Saturday, November 19, 2016

Delta & Escalante Canyon, CO (11/8/2016)

The small town of Delta has been featured in the travelogue before, primarily to showcase the many murals that adorn the town's buildings and the scenery that surrounds Confluence Park.  Another noteworthy "attraction" for me is Orval's Used Cars.  Not your usual used car salesman, Orval Proctor started his dream business in 1975, a business that now has annual sales of more than $500,000.  Orval's used cars are special, being mostly from the 1940s and 1950s, with just a few outside that range.  Folks who want to collect, possibly restore, vintage automobiles have a great chance of finding an appropriate project here.  I've never seen such a variety of old cars in one place, so many that two lots on separate sides of the highway are needed to display them.

Northwest of Delta is the Dominguez-Escalante Conservation Area, one of several public areas on the Uncompahgre Plateau.  This one is named for the two priests who traveled through the area in the 1700s, looking for a better route between the important Spanish missions in Santa Fe, NM and Monterey, CA.  Given the rugged terrain, I'm pretty sure the padres never actually went into the three canyons that make up the conservation area, but took the easier trail in the valley to go around the plateau.  Two of the canyons, Big and Little Dominguez, can be visited only on foot or on horseback.  Escalante Canyon, however has a road through it, making it much easier for old folks like me to see it.

I drove through Escalante Canyon several years ago using the official entry, a nicely maintained gravel road.  For this visit, I wanted to explore an "unofficial" road into the canyon that I had spotted on the map, called Escalante Rim Road.  To get to this road, I had to start with Sawmill Mesa Road, which gave me an inkling of what to expect in terms of road quality.  Along the way, I passed a State Wildlife Area situated along the Gunnison River with nice views of the nearby badlands and Grand Mesa.
From Sawmill Mesa, I eventually gained a view into Escalante Canyon and my road as it neared the bottom.  Although the road was steep, narrow and rough, I enjoyed the ride down for all the spendid views it provided.

At the bottom, I took a left onto Dry Mesa Road for a short distance, having read there were Ute petroglyphs located there.  I easily found the rock art, which unfortunately included more modern entries, as well.  I've seen lots of Anasazi (and earlier) art, but this was my first experience with art left by the Utes.  In some cases, I could not be sure what was Ute or what had been left by vandals.  You can judge for yourself which images are authentic.  One thing for sure, the Anasazis never made drawings of horses, because horses weren't introduced until much later.  The Utes on the other hand made great use of horses and would have included them in their art.  Also, entries in English were obviously made at a later time, one claiming to be 1890, but who knows.

As it was well past my lunch time, I didn't bother to re-visit some of the canyon's sights that I had seen earlier.  Driving out of the canyon on the graded road, I made a few photos that show the character of the canyon, including the red-tail hawk that posed for me on a cottonwood branch.

I remembered to mount the GoPro for the ride down into Escalante Canyon.  Find it at Escalante Canyon.

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