I had a hell roarin’ good time on Friday northwest of Moab. There’s some rock art in Hell Roaring Canyon that I’ve wanted to see for more than a year and I finally got around to doing so. There are two routes into the canyon within easy hiking distance of the rock art: an old constructed stock trail in lower Dubinky Wash and another route zig-zagging over a series of ledges that requires one to crawl on hands and knees. I dropped my mountain bike and chained it to a tree near the top of the “crawl route” and continued driving the truck to near the top of the stock trail. I put the dogs’ packs on them and shouldered my own pack and started hiking toward the top of the trail. There’s an old corral at the top of the trail, and the first short stretch of trail had been blasted out of the sandstone, leading to a ledge that runs below the cliff. The trail then made a sharp turn and traversed a steep sandstone slope. Holes had been drilled and pipes pounded into the holes, then logs, rocks, and dirt had been piled up above the pipes to create the trail (though much of the dirt had washed away). Eventually the trail reached a talus slope and worked its way through boulders and rocks the rest of the way to the bottom of Dubinky Wash.
It was a one-mile walk down Dubinky Wash to the confluence with Hell Roaring Canyon, and I stopped at two small springs to let Torrey and Boulder drink. Beyond the confluence I found the large alcove containing the rock art. Pictographs and some faint petroglyphs adorned the walls, as did some late-1800s inscriptions. The most interesting to me were a large ghostly pictograph, a larger-than-life deer petroglyph, and, of course, the Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel. There was a narrow ledge with carved moki steps leading to the top of the alcove but I didn’t dare climb it without anyone around to help me in case I got into trouble. Above the ledge I could barely make out some more rock art. I’ll definitely have to come back with a partner so I can get on top of that ledge.
The rest of the hike through Hell Roaring Canyon was an easy-going three miles, with frequent stops to let the dogs cool off in the shade. There was no more water until just below the exit route. While looking at the exit route from the bottom it was unclear exactly how to get up each of the several ledges near the top. I got closer and found that each ledge had one or two spots where it was possible to ascend with a little bit of climbing. The dogs, especially Boulder, were growing fatigued. I lifted each of them up the ledges and gave them a push when necessary to keep them moving. The final ledge had a low ceiling and a large boulder choking it down to a crawl near the end. I crawled on my hands and knees until reaching the boulder, then I had to remove my pack and lie prone to wiggle the rest of the way through. Once past the crawl there were two more short climbs needed to reach the canyon rim.
From the rim it was an easy walk to retrieve my bike, and I traded my hat for a helmet and started down the road. Boulder was really dragging. Her paws had a couple of sores on them, but I didn’t see any alternative other than to slowly press on for another 2.5 miles until reaching the truck. The dogs made it back without too much difficulty and were eager to jump into the truck after I turned the A/C on. I had planned on camping right there and doing some mountain biking at Bartlett Wash the next morning, but considering Boulder’s condition I decided to head home. Even if her muscles weren’t sore the next day her paws would have been. Both dogs were limping when I got home, even though Torrey hadn’t been doing so at any point during the hike. I think I have some work to do toughening the pups up before our next long hike. This one was only eight miles total, and with fall/winter coming up–prime hiking season in the desert–I’m sure our hikes will only become longer.