A week ago, I joined some folks and rode into the Outlaw Camp that the Wild Bunch used in Robbers Roost in South Eastern Utah. West Taylor is some sort a of expert on the old outlaws. He has researched their travels and stories and is very knowledgeable about what trails they used, as well as telling some of their stories. He was leading several friends into the Roost. I got wind of the trip and contacted West and invited myself to come along, He was happy to let me join his group, so we set up a meeting place for Noon on Thursday April 25th.
One of his friends had 6 friends down from Montana, enjoying 3 weeks of spring time riding in Utah while Montana was still covered in snow and Mud. That friend rode a mule and she had also invited several members of the Mule Riders Club. So we had about 20 people. But no more than 5 or 6 folks knew anybody else in the group. It turned out to be fun meeting new people and seeing new country.
The Trailhead for Robbers Roost is a 32 mile drive on the county dirt road after you leave Hiway 24. The road has a lot of washboard, So it took about 90 minutes to drive that 32 miles. We camped at Blue John Springs. ( Many of you may recognize that name from Aron Ralstons story where his hand got caught under a boulder and he had to cut it off to survive. The movie 127 Hours was his story)
Camp is just parking amongst the Pinon Pines and Junipers. The spring and the stock tank that catches water for the cattle in the area is just a 100 yards down the hill from where we parked. With the draught the spring was running very slow and the cattle and wild donkeys were drinking almost all the water. I had hauled in a 100 gal of my own water, So used it and only let the horses use the spring as we rode past.. There is an old shack at the parking area. Nobody knew the story of why the shack was there. West immediately moved his boys and himself in vs setting up a tent. He had three dogs with him, that he proclaimed would chase the pack rats off if they came out after dark.
Nearby there is an old corral the early ranchers in the area had build from the juniper trees. It is amazing that in this dry desert environment the trees have not rotted away in 100+ years they have lain on the ground.
We did a little ride Thursday afternoon to get familiar with the area.
Friday morning we got up and headed out. You have to cross several high flat areas before you get to the drop off into the hideout canyon. Those dark bluffs in about the center of the photo are the canyon where we were headed.
As we reached the canyon edge. We began our descent. Most folks exploring this canyon use one of two access point. To the right at the beginning of the canyon about 10 miles up and about 6 miles down the canyon. ( leaving about 16 miles in between) West in his research of old outlaw stories, notes and historical records from the possee's that chased the outlaws was pretty confident that they didn't ride the extra 6 miles. So he had scouted and found a way into the canyon. Which he was leading us down.
We dropped in a few hundred yards and then West suggested we dismount and lead our horses through a very narrow and steep descent.
It was a pretty challenging ledge to get down. No room for a slip up with a horse.
Once down off the side of the canyon, You are just riding on slick rock along the floor of the canyon
You can easily see why the sheriff Possee's did not follow the outlaws down this descent. One outlaw could easily defend and shot any law that tried to follow.
This was actually called Fortress Canyon, We followed it down several miles and than scrambled up and over a ridge and dropped down into HorseShoe Canyon, Which is where the old camps are located.
My horse contemplating his route down off the ridge into Horse Shoe Canyon
We found a little water in pot holes in the floor of Horse Shoe canyon, We rode up the canyon till we found the spring. The Outlaw camp was on the shelf above the spring. We enjoyed our lunch and gave the horses a break. After lunch we scrambled up the hill to the shelf and looked at what remains of the old camp. West has poked around the area and found a pile of old tin cans. tobacco tins, etc. There really is not much there to identify it as a camp. But there are so few people ever in this canyon, you see almost no signs of humans as you travel. That a collection of old rusty cans is really a large signal of some past use.
A couple of the riders looking off the shelf at the spring below.
And this is view off the shelf.
We rode around a bit on the shelf. There is a back way off the shelf that travels down the ridge and drops into the second outlaw camp several miles down the canyon at the second spring. The outlaws also wrote of riding east out off the shelf when they heading for Colorado. It will take some more exploring to discover that route out.
After we explored the shelf, (Looking for a route over to the Cowboy Cave that we never found) we came back and dropped off the shelf back into HorseShoe Canyon. This was a steep hill and we looked for a way down and ultimate just had to push over the edge and let the horse slide down on the butts,.