Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 27, 2009

Ancient Aliens

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:42 pm

A pronghorn group — thin mother, twin fawns, and a tiny-horned male — look up warily as I drive past their grazing spot in the middle of the deserted town.  Oh, it’s only Olive, I hear them tell each other as they return to nibbling what meager portions of grass they can find.  I snap their photos and head north.

 

Pronghorn family in the ghost town

Pronghorn family in the ghost town

 

twins

twins

pronghorn fawn

pronghorn fawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two large black SUVs are tailing me, and I would rather not have to deal with them, so I pull over to let them pass.  Which they do gladly.  I will mosey at my own leisurely pace.

Three miles up the canyon a primitive parking area sits unmarked; two black SUVs occupy it.  I pull in and remind Olive how beautiful she is next to those beasts.  An extended family group of four adults and six children are noisily tramping about, with one obnoxious teen-aged boy yelling harshly, “I said, Everybody come HERE!”  “Here” was a rock art panel (one of four in the immediate area) dating back 2000 years.  I look around for anyplace else I could go to avoid this peace-disturbing entourage, but there is no escape.  I find a gully and pick my way down into the wash to put a little space between myself and Rude Teenager With iPod in Ear.  This is my last quest of the day, and I would rather it not be ruined. 

 

Fremont Style, A.D. 600 -- trapezoids for head and body; collars

Fremont Style, A.D. 600 -- trapezoids for head and body; collars. Petroglyph (pecked).

 

 

Let us, for the sake of brevity, assume that I successfully ignored all further unpleasantries that transpired in said family.  Let us instead focus on the wonders of ancient rock art mysteries.  Some of the Archaic period art is 7000 yrs old!  Due to vandals having scratched out the information signs in front of each panel, I can not tell you if I saw some that old.  But I did see Fremont art, old Barrier Canyon style art, and … sadly… TONS of vandalism.  People used the anthropomorphic forms as targets for rifle practice, so bullet holes abound.  On every panel, without exception, idiots have scratched their own initials or name or year.  One dumbo put his first and last name (an unusual name) and “son of Andy O,” and I hoped against hope that some intrepid detective could nail him and fine him fifty thousand dollars.

 

can you see the bullet holes?

can you see the bullet holes?

But let’s try to see past all that.  The fascination with this art is in the vastly differing styles present.  Some figures are trapezoids.  Some lack eyes or limbs.  Some have head horns.  Some wear collars.  And some, to me the most intriguing of all, resemble aliens.  I know their shamans had self-induced other-worldly experiences, but Crikey!  This is crazy stuff.

 

 

pictographs (painted, not pecked)

Barrier Canyon pictographs (painted, not pecked) -- 500 BC to 500 AD

IMG_1218IMG_1220

The town formerly known as Thompson Spgs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:42 pm

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was constructed through Thompson Springs, UT, in 1883, opening the area to commerce.  As railroad towns are wont to experience ups and downs, so did Thompson; today it is largely uninhabited, except for a few roosters I heard, three houses which looked to be occupied, and about eight trailer homes that are nowhere near new.  I saw no people.  The dilapidated Thompson Motel must have been a hotspot a half century ago, but now its painted wooden doors swing open in the noonday sun, and broken windows add to the sad air.  A toilet sits dustily in the bathroom of Unit 6, visible from my car.  Nearby, one of the few residents’ yards is fenced in chain link, from which neatly hang nearly a dozen bony pelvises of, I’m guessing, cattle.  Eerie.  Silent.  Absent.  Empty.  But, it is the portal to some very significant rock art, and the one road into and out of town (with the four-way stop sign utterly ignored) carries rock art fans from all over.  This is what they pass through.

native art in Thompson Springs

native art in Thompson Springs

 

free accommodations -- BYO bed

free accommodations -- BYO bed

 

I truly wonder what's inside

I truly wonder what's inside

Dinosaur Tracks 2: Copper Ridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:27 pm

The day is glorious, filled with shiny pennies of delightful discoveries.  After a hearty ‘second breakfast’ at Denny’s (filled Olive’s tank — why not fill mine?), I headed north to another known dinosaur trackway.  I stop at a historical marker identifying an oddly barren area as a CCC camp in the 30s, and a Japanese relocation “camp” in the 40s. I pause to reflect on those hard times.

