Tonight I started looking back at our photos from the last year and was amazed at how staring at a single photo could bring me back to that moment when it was taken. There were so many amazing moments on the road, and most of the stories of them were never shared. I intend to start a new feature on the blog where I will tell those stories, one photo at a time. Starting now…
After hiking in the Kane Gulch Primitive Area in southern Utah (near Natural Bridges National Monument) we searched the backroads for free dispersed camping. We drove along this dirt road that was mostly smooth, except where it came to the wash crossings. Every time we had to cross a wash it was a delicate matter of slowing down and angling the car just right to keep the car from scraping. I still cringe at four wheel driving, so I was eager to minimize the number of dead end roads we drove down in search of a camp site. Unfortunately, the first off shoot we tried was a bust. The road deteriorated right away. We stop the car and got out to walk a ways to see if something amazing would open up around the next bend. No luck for a campsite, but we did stop and stare at some remarkably large and clear paw prints which we determined must have been a large cat like a mountain lion.
Our next side road was more promising. The road itself was in better shape, but there weren’t any clearings near the road and there was evidence of people taking down trees (probably for firewood). This was BLM land, so a certain amount of that was legal. As we headed further up the road we approached a rise and the land around us just leveled out into a glorious plateau that would make a perfect camp site.
One small problem, cryptobiotic soil. This is a unique and endangered type of soil. Basically it is alive and it is very very bad to disturb it because it takes a really long time to grow back and it’s really important to a healthy desert ecosystem. Anyways, there was a ton of really healthy looking crypto in the perfect camp spot, so we decided to go further in hopes of another campsite option.
The road worsened with some bedrock that made for dramatic swings of the car (especially since we hadn’t stiffened the springs at that point). Luckily Jay was driving as I walked on ahead to look at our options. Just a short drive ahead we found it! A great campsite near an old fence. It was sandy flat soil in an area with existing signs of human disturbance so we were in the clear.
As Jay parked the car I just had to see where this road would finally end. I raced on ahead and just around the corner the dirt road ended in bedrock at the base of a horseshoe of sandstone cliffs. From the bottom I could see this area where the rock had an overhang and it seemed like there were paintings on the rock. We had just spent the day hiking in an area with lots of pre-historic pictographs and cliff dwellings. Maybe this was an archaeological site tucked away down this dirt road! I scrambled up the sloping rock at the base of the cliff to try to get a better view of the potential paintings or etchings. The further I climbed the steeper it got and the worse the view! Finally, I got cliffed out. It wasn’t a very difficult climb between me and the overhang, but I was in the wrong shoes and didn’t have the skills to tackle it.
I traced my steps back and hurried to Jay to let him know what I had seen. Together, we made the climb again and he took my camera for the final pitch to get a close up view. That’s where he took this picture. This picture that shows that the painting on the rocks was natural, caused by water, air, and the ingredients in the rock. Just another beautiful natural wonder rather than human artistry. I was a little disappointed, but as I watched the sun set over the Cedar Mesa area I still felt a connection with all of the people who had explored this land before me. So amazing to think there are primitive areas like this left in the United States, with obvious signs of human impact, but with enough left unspoiled and rarely visited that it allows the mind to imagine.