This time of year I look for ATV trails in warmer parts of the state. I had some pretty cold rides last winter. I found just such a ride in Kane County on the Mail Drop Trails, a ride replete with pioneer and Indian history.
Traveling south from Carmel Junction on U.S. 89, we turned west on County Road 43; the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Road. We staged about 15.3 miles from the junction.
Heading north, we passed through Elephant Cove by Elephant Butte. Our guide on this ride was JayVar Campbell. I was eating up his story about he history of the landmark. He told about the elephants the pioneers used to haul cut lumber off the butte. He even showed us a place the animals could reach the top. The last one died at about the turn of the century.
After I had completely swallowed the hook, so to speak, I learned the real story behind the name. One side of the butte has a form that suggests the head and part of the trunk of an elephant. Now I wonder if JayVar is his real name.
The trails we were riding were made by mail carriers on a route between St. George and Kanab. The butte we passed was not known to the pioneers as Elephant Butte in the late 1800s. That name made it to the maps after the turn of the century. The mail carriers knew the land by the names of the communities and ranches whose inhabitants looked for news. At one point, the area supported more than 500 communities settled by Mormon colonizers sent by Brigham Young. We rode to the top of Harris Mountain, named for one of the ranches served by the mail system.
After coming down the mountain, we rode a mail trail on the back side of Elephant Butte to an overlook of Cottonwood Canyon. The next canyon to the west features Short Creek, which makes its way down into the controversial settlements of Hildale and Colorado City.
Turning north, the history changed from pioneer to Indian. We stopped for lunch at a place known as the Warriors Walk. It is assumed that this place had special meaning to the Piute Tribe as they were the predominant clan in that area. A path marked on either side by stones of varying sizes, leads across a slope of bare rock about 150 yards into a grove of trees. A cave in the trees, long since filled with sand, had some significance as a place to culminate a ceremony.
Traveling north again on the mail trails; we took a side trip west to Broad Hollow stopping short of the biggest obstacle facing successful postal service. The Mail Drop is a point about 2,000 feet above Shunesburg; a settlement of about 1,000 people which is now a ghost town.
The obstacle is a sheer cliff that drops 650 feet to the canyon floor and then down the gorge the rest of 2,000 feet to the town. A treacherous route called the "Wiggle Trail" down the face of the cliff proved too dangerous on horseback and too arduous on foot. The problem was solved by installing a pulley system secured at the top and bottom of the cliff. The St. George pouch was dropped on the pulley to the Shunesburg carrier who then attached the pouch from Kanab and hauled it up to the top.
We backtracked to the junction traveling east and took another side trip on these historical trails. This time our route took us north to an overlook that gave us a spectacular view into Rock Canyon. We could see the East Fork of the Virgin River in the bottom of the gorge and wondered if any mail had to be delivered there.
We headed back to the staging area full of appreciation for the struggles of the early pioneers. Should you decide to go, let me know. It is worth the trip. There are guides who will take you for the fun of riding. Take plenty of water, tread lightly, and keep the rubber side down.
You may contact Lynn Blamires at firstname.lastname@example.org.