Old Woman Wash

This weekend I did an overnight trip with Chris G. (not the usual Chris I hike with) to the San Rafael Reef and we hiked up Old Woman Wash to look for some rock art. Two of the rock art panels, the Barnes Panel and the High Alcove Panel, I knew were in the canyon proper. I’d seen enough of the surrounding terrain in some friends’ Flickr photos that I was confident I’d find both panels. The third, the Ekker Panel, I wasn’t so sure about. I could only find this one photo showing the surroundings, but using that I panned around in Google Earth and, looking at the historical imagery from 1997, I found what looked like a faint trail leading from an old mining road to the base of a cliff. That seemed likely enough to me, so armed with a few waypoints in my GPS, I set off to look for it all.

Finding a geocache in North Temple Wash Sunset on the way to camp

Chris met me at my house on Friday afternoon and, after loading his gear into my truck, we drove south to the Temple Mountain area. After taking the dirt road turnoff toward our planned camp site, I decided to take a side trip up North Temple Wash to find a geocache. I’d ridden my ATV up the canyon before but never my pig of a truck. I needed 4WD to get past a couple of rough spots that I didn’t remember from the last time I was there. We found the cache then drove back down the canyon, and stopped once for a short hike to check out what I thought was some rock art but turned out to be an iron oxide stain on the canyon wall. Back on the main dirt road toward camp, we watched a nice sunset behind us. We got to our camp spot at Garvin’s Chimney after the sun had gone down, but it was still plenty light enough to set up camp. It was a quiet and relaxing evening around the camp fire, and we turned in around 11:30. The temperature hovered around 20° all night, and inside my tent it stayed at around 28°.

Camp fire at Garvin's Chimney

My tent at night

I slept fitfully through the night–the usual for any camping trip. I couldn’t sleep any longer after the sun came up. I reluctantly got out of my sleeping bag and got dressed, then got the fire going again and took a short walk around camp while taking photos. Chris got up a while later and we ate breakfast, then packed up most of our stuff but left the tents out to thaw and dry out. By 9:30 we were hiking up Old Woman Wash. I expected it to take us a while to find any rock art, but about half an hour after starting the hike we rounded a bend in the canyon and found the Barnes Panel. There was a lot more rock art there than I was aware of. Chris and I kept following the base of the cliff as the talus slope grew higher above the canyon floor, finding both prehistoric rock art and some more modern stuff from the 1920s. As we got nearer to the top of the talus slope, I recognized the overhang where the High Alcove pictographs were. We reached the alcove and took a break there while we checked out the rock art. I was pretty happy that we’d found two of the panels I was looking for and it was still early in the day.

Barnes Panel

High Alcove pictographs High Alcove pictographs

We scrambled down to the canyon floor and decided to hike up the canyon as far as we could. I knew there were a couple of impassible dryfalls up there, but I didn’t know how far up they were. As we ascended the canyon we had to climb out and around a few small dryfalls. We went much farther than I thought we’d be able to. We got to a large boulder that choked off the entire bottom of the canyon, but it could be climbed around on either side with a little effort. I had to lift Torrey past that part, then I had a difficult time getting myself up until I finally removed my backpack and made it up easily. Just beyond the boulder we reached a large, impassible dryfall with a pool of water at the bottom. We rested there for a while. Chris climbed around on the cliffs and I placed a geocache just above the large boulder, and then we hiked back down the canyon.

Old Woman Wash Dryfall in Old Woman Wash

After passing the rock art again, we took a side canyon that I had hoped would bring us out of Old Woman Wash and to the old mining road that winds up the San Rafael Reef. Just barely after leaving the main water course in Old Woman Wash, we saw many sets of footprints leading up to a cliff that had a couple of bighorn sheep petroglyphs on it. From there we descended a small hill and entered the bottom of the side canyon, where there were also several sets of footprints. I found it reassuring that others had been through this canyon–maybe we were on the right track toward finding the Ekker Panel.

Side canyon leading out of Old Woman Wash

The climb out of Old Woman Wash didn’t take too long. It was cold in the shade of the side canyon, but after reaching the top it was warm in the sun. It felt more like April than February. We worked our way along some cliffs while looking for any rock art while slowly approaching the coordinates where I expected to find the Ekker Panel. The rock art was right where I’d hoped it might be, and the variety was amazing. There were many pictographs, including one huge figure that was at least eight feet tall, and a smaller panel of three figures with some interesting snake and dot designs. There were also petroglyphs and incised figures. The direct sunlight made it difficult to get good photos there, and the huge figure was partially shaded which made a good shot impossible.

Huge figure at the Ekker Panel

My favorite pictographs of the Ekker Panel

Closeup of snakes and dots

Pictographs Petroglyph

I was elated that we’d found all of the rock art I’d hoped to. Once I finished checking out the cliff face for more rock art, Chris and I hiked over to the mining road and walked out of the Reef toward camp. We finished packing up our stuff and then drove back home. Since returning home I found out about some more rock art near the Ekker Panel, so I’m planning another trip to see it within the next month or so. I’d also like to follow the old mining road to its end to see the Ekker Mine. I can’t wait to get back out there.


Photo Gallery: Old Woman Wash
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
[Google Earth KMZ] [Gmap4 Satellite] [Gmap4 Topo]

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