About four years ago Randy sent me a link to a photo of a granary that the photographer said was inside Arches National Park. Neither of us knew even roughly where it was, nor had we seen or heard about the granary except from that one photographer. Over the years I had spent a little time here and there scanning the satellite imagery in Google Earth trying to match up the meager scenery visible in the photo with no luck. After my trip to Arches two weeks ago I got more serious about finding the granary–perhaps even a little obsessed. I found two more photos from the same photographer that gave additional hints to its location. Finally on Wednesday, after a lot of time panning and zooming around, I was able to zero in on the correct spot in Google Earth!
I wasn’t previously planning on hiking this weekend because of snow in the forecast overnight on Thursday and more possible on late Saturday and Sunday, but this changed things. There was a fair amount of snow blanketing the area on Friday morning, but I watched the Moab area webcams all day and it melted off quickly. I decided to go for it, and left home early on Saturday morning headed toward Arches. Surprisingly my son Bradley decided to join me.
We drove in through the main park entrance and made our way to the road nearest the granary, then headed off cross-country. We followed watercourses and hiked across slickrock to avoid leaving too much of a trail. As we neared the granary I was surprised to see footprints in the sand, and very fresh ones at that–either the day before after the snow melted or maybe even just an hour or two before we arrived.
We arrived at the granary and, well, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as when I’d located the spot in Google Earth. Although there was never any doubt I’d found the correct spot I guess there was still some anticipation as we rounded the bend, but there it was! The granary opening was maybe a little bit larger than I had expected and it certainly went in much deeper. I was hoping to see some corn cobs inside but it was pretty barren. I didn’t see any footprints at the granary but it would have been possible to visit it without leaving any nearby.
Bradley and I left and took a different route back to the truck. But first I picked up those footprints and followed them for a bit. I was just curious if somebody else had been to see the granary recently, but it turned out the tracks went off in a different direction. We wandered around some cliffs searching the patina for any rock art or inscriptions but didn’t see anything except a small lithic scatter at the base of one cliff.
Next we drove back down the park road and turned onto the Willow Spring road, where I wanted to explore the sandstone fins on the east side of Willow Flats. In the satellite imagery around there I thought I could see several alcoves and a brush corral, so it seemed like a good place to wander. I parked the truck right at the former park boundary from when it was still a national monument. Bradley was pretty beat from our first hike so this time, since I was zig-zagging through the fins, he would find a good place to wait and rest while I zigged and zagged back and then he would follow me to the next “row” of fins and wait once again. Almost immediately after entering the fins we saw three bucks who stopped to stare at us for a couple of minutes before running away. I looked at several shallow alcoves and found only a couple of old rusty cans and a broken mano.
I reached what I suspected was a brush corral, and it was, but it was poorly constructed and there were no signs such as old cans suggesting that it was ever used except for a very short period of time. There were many lithic scatters throughout the fins, and I found one worked piece of stone that had so little taper to it that it may have once been part of a long blade. After exploring all the fins we ended up following the old boundary fence back to the truck. This hike was only about 3.5 miles due to all the back-and-forth but we were never more than about 0.6 miles from the truck. Bradley’s legs were cramping up but I still felt pretty good. That surprised me because I was sure a 20-year-old would easily be able to out-hike his old man, but I was very grateful that he wanted to share this experience with me.
Photo Gallery: Arches Backcountry III