Ancestral Puebloan Ruins of Mule Canyon and Butler Wash
The areas in and around Mule Canyon house a treasure trove of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, pit houses, and granaries. The most famous of these, House on Fire, is a often-photographed single room granary under an orange-y sandstone overhang that is characterized by radiating lines; particularly when it’s sunny the rock glows and makes the dwelling appear to be on fire. Our hike was on an overcast day that threatened rain and offered little in the way of light (plus we were there in the morning; it should be photographed in the afternoon) but it was still impressive and gave the impression of flames.
Mule Canyon was not all that scenic for the first few miles of our hike – though we were able to photograph and climb up to multiple ruins on the north wall – but by the time we had passed maybe the 4th dwelling and had gained the better part of a thousand feet in elevation we began seeing less scrub, more ponderosas clinging to the canyon rims, and decidedly more pretty rock, including hundred-foot long desert varnish streaks that looked like silver. The sandstone near the wash also took on more dramatic forms and began to be spotted with mineral deposits. The canyon became downright beautiful by the time we turned around.
After returning to the trailhead we drove a few miles east where Tom turned off for an unscheduled stop following the signs for Butler Wash Ruins. I’m a lucky girl – the man knows what I like. The trail to the Butler Ruins overlook was less than a mile across slickrock and altogether very pretty, but the view from the canyon rim was quite stunning: we had a line of sight nearly directly across from an alcove filled with multiple, very well preserved dwellings. I continued on alone following the rim, over a small natural bridge in order to get closer views as