The week before Christmas I pointed my Jeep toward Nine Mile Canyon with the intention of driving to the end of the public road through the canyon, then backtracking and doing a few short hikes on the way out. While driving in I had to use 4WD between Soldier Creek Mine and Nine Mile Ranch. The snow plows hadn’t been out and the road was snowpacked with a light coating of fresh snow, and it was quite cold at one degree below zero. The snow completely disappeared as I descended the canyon. Before reaching the end of the road I needed to stop and stretch my legs and ended up finding some wonderful petroglyphs, including a unique Ute panel with a horse and rider with zig-zag lines attached to some bighorn sheep.
Back on the road I reached a gate which was heavily posted to scare the public away, even though the road through the property is a public right-of-way. Along the road I could see plenty of rock art which I photographed out the driver’s window. I arrived at a second gate, this one being the actual end of the public road. From there I drove a short distance up North Frank’s Canyon without seeing anything terribly interesting.
My next planned stop had me feeling a little nervous. The road barely crosses through the corner of a state trust land section, leaving a very short stretch (180′) of road where it’s legal to park and hike from without trespassing on private land. Although I knew I’d be legally okay to park there and hike around, there’s no way to predict what an adjacent landowner may try to claim. I parked and left the road on foot, negotiating some ups-and-downs in order to stay just inside the state land boundary. I had seen some pit houses nearby in Google Earth, but while hiking to those I spotted several others that weren’t so obvious. A large boulder had one side covered in deeply pecked petroglyphs. I reached the pit houses and found that they were nothing special–I didn’t even see any potsherds or lithics on the ground–but the cliffs above held a couple of very small intact granaries. The flat areas above the cliffs were surrounded by relatively intact walls of dry-stacked rocks. I didn’t take the time to get up-close to the granaries or walls. They’re on the short list for a future trip to the area, though.
So, about a week before this trip I ran across this macabre photo by Chuck Zehnder on Panoramio. I was roughly aware of the location of the granaries pictured so I set out to locate them. I found the right spot, but accessing the ledge looked to be a bit tricky. I photographed the one granary that could be seen from below, and will return later to see the spot up close.
During the rest of the drive home I stopped in a couple of spots to get a closer look at some rock art I’d noticed on previous trips. I did a little hiking but mostly just viewed the sites from the road. I slammed on the brakes and backed up when I spotted a rock wall on a ledge above the road. How I missed this in the past is a wonder since I’ve driven past it dozens of times. There are other dugout structures with rock walls nearby and they all appear to be made by relatively modern settlers of the canyon.
The last site I stopped at was near a half-collapsed granary that was still marvelous despite the damage. A very busy petroglyph panel near the granary appeared to be impossible to climb up to. After looking around a bit I think I found a way up, but that will require returning with some “assistance.”
Photo Gallery: Nine Mile Canyon XVII: End of the Road