Passing the Moab airport, I smile at the faded sign that says SKYDIVE, wondering whether or not to consider that more deeply at this time.  At mile marker 148 I spot the microwave tower that indicates I will soon turn east.  Nothing is labeled out here, but one soon learns the feel of a place and I recognized the cattle guard and spotted the dirt road and headed in.  Olive is not exactly a high-clearance vehicle, but she navigates the bumpy and rocky dirt road for two miles, and we arrive at Copper Ridge Trackway.

Ascending the gravel path, I realize that I need more cardio exercise.  I’m breathing hard by the time I almost fall into a huge round footprint about two feet across.  The previous visitors had watered all the footprints, making them easier to see.  Here a huge herbivorous dino (wrongly called Brontosaurus, but that gives you the longneck image) stepped along an old sandbar and took an abrupt right turn.  Very few trackways show turning footprints, so this was special.  I tried to imagine if the smaller carnivorous guys (whose footprints were nearby) were ganging up on him, and he was trying to get away, or defend himself, or what?  I put my sandal next to his footprint and marvel. [Second photo.]  It is no wonder that small children become fascinated with these creatures and memorize their names, sizes, food web and next of kin.

Just as I am examining the last of the second dino’s tracks, sprinkling a few tablespoons of my precious drinking water on them for photographic purposes, a mom/dad/kid come by.  The boy, aged five at the most, is patiently explaining to his parents the dino details they needed to know; he has everything correct.  Long live dino-mania!

 

Plodding footsteps of big dino

Plodding footsteps of big dino

IMG_1204

3-toed carnivorous dino's print

3-toed carnivorous dino's print

Corona Arch: 90 minutes of bliss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:56 pm

I’m not one to pass up an arch hike.  Ten miles down the highway I pulled into a parking area marked “Corona Arch,” read that it was a strenuous 1.5 miles up the canyon, and grabbed my water bottle and camera.  65 degrees — perfect.  Ten minutes after eight.  The sages were releasing their heady perfumes after yesterday’s rain as I began my ascent.  In the distance someone, somewhere, was playing a doleful melody on a flute or recorder, and the notes reverberated off the sandstone walls with rich resonance.  All was well with the world.

I crossed the railroad tracks and zig-zagged through an anti-cattle and anti-ATV guard fence, happy to be adventuring on BLM land.  After the trail hit the rocky areas, it wasn’t too difficult to follow the cairns, but I noticed that this was different from trails the NPS would construct.  A little sketchier, a bit less defined, and definitely no maps available.  Oh, well!  What’s an adventure without a few added variables??

I met only two parties on my walk.  THIS is the way I like it; entire canyons to myself!  Forty minutes later, after ascending a ladder and pulling myself up some guy-wire cables on a steep part, I found myself staring across a huge bowl at magnificent Corona Arch.  Onward!  Must go through the arch!  Must conquer!

No sound except the twittering of the White-Throated Swifts accompanied me.  A small seep in the sandstone to my left drew me to explore the flora capitalizing on the constant moisture.  A cottonwood tree appeared to be growing out of sheer rock, again reminding me of my lessons on resilience.  Onward I stepped, now almost in the shadow of the giant span.  Must go through.  Must go under.

I stood beneath the organic shape and pondered the forces that wrought it.  Taking a seat on the far side in the shade of the canyon wall, I sat in utter silence.  I gazed.  I blinked.  I spotted future arches across the way.  And then I sang the Doxology: 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  

And I added the Great Amen.

The way back down, I thought, would be easy.  The cairns, however, were not as carefully placed, nor as plentiful, as I would have liked.  Because the sun was an hour higher in the sky, shadows were different; this threw me off.  When I could not find the next cairns, I made a mental note:  2/3 of water bottle left, no food, no sense of direction, hmm, this will not get me far.  A few seconds of general panic wanted to play out, but I told myself I could ALWAYS go back and find previous cairns.  “But nobody will find me!” I allowed myself to argue, and then… the cairns returned.  I had gotten off a bit to the side, and obviously so had others, as cairns began to appear on both trails.  Geez.  Scary.

