Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Red Canyon, Utah 2016
Today we are going to seek out the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. This is another site that Joy researched and found on the web prior to the reunion and suggested we take one day of our trip to see the petroglyphs. We all agreed that it would be a nice change of pace so to speak!
Highway 14 over Cedar Mountain is the shortest route to our destination and this is the road Paul and Joy took to pick up Doris and Lois. The highway climbs to over 10,000 feet and there is still deep snow for several miles at the top of the mountain. There is also black volcanic rock piled up in places, from some long dead volcano, which makes for an interesting contrast with the crusty snow.
We stop at the tourist information center in the small town of Parowan, which the woman is kind enough to open a bit early, when she notices some of our party peering in the window. The woman is very friendly, chatty and helpful as she directs us to the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. The dark-haired women also tells us that we should stop at the small park where dinosaur tracks can be seen in rocks just a few miles before we reach Parowan Gap.
We are driving through farm country on our way to the petroglyphs. It appears that the biggest crop around here is alfalfa. The irrigated hay crop looks quite good and in my opinion appears to be ready for harvest. We also see grazing cattle along with some farmers out preparing their fields for planting.
After ten miles over paved and gravel roads we stop at a very unassuming area with a sign proclaiming that we have arrived at the Parowan Gap Dinosaur Track Park which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are various paths that wind around and through various sized boulders that appear to have tumbled down from the rocky escarpment that towers above us. Some of the dinosaur tracks need the use of a good imagination to see them, others have a toe broken off, but there is one dinosaur print that is quite distinct. I don’t know the particulars of how the tracks were preserved after thousands of years but it is pretty cool.
A raven has been hoarsely croaking the whole time we have been here. Scoping out the cliff face we find the unhappy bird standing on the ledge of crevice near what appears to be a nest made of sticks which explains why the glossy bird is scolding us. We also see an unconcerned jack rabbit that is kind enough to hold still so I can take a photo of this long-eared bunny.
We drive on down the road to the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Paul pulls the car into the parking lot where one other car is sitting. It appears we will not be fighting any crowds here. The first petroglyphs are just a few yards from the car. There are placards, one quoting Native Americans and another quoting a scientist, theorizing about what all the chipped out figures stand for but another sign admits that the true meaning of this rock art likely will never be known. The density and variety of the petroglyphs on the rock faces we encounter first is almost dizzying. Despite the mystery of the meaning of the petroglyphs, the amount of time the artists must have spent pecking their art into the rocks is mind-boggling.
There are more petroglyphs at the other end of the gap; there really is a gap here in what is known as the Red Hills. We walk down to have a look at what are more simple works which include a deer, mountain sheep and birds. We then cross the highway and climb up to where more petroglyphs have been etched to get a close up look at the rock art since no barriers hold us back at this site.
Once we have soaked up all we can of the petroglyphs we are ready to drive to Cedar City for lunch. We make a quick stop at a Dollar Store so Doris can buy duct tape because the sole on one of her hiking boots has come loose. Paul wraps the black tape around the toe of the boot and it is good as new:).
After lunch we drive to Kolab Canyon which is on the north side of Zion National Park. We stop at the visitor center of course to inquire about hiking trails and show the senior pass which allows us access to the park. There is a five-mile scenic drive through the canyon and the road certainly deserves the scenic designation. We are again surrounded by rugged mountains and canyons that leave me gaping at the beauty of the landscape. At the end of the scenic road Paul pulls into the parking lot where there is a trail that we have decided to hike. The view from this overlook is fantastic and after some hesitation I decide not to go on the trek. The main reason I decide to stay behind is that it is really hot and at least from here it appears that the trail has no shade at all. Although the view when you reach the end of the mile long trail is supposed to be wonderful, I decide the beauty I can see from here is enough for me. So the four Millers leave to traverse the trail and I find a rock that is situated under the sparse shade of a pine tree to sit on while I await their return.
While the four are gone I basically stare at the mountains across the way and find all kinds of figures and faces in the stone. The most compelling imaginary face I see is a man with his hand covering his mouth while his index finger points toward an opening in the mountain. Hmm, I can’t help but use my binoculars to see if there is anything in that small cave the man is pointing at:). Well, I can’t see anything so I guess the stone faced man’s secret is safe.
The foursome return from there hike and Joy tells me that they have seen a Mountain Lion. Yea right, like any self-respecting cat would be out in this heat and where there are lots of people walking. There is a woman sitting on a boulder next to me, scrolling through the photos on her camera, who looks up and asks me if they really saw a cougar. I laugh and say no, they were just teasing me. This is how rumors get started!
We arrive home to stew that is devoid of liquid due to an ill-fitting lid on the crock pot. Oh well, I just dump in a couple of cups of water and the stew is still pretty good and only a little burnt on the outer edge. Lois takes us on a delightful trip via a slide show to Cambodia and Myanmar tonight (I think). What beautiful and interesting countries. Or perhaps we visited Italy this evening where Lois did some major trekking in that lovely place. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Lois’ photographs of the trips she took since we all met in England.
