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Honeymoon Trail to Little Creek Mesa

St. George Jeepers Trail Report-June 28, 2016

Honeymoon Trail to Little Creek Mesa

Below, our traditional air-down at the Sky Ranch in Hurricane, Utah. The asphalt strip extending toward Pine Valley Mountain is an airstrip for private use by residents of Sky Ranch. Smoke from the still-burning Saddle Mountain forest fire can be seen rising above the white water tank on the hill in the distance. Seven drivers and their passengers congregated at the Sky Ranch to begin our climb up the historic Honeymoon Trail. The run today was led by Joan and Phil Hayes.

The Honeymoon Trail

"During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a primitive wagon road was the principle travel route between the Mormon settlements in northeastern Arizona and southern Utah. In the late 1870s, Mormon colonists had been sent by church leaders to pioneer new settlements along Arizona’s Little Colorado River. As the new settlements were remote and isolated, many goods and services could only be obtained from the established Mormon communities of southern Utah. After 1877, the Arizona Mormon settlers also traveled to St. George, Utah to conduct church business and have their marriage vows solemnized in the newly-completed St. George Temple. So many newlyweds traveled the wagon road that it came to be known as “the Honeymoon Trail”.

Couples would travel in small groups for safety and companionship to make this long-distance trek across the varied and rugged terrain of northeastern Arizona and southwestern Utah. This journey typically began in mid-November and required many weeks of hard travel to complete. The wagons jolted across deep dry washes and slick rock, bogged down in deep sandy soils, and became mired in muddy stream crossings. At Lee’s Ferry, John D. Lee and his wife Emma provided regular ferry service for travelers, at one of the few feasible crossings of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Their journey then took them to Kanab, Utah, south to Pipe Springs, Arizona, finally heading north into Washington County, Utah. Here, the Honeymoon Trail followed Fort Pearce Wash and headed north through the Warner Valley into St. George. The spring at the historic Fort Pearce site was a popular overnight camping spot for these travelers, some of whom inscribed their names and the dates of their visits on the rocky cliff faces at the spring.

After their marriage ceremonies, the newlyweds would often spend the winter months in St. George, enjoying the social activities of this established community and purchasing needed supplies. They began the long trip home in the early spring. The Honeymoon Trail continued in use well into the 20th century, until modern highways were finally constructed across northeastern Arizona."

Source: BLM Historic Trails publication

Starting the climb up the Hurricane Cliffs on the Honeymoon Trail

The Hayes Jeep approaching the rock cut

Continuing the climb on up the trail.

Much of the present day trail was not in existence during the early days. Across the ravine a section of the old trail is clearly evident.

Below is a section of retaining wall where the old trail crossed a small drainage. It obviously was well-built to remain intact almost 150 years later.

Looking back to the southwest at Warner Valley and Fort Pierce Wash

A section of the more "interesting" part of the trail.

This where many passengers declare that they would like to get some exercise. It's quite off-camber, which means it leans heavily toward the ravine in spots.

Sign post indicating the location of the original Honeymoon Trail.

Some very nice scenery along the trail.

A mesa of a geologic formation locally known as the "Mexican Skirt Formation," for obvious reasons.

Heading on east, one of the first ranches we passed was the Boulder Mountain Ranch. The ranch is listed as a domestic elk facility. We saw no evidence of elk and fencing and facilities seemed to be unfinished.

Although no elk were evident we saw this fine looking cow. She seemed quite docile and tame, unlike most of the similar looking animals we often see on our trail rides in the Bunkerville area of Nevada.

The ranch lies in an idyllic valley, flanked by sandstone cliffs.

Traveling on eastward, we climbed up onto Little Creek Mesa in Apple Valley, Utah.

Map showing Little Creek Mesa-(from

Little Creek Mesa is a large plateau, rich in archaeological artifacts. Today we visited several examples of artifacts; pit houses and petroglyphs. Following are accounts of the "Out of Asia migration" and Indian history of the West by David Rich Lewis from the Utah History Encyclopedia and Thomas Alexander, Utah, The Right Place, and various articles from The National Geographic Society. The history is fascinating, controversial and still being written.

