After having spent the previous day hiking around the Robber’s Roost and Lost Park areas, I woke up early and hiked into Horseshoe Canyon to search for a rock art panel that I’d read about. Ned Chaffin, an early cattle rancher in the area, mentioned the panel, along with a rough location, in a 1999 interview with the National Park Service. I had looked for this panel a couple of times before based on Ned’s vague description, including one grueling 14-mile hike last year, but came up empty each time. This time I felt like I had a pretty good chance of finding it because I’d ruled out most of the other possible locations. I began my hike as soon as it was light enough to see without a headlamp. At first I followed an old, closed road which had relatively recent tire tracks on it. It seems that the BLM’s effort in placing dead trees and branches across the road for many miles is ineffective–go figure. It was quite cold and frost covered the ground and trees, but I warmed up nicely after a short while of hiking. The sun inched above the horizon and gave the trees and grasses an orange glow as I hiked along the old two-track road.
I reached the drop-off point where I had to begin the descent into Horseshoe Canyon. I stashed a Powerade in a small juniper tree there to enjoy on the way out. While beginning the descent I spotted a small movement below me, and through my binoculars I recognized it as a porcupine. It was moving away from me and I snapped a crappy photo of it, but never saw it again when I neared the spot where I’d seen it. I reached the bottom of a small side canyon that I had to cross, and it contained many small alcoves. I climbed up into one promising alcove but didn’t find anything at all inside. I skipped several others because I was saving my energy for the hike ahead of me. I hiked down the side canyon for a short distance before climbing over a sandstone ridge and descending toward Horseshoe Canyon.
Once I got into the bottom of Horseshoe Canyon, I hiked upstream toward what I hoped was my target rock art panel. Along the way I spotted some very faded pictographs through my binoculars. I’d checked those same cliffs once a few minutes earlier and didn’t see anything, but when some clouds covered the sun I checked again and saw the rock art. I reluctantly (because I didn’t know how long this hike would turn out to be) climbed up to get a closer look, but the climb wasn’t much of a bother. The panel must have been quite nice at one time, but there was very little left to see. In another couple hundred years there may be nothing left at all.
I continued up the canyon, rounded a corner, and saw a great (okay, maybe just good) pictograph panel looking back at me. It was very reminiscent of the Great Gallery much farther down Horseshoe Canyon, but certainly not as good in terms of quality and preservation. This must be the panel I was looking for! I climbed up to the rock art and realized that I’d actually seen a photo of it online before. From a distance it appeared to be several large, somewhat faded pictographs. Up close, however, there was a lot of detail and nuance to the panel. There were many petroglyphs and incised glyphs that weren’t obvious from afar, and many of the pictographs were painted directly over the top of petroglyphs (probably contemporaneously by the same artist). Some of the petroglyphs were even similar to pictographs at the Great Gallery, depicting large human-like figures with animal figures drawn within them.
After thoroughly photographing the site, I headed back down-canyon to find a lunch spot. I ate some salty snacks and then began the hike out. Along the way I found a mano that couldn’t possible have been used anywhere near the spot where it lay, so I assumed that my route was also used by the Native Americans and it was simply dropped there. I had slid down several steep slickrock spots on the way in, and climbing back up them was a little challenging. I reached the canyon rim and retrieved my Powerade, which was still plenty cold. The last few miles back to the Jeep were easy, but I was tired. I got back to my vehicle feeling pretty good, though. The hike had been about 12 miles total, and I was in good spirits for having reached my goal.
Photo Gallery: The Good Gallery