March 27, 2012

Soggy at 8400 Feet

On March 23, we started riding at 7000 feet off of the Taylor Mountain Road north of Vernal.  What's that snow-dusted mesa to the west?  Yep, it's called Red Mountain.  Very imaginative.  It's bigger than it looks.  What appear to be bushes up top are really large Ponderosa Pine, probably at least 100 years old.
We climbed over hill and valley to 8400 feet, where we encountered snow drifts and soggy ground.

What's that hiding in the shadows? 
A small herd of deer were resting in the shade.  When we got closer, they spooked and leaped through the sage and over a hill.  Daisy smelled them, but they were way too fast for her.

March 25, 2012

Snack and Roll

After a long ride, some of us like a quick snack for an energy boost. 
Others choose a nap in the shade.
A roll is good, too. 
Mischief stretches and shakes.  Daisy, rested now, sneaks past.  Maybe she smells an antelope.  Or more likely a rabbit. She has to go check it out.

March 22, 2012

Amber Waves and Mountains

The trail to the top of Little Mountain makes a pretty spring ride.  March 21, the first day of spring,  provided plenty of sunshine and a high in the 60's. The photo above was taken at the trailhead (5700 ft).  Our destination (8500 ft) is out of sight, over the ridge seen in the distance.
Red hills mark the path.
The Uinta Range is visible to the northwest.
Communication towers mark the top of Little Mountain. We expected to reach snow-covered trails near the top, but the snow was gone in the open areas, with only a few patches lingered in the pinyon-juniper shade. 
Our trailer is parked on the grass-covered mesa top.
Back at the trailhead, Marsh Peak towers in the distance.  At 12,240 feet, Marsh is still heavy with snow.  Amber waves of grain (crested wheat grass, planted by the BLM to replace overgrazed native bunch grass) ripple in a light breeze on the broad mesa.

March 13, 2012

Gordon's Panel

The Shaman's Gallery is alternately called Gordon's Panel, after Gordon Smith, a mule wrangler and trail guide who "discovered" the rock art in 1986.  Actually, he was just the first to report the find to the Grand Canyon National Park officials.
This place was visited at least as early as 1943, as indicated by a date carved on a rock beneath the overhang.
Unfortunately, someone has scratched what appears to be a name onto the art panel.  It's such a shame that someone has defaced this unique treasure. 
Above is a close-up of the green and yellow coloration.  How the dye was made and applied would certainly be interesting to know. 
Some of the colored figures have faded, or are well into the process, as you can see in the animal form above.  Does this critter paint his toenails?  I'm guessing it's a panther because of the cat claws.
We hiked out of the canyon the same way we came in.  Behind the sunlit prickly pear, you can see black rock, the remains of a volcanic lava flow. 
These towers near the top are from the Kaibab Formation.  By 4PM, we were back at the trailhead.  We spent the night in a tent on BLM land outside the Park. 
It was a cold night (25 F?) and morning.  Here I am, catching the first rays and trying to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.  Note to self: bring more warm stuff next time!
The only other person we saw while camping or hiking was a park ranger who stopped by our camp to check on what we were up to, and stayed to chat for a while.
Animal companion report:
Daisy:  Yes, she came on the trip, but she had to stay tied to a tree at the trailhead because dogs aren't allowed on National Park trails.  She was sad, but probably happier than if she had stayed home.  We did take her for a couple of runs on BLM land. 
Horses:  No, we did not bring them.  We weren't sure about road or trail conditions.  The road was rugged, and less than ideal for a 3 horse trailer, but we probably could have made it in and out as long as the road was dry.  The horses would have had no problems with the trail, not even in a narrow area with a hundred foot drop on one side.  I would have been a tiny bit nervous, however.  I was worried enough, inching past it on foot!

March 12, 2012

The Shaman's Gallery

Yes, we found it, above the wash by about 30 feet.  The gallery is painted on the slanted ceiling of an alcove by a Native American Michaelangelo. 
The National Park service estimates this art was created before 1000 B.C..  The designs are similar to the Barrier style found in Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, attributed to about the same time period.  These are pictographs, painted on the rock.  (Petroglyphs are pecked into the rock.) 
The figures are elongated, life-size, and some are multi-colored.  In places, figures seem to be drawn on top of each other. 
So much art in one place may have meant that the tribe considered this a sacred place.  The protected alcove was a good choice for protecting the colors for 3000 years.  The Spirits would be pleased. 
The above stitch of several photos shows the breadth of the gallery. This panel is at least 2 miles from any present day water source, and there is no sign of a permanent dwelling. 
Maybe this ancient tribe hunted in the canyon in spring or fall, then moved on.  A ram and several antlered deer are depicted, which seems to support the hunting theory.
This sharpening rock located within the alcove might indicate that game was butchered here. 
What's happening here?  A menage a trois?  An orgy?  Seriously, the ancient ones didn't mind being graphic.  Could this scene describe a fertility rite that accompanied a successful hunt?
The narrow alcove doesn't lend itself to easy photography.  Here is Steve, doing his best to capture the figures in their splendor.

March 11, 2012

Seeking the Shaman

We're back from a hike into the Toroweap area.  We were seeking the ancient Shaman's Gallery, perhaps the oldest rock art in the Grand Canyon. 
Here's the view to the east as we start our descent from Tuckup Canyon Trailhead. 
On the way down, we see the remains of a million year old lava flow. The lava (which hardened into the black rock seen on the right) flowed 2 miles and formed the mile wide triangular fan that appears in the center of the photo. 
This old fence gap frames the trail.
Right below, we see limestone boulders loaded with fossils. Some are crinoid stems.  As we descend1800 feet, to about 4000 feet above sea level, temperatures warm, and signs of spring appear. 
The cliff rose sprouts leaves.
An Indian paintbrush brightens the path.
We find phlox,
this tiny purple flower (milkvetch?),
and another dark purple bloom on Thamnosma montana, a species of flowering plant in the citrus family known by the common names turpentine broom and Mojave desert-rue.  This desert bush has such diminutive leaves that it conducts photosynthesis in the succulent green stems.  It has a pleasant lemony scent. According to one study done in the Mojave desert, individual plants can live up to 1000 years.  Do you see a honey bee, hard at work on the trumpet-shaped flowers? 
Several miles and a couple of hours later, we enter this wide, gravelly wash.  This is a great place for rock art, with all of the Supai sandstone ledges and panels.  But we don't see a single human-made mark.  Are we in the wrong place?  Only time and a lot of searching will tell us for sure...

March 2, 2012

Cliffy Discoveries

Last summer, we saw a golden eaglet perching on a nest in The Cedars, near our house. Will the parents be back this year? We're on the lookout. 
While exploring for petroglyphs, Steve found another pair of eagle nests about a mile from the one that sheltered the eaglet of last summer.  The higher nest looks ready for occupancy.
Oddly enough, we've seen petroglyphs near each set of eagle nests.  Can you see the carrot marking the one high on a cliff?  Don't ask me how a Native American got up there.  I have no idea.  Daisy is at the bottom of the cliff, possibly wondering how she might climb up.
Petroglyph, zoomed in.
Since the nests are in ideal locations, maybe the eagles have raised young there since the time the petroglyphs were carved, and perhaps the petroglyphs were marking the spots as special or sacred.  It's interesting to speculate. 
The above petroglyphs were not near a nest.  Man chasing deer, with extra large human footprint?  That's my best guess.  What do you think? The figure above and to the left looks a little like a jackrabbit to me.
Some of the cliffs in the area look golden.  Minerals (copper, iron, sulphur, or a combination) must be responsible. 
Fungi draws its own colorful art on the rocks.


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