"Scientists have found that Native American populations-- from Canada to the southern tip of Chile -- arose from at least three migrations, with the majority descended entirely from a single group of First American migrants that crossed over through Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America that existed during the ice ages, more than 15,000 years ago. In recent years, however, the idea that there may have been multiple migrations to the Americas by several groups of people beginning as far back as 16,000 years ago appears to be supported by a growing body of genetic, linguistic, and physical evidence. Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome." "At a site in Virginia called Cactus Hill, archaeologists have found an assemblage of artifacts that challenges scientific ideas about the first Americans. The conventional wisdom was that Native Americans are descended from a small band of people from northeast Asia who crossed over a now-vanished land bridge that extended between Siberia and Alaska between 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.

"But the artifacts at Cactus Hill dated back to 16,000 B.C. What’s more, stone spear points found at the site are reminiscent of those made by a Stone Age culture in southwest France, called the Solutreans, that ended 18,000 years ago. Archaeologist Dennis Stanford has suggested that the first Americans were actually the Solutreans, who crossed the Atlantic in boats similar to ones used by Arctic Eskimos. According to this controversial idea, the Solutreans were among the first New World explorers and may have been the ancestors of another ancient American culture, the Clovis people, who lived about 13,000 years ago.

More information on this still evolving study of Native American History may be read at the below site.

"In the cool, damp climate of the late Pleistocene Epoch, (The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 1.8 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago.) spruce-fir forests flourished in Utah as low as 5,000 feet above sea level. This cool habitat became the home of the first peoples of Utah, the Paleo-Indians who walked the lands of the Beehive State as early as 12,000 BCE (Before Current or Common Era, formerly called BC). From about 12,000 BCE To about 6,000 BCE, as Utah emerged from the last ice age, summer temperatures began to rise significantly. Baked by increasing heat and stressed by decreasing precipitation, the spruce-fir forests began to recede to higher altitudes, and heat-and drought- tolerant pinion-juniper and sagebrush-bunchgrass habitats replaced them.

Long before Euro-Americans entered the Great Basin, substantial numbers of people lived within the present boundaries of Utah. Some of the earlier known inhabitants were members of what are also termed the Desert Archaic Culture--nomadic hunter-gatherers with developed basketry, flaked-stem stone tools, and implements of wood and bone. They inhabited the region between 10,000 BCE and CE 400. (Common or Current Era, formerly known as AD) These peoples moved in extended family units, hunting small game and gathering the periodically abundant seeds and roots in a slightly more cool and moist Great Basin environment.

About CE 400, the Fremont Culture began to emerge in northern and eastern Utah out of this Desert tradition. The Fremont peoples retained many Desert hunting-gathering characteristics yet also incorporated a maize-bean-squash horticultural component by CE 800-900. They lived in masonry structures and made sophisticated basketry, pottery, and clay figurines for ceremonial purposes. Intrusive Numic peoples displaced or absorbed the Fremont sometime after CE 100. (The Numic were a branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages including Northern Paiute, Shoshone, Comanche, Southern Paiute, Ute, and others.)

The Paleo-Indians remained in Utah until about 6,500 BCE, and their successors, the Great Basin and Plateau Archaic peoples, lived in Utah until about the time of Christ. Both groups inhabited caves and brush and wood shelters, subsisting either through nomadic or sedentary hunter-gatherer lifestyles.

Instead of moving from nomadic to settled life in a natural progression as their culture changed, these people chose different lifestyles within their technological capability, pressures of population, environmental change, and cultural traits. Those who chose to live within productive and diverse ecosystems, such as along the shores of the lakes, gathered in large, relatively fixed locations. By contrast, people who lived in less fruitful localities with scarce resources, such as the sagebrush flats, migrated from one food supply or place of shelter to another as the cycles of plant and animal life made such relocations expedient.

