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Castlegate - The Getaway

Posted in Events on December 1, 2010
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Thursday, April 22, 1897
On Thursday morning, the day after pulling off the most daring daylight robbery for that time, Butch Cassidy kicked dirt over the campfire in Tidwell Bottoms and headed for Robbers Roost. No one can be certain who followed him out of camp that morning. Elzy Lay held the horses in Castlegate while Cassidy took the money so he was surely in the group. Although he was never seen, Bob Meeks was named on the historic marker as being involved. Other writers claimed Joe Walker cut the telegraph wires. The newspaper story stated a mail driver saw four riders with five horses leaving that camp at Tidwell Bottoms. It was possible that the four men suspected were all involved and used that camp for a rendezvous.

They had originally left Castlegate with $8,000 in gold and paper. Along the way they dropped the bag with the paper money probably because it was too easily traced. They still had $7,000 in gold. According to an inflation calculator, that would be equal to about $200,000 in today's money.

On that same Thursday morning, a posse from Salt Lake City arrived in Green River by train and rode toward the San Rafael River in hopes of finding the outlaws. They came upon the mail driver and learned they were more than six hours behind the four riders he saw ride out of camp. Rather than risk riding into Robbers Roost, the posse returned to Green River.

The newspaper story ended with this statement: "It is admitted that they are now as safe as though they had been swallowed up by the earth and that the Carpenter holdup will probably end." A local gunfighter (mercenary) offered to invade Robbers Roost with heavy guns and clean out the outlaws, but the Pleasant Valley Coal Company did not agree to his terms.

Thursday, April 22, 2010
On Thursday morning, 113 years after Butch Cassidy rode out of Tidwell Bottoms, Lone Writer started his 4x4 near that same location. Tidwell Bottoms is a very large area so there is no way to know exactly where the outlaws camped. Lone Writer crossed I-70 on the road to Hanksville. After a short distance, he turned on a dirt road that follows the banks of the San Rafael River onto Robbers Roost. Because water is scarce on the Roost, it is assumed the outlaws followed the river.

The San Rafael River along that road is posted as a wildlife area. Along the way, it passes an abandoned ranch with log cabins and sod roofs. A short distance later, the road becomes more of an ATV trail. Four-wheel-drive vehicles still use it but not nearly as often as ATVs. The scenic views of the river area and the desert that surrounds it are in every direction.

Eventually, the trail crosses the Green River at Spring Canyon Ford. At that point, the brush on both sides is very thick and may put some pin stripes in the paint of a fullsize vehicle. The depth of the water will depend on the time of year and recent rainfall. Once the river is crossed, the road becomes better maintained and can be used by vehicles pulling trailers, although there are places with deep sand. It is best if there is more than one vehicle in the group just in case tugging through sandy areas becomes necessary.

PhotosView Slideshow

From Spring Canyon Ford, Lone Writer chose trails heading in a southeast direction on a line toward Upper Pasture, which is south of Horseshoe Canyon. The route intersects with the main road that connects Hans Flat to the town of Green River. After visiting Upper Pasture, use that road to reach the town.

Lone Writer followed the Hans Flat road to a point where another road branches off to the left. It is the last such road going left before crossing the boundary for Canyonlands National Park. He followed that road to the end and parked in an empty campsite. Unless you are capable of living out of a backpack and hiking many miles in desert canyons, that campsite is the closest you will get to Upper Pasture. The outlaws would have entered from another direction on horseback.

There are several campsites at the end of that road but all of them are very close to each other. When Lone Writer arrived, another camper had taken the largest of the campsites. Check with the Hans Flat Ranger Station for restrictions that might apply to camping in that area.

According to a book written by Pearl Biddlecome (she was raised on a ranch on Robbers Roost) the outlaws had a hideout on Upper Pasture. Outlaw Cave is located near that area but the road to it washed out a few years back. Canyonlands National Park has closed access to that road in an effort to keep handicapped and elderly people out. The only ones who can now reach Outlaw Cave are those who can live out of a backpack for days at a time and hike a round trip of 20 miles.

