‘Twas a perfect weekend. Wade put this trip together in August but then had to back out, so it ended up being me, Alan, Lyman, Paul, and a last-minute addition of John. I was riding along with Alan and we’d planned on meeting the rest of the group at our campsite along the Flint Trail at 10AM on Friday. On our way through Wellington we ran into Paul and John and convoyed with them the rest of the way. I’d sold my toy hauler to Alan earlier this year and he was towing it behind his F-250. It was strange being in my old trailer after it no longer belonged to me, though it sure was nice having some amenities on this trip–otherwise I’d have been sleeping in the back of my Jeep. Lyman arrived while we set up camp, then we all hopped on our bikes and rode into the Orange Cliffs unit of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Since everyone had spent the morning traveling, the plan was to do the shortest ride and hike on Friday, which was to Perfect Panel and a couple of other nearby rock art sites. We encountered three vehicles near the trailhead but parked our motorcycles in the next drainage where there was more room. There were a fair number of footprints in the wash bottom before us. After a short hike through the canyon and down a cattle trail blasted into the sandstone, we found the first pictographs of the trip. This panel, called Imperfect Panel, was obviously once quite nice, though the poor surface on which it was painted has spalled away and left it an unfortunate, crumbling mess. Below the rock art were a few cyst granaries and a Ned Chaffin inscription from 1933.
Farther down the canyon we bumped into a party of five to whom the three vehicles at the trailhead belonged to. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I found out one of the guys is a mutual Instagram follower, desertrush. We followed the canyon yet deeper, downclimbing a couple of easy drops, and ended up at the quite Perfect Panel. It’s in amazingly good shape, though there were a couple of peculiarities about it. One figure has been modified by pecking/rubbing, and between the two halves of the panel are a few splotches of white paint that may be part of some unfinished art. As we were finishing up at Perfect Panel another group of three were working their way down the canyon, one of whom, Morris, I recognized from photos I’d seen on the BCS Project website. After some rock art conversation with that group, we headed to another alcove with some small but extremely interesting pictographs. Paul had been there many years ago when the alcove was easily accessible, but now due to some rockfall it was difficult to access. I climbed up adjacent to the same level as the alcove but didn’t dare make the move across some loose, sloping ledges leading into it. We had to settle for zoomed-in photos from afar. This evening, at least, we made it back to camp before dark.
Saturday was our longest ride and hike, and the ride was something that I feared. I’d driven my F-250 into the Maze three years earlier and knew what the road was like, and I wasn’t confident enough in my skills to get a motorcycle through the same roads. I’m not sure whether having some very experienced riders with me helped to boost my confidence, or perhaps the fear of being left behind lit a fire under my ass, but I made it through the rough roads around the head of Teapot Canyon without incident. In addition to surviving the ride, the weather had cooperated so far despite a 60% chance of rain and left us with good road and hiking conditions. We found ourselves near Range Canyon to search out a pictograph panel. First, though, came a stop at Cedar Bark Ruin and Lou’s Spring, at the latter of which I saw the very first tarantula that I’d ever seen. I, of course, screamed like a girl and swore when I noticed it.
Only Lyman, Alan, and I continued on to the pictograph panel while Paul and John headed back to the bikes. We found the pictographs and I was surprised that I’d only seen maybe half of it in photos on the internet. The left half of the panel is well-preserved while the center and right half is so badly faded that even heavily-manipulated photos can’t possibly bring out much detail.
It felt like a long-ish hike back to the trailhead where Paul and John were waiting. The instant we arrived it began sprinkling, and the light shower gradually increased in intensity. Everybody donned rain gear for the long ride back to camp. After less than half an hour, however, the rain had ceased and we stopped to shed layers in an effort to cool down. This trip surprised me by how much of a workout riding a dirt bike can be. We had just barely enough daylight to visit two more pictograph panels before reaching camp. I had coordinates for both but had never seen any photos and didn’t know what to expect. The entire group was blown away by the quality and detail at both sites despite them not being well-known. With the light fading quickly I was only able to get some blurry, grainy photos of the rock art. The last hour of the ride back to camp was entirely in the dark. That was a new experience for me, and an unfortunate way for me to learn that the headlight on my motorcycle wasn’t aimed correctly.
Since we’d accomplished all we came to do on Friday and Saturday, Sunday turned out to be a leisurely day of packing up camp and heading home. Well, that is, until Lyman got two flat trailer tires on the way north on UT-95. Alan and I stopped to help change the first flat tire despite Lyman’s protests, which was fortuitous ’cause that meant we were around for the second flat tire a short way down the road. One might not think it would be easy to find a tire shop open in Hanksville on a Sunday, but after inquiring at Stan’s, Lyman found that Dave at Rabbitbrush Repair had a new tire for a reasonable price and could mount it up right then. We drove Lyman and his new tire back to his truck and then headed separate ways toward our respective homes.
Riding a motorcycle into the Orange Cliffs/Maze area was certainly a fast and efficient mode of travel. I could’ve done it in my Grand Cherokee but wouldn’t have liked the unavoidable wear-and-tear. In all we rode 125 miles, hiked a dozen or so miles, visited seven rock art sites, and saw soot-stained alcoves too numerous to keep track of. This trip was great because we crammed a lot of the good stuff into a couple of days. A future trip to the area could be just as rewarding without any itinerary or list of sites to visit–I’m sure there’s something interesting out there waiting to be discovered again.
Photo Gallery: Perfect Weekend