Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rangely, CO (5/24 & 5/25/2017)

After a week in NE Utah, I returned to Colorado, stopping for a couple days in the small town of Rangely, population around 3000.  Oil and gas production is the mainstay of Rangely's economy, with one of the largest oil fields in the country located nearby.  The town also works hard at its tourist industry, promoting some of its unique features, but really doesn't want to become a large city.  Their web site declares "We don't have it all, nor do we want to".

When Fathers Dominguez and Escalante came through this area in 1776 to find a better route from Santa Fe to California, they discovered ancient rock art on the canyon walls and named it "Canon Pintado (Painted Canyon).  Since then, more than fifty rock art sites have been identified, and fifteen or so are documented in the town's tour guide for the public to visit.  The art consists of both petroglyphs and pictographs, created by the older Fremont culture as well as the Utes in more recent times.  I went to most of the sites, some of which are so small as to be disappointing after the effort required to access them.  Since most people have less interest in this subject than I do, I will show photos only of those that are unusual.

One site, located deep in a gully, contains pictographs in both red and blue dyes.  It's called the "Carrott Man Site" because of the shapes used to depict human figures.  Actually, I think you could argue that aliens are the subjects here.  Notice that some of the figures were lost when part of the rock fell off.
Any images of horses were done by the Utes, since horses were not present here until brought in by the Spanish in the 16th century.  One depicts the horse stolen from General Crook, clearly marked with the general's brand.  Nearby, a cowboy engraved the phrase "we are here because we ain't in hell, but we are on our way".  Also, a Basque sheepherder engraved his name and date (in 1975) along with an image of a "pin-up girl".  Apparently, some locals took offense and shot up the artist's masterpiece.

A site called "Waving Hands" (for obvious reasons) is very unusual, as is the "White Birds" location.

One of the larger sites has not only an unusual piece of rock art, but also the remains of a cowboy line shack, used for round-ups, and pieces of petrified wood sticking out of the sandstone.

A figure called Kokopelli, similar to the mythical flute player from the Anasazi culture, was another victim of rock breakage.  Note how the broken part has been re-attached with a cable.
The Fremont Indians lived in pit houses that have long since been covered by earth and haven't been excavated, and the Utes lived in teepees as part of their nomadic lifestyle, so there are no Indian ruins to be seen.  However, I did locate a colony of nests built by cliff swallows, one beak-full of mud at a time.

Beyond the large number of archeological sites, Rangely is home to a unique phenomenon called "The Tank International Center For Sonic Arts".  An abandoned water tank, sixty-five feet tall, has amazing sound reverberation qualities.  I met the man who discovered these properties in 1976 when he crawled into it through a small inspection door  He and the lady who now runs it gave me a tour and invited me to "make a note, any note".  Although I was reluctant, not having any singing ability, I did make an "Ahhhh".  The two of them joined in with harmonizing notes, making an incredible sound.  The acoustics are so good in The Tank, even I sounded pretty good.  It is in constant use as a recording studio.
Rangely also has a history museum and an automobile museum, both of which looked interesting, but I passed on them.  Because of the oil industry, the many canyons in the area are full of dirt roads that attract off-road vehicle drivers (like me).  They also have a 560 acre park for rock crawling vehicles (not for me).  The mountains and mesas nearby are home to a large number of wild horses, some of which I encountered on a previous visit, as well as what they claim to be the largest elk population in the world.  The White River flows through town and a dam just east of town creates the Kenney Reservoir, great for all water activities and a good spot for watching sunsets.

  I'll be home for a while now, enjoying my grand-daughter, Lauren, who will be visiting for the summer, working in a local thoroughbred stable.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Dry Fork Canyon (5/23/2017)

After spending the morning exploring Fantasy Canyon, I grabbed a quick lunch and headed for Dry Fork Canyon, some 50+ miles in the opposite direction.  This canyon is noted for its spectacular cliffs and rock formations, but has some unique features as well.  On one of the cliffs is a memorial first created in 1898, shortly after the USS Maine was blown up in Havana Harbor starting the Spanish-American War.  The large American flag and the words "Remember The Maine" were meant to honor the American lives lost, but I'm not sure anyone knows who actually painted the original.  One legend is that a politician paid $50 to a poor sailor to do the job.  Repainted several times since, it was expanded to include Pearl Harbor in 1944.  Names of those renewing the paint job have been added along the way.

