Cave 7, Pastel Ruin

Round Trip Distance: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 6106 - 5639 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Over-Under
Fee: none
Attractions: Cliff dwellings, rock art

Cave 7 and the Pastel Ruin are located in North Fork Whiskers Draw, in the Bears Ears National Monument, west of Blanding, Utah. This post covers both those sites plus two more that are on the north side of the draw. The ruins and rock art are different at each site and make each of them well worth visiting.

We will tell you the route we took on this trip and why you won't want to follow it. We turned off of the Elk Mountain Road at the 9.1 mile point from UT-95. We now advise you to continue on to the Over Under Ruins trailhead at the 10.7 mile point.

We had planned on visiting these ruins years ago from the Whiskers Draw Road and were just now getting around to it. At the point where the Whiskers Draw Road meets the North Fork of Whiskers Draw there is a section of Ute Land that is a half mile across from north to south and 1 mile long from east to west. What we did was try to go around the private property on the north side and then enter the draw. Once we put our GPS track on the map we discovered that we had actually trespassed across the northwest corner of the Ute Land (sorry about that guys). There aren't any boundary makers once you get out there so even though we were skirting the north side of the Ute land on public property we mistook the point where that land ended. Mileage wise we were probably off due to not hiking in a straight line.

Anyway, we had hiked around to the north before passing the private property sign on the Whiskers Draw Road and worked our way westsouthwest staying well on the north side of the wash.

When we finally dropped into the wash we thought we were just leaving the Ute land. A very short distance later we came to the trail on the north side of the wash that leads up to a couple of nearby ruins.

The first ruin is in a south facing cave. If Wetherill was numbering these caves we wondered if this one might of been something like Cave 5.

Within the shallow alcove there is a rubble pile with a few short walls. The back wall has holes pounded into it that would have held small logs or branches for roof supports. Outside of the alcove there are numerous shards of pottery. We also found a perfect arrowhead that was only an inch or so long that we left on top of one of the hundreds of pieces of pottery for others to see. Remember that it is illegal, not to mention unethical, to excavate or remove artifacts from archeological sites.

Pictographs can be found scattered all along the back wall of the cave.

The black charcoal images are probably the newest. As you can see there is a horse with a rider in this panel. There are a couple of round shields. From behind one of them there is a white spear piercing a black buffalo. 

Here are some older red anthropomorphic images.

Around the corner into a side canyon is another cave or alcove that has a ruin and some petroglyphs. It requires some almost difficult scrambling to get around the wash in one place.

 Here there is a ruin sitting up on a shelf that has a nice garden of poison ivy growing in front of it. The face of the shelf has a few petroglyphs and on the left side there are some very well made steps pounded into the rock that form a nice set of stairs.

After visiting those two sites and making your way back down into the wash, or down into the wash for the first time if you are coming as advised from the Over Under trailhead, you will want to head downstream maybe a hundred feet or so. The mouth of the side canyon that leads to Cave 7 and the Pastel Ruin is somewhat obscured but on the right side of that wash you will see some sloping sandstone, and if you look closely, a small cairn of rocks. From there find the faint trail that climbs up the slab of sandstone and around the first obstacles in the mouth of the wash before descending a short stretch of slickrock down to a trail.

As you follow the trail an hundred feet or so into the canyon you will come to a dense growth of poison ivy that is just below Cave 7. This patch is over 6 feet high on the right side and boot high on the left. Deal with it however you will but remember that even the branches will have oil on them after the leaves fall off if you happen to be here at that time of the year.

We found a place that was a little steep just before the poison ivy patch where we scrambled out of the wash to get up to Cave 7.

Richard Wetherill did some pretty well documented excavations here beginning around 1893. They even took a few black and white photos. One of those photos shows a few skeletal remains on the surface that showed the last event at the site was a massacre. Wetherill's excavations turned up approximately 90 remains including the ones that weren't actual burials.There are plenty of papers online for those that want to read all about it. 

The Pastel Ruin is probably not more than a few hundred feet away from Cave 7 at the head of the canyon.

The Pastel Ruin sits atop the second level of an inaccessible double alcove where there is a nice cool almost fairyland atmosphere.

It is hard to tell from below but the outward facing side of the ruin seems to have a double wall that must have been constructed for defensive purposes.

The funny thing about the route that we took coming in from the Whiskers Draw Road was that by the time we skirted around the private property it turned out being quite a bit longer and harder to hike. Much of the time when hiking to sites like these you look for tracks from fellow hikers. On this trip instead of boot tracks from other people we found fresh elk tracks and scat leading to all of the ruins. It was almost like having an animal guide. If you would like to see all these ruins for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.