March Moabness

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.

Parking spot on Tenmile Point
Parking spot on Tenmile Point


Green River above Tenmile Bottom
Green River above Tenmile Bottom


So much tamarisk
So much tamarisk


Chris on the Wheeler Trail
Chris on the Wheeler Trail


Petroglyphs along the Green River
Petroglyphs along the Green River


Petroglyphs along the Green River
Petroglyphs along the Green River


Petroglyphs along the Green River
Petroglyphs along the Green River


Heading back up the Wheeler Trail
Heading back up the Wheeler Trail


Indian Paintbrush blooms on the road
Indian Paintbrush blooms on the road


Chris following me down a dusty road
Chris following me down a dusty road


Pink clouds while we searched for a camp spot
Pink clouds while we searched for a camp spot


Camp spot at the Needles
Camp spot at the Needles


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.

Camp spot at the Needles
Camp spot at the Needles


Camp spot at the Needles at sunrise
Camp spot at the Needles at sunrise


La Sal Mountains
La Sal Mountains


Turbine at Dubinky Well
Turbine at Dubinky Well


Ridgeline and Grand Cherokee parked along Kane Creek
Ridgeline and Grand Cherokee parked along Kane Creek


Kane Creek
Kane Creek


Red pictograph shield
Red pictograph shield


Fremont style petroglyph with broom and semi-circle
Fremont style petroglyph with broom and semi-circle


Archer near the Owl Panel
Archer near the Owl Panel


Owl Panel
Owl Panel


Bighorn sheep petroglyph with only two legs
Bighorn sheep petroglyph with only two legs


Bird petroglyph
Bird petroglyph


Owl petroglyph
Owl petroglyph


Small bird figure at the Owl Panel
Small bird figure at the Owl Panel


Around the corner from the Owl Panel
Around the corner from the Owl Panel


Sheep and canine figure
Sheep and canine figure


Rock climber along Kane Creek
Rock climber along Kane Creek


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.

Turkey track petroglyphs in an unnamed canyon near the Colorado River
Turkey track petroglyphs in an unnamed canyon near the Colorado River


Hiking up a small canyon
Hiking up a small canyon


Jana, Jesse, and Chris
Jana, Jesse, and Chris


Stock trail blasted into a cliff
Stock trail blasted into a cliff


Jana and Jesse climbing the stock trail
Jana and Jesse climbing the stock trail


Two of the many rock shelters in the area
Two of the many rock shelters in the area


Broken metate
Broken metate


Carved dots and petroglyphs
Carved dots and petroglyphs


Large rock shelter
Large rock shelter


Unusual petroglyphs
Unusual petroglyphs


Rockfall dust on the right
Rockfall dust on the right


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.

Faint, undated J.M. Jackson inscription
Faint, undated J.M. Jackson inscription


High-five petroglyphs
High-five petroglyphs


Jana and Chris in yet another rock shelter
Jana and Chris in yet another rock shelter


Crude white pictograph
Crude white pictograph


Metate fragment
Metate fragment


Cist granary and capstones
Cist granary and capstones


Clay face
Clay face


Back of clay face
Back of clay face


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.

Large pool
Large pool


Sandy swath through the grass
Sandy swath through the grass


Faint pictographs
Faint pictographs


Pictographs enhanced with DStretch
Pictographs enhanced with DStretch


Right figure, DStretch enhanced
Right figure, DStretch enhanced


Pecked figure inside the right pictograph
Pecked figure inside the right pictograph


Alcoves
Alcoves


Mill Canyon dinosaur track site
Mill Canyon dinosaur track site


Camp spot at Deadman Point
Camp spot at Deadman Point


Flat Tops
Flat Tops


Mount Elliott
Mount Elliott


Henry Mountains
Henry Mountains


Camp at night
Camp at night


Camp in the morning
Camp in the morning


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.

Pothole in a small canyon
Pothole in a small canyon


Chris and Jana helping Jesse up a ledge
Chris and Jana helping Jesse up a ledge


Jeep and Honda parked on the road below
Jeep and Honda parked on the road below


Whale Rock
Whale Rock


Our hiking route, with Chris on the far left for scale
Our hiking route, with Chris on the far left for scale


More of the hiking route
More of the hiking route


Natural arch
Natural arch


Burial structure
Burial structure


Bones inside the structure
Bones inside the structure


Close-up of bones
Close-up of bones


More adobe and rocks, possibly indicating other buried structures
More adobe and rocks, possibly indicating other buried structures


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

2 thoughts on “March Moabness

  1. WOW! We have followed your and Torrey’s adventures for years, but this one takes the cake! We live in Moab and know this country well. What a find you made. Just to see an artifact like the clay face is a rare privilege, much less to hold it in your hand. BRAVO! Yes, you did miss some great and unusual rock art nearby that is mostly only visited by locals.
    But I’m sure you’ll be back to visit us soon, right?
    All the best, BK

    1. Thanks for the comment, Bonnie! ­čÖé You bet I’ll be back, many times I’m sure. I’ll have to visit the clay face every once in a while.

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