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Comb Ridge
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  Little Westwater Ruin
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  Moki Dugway

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Procession Panel - Comb Ridge

   The Procession Panel is a well known Anasazi petroglyph located just below the summit of Comb Ridge. I have hiked on Comb Ridge a number of times in the past and it is a favorite place for me. I love the vast expanses of bare rock that ascend to the ridge line. The sloped rock face is laced with small canyons, providing a myriad of places that he ancients used. Comb Ridge is actually the first place where I had been exposed to back country Anasazi ruins. A friend had a keen interest in the Anasazi before I did and he had done some solo pioneering of Comb Ridge the year before he took me there. On that trip we had visited most of the major named ruins and on a subsequent trip we had been to a few other areas. However, neither of us had ever visited the Procession Panel.

      The Procession Panel is named for the long line of figures that are carefully carved into the rock face. There are 179 of the figures that form a continuous line across the cliff. This panel was actually only discovered in the past 30 years or so by hikers. It is surprising that it remained hidden for so long as it is very close to one of the only areas where it was possible to ascend and descend the sheer West wall of Comb Ridge.

Procession Panel Comb Ridge
      The sight of the Procession Panel provides encouragement to scramble up the last portion of the hike.
     As we were coming from the Arch Canyon Area we took the Butler Wash road from the North, driving South for 14.4 miles before turning West on a track that lead to a parking area. One of the biggest challenges in hiking Comb Ridge is the initial crossing of Butler Wash. The bottom of the wash is broad and fairly flat and, after any sort of rain, slick and muddy. Both the East and West edges of the Wash are steep dirt walls. These red walls are 20 - 30 feet high and are often vertical. To begin the crossing you climb down into the wash and are immediately surrounded by a dense thicket of Tamarisk. This large invasive woody shrub grows to about 30 feet tall and is found everywhere in Butler Wash. Unfortunately, this plant is an aggressive invader and quickly displaces the willows and other native plants. It grows thick and tall and makes it a real challenge to cross Butler Wash.

     Fortunately for us, Butler Wash was mostly dry on this day. It was quite muddy from recent rains but there was no running water. We followed a partial trail away from the parking area which lead us to a fairly easy place to scramble down to the Wash bottom. After navigating a course to the other side we scrambled out onto the bare rock of Comb Ridge. Normally we bring a bright colored scarf or other material to tie to a sage near where we exited the Wash. From above it all looks the same and we have found it is much easier to retrace our path across Butler than return in a different place. Without a flag on this trip we made a careful study of the area to be sure we could find the return crossing and set off up the bare rock slope.
Procession Panel Comb Ridge     Inspecting the pictographs at Procession Panel

     Following the directions from various sources we head west toward an easily recognizable draw. We head straight up the draw and it is easy hiking so we keep heading up the draw. As we hike it becomes obvious that the notch where we will arrive at the top of the ridge is significantly lower that the ridge top on both sides. Bare rock ledges head off from each side of the bottom. From our research we know that the Procession Panel will be on the sheer rock walls facing the South, which would put them on our right as we hiked. I considered taking one of the ledges that ran off at a steeper angle than the bottom but decided to stay with the hike straight ahead. Unfortunately, I should have followed my instinct to head right as the bottom lead us to the top of Comb Ridge but we were well below the place where we would discover the Panel.

     However, this was an excellent place to hit the top of Comb Ridge. There was a cool rock approach that covered the last few hundred yards to the top. This huge unbroken section of rock was a wonderful way to approach the ridge. The ridge line was clearly defined ahead and it was a neat hike. Gazing out from Comb Ridge looking toward Cedar Mesa is always a thrill for me. The canyons running off Cedar Mesa are great hiking  and I knew I would be visiting several of them in the next few days. However, for now I was content to gaze toward the West and marvel that the Ancients found ways to climb the vertical wall that disappeared below me.
Procession Panel Comb Ridge
Click to enlarge
    Procession Panel on Comb Ridge showing many of the marching figures

     I had gotten ahead of my companion on this section of the hike and as he approached I worked my way up toward the South. Soon he was leading the way scrambling up the steep walls heading directly to the Panel. Climbing higher, it became obvious that the Panel would be found on the prominent red wall directly ahead and as we scrambled the final yards we could see the amazing pictographs ahead.

      These are really interesting pictographs. There are a host of different types but by far the most interesting to me were the figures marching in line. On the right, heading West were was a long single file line of figures. They all faced to the West until reaching an unusual figure that appeared to have a bird on it's head. At that point the figures on the left are facing to the East and heading toward the "bird head" figure. Thus it seems that this person is the nexus of the Procession.

    The group facing East begin from a large circle scraped in the rock. There are two lines of figures heading into the circle. One group enters from the West and would form a straight line with the group heading toward "bird head" if they did not intersect the circle. The other group enters the circle from below. This all gives the impression of this being some sort of gathering place where people traveled distances to come together. Within the lines of figures there is a great deal of individual variation some appear to be wearing headdresses while others are carrying things. In all, the name of the feature Procession Panel is a very apt description.
"bird head" man    Note the figure that appears to have a bird on it's head. all of the other figures seem to be meeting at this point, suggesting that the "bird head" is of some significance.

     After studying the Panel we began our return to the car park. Rather than return to the draw bottom below, we just followed the rock ledge that we were on. It descended faster than the draw below and soon we had reached the bottom where we easily retraced our path back. In all we hiked about 4 miles, mostly across bare rock. We climbed about 700 feet and it was a very pleasant hike.

     Procession Panel is a great hike that takes you to the top of Comb Ridge and offers an easy hike to a very interesting rock art area. It is well worth the visit.

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