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.