February 26, 2011

Canyonlands, Day 2, Horseshoe Canyon

Once the horses had recovered from their morning 5K Freedom Run, we drove a short distance to the Canyonlands National Park Horseshoe Canyon trailhead to begin our ride.
The photo is taken from near the trailhead, showing Horseshoe Canyon below, Sugarloaf Butte in the near distance, and the LaSal Mountains, about 50 miles away.
Since we were crossing through the national park, Daisy had to stay in the trailer.  Poor girl.  However, since she had already had a nice run with the horses, she might have been secretly glad to have a rest.
Steve had called ahead for a permit and obtained the combination to get the horses through the Horseshoe Canyon gate. 
In spite of polishing up our junior high locker skills, we had a tough time with that lock.  It badly needed some WD40, and for awhile we didn't think we'd get through at all.  At last Steve managed to muscle it open and we got through.  Note Coco's sandy color in the above photo.  A few rolls in the dust has made him blend into the landscape.
Also in the photo above, you can see the smooth domes of Navajo sandstone at the top of the canyon, and the horizontal layers of Kayenta sandstone near the bottom.
The trail going down into Horseshoe follows an old road paid for by an oil company in 1929.  They hired about 20 local ranchers armed with sticks of dynamite, at the wage of about $4 per day.  It doesn't look much like a road now, but somehow 20's era trucks were able to negotiate the sandstone ledges and sandy dips. 
Note this juniper tree growing beside the old road bed:
The snake-like roots extend at least 10 feet as they seek to suck a little water out of the cracks in the sandstone.
Here is one of several three-toed allosaurus (a carnivorous dinosaur) tracks (each track is 10-12 inches in length) found along the way.
This old tank and some pipes that must lead to a spring is left over from early ranching days:
Horseshoe Canyon features a huge panel of Barrier Canyon style petroglyphs known as the Great Gallery.  Many of the figures are life-sized, and are some of the oldest, best preserved and most archeologically significant rock art on the Colorado Plateau.
 We visited the petroglyphs a few years ago, and I hope to go back someday, but this time, we wanted to explore the territory on the other side of the canyon.  So, up the other side we went, still following the old road.  On this eastern part, the "road" condition is even worse.  We led the horses to be safe, but they didn't have any trouble negotiating the Navajo sandstone, also known as "slickrock". 
Once we climbed out of the canyon, we left Canyonlands and rode on BLM land.  Note the sandy road on the mesa, perfect for barefoot riding.


  1. An epic and adventurous journey through time and space with gorgeous scenery all along the way. And twice as fun on horseback!

  2. What an awesome place to ride. I really like the sandstone layers. Those petroglyphs look similar to the pics I've seen of the shamans gallery by tuweep. I'll have to get to those this year.

  3. Wow Janie.... What an incredible place to ride/be.... That is fantastic... You saw so much while you were there.. Sorry about Daisy --but I'll bet she enjoyed her NAP!!!!!

    Have a great Sunday.

  4. The photos/vistas are out of this world gorgeous. I hope to see some of these types of landscapse in person one day. (The closest I have been in Sedona, AZ!)
    The petroglyphs are amazing as is the dinosaur print.

  5. What a very interesting and historic place. There must be treasures at every turn. It's good that the area is so carefully controlled, despite the lack of use of WD40!

  6. I'm glad you were able to muscle your way through the gate. The scenery is absolutely fantastic.

  7. Such a gorgeous place. It's cool to see the dinosaur track. Did I ever tell you about the kid at a furniture store who called it W-4? I always think about that whenever I hear WD-40, I like W-4 better now. :)

  8. So many treasures to see there! The petroglyphs do look like they are well preserved. I don't know that I'd recognize dinosaur tracks. Is on horseback the only way you can see this park this time of year?

  9. fun fun! Love the day by day and the photos !

  10. Thankfully, WD40 can't compare to Steve's determination and might. What a fantastic place to ride with so much to see. Thanks for another wonderful journey, Janie.


  11. I'm curious about the "barefoot riding". I've really enjoyed this trip.



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