- May 19, 2012
I hate it when I get nostalgic. But it is difficult, at least for me, to avoid it as I get older. I have a tradition of getting out to visit our wild places on my birthday, Robber's Roost and Road Canyon on Cedar Mesa were the most memorable. I really wanted my 62nd birthday to be special, so Grand Gulch seemed like the perfect place.
Our world is currently spiraling out of control as we all know, so I wanted to stop the spinning for a short time. So I decided to visit a place I have not seen for a while. I have been in the vicinity of the Government Trail and Polly's Canyon in the last few years, but have not camped here in 14 years.
I had 3 main goals in my short time here. The first two were visits to the Big Man panel, and to find a pictograph panel I had not seen in 28 years. It's exact location has been lost in the fog of time, and my memory, so I knew it might be difficult to achieve. But it would be really fun to try.
The third was to gather some images for a show I will be in at the Launchpad Gallery in Carbondale in April. My partner in this show, entitled "Stone Souls", is Alice Bedard-Voorhees, and we both felt this place would be an important place to visit, so she could gain some insight to where I was coming from. I also knew she would find a great deal of inspiration here also. Oh yeah, she brought along her husband Rick.
Alice is is a master at mixed media, combining Iphone photography with various print making techniques. The result being a unique interpretation of our natural world.
I thought it would be fun to include the text of our Gallery proposal:
Show Concept: Stone Souls
The term multinaturalism acknowledges the relationships of human beings with other forms in our world and how these beings “reveal themselves to humans”. Some of the first peoples talked about stones as guides or messengers. We also know that the physical traits of stones tell us much about the geological history. The words of shamans, poets, anthropologists, and archeologists add to our history of stones as messengers of a deeper relationship with the earth and in this instance our western land forms. For example, a Mexican belief was “at one time all men were stones”. And author Norman Maclean expressed their characteristics about communication and time in this statement:
“Eventually, all things merge into one…. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time…. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.”
The works of photographer Greg Watts and mixed-media and print artist Alice Bedard-Voorhees express the importance of their relationships with stones and the spiritual and aesthetic relationships they inspire. Watts’ work captures stone and time, and the presence of other humans drawn to the same places that speak to their relationship to the same places hundreds of years prior. Bedard-Voorhees explores stones as relatives or extended family.
And away we go!
We all met at the empty parking lot at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. What an awful building this is, an affront to the amazing landscape it inhabits. IMO.
We were psyched the place was empty, a good sign. In the end we saw no one, and only one set of tracks.
Driving out to the Government Trail brought back many memories. There's the dreaded nostalgia thing again.
It was sunny, light wind and in the mid 40's. Perfect fall weather.
I love the short hike to the rim of Grand Gulch, with views from Navajo Mountain to the Bears Ears with the Henry's in between.
At the trail head:
Looking down canyon from the rim, with the start of the Government Trail right below:
I have always found the descent into Grand Gulch a difficult backpack, very deceptive. It is fun to imagine the people in the Civilian Conservation Corp building this in the 1930's:
Incredible views as it contours it's way down to the stream bed:
Looking up canyon, with Polly's Canyon entering on the right:
We decided to set up our 1st camp at the bottom of the trail in the sand, with some great slickrock to lounge on. No rain in the forecast to worry about.
It did start to get chilly pretty quick when the sun disappeared, eventually getting down into the mid 20's.
This is a good view of the Government Trail beyond:
We started our 2 mile hike to Big Man mid morning, in windy conditions. It was pretty cold, with gusts up to 30 mph probably.
It was beautiful day though, and the hike was spectacular. We found one small pot hole of water the entire time, I have never seen this place so dry.
Big Man! A sexist title I think, as the Woman is much larger than the Man. Interesting title due to the matrilineal social structure they supposedly had.
I called the BLM yesterday, and asked about the visible chalk lines, and the ranger said they were original. I find that hard to believe, as many of the chalk lines follow chipped lines underneath, and are executed in ways that do not match the artistry found in the pictographs. I tried unsuccessfully to find some vintage photographs to see if they were present.
So my goal was to photograph details of the images, as there are many fine photographs of the entire figures, especially on BCP.
I removed the chalk lines on Big Woman in Lightroom:
View from the panel, LUC:
We ended up descending in this direction, an easier descent, and probably a better ascent also:
After a quick lunch I decided to try and find the pictograph panel I had seen 28 years ago. We were walking along a cliff face, and things looked vaguely familiar. Then, voila!
It was smaller than I remember. I really loved the green/yellow hand prints.
What affected me so much the 1st time I saw this was the hand print of an infant, as our son was born 9 months earlier. It had a profound impact on me. It still does:
I had seen a baby's foot pictograph in lower Grand Gulch years ago, so now I have closed the loop so to speak.
After our return to our camp site, we decided to move camp to a spot I knew at the mouth of Polly's, a few hundred feet up canyon. It is nestled into an enormous cottonwood, protected from the wind:
The next morning we packed up and ascended back to the car. My friends back to Santa Fe, me to Carbondale.
It was a great trip, a little short but that's ok. We accomplished our goals, and had a memorable time doing it.
Thanks for looking.