Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Late last year I realized that 2017 was going to be the first year since 2011 that I hadn’t made it down to visit the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. My last visit to the area was in March of 2016, and to be honest, I was kind of missing the colorful sandstone of the Paria Plateau. I decided to try and get a permit to Coyote Buttes North for early 2018 and managed to get just one for the last Sunday of January, which meant that I would be going alone this time. Once I had that permit secured, I grabbed a Saturday permit to Coyote Buttes South since my last visit there was in 2012, and planned to make a long weekend trip out of it.
After waiting a few months for the last weekend in January to come around, Friday was finally here. I left straight from work and started driving south through Moab, Bluff and Kayenta on my way to Page. I topped off my fuel tank and then headed west to Big Water and found a campsite near Jacobs Tanks since I was starting to feel pretty tired. On Saturday morning I woke up early and finished my drive to House Rock Valley Road which I followed south again to the Paw Hole Trailhead just outside of the Coyote Buttes South permit area. It took me a little longer to reach the trailhead from Big Water than I had anticipated and I made it there just as the sun was coming up for the day. I ended up spending most of the day exploring from the Paw Hole area and then drove over to Cottonwood Cove in the late afternoon to spend the last few hours of the day there. I would not see another person all day, which was very nice. Enjoy some of the many photos I took throughout the day!
Paw Hole Teepees during the sunrise.
A shadow selfie as I explored the area around Paw Hole.
Once the sun was up I spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon exploring the area and hiking further north up on top of the mesa to see what I could find.
The colorful light was intense in this small alcove that I came across.
I liked the twists and turns of the sandstone in this area.
After hiking further north through the sandy desert I found this cool arch in a large fin of lace rock. This was also my turnaround point where I started heading back down to my Jeep at the trailhead.
A view from the other side of Lace Rock Arch with a sunburst.
On my way back to the trailhead I revisited a few colorful areas that were now in the shade.
Sand To Stone
I returned to my Jeep at Paw Hole in the middle of the afternoon and then I continued driving up the soft and sandy road to reach the Cottonwood Cove Trailhead where I would spend the rest of the evening wandering around taking photos.
The South Wave
My shadow in The South Wave.
I made a quick stop at some nearby dinosaur tracks.
The Control Tower was looking pretty nice this evening.
Here’s a closer look.
I just love all the colorful sandstone around here…
A made a quick stop at Half & Half Rock shortly before sunset on my way back to the trailhead.
The best colors of the weekend happened as I returned to the House Rock Valley Road on my way back to the Stateline Campground for the night.
The Langstraat Mug
While I was out exploring the area I stumbled upon a very cool artifact that was just barely sticking out of the sand. I pushed aside the sand thinking it was just another potsherd at first, but instead I found a completely intact ancient Anasazi mug with an animal effigy for a handle! This is probably my most awesome find ever! I was pretty excited when I first found it, but that excitement quickly wore off as I became overwhelmed with the next decision that I needed to make. Now that I found this amazing mug, what should I do? Typically, I am a big supporter of the ‘Outdoor Museum’ and under normal circumstances (out in the middle of the wilderness not near any roads or popular trails) I would have hidden the mug again and left it where I found it. Unfortunately, this situation was a little different since I found this mug in a pretty high-traffic area that was pretty close to a popular trailhead. I knew that even if I completely buried the mug in the sand and left it there, the wind and rain would eventually uncover it again (and probably faster now that I had disturbed the sand around it) and it would most likely disappear into a private collection, never to be seen again. I especially feared this outcome since I knew of another artifact in this same area that had already disappeared. The decision as to what I should do weighed heavily on me throughout the rest of the weekend, but in the end I felt a responsibility for the well-being of this mug and decided the best thing to do in this case was to contact the archaeologist for the Arizona Strip and report it.
I know there are many of you out there who won’t agree with my reporting of the mug, even with the situation I was faced with, and that’s OK. But I do want you all to know that I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I would have preferred to have left this mug in situ and not reported it to the BLM, but in the end I think it was the right decision for these particular circumstances, and I can live with the decision I have made. Now I’m going to go back and reread Finders Keepers by Craig Childs…
A closer look at the effigy handle on the mug. It appears that the ears have been broken off, so I’m not really sure what kind of animal it might be?
Just a photo with my hand for some scale. It’s slightly larger than a typical coffee mug.
Mug Update (2-8-18): I received word today from the Arizona Strip Archaeologist that the mug was safely recovered on Friday, February 2. It has been decided that the mug will be placed in a display case at the BLM Visitor Center in St. George and there will eventually be a BLM press release about it. It is currently being examined by an archaeologist who focuses his study on ceramics and at first glance he believes it is Kayenta Anasazi in origin. I’m not sure how long it will be until the mug is on display, but if anyone out there stops by and sees it, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!
Mug Update (5-2-18): The BLM has posted a short article on their Tumblr blog about the mug here:
While hiking on the Arizona Strip in January of 2018, Colorado resident Randy Langstraat discovered a prehistoric artifact in a popular recreation area. Concerned that the small, intact pot was within casual view in a frequently visited area, Langstraat carefully concealed the pot in place and contacted BLM Arizona Strip archaeologist Sarah Page. Langstraat provided Page with a detailed description of the location of the pot.
In February, Page, along with another BLM Arizona Strip archaeologist and law enforcement officers, visited the reported site. The group was delighted to find the pot had not been disturbed and was in near-perfect condition.
After locating the intact pot, Page began a full documentation process of the site and, along with another agency archaeologist, conducted an intensive archaeological survey to determine if additional artifacts were present. No other artifacts were present and the archaeologists believe the pot was left in the location by the pot’s creator with the intent to collect it later. However, the person never recovered it. A detailed analysis was conducted by archaeologist David Van Alfen who determined the pot to be North Creek Corrugated, which dates to the Late Pueblo II period (AD 1050-1250) of the Virgin Branch of the Ancestral Puebloan culture. The effigy handle appears to be that of an animal, possibly a deer or bighorn sheep. However, the ears or horns have been broken off making it difficult to determine precisely.
The BLM plans to place the pot discovered by Langstraat in the display cases in the Visitor Center at the BLM Visitor Center at 345 East Riverside Drive, St George, Utah. By preserving and displaying this pot in a public setting, everyone can share in the history of the Arizona Strip.
Mug Update (5-8-18): News4Utah did a short phone interview with me and posted a story about the mug on their website.
ST. GEORGE (News4Utah) – A man hiking near the Utah border on the Arizona strip discovered more than he anticipated when he found what he says looked like an old clay mug.
“I started to unbury it and realized it was not just a shard, it was the whole mug,” said Colorado resident Randy Langstraat.
Langstraat, a nature photographer was doing what he loved, admiring his surroundings and taking photographs when he noticed something just off the trail, under a boulder. He concealed the mug and contacted the BLM.
“I’m a big believer in leaving thing where I find them, however in this case it was pretty close to a popular trail head and it was small enough that someone could easily wander off with it.
The only decision I could live with would be reporting it so it could be recovered,” said Langstraat.
“We’re grateful for the hiker for reporting it,” said Rachel Carnahan with the BLM Arizona Strip District.