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Pleasant Memories From Robbers’ Roost

Posted in Events on June 5, 2014
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Winters are hard on the Lone Writer, and the 2013 season came in like a buffalo stampede, dropping temperatures to below zero before the turkey dinner was thawed in November. There were nice days now and then, but every place Lone Writer loves to go was buried in snow and ice long before it should have been. There was nothing to do but turn up the fire and wait for spring thaw.

To pass the time, he began scanning through photos from his October trip to Utah. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment trips that required no planning and had no particular destination. Nissan had just delivered an Xterra Pro-4X that seemed to be begging to go somewhere like a puppy sitting at your feet with a leash in its mouth. Lone Writer pointed the Pro-4X west on I-70 with the idea of going somewhere warmer than Denver. The laptop was plugged into the radio playing an eBook titled Atlas Shrugged through the stereo speakers. (Note: The eBook is better than the movie.)

By the end of the day, the Pro-4X was parked in warmer temperatures near Hanksville, Utah. After moving a few things around inside, the Lone Writer created a sleeping area in the back using exercise mats and a lawn chair cushion. The next morning, he reached out of the sleeping bag and started the engine to warm up the car.

One great place to burn off a little cabin fever is driving around on Robbers’ Roost. Getting there from Hanksville can be done in a lot of different ways. Lone Writer chose the one off Highway 24, a short distance north of the Dirty Devil River Bridge. It avoids the main access, meandering in and out of one wash after another and across the desert on seldom-used roads. The Henry Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for photos taken along the way.

When outlaws ruled the Roost, lawmen feared to enter that area from any direction. Rumors and stories described bands of desperados roaming freely and having no tolerance for anyone who had not been invited. One story tells of a lawman who got too close and found himself surrounded by members of the Wild Bunch. They started by taunting him to see if he would foolishly go for his gun. When he refused to fall into that trap, the bandits took his water, gun, horse, and boots and fired at his feet until he took off running back in the direction he came from.

By the end of the day, the lawman was in real trouble. The desert sun had sapped all his strength. He was dehydrated and his feet were torn and bloody. He felt dizzy, and his vision was blurred, but in the distance, he saw a shadow riding his way. At that point, he would welcome a bullet to end it all. The rider stopped a few yards away and looked at him. “Lawmen ain’t welcome here. You learned your lesson yet?”

A rancher named Jack Cottrell built the first known cabin on Robbers’ Roost. This chimney is all that’s left.

The lawman didn’t answer. The rider tossed him a canteen of water and his boots, then turned and rode off at a leisurely pace. His gun and horse were not returned. Class was dismissed and the lesson was learned.

A rancher named Jack Cottrell built the first known cabin on Robbers’ Roost. He was not wanted by the law, but that may have been because he was cagey enough to not be identified anywhere. He raised a family at the cabin and was on a first-name basis with everyone who rode with the Wild Bunch. The only thing left of his cabin today is a lone chimney surrounded by sage.

A short distance from the cabin is a small cave with a natural spring coming from its walls. The place is called Silver Spring, and is probably named after an outlaw named Silver Tip. The story frequently associated with Silver Spring: Silver Tip, Indian Ed Newcomb, and Blue John were on the run from a posse. Lawmen stayed away from the Robbers' Roost, so they felt safe when they bedded down in the cave. However, when morning came; the first bandit to step out felt bullets buzzing past his head. He ducked back into the cave. One of the three outlaws was small enough to squeeze through the crack in the roof of the cave and got above the lawmen. When the lawmen found themselves under fire, they raced back to Green River with stories of a hundred outlaws hot on their trail.

There are many roads across the Roost ranging from those intended for use by passenger cars to those only a 4x4 or high-clearance vehicle could use. The nearest services can be 60 miles away.

The water at Robbers’ Roost Spring always had a bitter taste, but the flow was steady and plentiful. In desert county, anyone not familiar with the location of springs like Silver Spring and Robbers’ Roost Spring were in danger of becoming coyote food.

The livestock was watered at Robbers’ Roost Spring and the outlaws saved the better-tasting Silver Spring water for themselves. In the early 1900s, the Biddlecomb family moved onto the Roost. They installed a pipe at the spring and set it up for easier livestock access. One family member named Pearl Biddlecomb has written books about her life on the Roost with stories about the outlaws told to her by some of those who knew them.

The outlaws are gone from Robbers’ Roost, but ranchers are still there. They can frequently be seen chasing some lonely cow into the sunset. By the time this story is published, springtime will be raising the temperatures on the Roost, and those of you with cabin fever will be looking in that direction. Maybe we’ll see you there.

These horses followed my vehicle for several miles, like a puppy following its master. We have no idea where they came from or where they finally went.

Latitude North Longitude West Comments
N38 24.997 W110 41.626 The Robbers’ Roost access road branches off Highway 24 at this point.
N38 21.6854 W110 21.9562 Jack Cottrell cabin.
N38 21.6981 W110 21.7878 Silver Tip Spring
N38 21.5936 W110 22.3440 Robbers’ Roost Spring

PhotosView Slideshow

Larry E. Heck has been writing stories about fun, scenic, and historic places to go in a 4x4 since 1985. Check for the latest information about the Outlaw Trail Project 2014. Create a login account and receive a gift certificate for a free eBook.

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