Crack In Rock - Fall 2016


Forever Wandering
Apr 8, 2015
The backstory to this trip report actually starts here, where I first was contacted by fellow Nebraskan @Curt about some potential backpacking. After chatting a bit, he invited me along on a trip to the Grand Canyon (which was incredible). We ended up hiking out a day early, and with that spare day, one of the extra things we did was stop at Wupatki National Monument to view the ruins. There were all kinds of people with backpacks in the parking lot, so naturally we asked what kind of backpacking they were doing. We learned that the NPS does guided trips to some backcountry ruins. The trips are limited in numbers, and you have to apply and get drawn to go on the hike. Figuring it was a good thing to do, The Unstoppable Steve put in an application while we were hanging out.

Fast forward to later in the year. Steve actually drew a permit. Curt wasn't able to go, so Steve asked me to go along. I was just able to squeeze it in--the timing worked out perfectly. I was super stoked. That fall, work became completely mental as I was involved in the final construction and startup of a multi-billion dollar chemical plant. So getting to go on this trip was a real unexpected treat.

The guided trip takes you along a pretty impressive line of ruins and petroglyphs, ending at Crack In Rock Pueblo. Up to this point, the only pueblos/ruins I had ever seen in the desert SW were the ones right by the Wupatki main roads/visitor center, and I'd never seen a petroglyph.

The group was some very good people. Many retired folks, Two astrophysicists. The NPS guides were knowledgeable, personable, and really were good guys. I'd never done a guided hike before, and it seemed a bit silly given my backpacking/hiking experience, but I see why they do these hikes this way, and the guides we had, were, as previously mentioned, good guys.

I'm going to try to refrain from posting too many pics that would identify sites too much, though these really aren't all that hard to find once you kind of learn about the area. It was certainly an amazing experience to me to see all these pueblos and petroglyphs. The highlights also included a Navajo hogan and sweat lodge.

On to a few pics.

On this trip, I held my first pottery shards.


Navajo sweat lodge. I was shocked how small it was.

A "rock alignment." These were lines of rocks built to break the wind in crop fields to keep soil from being blown away.

Tafoni on Crack in Rock mesa

The unique aspect of Crack In Rock Pueblo is that one of the ways to access the pueblos on top of the mesa is through a crack in the rock--basically a tunnel. I have to say, climbing up this tunnel and emerging inside of a pueblo on top of the mesa is one of the most unique and memorable experiences of my life.

Another hiker emerging on top of the mesa

The hike is timed so that you get to experience sunset at Crack In Rock. The effect is excellent.



Sunrise on the second day of the hike was top notch. I specifically camped on top of a ridge in a spot with an expansive view to the East. The location did not disappoint in the morning. This was a great sight to wake up to.

The second day was much more about petroglyphs than pueblos. They were more fascinating to me than the pueblos.

This panel really fascinated me. I'm an occasional hunter myself. It seems obvious that the hunter is hunting a rare specimen. But what's the real significance of this panel? It's very unlikely it's just a hunting story about somebody getting a particularly big ram--how does this story fit into the ancient worldview of a people who really lived with the land, and lived off the land? We'll really never know, but this one just really caught me for some reason.

Other panels were very abstract



My had is there only for scale--I did not touch!!


On some panels, researchers had set up cameras to see if sun/shadow patterns hit particular spots at equinoxes or solstices. This panel was one where the light did in fact hit a spot just right. The NPS guys had a picture of it. I just have this.

All the panels really make you wonder what the people that made them were thinking or meaning with them. These images of inhuman creatures really pull at my imagination though.



Last pic for this report. This panel is a bit jarring as it stands off by itself. A fascinating aspect is that to the right of the NPS employee you can see a very, very old fire scar (presumably made by those who carved the panel)

All in all this was a really worthwhile experience. It was different being on a guided trip, and I was still unused to hiking with strangers in the group at this point, but it turned out to be good. The NPS gave some fair interpretive information along the way, and they were not overbearing at all along the way. All members of the group were good folks to hike with and talk to. I particularly enjoyed meeting another man who had spent time in the Wind River Range. On this hike I met, through Steve, a woman who was originally from Wyoming that was interested in doing some backpacking. So we've so far done a couple trips in the Winds and hopefully will be doing more in the future. It's been really cool to meet people on trips and end up doing more trips with new people.

Thanks for looking.
Ancient hunter is no different than his modern counterparts, bragging up the size of that trophy kill!
Very cool- beautiful petroglyphs, always fascinating. And getting away during the final construction and right before the start up of a giant chemical plant is almost impossible to get arranged, wow! Good for you @b.stark . I worked in chemical plants too, went through shutdowns and start-ups, always very intense and everything has to be planned well. But starting up a brand new giant chemical plant takes the intensity to whole other level. Being able to leave that and relax with cool petroglyphs is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
I have to correct myself, now that I'm fully awake. It was some research group that was maintaining the cameras, not the nps. Don't recall who it actually was.
Read this morning and again tonight. Bad for you perhaps to not be able to sleep, but both reports from the wee hours were great. Crack in the Rock looks really interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Very interesting. Wish I could have gone - especially now that I know what I missed! Great pictures and write up.
Wupatki rocks. I have always wanted to do the guided trip. Thanks for posting.
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