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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Photo Gallery: Gordon Creek