When the outlaws reached their hideout, they were safe from the law. The reputation of Robbers Roost kept everyone out except those who were on the run. They spent several weeks at the hideout to be sure the posses had all gone home. It was an agonizing wait. All that money to spend and no where to spend it.

After cooling their heels for a few weeks, the decision was made to head for the outlaw hideout at Powder Springs near Brown's Hole. According to stories passed down through the years, they made a lot of noise when they passed through Green River. It was their way of bragging about getting away with a small fortune.

Lone Writer kicked back in an easy chair overlooking a deep desert canyon and admired the many interesting formations. With a cold Pepsi in hand and a can of peanuts within reach, he tried to imagine what living on Robbers Roost would have been like in 1897. Within that mixed up jumble of imagined lack of comforts, the realization popped up that if he hurried, there was still time to reach Green River for a full-course dinner based on a plate of 20-minute chicken. For those who do not know the story about Lone Writer's love of fried chicken, suffice to say the fastest way to get him to Green River is to tell him the chicken's in the fryer and it will be done in 20 minutes.

While in Green River, a quick side trip to Crystal Geyser can be rewarding if you catch the geyser during one of its eruptions. It does not blast off on any regular schedule so it's a "catch me if you can" event.

After a good dinner and a restful night in the desert near Crystal Geyser, Lone Writer picked up the trail of the outlaws and set course for Powder Springs, but that's another story.

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GPS Positions for I-70 And along the Hanksville Road
The starting point for this trip begins at the east bound 149 exit ramp off I-70. At the end of the ramp, turn right on Hwy 24 and reset your trip meter. When 0.0 appears, reset the trip meter. When intersections are encountered that are not mentioned, continue straight or on the main route.

Trip Meter / Latitude (N) / Longitude (W) / Comments

0.0 / N38 55.2133 / W110 22.5139 / This is the beginning of Highway 24 on the south side of the I-70 exit ramp for east-bound traffic.
3.7 / N38 52.0108 / W110 21.8849 / Turn left onto the dirt road and cross the cattle guard, then turn right at the fork in the road.
6.3 / N38.47.0319 / W110 20.0653 / Right fork just past line shack.
8.2 / N38 45.5726 / W110 19.4955 / Take the left fork. Reset meter for easier spotting of next turn.

0.3 / N38 45.6390 / W110.19.0843 / This fork is difficult to see. It turns right and descends a huge rock. The next 3 miles have sections of deep sand.
2.3 / N38 44.2941 / W110 17.2681 / Left fork. The next mile has deep washouts but bypasses are available.
4.2 / N38 44.1216 / W110 15.2522 / Right fork.
4.6 / N38 43.8542 / W110 14.9050 / Cross the San Rafael. There is a campsite here.
8.8 / N38 40.7637 / W110 16.2571 / Left fork.
12.6 / N38 37.9502 / W110 15.2904 / Right turn.
14.3 / N38 36.9105 / W110 16.5617 / Left turn. Reset trip meter.

7.5 / N38 39.7707 / W110 9.9219 / Right turn at sign.
8.6 / N38 39.0148 / W110 9.5023 / Right fork.
20.0 / N38 29.7340 / W110 12.4814 / Straight. Horseshoe Canyon is left.
24.9 / N38 28.3302 / W110 16.8082 / Left turn at signboard.
28.4 / N38 25.4926 / W110 17.7359 / Right fork after cattle guard.
31.7 / N38 22.6381 / W110 18.3122 / Left toward Hans Flat.

12.7 / N38 15.3271 / W110 11.4469 / Turn left.

3.7 / N38 17.8661 / W110 11.2291 / End of road.

Go back to the Horseshoe Canyon intersection.

0.0 / N38 29.7340 / W110 12.4814 / Straight. Horseshoe Canyon is right.
41.7 / N38 59.7210 / W110 8.9745 / This is the West Winds Restaurant in Green River.

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