The other interesting feature of the canyon is the rather large number of petroglyphs and pictographs left by the ancient Fremont Culture and by the more modern Ute tribe.  Various styles and sizes reflect the development of the medium over time, as well as historical changes.  Some of the images are gory, such as a warrior holding a severed head with blood and tears streaming down.  One figure seems to have facial hair and a sword nearby, possibly a Spanish soldier.  That would mean a much more recent creation, since the Spanish first arrived here in the 1500s.  The human-like images are generally 5-6 feet tall, but one is said to be 9 feet tall.

Some of the figures are quite primitive, while others are more elaborate.  A few resemble current cartoon-style characters. 

 To access the images, it's quite a climb up the rocks and debris accumulated at the base of the cliffs, followed by walking and climbing over boulders for the entire distance.  In total, the several trails are more than two miles long and one trail is more than 150 feet above the canyon floor.

The most impressive site, known as the Three Kings Panel, cannot be seen close up as it is quite high on a steep formation.  Obviously the Indians were able to climb up to do the work, and I'm sure that archeologists have gotten up there to study it.  However, the public is required to observe from the ground.  Long lenses and binoculars help locate the images.  In the first photo, you'll see the overall site, with the art about two-thirds the way up the cliff.  While the images can barely be seen, remember they are 6-9 feet tall.  The second photo is a close-up taken with a longer lens.  I don't know why it's called "Three Kings", since there are at least five human-like figures in the scene.  One figure could almost be considered that of an alien being, not that unusual in such rock art.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jones Hole (5/22/2017) & Fantasy Canyon (5/23/2017)

The day after my strenuous hike to Moonshine Arch I drove to Jones Hole, a deep canyon about forty miles from camp.  It's a very scenic drive, as the road varies in elevation by several thousand feet from the low point to the highest.  Entering Jones Hole, the road drops precipitously with grades of more than 10%.

A fish hatchery at the bottom supplies young fish to stock numerous streams and lakes around this region.  The water is practically solid black with little cutthroat trout. 

 A cute little chipmunk shares the picnic area with me.
There is a four-mile hiking trail from the hatchery to the Green River, with spur trails to some pictographs and a nice waterfall.  However, the trail drops some 600 feet, meaning a tough climb on the return.  After walking less than a mile along the Jones Creek Trail, I knew my legs weren't up to it so soon after the arch hike.  So, I enjoyed the scenery along the spring-fed creek and the many birds I saw there.

Back in Jensen that evening, I went over to the Green River for the only decent sunset of the entire week I was there.
My last full day in Utah was the only chance to visit Fantasy Canyon, a place on my list since I learned of it shortly after my 2004 visit to this area.  About thirty miles from Jensen, this small area has some very unusual hoodoos created by erosion of the siltstone in an ancient lake bed.  Similar to the Bisti Wilderness, although only ten acres compared to 45,000 acres, the formations are a rather drab gray color.  I had been wanting to see it late in the day when a setting sun would lend a little color to the hoodoos.  Weather had prevented that timing, so now I went early in the day, hoping for a similar effect.

The canyon is in the middle of oil field operations, but no wells have been drilled close enough to disturb the beauty of the place.  I suppose BLM has avoided granting permits for that area.  People often associate the formations with familiar objects, giving them names like the Camel, the Flying Witch, etc.  I'm not sure I see the point, since everyone interprets them differently and they will soon change as more erosion occurs.  The most famous formation, called the Teapot, collapsed a few years ago.  We don't know if the inevitable erosion did the deed, or if human hands were involved.