Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Smithsonian Butte, UT (4/14/2018) & Canaan Gap, UT (4/16/2018)

After finding the Paiute Cave, I still had time that day for more exploration.  Since I had taken the road to Colorado City, I thought I would try to find the "Yellow Man" pictograph on nearby Smithsonian Butte.  I had detailed instructions from the internet, but the distance to the first turn was wrong.  Not turning at the right place, however, gave me a great long distance view of the mountains in Zion National Park.
Zion National Park

Smithsonian Butte
Backtracking a bit, I found the road closest to the directions I had and it turned out to be the correct one.  After that, the directions were perfect, leading me through a series of turns and ending at the base of a very steep slope.  The trail was quite slippery, being covered with sand and small gravel.  In fact, I never would have made it up except for the old barbed wire fence running alongside the trail.  Having the wire to grab kept me from falling more than once, and the fence posts were helpful, too.  I arrived at a ledge quite winded.  A large rock at the top invited me to sit, so I did.

After catching my breath, I followed the directions by moving along the ledge to my left.  There were no pictographs that I could see, so I kept moving, climbing over a couple boulders and pushing through some bushes.  The ledge ended and I had seen no rock art, so I started back to the trail to start over.  There were some interesting formations along the ledge.

Back at my favorite rock, I looked up above it and there was "Yellow Man", directly over my resting place.  Once again, I have to say I've never seen anything quite like it.  Absolutely worth the effort.
In addition, around to the right I found more pictographs and a few petroglyphs.  Some were faded but all were visible and interesting.

More windy weather kept me in camp the next day, but the day after I just had to look for more unusual petroglyphs near Colorado City.  I invited the ladies from the next campsite to join me.  I had a pretty good idea of the mesa where the art is located in an area called Canaan Gap, but wasn't sure of the exact roads to get there.

Driving toward the area, I noticed a Jeep following us.  Thinking he may be going to the same place, I flagged him down. He had a different destination, but said he knew how to get to our petroglyphs.  Following him proved to be a real adventure.  Suddenly he drove over the rim of a wash with an almost vertical wall, and I went right behind him.  Twenty feet down, at the bottom, we took a hard left and then faced a boulder in the edge of the wash.  Going up on the wall, I missed the boulder.  Almost immediately, we faced a vertical wall to get out of the wash.  He made it up, so I gunned it and went after him.  Thank goodness for 4WD.  Throughout the couple minutes into and out of the wash, you never heard such language from my ladies.

We asked the guy if he had done anything like that before.   He told us he had done that wash in his ATV, but never in a Jeep.  "But I knew we could do it", he said.  The petroglyphs were a short hike up the end of the mesa.

From there, we had a good view of Canaan's Gap and could also see the wash we had just traversed.

These petroglyphs were unusual because many of them were much deeper than normal.  We don't know if they were originally dug deeper, or if erosion has taken more away for some reason.  In any case, they are called the "Cookie Cutter" petroglyphs due to their dept (around 3/8 inch). 

There were also a few that looked "normal", possibly because they were done at a later date.

 We finished our viewing, then tackled the wash again, but I'm afraid there was more shocking language as we drove over the edge.  Fortunately, the guy had told us about an exit that was much more gentle, and we appreciated that,

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Grand Canyon N P - Kanab Point & Paiute Cave (4/14/2018)

I am now back in Colorado, but there are still a few travelogues in the pipeline.

It seems that every morning and every evening there were really nice sunrises/sunsets on the Paiute Reservation.  I hope you still enjoy them.

After my adventure at Toroweap Point, the weather took a bad turn.  There were several days of extreme wind, steady 30 mph with gusts to 60 mph.  It did not encourage me to do some of my planned activities, especially the one that required hiking in a stream.  I used the time to catch up on chores and commiserate with others stuck in the campground.  Finally, I decided I had to get out, even though it was still somewhat windy.  Instead of hiking the canyon with running water, I chose to drive to Kanab Point.

Kanab Point is where Kanab Creek enters the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.  It is similar to Toroweap Point except it is even more remote and gets much less visitation.  I would be surprised if even 500 people per year make it to this spot.  It is a 50 mile drive, moderately rough road until it crosses into the national park, when it becomes very rough for the last four miles.  The park service seems to want to make it a challenge to reach these overlooks.

There are three overlooks that one can drive to, which limits the views somewhat.  To see more requires hiking in very thick sagebrush, but I had no desire to do that.  The views that are available are spectacular, and I was awestruck by the canyon created by a small creek.  I suppose it isn't always small, but it has certainly created an awesome canyon.

Since it was still early in the day, I thought I would look for a site called Paiute Cave.  I had heard about this place, actually a lava tube, from the tour guide I met at Toroweap.  He had given me only a general location, on the road from Toroweap to Colorado City.  Subsequent research told me the "cave" has very unusual pictographs.  As I left Kanab Point, I met some BLM rangers  on the road.  They told me the "cave" was on a two-track trail on top of a cinder cone the road went over.  If you go off the cinder cone, they said, you have gone too far.