Many archaeologists believe that the damp, biologically diverse marshes along the shores of lakes and slow streams supplied the richest sources of food and shelter for ancient peoples who chose sedentary lifestyles. People living near marshes found plentiful supplies of plants such as cattails, roots, and berries, and animals such as birds, rabbits, and fish to eat. Since most of the lakes in Utah with the largest marsh areas lie near the places where most people live today, it takes only a moment's reflection to conclude that the largest numbers of Paleo-Indian and Archaic Utahns probably preferred to live there also.

Like the periphery of the Great Salt Lake, the shores of other Great Basin lakes provided ideal locations for many of these people. Utah Lake offered favored sites where Paleo-Indians harvested marsh flora and fauna and hunted bison and large waterfowl such as Canada geese. Sevier Lake, which in late Pleistocene and early Holocene times held a great deal more water than at present, hosted some of these ancient Utahns as well. (The Holocene Epoch is the current period of geologic time. Another term that is sometimes used is the Anthropocene Epoch, because its primary characteristic is the global changes caused by human activity. The Holocene Epoch began 12,000 to 11,500 years ago at the close of the Paleolithic Ice Age and continues through today.)

As the weather warmed during early Holocene times, these lakes receded. Population pressures near the water's edge tended to increase, and many of these people began to hunt upland game animals such as mountain sheep and the fast-disappearing mega-mammals, including the Pleistocene mammoth and camel. Some people, perhaps preferring to avoid contention with others for space and food near the lakes, lived as nomads, moving from place to place while gathering seasonal edibles.

Thus, peoples with similar cultural traits chose different habitats and different foods. In fact, archaeologists have found identical types of pottery, projectile points, basketry, and grinding equipment at diverse sites, suggesting similar technological and cultural attainment.

Moreover, the Paleo-Indian culture spread throughout the region. Paleo-Indian traders carried goods between Utah and New Mexico, evidenced by the use of obsidian from Utah sites by peoples from the south to make the famous Clovis spear points.

Beginning in CE 400, the Anasazi, (a Navajo word meaning "the ancient ones") with their Basketmaker Pueblo Culture traditions, moved into southeastern Utah from south of the Colorado River. Like the Fremont to the north, the Anasazi were relatively sedentary peoples who had developed a maize-bean-squash-based agriculture. The Anasazi built rectangular masonry dwellings and large apartment complexes that were tucked into cliff faces or situated on valley floors like the structures at Grand Gulch and Hovenweep National Monument. They constructed pithouse granaries, made coiled and twined basketry, clay figurines, and a fine gray-black pottery. The Anasazi prospered until CE 1200-1400 when climactic changes, crop failures, and the intrusion of Numic hunter-gatherers forced a southward migration and reintegration with the Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico.

The Goshute (Kusiutta) inhabited the inhospitable western deserts of Utah. Derogatorily labeled "Digger Indians" by early white observers, the Goshute were supremely adaptive hunter-gatherers living in small nomadic family bands. They constructed wickiups or brush shelters, gathered seasonal seeds, grasses, and roots, collected insects, larvae, and small reptiles, and hunted antelope, deer, rabbits and other small mammals. The Southern Paiute (Nuwuvi) lived in southwestern Utah, where they combined their hunting- gathering subsistence system with some flood-plain gardening--an adaptation attributable to Anasazi influences. The Southern Paiute were non-warlike and suffered at the hands of their more aggressive Ute neighbors in the historic period.

The Ute (Nuciu) people were hunter-gatherers who quickly adopted the horse and buffalo culture of the Plains Indians. They became noted raiders and traded horses between the Spanish Southwest and the northern plains. Utes actively participated in Spanish campaigns against Navajo and Apache raiders, and conducted their own slave trade with the Spanish against the Southern Paiute and Navajo. Utes lived in brush wickiups or skin tepees and traveled in extended family units with seasonal band congregations. There was only a general sense of "tribal" identity with the other Ute bands, based on a common language and shared beliefs."

