March 30-31, 2019
After spending the previous weekend exploring the Arches National Park backcountry with Chris, I returned alone on Friday evening after work. We had previously struck out near the Delicate Arch trail and so this time I thought I had a better idea of where to look for the rock art we’d missed. I parked at the Delicate Arch trailhead and set off for some nearby cliff bands, and almost immediately I found a few petroglyphs on a boulder. I continued on toward several alcoves and found some petroglyphs, pictographs, and a couple of whole and broken metates.
I briefly rejoined the Delicate Arch trail to get above the initial cliff band and found several more alcoves, but this time they were mostly devoid of rock art. I did, however, find a flat, sandy area full of metates and lithic scatter. Right at sunset I heard the crowd at Delicate Arch cheering! I’m not sure what that was all about. Not wanting retrace a longer route back to the trailhead, I tried shortcutting a more direct route and was relieved that it worked out. I got back to my vehicle well after sunset and drove out of the park, taking a few long exposure shots above the winding park road. I camped that night along the Dalton Wells road, even farther out than where Chris and I had camped the previous weekend–there were even more campers along the road this time!
I awoke to rain early on Saturday morning. I drove into the park along the main road and the rain didn’t seem like it would let up soon, so I left and drove into Moab and bought some beer that I can’t get at home. By the time I returned to the park the entrance line was a little long but still not too bad. I parked at the visitor center and started hiking toward some rock art I’d learned about from a friend since last weekend’s trip. The first part of the hike was along an old road that I assume was the original wagon road through Moab Canyon, probably traveled by the Elk Mountain missionaries in 1854-1855. Soon, and still within sight of the visitor center, I found a boulder covered with petroglyphs.
I continued hiking along the rim and then struck out cross-country until I reached the area where my friend thought the petroglyphs were. She’d only given me a rough description of where to find the panel, but the rock art was in precisely the spot she described it to be! And, boy, was it a great panel, especially considering its unusual location. The panel is in a very minor drainage with no permanent water nearby, and there’s not much good shelter nearby. One important factor in its location may be that, during the equinoxes, a hole in the cliff allows sunlight to shine on the panel in certain way, though I was there too late in the day to experience that (and I was about 10 days too late). I lunched nearby and then hiked back to the Jeep. Since the clouds had mostly cleared it got quite warm on the way back. I reached the Jeep and then headed home, having enjoyed yet another couple of days in Arches exploring places that few know about.
Photo Gallery: Arches Backcountry II