Gotta look at petroglyphs. Mysterious, perplexing. No good ‘code’ exists to translate them, although ideas abound. I find them wonderful indeed.
July 11, 2009
In the dusty recesses of my brain I remembered “Mile Marker 141″ and “cross the railroad tracks.” As Olive and I head off the main road, I see several hand-lettered signs detailing parking. This was (or would become) a 4WD road, but for now it is passable. I am headed for a cool place where dino bones stick out of the Morrison Formation.
Everything here screams JEEPS as I pick my way down the smoothest part of the graded dirt road. Plenty of off-road tracks confirm that these BLM lands are heavily used by vehicles quite different from Olive. Two miles. That’s all I have to do.
A distinctly Badlands-ish look characterizes the Morrison Formation. Its sediments were deposited when the climate was tropical; dinos roamed the area around here. Sadly, artifact hunters have illegally removed plenty of specimens from these public lands. I shall see what remains.
Fine red sands cover the road in places, but Olive plunges ahead. Two miles in I am happy to discover a parking area and signage that teaches me about what lies just across the wash. Bones! In situ! With interpretive signs teaching me what to look for so I can find my own! Sauropods ruled here. This is waaaaay cool.
Saturday morning sun is at the horizon, and I am loading my Camelbak (reservoir refrigerated overnight — nice and cold!) and camera. 83 degrees. Out to an unusual local canyon for a sunrise hike today. William Granstaff was the first non-native American in this region, and his half-African-American blood earned him quite the moniker. Old maps call the area “Nigger Bill Canyon,” but someone along the line tidied it up a little bit. While the canyon still bears his nickname, the BLM campground was changed to his last name only. Sad. Nobody will know that name.
I pull into the trailhead parking area at 0622. Now 77 degrees, six cooler than when I began — remarkable what a lot of cold water flowing through a canyon does. A compact car with a couple European budget travelers is at the other end, its doors open wide, its sleeping occupants oblivious to my arrival. Sleeping in one’s car is cheaper than camping.
Grabbing my gear, I head up. My internet preparations told me that two miles up the second canyon I would find Morning Glory Natural Bridge, the sixth longest span in the U.S. at 234 feet. The only downside: plenty o’ poison ivy between me and it. I travel today along a very rare feature, a perrenial stream that never stops flowing. The p.ivy loves that.
It is quiet. I am the first one upcanyon this day, and I won’t see another human for 2 hrs 20 minutes… just the way I like it. The birds are up, and I have learned the Canyon Wren’s downward whistle that I first encountered in Zion whilst on my one and only Angel’s Landing hike. It keeps me company in the morning stillness. Nothing is moving except me and the stream.
Glad I wore my Keens today. Sport sandals make it so easy to traverse this shallow stream — about half a dozen times before I reach my destination. I hike in deep shadow, wondering why I chose sunglasses. It will be a couple of hours before the sun is high enough to reach into this canyon.
Two hours in, nearing the end of the canyon, I am rewarded with the sight I was looking for: Morning Glory Bridge. It is massive, and high — but only 18 feet from the rock wall behind it, which requires one to be nearly underneath it before actually identifying it as a free-standing bridge. I press on, avoiding the poison ivy which grows in veritable thickets here. I want to find the water source that created this geologic marvel.
Negro Bill Canyon ends abruptly at the bridge. I hear splashes, and follow the small stream up to a seep in the rocks. Out of literally nowhere, a large trickle of water — maybe about as much as a bathtub faucet on high — emerges from a crack and tumbles down the rock to start the stream. This must be joined by other seeps further down, or else I do not know how a 6- to 10-foot wide stream could form.
I choose not to do too much exploring around the pool beneath the bridge, due to the forest of P.I. living there. It is a quiet and magnificent place to see, but I will go halfway back to a high vantage point to do my reflecting, praying, and thinking this morning.
Nothing but the ricegrass is even moving. A White-Throated Swift darts about, confidently owning the region. A wren sings from a distant perch. For just a moment, I try to imagine next month’s return to Mower County, MN. I gulp. A day without a hike of three to five miles feels empty to me. These red sandstone walls have become my friends, my constant companions.