We are up in good time again as we want to get to Red Canyon to beat the crowds and hike while it is cool. To my delight there are several elk grazing in the field across the highway. I slip out onto the balcony to snap a photo. The flighty elk soon drift into the cover of the trees that edge the meadow.
We arrive at the visitor center well before it is open but this is not a problem. There is a trail that begins from the parking lot and the five of us set off to see what The Pink Ledges trail has to offer. The early morning light is gorgeous as it makes the interesting formations of Red Canyon literally glow. In fact the light is so brilliant that many of my photos are blown out unfortunately.
There is plenty of admiration from the five of us both verbally and through the liberal use of our cameras along the trail. We find some scrubby dead trees that humans have decorated by placing red stones in the forks of their branches. It is amazing how many rocks have been loaded in these trees. I don’t get it but have to admit I laugh at the ridiculous sight of these stone adorned trees.
Pink Ledges Trail is not a lengthy trek but it certainly is a beautiful one, where new wonders are presented around ever bend in the gravely path. There is one place that is so picturesque that after I take a photo of the siblings, I agree to a photo of just Paul and me. Those of you who know me well know I try to stay behind a camera and avoid being in front of one if at all possible! I think Joy, Lois, and Doris all had a single photo taken with their own cameras too. As we near the bottom of the trail, Joy asks us to sniff a certain tree and see what odor comes to mind. Definitely vanilla in my opinion! Lois takes the assignment very seriously and I’m sure if a stranger happened upon us at that time their eyebrows might have raised a notch or two. It was funnier than heck and I have the photo to prove it :).
When we have finished this wonderful hike we walk back to the visitor center which is now open. The human traffic has also intensified and I am so glad we were on the trail early as lots of folks are beginning to walk it now. Paul and Joy inquire about more trails, and the man they are dealing with is quite a card. After much banter between the three they finally get down to figuring out another trail for us to hike. I wander around the gift portion of the center and find a nifty jigsaw puzzle featuring rock formations from the various Utah national parks. My mom is a jigsaw puzzle junkie, so I decide to buy it for her, (she let me know recently that she finished putting it together already).
We all congregate back at the car, where I throw my purchase in the back, then we agree to trek Birdseye trail which also starts from the parking lot. We actually walk back where we finished our morning hike but veer off in the other direction to begin walking the Birdseye Trail. Along with the rise of temperature there is a definite rise in highway traffic which runs along the edge of Red Canyon. This is the one negative I have against Red Canyon, you can see and hear the constant line of cars that are traveling to Bryce Canyon.
This is another winning hike which we have mostly to ourselves. Hoodoos, sunlit red cliffs and gnarly trees are sights that greet us as we mosey along the trail. We soon become spread out along the pathway and I take a fork in the trail that leads me straight up a smooth surfaced mountain side. When I am nearly to the top of the mountain the path becomes barely visible plus the rock is quite slick. Obviously this trail was made by hikers getting off the beaten path. When I turn around to go back down the slippery slope I wonder what the heck I was thinking. I turn my feet slightly sideways and take short shuffling steps while using my walking sticks to help keep my balance as I make my way back down to the real trail.
Birdseye Trail ends at the highway’s shoulder and we cross the road and follow the biking path back to the visitor center. It is only mid-morning so Paul suggests that we try to find another hiking trail the staff member highly recommended. The road to the trail is in the direction of home anyway so the rest of us agree that we might as well go for it. We turn on the gravel road and trundle down the bumpy road for several miles. We drive past a lot where a few cars are parked but we don’t see a sign for the trail. Paul drives on and around the bend are more stunning red sandstone formations ahead of us. Somehow it is determined that we must go back to the first place we passed for The Arches trail head but that extra drive was well worth it due to the pretty landscape we saw.
Again there are very few people here and most have already finished the hike. We must cross a dry river bed to get to the actual trail so I keep my eyes on the ground in case there might be an Indian artifact that washed up in the river bed. No luck in finding any arrowheads unfortunately. The Arches trail is a bit challenging in places with narrow walkways or small loose gravel that can cause you to slip on descents but we all manage to stay upright. The trail has its own charm with a small arch here and there and plenty of hoodoos to look at. There are more twisted dead trees to try to incorporate into photos, mostly with no decent outcome for me though.
When we have completed the hike we return to the house. Paul grills hamburgers for lunch and then it is time to begin readying things for our departure tomorrow. We want to leave as early as possible in the morning as we are taking Doris and Lois to Cedar City before we begin the long drive back to Joy’s mountain home. Doris and Lois will take a shuttle to St. George where they will pick up a rental car and continue their tour of the Southwest. The two will travel to the Grand Canyon and then to Sedona and Phoenix. Paul and I of course will have another long drive to Kansas after spending the night with Joy. It has been another fun Miller reunion and we are all looking forward to the next one. Nancy