With no other information, I drove to the road in question and started looking for two-track trails.  The first three I tried had lava rock scattered about, but no lava tubes.  The fourth trail looked more promising and I soon came to a stack of lava rock almost hidden by dirt pushed up to make a pond.  Walking up to the pile, I could see an opening at the top of a twenty foot pile of large rocks.  As I climbed the pile, I reminded myself what a mistake it would be to fall on these sharp rocks.  Further, I thought how this would make a great home for some critter, even a snake hibernating in the rock pile that would be unhappy if disturbed.  I was careful as I could be, given both hands were full with my camera, a flashlight and a lantern.

The lava tube was actually not that dark.  It was small and had an extra opening that let in light.  I looked and looked for rock art, but there was none to be found.  Bummer!

Back outside, I observed that the trail continued on, and there was a large butte half mile away that appeared to be lava rock.

Driving toward the butte, I suddenly saw a pile of lava rock off to the side, with a BLM registry box  indicating this was definitely the place.  There was a sizable depression with a thirty foot wall of lava boulders, and an opening near the top of the wall.  Fortunately, the trail I found led to the middle of the pile, not the bottom.
This time I only brought the flashlight, not the lantern.  As a result, it was considerably darker in here.  I could see markings on the boulders down below, but could not tell if they were the art I was after.  I took a few photos using the flash.  With the flashlight, I thought I could see synbols about twenty feet down the rocks.

Scooting down the boulders on my bottom, I began to see some of the most unusual rock art I have ever seen.  The technique seemed to be painting a solid background, then painting the image on it.  The paints used, even after hundreds of years, were very bright and colorful.

There were a few places where it appeared the background had been painted in preparation for more images that had never been added.
Needless to say, this was an exciting find, well worth all the effort it took to get there.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Grand Canyon National Park - Toroweap Point, AZ (4/10/2018)

Before getting to the Toroweap story, here are a couple more sunrise/sunset photos from the Kaibab Paiute Reservation.

 Now, about Toroweap Point, a remote part of Grand Canyon National Park that few people have heard of and even fewer have ever visited.  This point is the only place in the park where one can look down directly at the Colorado River some 3000 feet below.  I've been aware of it for years, but have had mixed feelings about going there.  The park service actually seems to discourage visitation by the warnings on its web site, mostly related to poor roads and the absolute remoteness.  From the paved highway, any of three roads can access the area, but it is a minimum of 60 miles on rough road.  The last several miles are even rougher, more like rock crawling.  The park service advises 4WD only, and bring two spare tires, a good jack, and food and water in case of a problem.  With no cell service, help is hard to get and very costly.

After hearing from some friends who made the trip, I decided to do it.  Only five miles from the Toroweap Road, there would never be a better opportunity.  The only problem was the best photos are taken at sunrise or sunset, which requires camping overnight at the point.  An application for permit to camp must be mailed in advance, which I couldn't do.  Still, I wanted to check this trip off my "bucket list", so I went.

Parts of the road aren't bad at all, and the scenery is prettier than I anticipated.  On the other hand, parts of the road are very uncomfortable and slow going.  You can see "wash board" in the photos.

 Seeing this ancient horse-drawn road grader made me wonder if it had been the last to operate out here.

 After 2.5 hours on the road, I arrived and began to look around.  I was soon joined by a Kanab tour guide and his customers.  He allowed me to tag along so I got to learn more about the area, which incidentally is called Tuweep because that's the Paiute name for it.

 Looking down at the river, we watched about twenty rafts and 5-6 kayaks run through Lava Falls.  This is more than a section of rapids, it includes one drop of 38 feet, I'm told.  No personal knowledge, mind you.  You might be able to see a raft in the falls in one shot, when enlarged.

In this photo, you can see some of the lava flow that several times blocked the river and created the waterfall.  The guide mentioned that the lava dam had once caused the river to back up for many miles and was more than 2000 feet deep.

 I also spotted some California Condors soaring in the canyon about 2000 feet down.  Not having my long lens, I wasn't able to get a good photo of them.

 When I talked with the volunteer at the Ranger Station, he told me how to find an area called Nampaweap ("foot canyon" in Paiute), where a significant group of petroglyphs could be found.  Although it added more than ten miles of rough road to my return trip, I went to check it out.  The volunteer had not mentioned the 1.5 mile walk to see the petroglyphs.

The most unusual part of this rock art, to me, is the fact that they are on some very hard volcanic rock, basalt.  As a result, the images do not penetrate the rock much at all.  It amazed me that they have lasted hundreds of years on the surface of these boulders.  It must have been difficult to get even this much scratched into the basalt.

In the end, I was pleased to have made the trip, something that only 20,000 or so people do each year, while more than six million visit the "normal" Grand Canyon N P.