I returned to the area north of Arches National Park, where two weeks earlier I cut my trip short ’cause I wasn’t enjoying the heat. This time it was over 20 degrees cooler and I finished what I’d started. Saturday was still supposed to be quite warm so I left home in the afternoon with only a short hike planned along the rim of Salt Wash. On the drive there I stopped at the head of Fish Seep Draw where I spotted some inscriptions from the road. There were a few names there, probably all sheepherders or cowboys, and the oldest date was from 1943. I got to the end of a road near Salt Wash and began searching for a way down into the canyon for a future trip. I’d identified four places in the satellite imagery where it looked possible to get below the rim but none of them panned out. One could be downclimbed using a handline, but I think technically I’d need a canyoneering permit since that spot is just inside the park boundary.
Next I drove down another dead-end road and parked at Jug Rock for the night. It was still somewhat early and I had time to hike around Jug Rock and climb on top to check out several deep potholes. For the rest of the evening I sat in my camp chair reading until it was too dark, then climbed into the driver’s seat and read by headlamp. I had the hatchback open while I fixed dinner and some cedar gnats got inside, but they really weren’t too bothersome.
I was awake at 7AM on Sunday and started hiking about 40 minutes later. My plan was to check out a couple of alcoves I’d spotted in Google Earth. Most of the hiking was tedious, having to detour around dense cactus and cryptobiotic soil. I was kind of surprised to see a few different sets of human footprints cris-crossing the area in different directions–it makes me wonder what other people are doing out there. I reached the first alcove and found it to be much bigger than I was expecting. There were several inscriptions nearby, including one by that Alfredo guy whose name I’d seen in Salt Wash a couple of weeks earlier. There was also a nice mano lying on the ground, and several pit structures inside the alcove. Some crude petroglyphs adorned one side of the alcove, and nearby was an interesting storage structure carved into the crumbly sandstone–I’d never seen anything like that before. Another smaller alcove was right next to the large one, but all I saw inside were a couple of bedrock metates and some sharpening grooves and small pits in the sandstone. Next I hiked up a nearby canyon outside the park but didn’t find anything there.
It was another tedious hike to the next alcove. Along the way I found an area littered with lithic flakes, and even found a broken point made from red chert. I worked my way around a big drop in a canyon before reaching the other alcove. This one had a very tall ceiling, but it was also clogged with a lot of rockfall. There were a lot of sharpening grooves and other incised writings inside. Some of them appeared to be of bird footprints, and some of those were quite high up off the floor, so they were either made using ladders or the rocks have fallen away from where they were when the carvings were made. I worked my way up one side of the alcove into the back where one can drop down into what I’d describe as almost another chamber, but to scramble down I’d have to touch a lot of bird droppings. From a distance I couldn’t see anything interesting in there so I opted to avoid it. I descended back down the other side of the alcove and saw many more geometric shapes, including one panel of pretty nice incised glyphs.
I sat on a boulder in full sun and ate some lunch and was feeling quite warm when I was ready to hike back to the Jeep. Luckily I rounded a corner along the cliff and was met with a cool breeze which kept things comfortable for the rest of the hike. I had plans for one more short hike to check out a potential natural arch I’d seen in the satellite imagery, but it turned out I could see it from the road and it wasn’t really an arch so I just headed for home.
Photo Gallery: North of Arches II