Gordon Creek

I spent the second weekend in December doing a few short hikes in the Gordon Creek area. On Saturday I hiked into Haley Canyon with the intention of going to Gordon Creek and then downstream along the creek. I hiked off of Porphyry Bench on a steep game trail that was thankfully relatively free of snow. I checked out a pit house that I’d visited once before, and found a rough stone tool there that I’d also seen on my earlier trip. I spotted a couple of very faint abraded glyphs from the pit house and hiked over to look at them up close. Reaching Gordon Creek, I saw a couple of faint pictographs. The north-facing slope that I’d hoped to hike along was steeper than I’d anticipated and covered in snow, so I ended up calling it quits and hiked back to the Jeep.

Dropping into Haley Canyon from Porphyry Bench
Dropping into Haley Canyon from Porphyry Bench

Rough stone tool
Rough stone tool

Fallen walls of a pit house
Fallen walls of a pit house

Haley Canyon
Haley Canyon

Zig-zag pictographs
Zig-zag pictographs

Looks like nothing, right?
Looks like nothing, right?

DStretch brings out some pigment
DStretch brings out some pigment

Gordon Creek
Gordon Creek

I took the long way home by driving north and going under the railroad trestle. The road leading into the Gordon Creek gorge was steep and rocky and I spent five minutes moving large rocks off the road so I could descend the hill without damaging my vehicle. The creek crossing was frozen but there was water moving under the ice. I let the Jeep slowly creep out onto the ice. About three-quarters of the way across the front-end broke through the ice and freaked me the hell out! The water was deeper under the ice than I’d expected. I was able to back up to safety, but the thought of climbing back up the steep, rocky road didn’t appeal to me. Back into the creek I drove, this time hitting the throttle hard when I got to the broken ice shelf, and the Jeep climbed out the other side fairly effortlessly. On the other side of the creek I stopped to re-photograph some bear print petroglyphs that I’d found years earlier.

Rocky road leading into Gordon Creek
Rocky road leading into Gordon Creek

Jeep breaking through the ice
Jeep breaking through the ice

Gordon Creek crossing below the trestle
Gordon Creek crossing below the trestle

Bear print petroglyphs
Bear print petroglyphs

Near Garley Wash I stopped to visit the former site of a cabin. While looking at the 1914 topo map of the area, I noticed a structure indicated at the end of a road, though neither the road or structure appear on today’s maps. The road has been nearly reclaimed by nature but was still easy to follow on the ground. The area looked barren of anything man-made in Google Earth so I didn’t expect to find much where the cabin once stood. What I actually found surprised me. There were many refuse piles full of glass, cans, pieces of leather, buckles and other metal odds and ends, coal fines, and some timbers that may have once been part of the cabin. It was a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of people who lived there at least a century ago.

1914 topo map showing a structure near Garley Wash
1914 topo map showing a structure near Garley Wash

Old road leading to a former cabin site
Old road leading to a former cabin site

Animal skull in the snow
Animal skull in the snow

Royal Baking Powder lid
Royal Baking Powder lid

Various trash found near the cabin site
Various trash found near the cabin site

Coal fines on the ground
Coal fines on the ground

Thumb-turn lid opener
Thumb-turn lid opener

Timbers, possibly from the cabin
Timbers, possibly from the cabin

Sanitary can lid
Sanitary can lid

Chris arrived in town that evening to go to Traci’s family Christmas party with us, and the following morning he and I returned to Gordon Creek to hike the north side of the creek. I drove in from the north to avoid having to drive across the creek. We ignored the “No Trespassing” signs posted below the railroad trestle, skirted around the fence where it was already torn down, and proceeded downstream in search of rock art. The first few sites we encountered I had already been to. We crossed the creek to see the headhunter pictograph, then crossed back over to the north side and found a few pictos that were new to me. One had a 1948 inscription in chalk written over it, but with my binoculars I saw below the pictograph a faint inscription by U.M. Chase from sometime in the 1880s.

Private Property sign that went ignored
Private Property sign that went ignored

Gordon Creek petroglyphs
Gordon Creek petroglyphs

Headhunter pictograph
Headhunter pictograph

Typical Fremont pictographs
Typical Fremont pictographs

Typical Fremont pictographs (DStretch enhanced)
Typical Fremont pictographs (DStretch enhanced)

Pictograph with 1948 chalk writing
Pictograph with 1948 chalk writing

U.M. Chase, March 11, 188?
U.M. Chase, March 11, 188?

While hiking back to the Jeep we took a short detour down to the creek to check out a wrecked vehicle that we’d seen on our way downstream. It was a ’92 Toyota pickup that looked like it had been washed down the creek by a flash flood. The engine and transfer case had been removed. I took a photo of the VIN and Chris did a Carfax later, which revealed the truck had last been registered in 2013 and hadn’t been reported as a loss. I’d love to hear the story of how it came to be there!

Talons on a dead bird
Talons on a dead bird

Dirt arch
Dirt arch

1992 Toyota pickup abandoned in Gordon Creek
1992 Toyota pickup abandoned in Gordon Creek


Photo Gallery: Gordon Creek