There is nothing further I can say about the beautiful Corona Arch, except that you must explore it for yourself.  The crowds in Arches interfere with exquisite back-country sensations, so get off the beaten path, and take a risk (or two), and walk.  

approaching Corona Arch, 9 a.m.

approaching Corona Arch, 9 a.m.

 

Conquered it!

Conquered it!

 

A good ascent route

A good ascent route

ladder is going nowhere

ladder is going nowhere

Datura

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:17 pm

Deadly nightshade.  Henbane.  Mandrake.  The stuff of which love potions and witches’ brews were made of… and its cousin, Datura, is represented in gorgeous mounds of plants favoring the shady nooks at the bases of the cliffs.

All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. There can be a 5:1 toxin variation across plants, and a given plant’s toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions.  

Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and Datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death.  According to the drug information site Erowid, no other substance has received as many “Train Wreck” (i.e., severely negative experience) reports as has Datura, noting that “the overwhelming majority of those who describe to us their use of Datura find their experiences extremely mentally and physically unpleasant and not infrequently physically dangerous.”  In some parts of Europe and India, this plant has been used for suicide and murder.

So.  Enjoy its beauty.  Look, but don’t eat.  And, thank you, Wikipedia, for cool info on Datura.

 

Datura plant

Datura plant

Datura blossom

Datura blossom

Dinosaur Tracks 1: Poison Spider Bike Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:53 pm

At 0740 I pull into the gravel parking area, noticing that some biker has stashed his sleeping bag and backpack under the info kiosk.  A rock that disengaged itself from the mountain was found to have two good dino footprints in it, and a photo identified exactly where it was — within easy view.  “The easiest way to see it is to go back down to the highway and look through the view tube,” it said.  Don’t pull that trick on ME, I responded, and headed for the tabular slab up the mountain.  

In rattlesnake country, especially first thing in the morning when they may come out to sun, you place your feet carefully.  When I go over a rock I make it a point to step UPON the rock stompish-ly, to warn any reptiles of my coming.  Our Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are shy, and would rather avoid contact if they know you’re there, so I announce my presence.  Snakes don’t have ears, so they ‘hear’ vibrations.  I walk heavily.

In a few minutes I have scaled the heights.  Before me lies a pair of DEFINITE dino footprints!  A shiver goes through my body.  I secretly wish I’d find him in an alcove around the bend.

I do not know if the white discoloration is something applied by the BLM to make them stand out (and be seen from the highway through that silly view tube), or if it is residue from someone illegally making a cast.  In soft porous sandstone, the plaster will adhere to the stone and break pieces off upon removal.  They tell us to put water on the footprints to make them more visible. 

 

Dino tracks near Poison Spider Bike Trail, Potash Road

Dino tracks near Poison Spider Bike Trail, Potash Road

Potash Road Life Signs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:37 pm

Not sure I could be a geologist.  Rocks are kind of interesting and such, but I am more interested in stuff that has life.  Today, Ranger Kathryn’s day off, I am exploring signs of life in the lesser-known corners of Grand County.

By 0645 I am driving down a highway that parallels the Colorado River for 15 miles.  I have a brochure on the passenger seat identifying several panels of good rock art along this stretch, and a few minutes later I find myself in a pull-off behind a red truck whose license plate says GLYPHS.  Bingo!  This kind old gentleman with distinctly Native American features confides in me that this is the day the local Rock Art Preservation Society is photographing all the panels in order to create scale drawings.  I begin to scan the walls.  They teem with figures, images, animals, and he points out a few more to me that I would easily have missed.  I am very glad that this crew is documenting them.  Vandalism is rampant when figures are accessible, but the removal of the talus slope for the highway construction works in our favor on this panel.  I stand gazing at the walls, about 12 to 20 feet above the highway cut.  Deer, bighorns, hands, “burden basket,” spirals… all begin to move forward in my consciousness.  What a magnificent place.  There is no “dictionary” to translate the images, so we can only guess what they mean.

These are all petroglyphs, meaning the paper-thin layer of “desert varnish” (manganese oxide, iron oxide) is pecked off with a rock to create the art.

 

Potash Road Petroglyph

Potash Road Petroglyph

IMG_1174

Does this look like an owl?

Does this look like an owl? or a fox?

Blog at WordPress.com.