Rock Art Rocks!

I have always been a huge fan of aboriginal art, especially that of the ancestral Puebloans, formerly known as the Anasazi. Whether it be pictographs (paintings) or petroglyphs (images cut into stone), they all leave me mesmerized. I could gaze at this art for hours.

When I look at this ancient creativity, I feel transported to another time. I try to imagine the artist. Was it a man or a woman or a child? What message was that person trying to send? Was it meant to be spiritual, or a warning, or informational, or simply decorative? Why did he or she choose this particular spot to work on?  (More to the point, with all the flat rock surfaces throughout Utah, why is there not more rock art? I want more!)

There are several opportunities to view rock art in the Moab, Utah area. The first I got to see was this petroglyph of longhorn sheep and men on horseback that is located behind the Wolfe Ranch in Arches National Park. This, to me, says that people have worked and hunted on this land for centuries. We humans do have a tendency to want to make our marks.

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The next opportunity was not far from the park’s entrance. It is a panel called Courthouse Wash. Sadly, it’s very faded, because some fools decided to vandalize it, and park rangers had to clean it up. This removed a lot of the stunning pigment. (Why do so many people enjoy destroying things? Why? I will never understand that urge.) Click the link in this paragraph to see images of it before it faded.

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This panel depicts all manner of strangely shaped people, some with horns. If anything makes me think we’ve been visited by beings from other planets, it’s this art. Were these their Gods? Or were these peyote-influenced visions? Perhaps they were attempting to scare off intruders. It’s all been lost to time. Beneath this panel was a petroglyph of still more other-worldly creatures. I kept thinking that I was standing on the very spot where the artists once stood. I could have reached out and touched this work, but I didn’t want to damage it.

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Next, thanks to my highly observant brother-in-law, who saw a notation on the edge of the park map that said, “Petroglyphs, 5 miles,” we went on an adventure down Scenic Byway 279, toward Potash. That was fun. We passed dozens of rock climbers scaling the cliffs, and then finally reached a spot where they are not allowed to climb for very good reason. I’ve never seen such a long stretch of petroglyphs in my life, including some that look like a string of paper dolls, and another that was a hand print. Amazing. I will leave you with my photographs, which definitely do NOT do the Potash Panel justice. Enjoy!

(While doing research for this post, I discovered that there are dinosaur tracks near the Potash Panel that I completely missed! That’s what I get for not doing my homework. There is also a very impressive bear petroglyph that we couldn’t find for some reason, but you can see it in the Potash Panel link.)

 

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Arches National Park, Utah

Sometimes I think I am the luckiest person on earth. I really do. I finally scraped and clawed myself up to the lower middle class (even as it seems to be disappearing), and I now have a job with decent paid vacations. Woo hoo!

So this time I decided to go and explore Southeastern Utah. This is a state that has always intrigued me. Its landscape changes dramatically in the blink of an eye. One minute you can be in lush green mountains, and the next you’re down in red rocky canyons or on the flat, forbidding Great Salt Lake. There are arches and plateaus and caves and sand dunes and salt flats and rivers and waterfalls. It’s going to require multiple visits for me to see it all, but I am up for the challenge.

On the first part of my visit, I explored Arches National Park. According to the National Park Service website, there are over 2,000 natural stone arches in this park. In 1929, President Hoover signed the proclamation that set aside the first acreage for it. At that time it got 500 visitors. In 2016, more than a million and a half people explored its 119 square miles, and yet its budget is being cut. Frustrating.

Along with the amazing arches, you’ll see precariously balanced rocks, enormous fins, and amazing pinnacles. And red. Lots and lots of red. It’s stunning.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day where the park was to remain open all night long, so we brought lawn chairs and blankets and set ourselves up in an overlook that gave us great views of a wide valley. I can say with certainty that I have never seen so many stars in my life. And satellites! We saw 8 satellites fly over. And some shooting stars. And the Milky Way. And later, the moon, in all its yellow glory.

I remember thinking on several occasions while there that I was going to remember this trip for the rest of my life. It is one of the high points, literally and figuratively. Like I said, sometimes I think I’m the luckiest person on earth.

Without further ado, here are some of my photos from the trip. Including my favorite rock formation of all time, simply because it’s called The Three Gossips. Enjoy!

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