Petroglyph National Monument

Today we hiked Rinconada Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument.  The trail was a 2-1/2 mile loop trail, but the ranger advised us to turn around and walk back the way we came when we got to the curve in the loop.  She explained that the desert was dry and dusty and not much worth looking at.  So that's what we did.  The landscape consisted of a narrow canyon with rocky hillsides all around.

We were told that the rocks are rich in iron.  Stay on the trail and you'll have cell phone coverage.  Walk six feet off the trail, and the iron in the rocks will mess up your signal.  Also, we were warned that in a lightning storm we should move as close to the middle of the canyon as possible to avoid getting struck by lightning. 

The hike was worthwhile as something to do, but the petroglyphs left me somewhat disappointed in the way a meteor shower often does.  They were hard to spot, and I didn't see as many as I'd hoped to see.  Nevertheless, the ones we did see were inspiring.  I found myself wondering if the Pueblo people who made these rock drawings had any idea that people would be fascinated by them hundreds of years later.

What do these look like to you?  A bird?  A lizard?  A turtle?

Sadly, it was sometimes hard to decide if we were looking at rock drawings made by ancient people or if we were looking at modern-day graffiti.  A lot of what we saw were people's initials and dates.  There was even a snowman, which I seriously doubt was drawn by the Pueblos.  It made me mad.  What kind of jerk defaces a national monument in this way? 

We met a ranger along the way and asked him how much of what we were looking at was authentic.  He thought that at least 90% was authentic and explained how to tell the difference.  The authentic ones tended to be high on the rocks while the graffiti tended to be closer to the trail.  He also told us that the older ones would be more tan in color while the modern ones would be brighter white.  In addition, there was the culturally-specific aspect.  For example, he pointed to a hang-ten style foot.  Obviously, it is modern.  But we asked him specifically about this one:

He told us it was authentic.  We had passed it by without a picture because it was right next to the trail, and it seemed too ornate.  He told us it was of Zuni origin and that he'd discovered that someone had defaced it one day while he was walking the trail.  He took a snapshot of it and the park service brought in an expert to restore it.  And I ask again:  What kind of idiot would deface a national monument?  I'm glad it's in the capable stewardship of the parks service.

It was warm in the sun and there was a breeze.  The trail was a little difficult to walk on because it was of soft sand and therefore like walking on a soft sandy beach.  My knee was killing me by the time we finished, but it didn't last.  We must have just missed the bloom of the desert asters, but I loved these dried up blossoms.  (I think I've photographed them before in a different place.)

After our hike we got some sandwiches at Quizno's and then returned to the trailer.  The sky has clouded up and it almost looks as if it will rain, but the wind has not blown the way it did on our first day.  The weather channel informs us it will again tomorrow, however.  There is still quite a bit to do here to keep ourselves occupied until we can make our repairs and move along.  Mike wants to see the Unser race car museum and there is a tram that will take us to the top of the Sandia Mountain range to the east.  Most things are closed today--Sunday--but tomorrow we will do some more exploring.

I'm sad to say that I've done some research into the Antelope Canyon slot canyons near Page.  As it turns out both the upper and lower canyon are on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  At one time there was an entrance fee, but one could still travel to the canyons after paying the fee.  Now, both the upper and lower canyons require that we not only pay an entrance fee, but we must also hire a tour guide to take us into the canyon.  On top of the already steep entrance fee, we would have to pay around $50 each to ride in the back of a pick-up truck.  (Many reviewers complained of the dust damaging their expensive photography equipment, and one had lost his tripod off the back of the pickup.)  Also, our time is limited to an hour or two on the tour.  I'm so disappointed.  I don't mind paying to see something worthwhile, but I won't allow myself to be robbed.  I don't begrudge the Navajo tribe their money, but this seems excessive and exploitative.  Just my opinion.

So now our plans include seeing the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and spending some time hiking in Zion, but we will skip the slot canyons.  I guess I'll have to be content with seeing pictures of them.  There are others in other areas of the country, but we won't see them this trip.  These delays recently have left us both feeling antsy to get home, and so we may change our plans again.  For sure and certain, we will return to Death Valley to see the wildflowers as our last stop on the way home.

1 comments from clever and witty friends:

quiltzyx said...

Thanks for hiking the trail & sharing your pictures Barbara. I'd never make it!!

The petroglyph with the multiple images - first thing I thought was a dinosaurs, but now, maybe a bird, and the turtle-ish looking one - did they used to have long tails? Interesting.

I really like the last one - I'm glad the ranger verified it as authentic. I would never have guessed it wasn't a modern one. I think he'd make a fun quilt!