Now here's a guy who made the ultimate back country mule trek. Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante wandered through the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve sometime in October 1776, just before crossing the Virgin River, then up over the Hurricane Mesa just east of the red sand dunes. In the face of fast approaching winter, he and Dominguez decided on October 4 near Cedar City to turn back toward Santa Fe after a
big argument and casting lots. Originally departing Santa Fe July 29, 1776, their ambitious goal to find a way to Monterey, California had been thwarted.
The expidition long plagued with starvation and thirst, Escalante's party of 14 explorers had already eaten their mules by the time they hit Cedar city. Six days later, and somewhere just south of here, they started eating their horses.
You might be asking yourself, as did I, why did Escalante save his horses for last? Obviously, the mules would have been better suited for the rigors of their journey across such arid country. There can only be one explanation. Mules taste better. This conclusion is based purely on deductive reasoning and not personal experience as I have eaten neither horse nor mule.
Escalante had a special trail mark he tagged in a few places along the way. A cross inside a circle and sometimes an arrow showing the direction of travel. Go back to the first picture in this blog entry and look just in front of the Mule head shadow to see the circled cross and the arrow this hardy padre carved in the sandstone. Below the directional arrow you will also note the crucifix version of the cross. (Clicking on the picture should get you a larger copy). This find is not on any maps. Its location is quite obscure and probably kept secret on purpose to protect it from vandals. Finding it without being shown would be nearly impossible.
This is part of the legacy of the RedCliffs Desert preserve which was established to protect the non-native desert Tortoise reputed to live here. We must thank the Back Country Horsemen for working so hard to preserve our access to this magnificent trail--all by donating service and making friends with the land managers. At the outset, horses were to be denied access.
The trail is called the Cottonwood Hills loop. More information about access to this trail can be found along with many of Utah's great trails at the Back Country Horsemen of Utah's web site http://www.bchu.com/ or go to this link directly: http://www.bchu.com/CottonwoodLiterature.pdf
Maybe one of these days I'll scratch the Flying I brand in a rock somewhere. In 200 years they will reverence the evidence of my passing. Today, they will just call me Vandal.