Woman led mankind in the beginning and to which all spirits eventually return.
The next stop was Ruin Park. This structure was the headquarters for a huge farming community. A historic marker dates it back to the year 1100.
For anyone not interested in driving his 4x4 over some serious rockcrawling, Ruin Park should be the point to turn around and head for Blanding. Simply return to the registration box, turn left, and follow the signs.
Lone Writer welcomes rockcrawling challenges. The rest of the group voted to follow him into Canyonlands and over Elephant Hill. Navigation points are not required. Simply follow the signs.
Entering Canyonlands National Park.
The first obstacle the Lone Riders reached is known as Bobby's Hill. Its condition varies significantly with every heavy rain. A sign at the top warns that 4WD is required and that anyone who continues does so at their own risk.
Careful maneuvering was required to avoid banging the underside of the stock vehicles, but everyone made it down the hill without sustaining any damage. From Bobby's Hill, the Lone Riders entered Bobby's Hole and followed the narrow path across grassy valleys and through numerous rocky passages.
They eventually reached SOB Hill and found it had been recently repaired to the point that no extra care was required to pass over it. A rock art panel left behind by the Ancient Ones sent everyone reaching for cameras.
The next major obstacle was Silver Stairs, and then came the infamous Elephant Hill. Both require careful maneuvering to keep from banging a vehicle's underside. In both cases, the line of travel must be calculated before pushing ahead. Getting a tire a few inches in the wrong direction will cause loss of traction or banging the underside of the vehicle. If that happens, the only solution is to pick another line and try again.
Asphalt has been added to Silver Stairs and to Elephant Hill in recent years to reduce the threat of damage and lessen the strain on vehicles. Even so, the challenge can be off the chart for an amateur who does not have an experienced coach to guide the way.
By the time the Lone Riders crossed Elephant Hill and stopped at the parking lot to rest, Tawa had once again completed his journey across the sky and was settling on the horizon. Some of the group decided to go to Moab and look for a motel room with hot showers. Lone Writer, Sundance, and Happy Jack decided to find a campsite near Indian Creek. They were considering a trip to another famous rock art panel left behind by the Ancient Ones. It is often referred to as Birthing Rock. The back way to Birthing Rock goes by way of Lockhart Basin... but that's another story.
Larry E. Heck is the author of numerous backcountry adventure stories dating back to 1985. An e-book about the Ancient Ones is available for downloading at his website, www.lone-writer.com. For additional information, write to email@example.com or call (303) 910-7647.