In support of our goal of camping at least once each month this year, Chris and I headed to the Moab area, and his friend Jana and her dog Jesse joined us. It was the opening weekend of Easter Jeep Safari, but the area wasn’t uncomfortably crowded. We took the long way to Moab, getting off I-70 at the Floy exit and taking a detour onto Tenmile Point to quickly hike down the Wheeler Trail to the Green River. There’s a virtual geocache at some petroglyphs near the bottom of the trail that Chris wanted to visit. It only took us about 35 minutes to get from our vehicles to the rock art. After climbing back up the trail and returning to the road, the sun was still plenty high in the sky. We’d originally planned on camping on Tenmile Point, but instead decided to take advantage of the remaining daylight to drive closer to Moab. We found a nice spot to camp at the Needles near Dubinky Wash.
I was the first one awake on Saturday morning just before sunrise. I wandered around the cliffs and boulders near camp looking for rock art or inscriptions, but didn’t find much of interest. Once we all got packed up and ready to roll, we made a quick stop at Dubinky Well before driving into Moab. We immediately got skunked on our first planned hike. Some sort of adventure race was taking place on the trail we’d planned on hiking, and the trail had a steady flow of runners that we didn’t want to deal with. We pressed on and found somewhere else to hike near Kane Creek: the wonderful Owl Panel. We took a direct approach, scrambling up a steep and rocky slope to the base of the cliffs, then searched in both directions for any other rock art. I think I missed seeing some of the petroglyphs in the area, but it’ll be worth a re-visit in the future.
Next we hiked up a relatively popular but unnamed canyon. There were some badly eroded petroglyphs near the mouth of the canyon, and a lot of footprints in the sand along the canyon’s bottom. A large dryfall farther up the canyon is the main draw for most hikers. Before we reached the dryfall, however, we exited the canyon via a very cool stock trail blasted into a cliff. The trail seems to be the only way to reach the mesa above, where there are several alcoves, rock shelters, and some rock art. I haven’t yet figured out how the Indians accessed the mesa. We checked out a couple of shallow alcoves and some nearby petroglyphs that weren’t terribly spectacular. Chris and Jana had gone ahead of me and disappeared over a small rise while I was looking at one of the rock shelters, and I heard an unusual sound for a few seconds. Then, BAM! A rock that had fallen from the cliff above slammed into the ground about 30 feet ahead of me, disintegrating into nothing but dust. The sound I’d heard had been the rock in freefall. I let out a loud expletive, and Chris called back to make sure I was okay–they thought I’d dislodged a boulder and had possibly been hurt. I was a little shaken ’cause that rock could have easily killed or severely injured anyone in its path.
We continued hiking along the base of the cliff, finding more alcoves that had obviously been prehistoric habitation sites. A faint cursive inscription in one of the alcoves, with no date that I could discern, was made by J.M. Jackson. I wonder if it was made by John Jackson, Moab resident from the 1890s to the 1910s, who constructed a stock trail into Jackson Hole just a few miles from this location? In another alcove, perhaps the biggest that we saw in this area, were fragments of manos and metates, as well as cist granaries with the capstones still present. Most remarkably, I found a small but broken face made of clay! I had actually picked up both pieces separately but didn’t realize what they were until after studying one of them for a minute. I put both pieces together and was shocked to see what I was holding. It was certainly one of the most interesting things I’ve found.
We went a little farther and it didn’t look like there would be any more alcoves along the cliff line, so we headed back toward the stock trail. Along the way Chris spotted some faint pictographs that we’d all missed earlier. There were two large figures, both quite high on the sandstone face. One of them had a small petroglyph pecked into its center that resembled a human figure with ears or horns atop its head. We descended the stock trail and returned to our vehicles, and still had some time to kill before darkness. We stopped at the Mill Canyon dinosaur tracks on our way to find a camp spot far from Moab and away from any people. The camp spot we found was on Deadman Point near Spring Canyon. It wasn’t the most scenic spot, but importantly we had decent cell signal there. The weather forecast called for wind overnight, but luckily the wind died down after dark and didn’t pick back up again until after sunrise. We all slept comfortably in our cots.
On Sunday morning we drove back toward Moab for one last hike before going home. We began hiking up an unnamed canyon, then climbed out one side and onto a narrow bench between cliff bands that we followed for a couple of miles before the bench widened. It was a fun route, with only moderate difficulty and length which made it just interesting enough without being too difficult. Where the bench opened up into a small valley is an alcove with what appears to be a masonry and adobe granary inside. However, according to one source that I read, it’s a burial structure. Inside are bones that supposedly belong to an adolescent Native American. There were many fewer bones than I’d seen in some photos online, which could be the result of vandalism or simply rodent activity. Half-buried in the sand of the alcove was more stone and mortar, possibly indicating additional structures underground.
We reversed our route and returned to our vehicles where we ate lunch and then began the drive home. We once again managed to pack a lot into a weekend, and still mostly avoided any crowds during one of the busiest weeks of the year in Moab.
Photo Gallery: March Moabness