Ute Wickiups

By the year 1700 Navajos began to move into the San Juan River drainage area of Utah in
search of pasture for their herds of Spanish sheep and goats. The Navajo (Dine) were recent immigrants to the Southwest--migrant Athabaskan-speaking peoples (see below) from the subarctic who arrived sometime between CE 1300 and 1400. The Navajo were highly adaptive hunter-gatherers who incorporated domestic livestock and agriculture into their subsistence system. They lived in dispersed extended family units in northern Arizona, New Mexico, and southeastern Utah, dwelling in hogans. While maintaining fair relations with the Spanish and Pueblo peoples, Navajos came under intense pressure from raiding Utes from the 1720s through the 1740s, forcing many to retreat from Utah. (The Navajo speak an Apachean language which is classified in the Athabaskan language family. At some point in prehistory the Navajo and Apache migrated to the Southwest from Canada, where most other Athabaskan-speaking peoples still live; although the exact timing of the relocation is unknown, it is thought to have been between AD 1100 and 1500. These early Navajo were mobile hunters and gatherers; after moving to the Southwest, however, they adopted many of the practices of the sedentary, farming Pueblo Indians near whom they settled. Were these people descendants of the immigrants that are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait from Asia during the last ice age?)

Najavo Hogan structure

Numerous explorers and trappers--Rivera, Dominguez and Escalante, Provost, Robidoux, Ashley, Ogden, Smith, Carson, Bridger, and Goodyear--ventured through Utah between 1776 and 1847, making contact and trading with the Native American peoples. They established economic relations but exerted little if any political control over the native peoples of Utah. When the Mormon migration began there were more than 20,000 Indians living in Utah proper."

Because their culture changed continually (and not always gradually), researchers have divided the occupation into periods, each with its characteristic complex of settlement and artifact styles. Since 1927 the most widely accepted nomenclature has been the "Pecos Classification," which is generally applicable to the whole Anasazi Southwest. Although originally intended to represent a series of developmental stages, rather than periods, the Pecos Classification has come to be used as a period sequence:

Basketmaker I: pre-1000 BCE (an obsolete synonym for Archaic); Basketmaker II: c. 1000 BCE to CE. 450; Basketmaker III: c. CE 450 to 750

  • Pueblo I: c. CE 750 to 900
  • Pueblo II: c. CE 900 to 1150
  • Pueblo III: c. CE 1150 to 1300
  • Pueblo IV: c. CE 1300 to 1600
  • Pueblo V: c. CE 1600 to present (historic Pueblo)

Possibly late Basketmaker ll pit.

Reconstruction of what a pit house roof might have looked like.

The Pueblo peoples had left Utah by the end of the Pueblo III period.

As the Anasazi settled into their village/farming lifestyle, recognizable regional variants or subcultures emerged, which can be usefully combined into two larger groups. The eastern branches of the Anasazi culture include the Mesa Verde Anasazi of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado, and the Chaco Anasazi of northwestern New Mexico. The western Anasazi include the Kayenta Anasazi of northeastern Arizona and the Virgin Anasazi of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. To the north of the Anasazi peoples - north of the Colorado and Escalante rivers - Utah was the home of a heterogeneous group of small-village dwellers known collectively as the Fremont.

Although they continued to move around in pursuit of seasonally available foods, the earliest Anasazi concentrated increasing amounts of effort on the growing of crops and the storage of surpluses. They made exquisite baskets and sandals, for which reason they have come to be known as "Basketmakers." They stored their goods (and often their dead) in deep pits and circular cists - small pits often lined with upright stone slabs and roofed over with a platform of poles, twigs, grass, slabs or rocks, and mud. Basketmaker II houses were somewhat more sturdy than those of their Archaic predecessors, being rather like a Paiute winter wickiup or a Navajo hogan. Very few have been excavated."

Another possible Basketmaker ll pit, as described above.

"The Basketmaker culture of the pre-Ancestral Puebloans began about 1500 BCE and continued until about CE 500 with the beginning of the Pueblo I Era. The prehistoric American southwestern culture was named "Basketmaker" for the large number of baskets found at archaeological sites of 3,000 to 2,000 years ago.

