March 27, 2013

Blue-Eyed Princess

We found it!  That is, our friend Bruce found it.  The rest of us just followed along.  Above, Steve is standing on a boulder, pointing to the rock art above him, protected by an overhang.  Well hidden and in a remote area, this rock art is probably seen by only a few people a year.  We felt privileged to be there.
Here's a closer view.  Both main figures have blue eyes. 
Some rocks in the area are bluish, which may have provided the color.  The pictographs seem to be in the same Barrier Canyon style as those found in nearby Horseshoe Canyon.  Barrier style rock art is estimated to be about 3000 years old. 
The larger figure wears something on her head.  We'll call it a crown, perhaps a representation of shells or beads or flowers.  Beside her is a small, faint figure. 
This may be an early manifestation of Kokopelli, a fertility god and flute-playing trickster who appears in Anasazi rock art, and later in Hopi art.   
The smaller princess has diagonal lines across her garment. 
Beside her is another faint pictograph.  This one seems to be a bird.  Perhaps a wild turkey? 
Near the rock art alcove, we found this water source.  Maybe ancient hunters hid behind the bouldere or  under the overhang until game passed by.  While waiting for dinner to show up, they may have passed the time creating the pictographs.  If you look above and to the left of a chillin' Boss, you'll see an arrow pointing to the rock art location. 
The ride was 21 miles round trip, from the Hans Flat Road to the Spur Fork of Horseshoe Canyon and back.  A couple of "gnarly" canyon passages were involved, climbing out of a steep canyon and tiptoeing over a narrow ledge above a water pool, but our horses didn't seem to mind, or even to notice anything unusual.  The high temperature was in the 30's, a little cool, but still a near perfect day. 

March 26, 2013

Amazing Space

Steve and I and four friends started down the trail, passing a cowboy brush corral, made of piled up juniper branches. 
"Dang, that's one fine corral," the guys mused, admiring old-time ingenuity. 
As we rode down an abandoned road, we saw grooves in the sandstone made by wagons that traveled this way, long ago. 
Probably the wagons brought supplies for ranchers setting up a seasonal camp, to tend either cattle or sheep grazing the range in the early 1900's. 
Cowboy Cave made a great lunch spot.  Archeologists excavated this cave in the '70's and found sandals and other artifacts dating back 7000 years.  You can read more about it here.
We rode through scenic canyons,
and over the desert hills with magnificent formations in the background.  This area is about 1500 square miles of open space.  The harsh beauty inspires reverence, almost like visiting the most sacred of temples. 
But we did have a destination in mind.  A year ago, we met a sixtyish hiker whose mother had ridden the canyon country as a girl, and told him about a rock art panel she called the "blue-eyed Jesus".  Steve has been hunting down clues ever since.
A ranger we spoke to, and a lone online blogger, call it the "Blue-eyed Princess" panel. Although few people know about it, one of our fellow riders had actually been to the site. 
However, from the looks of Steve and our friend, huddled over a map some 4 hours into the ride, I wasn't so sure we'd find our way.  They look like they're asking each other, "Where the heck are we?"

March 25, 2013

Land of an Ancient Culture

Last week, we met up with some riders from the Wasatch Front for a couple of fun days in southern Utah. 
There's Steve, overlooking the rim of Horseshoe Canyon from the trailhead at the Canyonlands, Horseshoe Canyon Unit (also called Barrier Canyon, the name given to the rock art found there.)  The red soil marks the rim.  Below are the light colored sandstone cliffs surrounding the canyon. 
Here are a couple of friends getting ready to ride.  A permit is required to bring horses into the unit.  Up to 10 riders a day are allowed.  Although we've been down this trail a half dozen times, we've only seen horses on one other occasion. 
Riding along the bottom of the canyon is thirsty work. 
Humans were glad to have water bottles, but the 4 horses and 2 mules tanked up at the water holes.
Along the way, we stopped to admire the work of the ancients.  The main part of the Great Gallery is shown above,
but this time we noticed another section, a little before we reached the main panel.  Notice the warrior with shield just to the right of center. 
Barrier Canyon style art (dating from 3000 years ago) can be found in many places on the sandstone cliffs, most of them unmarked and probably not often seen. 
Riding along paths traveled by an ancient people is almost a spiritual experience.  We were delighted each and every time we found another panel of pictographs.  On the right hand side of the photo above, you'll see a line of animals, probably deer, drawn on the sandstone. 
If you look closely in the photo above, you will see two deer well camouflaged among the trees.  Like the ancient people, we, too, saw a herd of deer.  The ancient method of recording the image on the rock walls will likely outlast our modern day electronic images. 
After 18 miles in half a day, we returned to the trailers, ready for a camp dinner and a good night's rest before hitting the trail for a longer ride in the morning.   

