Early in the month, we had a few sunny days, like the one pictured above on Wolf Mountain.
The snow isn't deep yet, but the temperatures are dropping. Still, we were comfortable enough riding in Ouray National Wildlife Refuge on December 9th.
Yesterday we rode in Sand Wash, on dirt roads north of Highway 40. The thermometer read 23 degrees F. No sun. Light wind. Cold!
Unless we have a warming trend before the big snow that could come any day now, we're hanging up the saddles for 2011. We had a good run, 910 miles since we started the riding season in February with forays to Canyonlands.
For the next few weeks, we'll be hanging around the old homestead. (Fortunately, our homestead has a roof and central heating, unlike this abandoned cabin.)
Less than a mile north of I-70 at the turnoff to the Sego ghost town and the Thompson Wash petroglyphs, lies the town of Thompson Springs. The 2010 census shows less than 39 residents.
A lot of the houses look like the one above, dilapidated and possibly deserted.
This white building gives us a taste of the town's history.
The sign in front tells the story.
The town was once important enough to merit a train stop at this station.
Parking is still available, but the old sign is overgrown with weeds.
This old building still has a sign for the Desert Moon Hotel. Someone seems to be living there and maintaining the place, but I saw no evidence that the hotel is currently in business. A gas station near the interstate is the only viable business we saw.
The town was established in 1890 and its importance was boosted by the coal mine in Sego, now defunct. Sadly, although it isn't quite a ghost town, Thompson doesn't seem to have much life left.
A few miles south of the Sego ghost town, we found another variety of ghosts left by ancient Native Americans in their rock art. The site is known as Thompson Wash.
The above figures are in the Barrier style, dating from about 4000 years ago. The pictographs (painted on the rock with red dye) show anthropomorphic figures that are often larger than a man. They often have a ghostly look, and are shown with snake-like figures.
In the same area are other figures in the Fremont style, dating from about 1500 years ago:
Fremont anthropomorphic figures are triangular, often shown with shields and necklaces.
The historic Utes also left their art, which is about 800 years old:
Note that some of the human figure appear on horseback, which means the art dates from after Spanish conquistadors brought horses onto the continent in the late 1400's.
This panel shows a mixture of styles, with some historic Ute or Fremont figures, and some cowboy/miner/tourist art dating from the 1880's.
It's illegal, not to mention a real shame, to deface the rare remnants of ancient cultures, but some people just can't seem to resist making their mark.
At the Thompson Springs turnoff on I-70, travel about 5 miles north to what's left of an old coal mining town, now uninhabited. The above photo shows what was once the company store, built in 1911. Below is the inside view of the store:
Either the customers were very short, or a lot of dust has filled in the entryway.
About 500 people once lived in the immediate vicinity of the store.
This was the old boarding house, across the road from the store. The bachelor miners lived there. The boarding house was still standing the last time we drove through, about 5 years ago, but it looked as if a big wind would take it down. Apparently, the wind blew.
Founded as a mining camp in the early 1890's, the town was first called Ballard after the mine owner. The mine was sold a couple of times, and the town changed names to Neslin, then Sego after the sego lily, the state flower. I guess they were trying to buff their image with the new name.
The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad ran a spur line to the mine to transport the coal. Some of the trestles crossing the deep gullies have been washed away, but a few remain.
This may have been one of the nicer residences.
This home appears to have been less desirable. One of the town's least prominent citizens must have lived there.
The mine was closed in 1947 and the property was sold at a Moab auction. Probably due to a falling water table, no one rejuvenated the structures or re-opened the mine.
The "town" now houses only ghosts.
This grave has no name, but is adorned with a single plastic flower.
Among the dozen or so tombstones in the Sego cemetery, this one was the saddest.
As we rode along west Willow Creek, nine miles from the nearest trailhead, we were surprised to find an intact cabin. Since it's unlikely that this area was ever accessible by road, this was probably a rancher's line cabin, used mostly in the summer season when the cows had good grass at 8500 feet.
The cabin wasn't locked, so I went in.
This chair appears to be handmade with willow branches.
The bed is hand hewn, too. I assume a mattress of some kind was laid across the bare logs.
The wood burning stove would keep the single room cozy.
The cabinets are unique.
They must have been scavenged from a military base somewhere, because the print says "Rocket ammunition with smoke (or explosive, in one case) projectile."
The outside is decorated with antlers and various tools.
Someone (the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that manages the land?) has recently repaired some of the outer logs and added a hitching post. Buckets, a couple of coolers, and a cot indicate someone may have cleaned up the inside and slept there in the last few years, but otherwise the cabin stands much as it did when it was built. We couldn't find any information about it on the internet, so I don't know the cabin's age. Since it's in such good shape, it's likely no more than 50-75 years old. However, the occupant's lifestyle clearly wasn't much different from that of pioneers in the early 1800's.
A couple of the windows were bear-proofed with an old iron bedstead. Very practical use of materials, don't you agree?
The rear of the cabin sports more antlers.
The hitching post came in handy. Daisy liked the view.