Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 21, 2013

Why I love the desert, in five sentences and seven photos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:26 pm
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“Looking out over the pure sweep of seamless desert, I am surprised to realize that the easy landscapes stifle me—closed walls of forests, ceilings of boughs, neat-trimmed lawns, and ruffled curtains of trees hide the soft horizons. I prefer the absences and the big empties, where the wind ricochets from sand grain to mountain. I prefer the crystalline dryness and an unadulterated sky strewn from horizon to horizon with stars. I prefer the raw edges and the unfinished hems of the desert landscape. Desert is where I want to be when there are no more questions to ask.”             — Ann Zwinger, Mysterious Lands.

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Today’s photos were from a 24-hour escape to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park where Chris and I camped, climbed, and explored a side canyon whose dinosaur tracks remained unrevealed but whose many petroglyphs enthralled us. I share them with the hope that you will glimpse the beauty of this area for yourself and make plans to visit if you are able. But beware; the bulldog grip this place exerts on your heart is irreversible.

 

October 16, 2012

Four anthropomorphs and Siamese twins

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:35 am
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Classic Fremont petroglyphs: trapezoidal figures with necklaces, ear bobs and headdresses. These also have shields and a spear.

From our vantage point in a high alcove across the canyon, the large trapezoidal figure seemed to watch us. We watched back — first through binoculars, and then a scramble down and up to approach it. Only then were his three companions discovered, all appearing to hold shields. This is the absolute beauty of rock art: the continual unfolding of images. Meanings, though, usually lay hidden across centuries.

Staring at petroglyphs is warmly satisfying. As one’s eyes adjust and scan toward the periphery, more bits come into view. Questions arise like bubbling springs: Was that large spear for hunting, or for defense? Hmm: you don’t carry shields for hunting. Who was threatening them? Why did some artist add ear-bobs to the lowest guy, much later? Is the little man in the right center holding a sparkling timer? What were their necklaces made of? What about those headdresses? Why is only one weapon on display?

Current-century questions also arise. What kind of person would use priceless rock art for target practice? As much as the bullet holes detract from the aesthetic, they can’t mar the inherent beauty of these powerful figures.

Conjoined twins pecked into rock?

Meanwhile, in another part of the county, girlfriend Tara found this petroglyph that looks for all the world like men who are Siamese twins. Never in all my thousands of glyphs have I seen anything like this one, and it piques my curiosity. Many cultures would put the babies out to die if they were born connected, or in some way different from normal. My midwife mind wonders whether a woman eight centuries ago could even successfully birth conjoined twins, when they are always born by Cesarean nowadays. Perhaps this image was something a shaman ‘saw’ in a trance, instead.

 

May 7, 2011

In which Kathryn ends up in the wrong valley

I took a girlfriend hiking, someone who hadn’t been up to Hidden Valley before. We had heard through some informal sources that there were some ancestral ruins there, but knew only very approximately where they might allegedly be hiding. Julia’s an anthropology major, and we’re both crazy about ancient cultural things, so we elected adventure over predictability. We were going to try to find some “old stuff,” and following established trails wasn’t going to cut it.

Did kangaroos ever live in Utah?!? (Hidden Valley petroglyph)

Exiting the main path at what looked like an appropriate sandy wash, we began to head upward for a bird’s-eye view. Surely a granary or a kiva would be more visible from a higher vantage point. We crested the rocky ridge and followed it along, as I told her that “that huge wall of Entrada sandstone over there is covered with petroglyphs for us to study.” Yes. It was. Only there are multiple huge walls of Entrada sandstone that look similar, and I was pointing to the wrong one. Off we went.

Thus commenced an off-trail adventure following game trails and gut instincts until we found a way to scramble over one cliff wall and into the correct valley. Please don’t laugh; this is my life. After successfully accessing Hidden Valley at last, we celebrated with Clif bars under a juniper tree, a good chuckle, and a most thorough exploration of every detail of the marvelous petroglyphs. Never did find a structure, but isn’t the joy in the journey instead of at the destination?

April 3, 2011

Protected petroglyphs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:36 am
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While it looks like a family portrait, the headdresses identify these people as shamans

My binoculars showed telltale footprints below, and I selected an off-trail route I thought would get me to them. I’d been trying to find these petroglyphs for two seasons already. Upon my successful arrival at these multiple panels of glyphs, I was met with a most entertaining sign congratulating me on my accomplishment, and a place to register my name. No maps mark the site as it would be defaced with graffiti if it were made public. They are in wonderful shape, as a result, and pure joy to look at. I promise I won’t make TOO many posts about rock art, but if you’re a regular reader you know my fascination with it.

The following day’s hike took me up to Hidden Valley, in the rimrocks surrounding Moab. The reward at the end of the trek is hundreds of yards’ worth of sandstone with petroglyphs of all kinds covering them in multiple sites. It just keeps going on and on, luring one farther from one’s vehicle in the hopes of finding just one more. Good thing I didn’t have my camera or you would have been subjected to more than you could handle.

Animals are a dominant theme -- especially ungulates

A successful hunt was commemorated -- or wished for

March 25, 2010

Sego Canyon Rock Art

Limbless mummies. Bug-eyed space aliens. Shamanistic anthropomorphs. Trapezoidal beings. One of Utah’s best collections of rock art is found in this canyon north of Thompson Springs. The National Register of Historic Places helps preserve an gallery of outdoor artwork in this setting.

Alien bug-eyed anthropomorph with unusual accompaniments; Barrier Canyon style, over 2000 yr old

Three different cultures are represented here, and their artwork is utterly distinctive. The Barrier Canyon style, two to three thousand years old, is mysterious and beautiful. These figures are all painted (pictographs) and many are life-sized.

The Fremont culture flourished here between 600 and 1250 A.D. Their figures typically have trapezoidal heads and bodies, and often wear necklaces. A richly-decorated panel shows multiple individuals.

I’ve no photograph for the Ute artwork, but it is post-Spanish and therefore shows horses.

I find pictographs and petroglyphs deeply intriguing. They help me make an emotional connection to people far removed. What scenes from their lives were worthy of depicting? What can we infer about their lifestyle? Did they have pets? Why is the artwork concentrated in certain places?

Fremont culture (about 1000 yrs ago)

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