March 17, 2013

Red Nub

Our second day in the San Rafael Desert began with golden light shining on a sturdy corral, our horses' accommodations for the night.
An antelope trotted past on a nearby hillside. 
After alfalfa cubes and oats for the horses, oatmeal and hot chocolate for the humans, and a scoop of dog food for Daisy, we drove to Granary Springs.
There, we saddled up and rode to Red Nub.  Red Nub is aptly named, being red and kind of short and rounded.  Names in the area came from cowboys or outlaws and tend to be simple and descriptive.  Long Draw is ... well, long.  Deadman Hill is where an unfortunate horse thief died of acute lead poisoning.  Big Spring is big, at least for that part of the country.  North Spring is to the north.  Etc.
We headed across the red desert sand on an old ghost road, barely visible as a path through the pinyon-junipers.  
As we reached Horseshoe Canyon, we had a view of the Henry Mountains rising above sandstone domes.  The country is dry, rugged, and forbidding, but the amazing views keep us coming back year after year.

March 16, 2013

Back on the Outlaw Trail

It's been a long winter, but we trekked down to the San Rafael Desert this week to give the horses and ourselves a workout.  Seeing the snow-covered Henry Mountains rising over the desert is always a thrill. 
We saddled up at Granary Springs and headed across the wide open spaces toward Robber's Roost (some characteristic cliffs in the area are pictured above).  That's where Butch Cassidy and numerous other outlaws hung out when the lawmen were on their trail.  It's a remote spot, and only the most dedicated of sheriffs were likely to bother traveling that far. 
Here's the Robber's Roost Spring, where the outlaws watered their horses.  As of mid-March, it's still ice-covered, but it's flowing enough to fill a modern-day rancher's cattle tank.  The outlaws claimed the water was good enough for stock, but the gypsum concentration made it taste bad.  Humans went a little farther up-canyon to get their drinking water. 
Our horses drank a little from the new improved tank, but without enthusiasm. 
Here's an old wooden tank, now filled with sand, built by rancher Joe Biddlecomb nearly 100 years ago. 
This old chimney belonged to Jack Cottrell's cabin.  Mr. Cottrell lived and ranched there for a few years around 1900, until his wife started complaining about the isolation.  After he left, outlaws and cowboys took up residence.  According to legend, some packrats were also living there.  A sheepherder using the place for shelter decided to burn out the packrats.  Unfortunately, he also burned down the cabin.  The chimney is all that's left. 
Here's the entrance to Silver Tip Spring Canyon.  Silver Tip was an "old" (about 40) horse thief who had some white hair in his sideburns.  His real name was Bill Wall.  In the 1890's, the horse thieves got a little overambitious and stole a few too many valuable animals.  A possee managed to follow the outlaw tracks from the Green River to the Roost, and on up the canyon toward what was known as the sweet spring, later named Silver Tip Spring.  Silver Tip, Blue John, and Indian Ed found themselves in a ticklish situation, stuck in a side canyon with the possee shooting at them.  Indian Ed was hit with a bullet to the leg.  Blue John returned fire, while Silver Tip climbed the 100 foot sandstone ridge and began shooting over the possee's heads from above.  His shots came a little too close for comfort, and the possee took off running.
Silver Tip later claimed he didn't intend to kill any of the lawmen, since that would likely bring  more trouble than rustling horses, or robbing trains and banks, which was the usual criminal activity indulged in by the Robber's Roosters.  The possee, however, wasn't so sure their lives weren't in danger.  They left and never came back. 
The Robber's Roost hideout was safe once again.
Besides taking in the history of the scenery, we saw plenty of interesting rock formations.  Long sandy stretches in the Robber's Roost Flats  allowed for a pleasant gallop on the way back to the trailer. 


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