Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Chasing Petroglyphs: Newspaper Rock, Needles and Canyonland

As AdventureMan reads through these posts, he delights in how much he has already forgotten, and he looks forward to reading about what he called “one of our light days.”

I look at him in astonishment. As occasionally happens, I remember things very differently,

“We got a relaxed start,” I begin, which in our language means we did not hit the road at the crack of dawn, but maybe around 0830, “but we were on the road until about 2:00! And it was some tough driving! No place to stop for lunch, we just had apples and oranges by the side of the road.” And water. Lots and lots of water. It was again in the 90’s, and very dry, and there are signs everywhere warning us to drink water.

We don’t have to start from Moab, we just reach SR 191 and turn south. The first thing we come across is Wilson’s Arch:

And another place called Hole in the Wall, but I can’t tell if it is a famous Hole in the Wall or an adventure outfitting place. There is an ATV perched precariously on the top of the cliff.

We turned off 191 to go to Canyonlands, and soon came to Newspaper Rock.

Early on, I mentioned how fragile and transient petroglyphs can be. We don’t really know who made them. We know that many of the earliest petroglyphs incised were written over, improved, by later early peoples. And then, modern day man, who had done the most damage of all – carving his initials over ancient glyphs, removing glyphs, defacing glyphs, rubbing glyphs (thus eroding their edges and making them more vulnerable to weathering elements), chalking glyphs to make them more visible, even touching glyphs leaves chemicals that damage the quality of the glyphs.

When we got to Newspaper Rock, we parked at the wrong end of the parking lot and ended up on a trail going entirely the wrong way. AdventureMan kept saying he thought we needed to go back, but the further along we got, the more I thought we were on the right track – until the track ended. We walked back, and just at the other end of the parking lot was the Newspaper Rock – near the road and protected by a large grill.

The thing is – I saw others, too, nearby. I am so thankful they protected Newspaper Rock, because through the years many of the incisions have been defaced. I am hoping that the others are being protected by the very lack of trails and signage, by the lack of publicity. It’s a pity we should have to protect the petroglyphs from our own citizens.

On the wrong track, but the track led to more surfaces

Back on the right track

I think of Newspaper Rock as a kind of scratch pad. Even Leonardo da Vinci, the great inventor, engineer and artist, made sketches before he executed a masterpiece. I can see traces of the Fremont peoples, and I can see scraps of petroglyphs we have viewed in Vernal.

AdventureMan found Newspaper Rock a very emotional experience. He felt connected to these early people. When I look at these footprints of all sizes dancing around, I feel their joy. And look at the hand – that is almost modern in it’s representation of a human hand; and I think back to the petroglyphs at White Mountain which may have represented the human hand or may have represented the terror of a bear claw. These feet are so happy, and, interestingly, so similar in form. I wonder how they were formed?

I’ve broken the wall into different panels with photographs; taken in total, it is overwhelming.

Much more modern era; we see horses introduced

Those lines – snakes? Rivers? Directions? A life?

I would guess this central figure is a shaman, with what coming off his headdress? Some kind of special decoration on his legs? The target symbol, as opposed to the spiral? The smaller horned man? All those animals – prayers for a good hunt? Celebration of a good hunt?

This one intrigues me – a scorpion? It is just weird!

A dancing bison? Look at the feet and . . . um . . . feet; they are very hoof like. An elk with a magnificent rack and maybe a spear in it’s side?

These last two are not with the others. I believe some well-meaning guide has chalked them so that visitors can see the faint traces.

And this is what the Newspaper Rock looks like in total.

We were no longer alone. Visitors from all over the world were coming, looking and photographing.

We drove to the end of the drivable-without-dire-warnings road. The scenery was increasingly arid and bleak, with it’s own terrible beauty. At one point, we were about to hike out to an old dwelling cave, and we looked at each other. It was noon, and signs everywhere were saying “do not hike in the hottest hours” and it was HOT. We drank some water, ate some oranges, got back in the car, reluctant to pass on an adventure, but happy to pass on potential disaster.

There was actually a ranch out here, and this was the last water we saw. It’s still Spring.

Just a half mile there, and a half mile back . . . we passed.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment