Procession Panel and Fishmouth Cave; Comb Ridge Day 2

A Section of procession panel – with it’s “procession” of tiny figures marching in a row (reports differ but it seems to be between 179-190 individuals joined in a line) .

If you read my previous post (linked), you’ll remember my mentioning that we’d decided to run into the town of Bluff Utah, a few miles up the road, for a hot breakfast after a night of cold camping. In spite of Bluff being an extremely small town with only 1 gas station, no fast food, and very little else, we did find an exceptional hot breakfast at the Bluff Dwellings Resort and Spa (linked), and specifically, the Cedar Shack cafe (also linked). I had a fantastic omelet, made to order and served with toast and breakfast potatoes, and Shannon had an enormous breakfast burrito. That and hot, brewed coffee set us just right for a day of hiking in Comb Ridge. The Bluff Dwellings Resort and Spa, seems like a really neat place to stay. If you decide to go and see some of these petroglyphs and ruins and don’t want to camp, it would be an ideal set up. From their website : “Bluff Dwellings resort is designed to represent 3,000+ years of Native American habitation in the four corners region. We have created a Native American village of dwellings or structures that represent those used by families from Neolithic time until today”. It seems that they have 4 “glamping” Teepee’s, 9 large dwellings, 3 Large Pueblo structures, Native American dinner shows, and the HozHo spa.

Procession Panel trailhead marker

The hike to Procession Panel as with many of the other hikes around comb ridge, drops down into and out of a wash. There are several google-able descriptions of how the trail runs, and it isn’t a bad idea to scan those. It’s pretty easy to lose the trail in the washes because of the criss-crossing of the cow hoof trails over the human trails. Of all of the hikes in and around the Butler Wash/Comb ridge area, the hike to procession panel is the longest and has the most elevation gain (at 3 miles round trip) The elevation, made it an absolutely spectacular hike!.

Procession Panel is a well-known Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) petroglyph located just below the summit of Comb Ridge. It remained hidden for a very long time,” discovered” by hikers in February, 1990. (I read 1990 one place and 1992 another place so may be more accurate to say “early 90’s) There are a few cairns marking the direction, particularly up the rock faces beyond where trails are visible. As with all of the petroglyphs, I would never have seen them without having Shannon marking them with the GPS and pointing them out to me. Here’s a video of the length of the procession that is impossible to capture in an iphone photo:

Shannon and I noticed a circle that’s visible toward the left of the panel, and it’s interesting because the procession seems to be leading to it from 3 directions. It is said that this circle likely depicts a sort of cross road in one of the few places where passage over comb ridge is possible.

In researching about Procession Panel, there is much to learn. It is believed to have been carved between 650-800AD. It contains a number of figures that are believed to be either Shaman or Chiefs, determined by the headdresses with birds or other figures on them. Lots more information about the Panel “out there” both here (linked) and here(linked). There’s a published paper in the first link,  Rock Art, Architecture, and Social Groups at the Basketmaker III–Pueblo I Transition: Evidence from the Procession Panel, Southeast Utah by Kellam Throgmorton that I’ve attached to our resources page

There is a lot to look at when you’re standing in front of it.

Directly opposite Procession Panel, you can look out over comb ridge and find that the views are incredible.

Once we’d seen everything we wanted to see at Procession Panel, we walked along the rock face headed back to the trailhead, and found more petroglyphs along the ridge.

From Procession Panel, we got back in the car and drove to the trailhead for Fishmouth Cave.

Looks indeed like a fish’s mouth!!

The cave is visible from the road, and from the trailhead, and from most of the trail leading to it. It is enormous!

We’d read that there were several un-named ruins along the trail leading to fish mouth cave. Shannon was able to spot those with a 6th sense. The first one we came to was unlike any other we’d seen, as it housed intact clay ovens, likely for firing pottery. Broken pottery covered the ground here, and also covered the ground in what made up the front yard, about 50-100 feet surrounding it.

Hiking beyond the first un-named ruin, took us in and out of the wash. Fishmouth cave is nearly always visible as you hike towards it. The next set of un-named ruins were equally fun to explore

As we approached Fishmouth cave, there was a bit of climbing strait up rock faces, which turned into a rock/boulder scramble at about a 90 degree angle (ok maybe more like 60 degrees but it was steep). We read about people before us climbing up into the cave and exploring it, but we’d had enough climbing and enjoyed looking at it from a few feet down. Also, Shannon wasn’t feeling great, and we’d woken up early/ hadn’t slept well… excuses-a-plenty we stopped short of it, and have zero regrets about it. The photo of Fishmouth cave above is as close as we got to it. We decided to go into Blanding and stay in a hotel for the night, re-group with our camping gear, and set out the following day for 2 camping nights in and around Comb Ridge and Butler Wash.

We found the cutest place to stay in Blanding, and also the greatest place to eat after a long day of hiking. The Stone Lizard Lodge (linked there) in Blanding, Utah, was originally constructed in the 1940’s and was Blanding’s first motel. According to their website, they have 17 standard rooms available, as well as a few suites and also a 2 bedroom cottage called Harvest House, available for rent.

There’s a small room adjacent to the main room that had a single bed. The bathroom was very nice and it had a beautiful sink made of a large piece of petrified wood.

Dinner was at the Patio Diner 1/4 mile from the Stone Lizard. The food was outstanding. We both went for the burgers (American cheeseburger with fries for me and a bacon guac burger with Onion rings for Shannon). The Pineapple Cream Soda in the fountain was just the perfect drink to go with it, and still we somehow managed to finish a (size small but still giant) butterfinger milkshake.

Needless to say, we slept very VERY well in preparation for our visit to Sand Island Petroglyphs, Wolf Panel, and Monarch cave the following day. That’s up next!

8 thoughts on “Procession Panel and Fishmouth Cave; Comb Ridge Day 2

  1. What an impressive collection of petroglyphs at Procession Panel. It’s crazy to think just how old they are and that they are still visible today. The views over Comb Ridge look beautiful. How fun to explore Fishmouth cave and the un-named ruins.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s