Well-preserved mummies found in dry caves provide insight into the ancient Basketmakers. Women were about 5 feet tall and men were 3 to 4 inches taller. They had long, narrow faces and medium to stocky build. Their skin varied from light to dark brown and they had brown or black hair and eyes. Fancy hairstyles were sometimes worn by men and infrequently by women. Women's hair may have been cut short; Significant quantities of rope made of human hair have been recovered and since it was more likely that men had fancy hairstyles, the hair for rope may have come from women.

The Basketmakers wore sandals made of woven yucca fibers or strips of leaves. There is little evidence of clothing aside from a few loin-cloths found at archaeological sites. Women may have worn aprons on special occasions. Hides or blankets made of yucca fibers and rabbit fur were likely for warmth.

Both men and women wore necklaces, bracelets and pendants made of shell, stone, bone and dried berries. Shells, such as abalone, conus and olivella from the coast of the Pacific ocean, would have been obtained through trade.

Basketmaker Eras

In the Early Basketmaker II Era people lived a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle with the introduction of cultivation of corn, which led to a more settled, agrarian life. Some of the early people lived in cave shelters in the San Juan River drainage. Excavation of their sites yielded a large number of baskets, for which they received their name, corn and evidence of human burials.

It was not until the Late Basketmaker II Era (about CE 50 - 500) that people lived in permanent dwellings; crude pit-houses made of stones, brush, logs and earth. During the later portion of this period fired pottery was introduced to the Basketmakers, which due to regional and evolutionary differences greatly aided in dating and tracking pottery origins following archaeological excavations. Hunting became much easier during the Basketmaker III Era (about CE 500 - 750) when bow-and-arrow technology replaced the spear (atlatl) used since the Archaic period of the Americas."

Thomas Alexander, Utah, The Right Place

Looking for (but not removing, of course) pottery shards that are abundant in the area.

Remnants of another pit house.

After examining the several pit house remains we traveled to another archaeological site in the area. Here we observed a so-called water glyph. For an excellent treatment on water glyphs, visit the website.

This glyph pointed in a 54 degrees NW direction, directly toward the high point of Kolob Plateau. There is not unanimous consensus about the meaning and purpose of these glyphs.

Next, Phil Hite led us to some fascinating petroglyphs. They are somewhat unusual in that they are scribed into the desert varnish on a big flat horizontal rock. There are few human or animal-like figures. Most panels in this region have easily recognizable representations, such as people, snakes, big horn sheep or deer. It is as if the artist(s) perceived this large area as a blank canvas. Many of the glyphs seem quite "abstract" and different than most in this area. For this reason we unofficially dubbed this panel the "Picasso Panel".

These "hoof-like" H designs are found scattered across the panel

Possibly a human figure next to some sort of animal representations?

An observer can only wonder what this represented.

This design seems more recent than the above design. In the above design, desert varnish is well reformed in the engraving, but not as much in the below pecking.

Due to the difficulty of locating this site, vandalism is very minimal. This design seemed to be more recent, but may have been somewhat better preserved due to being partially covered with soil. The pecking, however, does seem consistent with the other ancient works on the site.

After departing this amazing archaeological area, we turned west to the western rim of the Mesa for lunch with a view. Below, a panoramic vista from the rim. This is a view of Sand Mountain and Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah, to the upper right.

After ascending the Honeymoon Trail earlier in the morning we drove north (to the right) on the zig-zag road below. We then took the trail that heads east toward the left side of the photo. What looks like a major road heading toward the box canyon is actually a large wash draining to the huge Warner Valley watershed.

Below, Carl Kulyk, Allen Sheppard and Phil Hite enjoy lunch.

Possibly one of "Grandpa's Toys I-IV Jeeps" resting below the cliff?

Bruce Furr, left: "Jim, have I told you the one about the Jeep owner and Isuzu owner who walk into this bar?" Jim Beller: "Yeah, three times, now have I told you the difference between a young bull and an old bull?"

On the way down to Apple Valley for air-up and home, we were treated to some awesome views of Zion NP.

Our thanks are extended to Joan and Phil Hayes and Phil Hite for conducting another culturally interesting, scenic and wonderful day on the trail.

Submitted by Bud Sanders

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