NV – Valley of Fire State Park . . . WOWtastic May Weather

I would normally never consider visiting this park in late May, but the weather systems of 2019 provided unseasonably cool weather and a perfect opportunity to share this geology eye candy with my friend Nancy (WhyNot?!).

Last March I first visited this park and was beyond impressed and in fact ended up spending two days hiking and photographing the many sights (NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 1 and NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 2).

Since I’d explored most of the park previously and given we were both ready to stretch our legs, we decided to hike the longest trail in the park. If you want solitude and to see sights few others see, this is a great option. We saw one person within the first half mile, a couple in the middle and another couple at the end. With two cars, we had the luxury of making this a one-way jaunt. Although the sign indicates “not maintained or marked” we found it well used and easy to follow.

There was plenty of geology WOW along the way.

We also found some interesting flora.

We hiked from White Dome to the Visitor Center.

I couldn’t resist sharing the rock art with Nancy since we’d both visited many sites during our spring jaunts.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 22, 2019


  • If you want people free photos at the Fire Wave, go early. We had great light and had the place to ourselves.
  • Showers are available at the truck stop in St George
  • Gas and grocery stores etc are available in Overton
  • Good dispersed camping opportunities are available north of the park off Highway 169 most notably at Sand Mine Road.



UT – San Rafael Swell, Rock Art at Black Dragon, Rochester and Temple

This trip through Utah seems to be focused on pictographs and petroglyphs aka rock art. The Rochester site was on the highly recommended list and conveniently located just off Highway 10 near Emery.

The trail is well signed and I’d guess receives fairly high use although I only saw one group on the day I visited.

The rainbow makes this panel very identifiable.

There are so many characters and stories in the panel. I stared at it for a long time enjoying the many details.

Another example showing how this history will not be around forever.

I drove Interstate 70 East seeking out two places I’d marked for further exploration. The first was The Head of Sinbad Pictograph area. Looking at my map I could see there wasn’t an exit and a note 4WD underpass. I figured I could hike the mile or two requiring 4WD. Well I drove the connecting roads and the nearer I got, the more concerned I got about road conditions and possible rain. So after driving about 5 miles I chickened out and turned around. Well, sometimes that’s part of the adventure. The next POI on my list was Black Dragon Pictograph. It too had one of the dreaded 4WD underpasses and a long access road. I drove through my favorite cut of the San Rafael Swell stopping at the overlook while pondering my situation.

I reversed direction as I thought I saw a BLM sign and access from I-70. Sadly I passed it without an opportunity to pull over and found myself at the viewpoint where I was reminded I was supposed to be chasing wildflowers.

It was a 15-mile detour to flip at Exit 160 so I could drive west only to flip again at Exit 149. Not especially convenient.

Hard to complain those when you get to bust through the swell and stop to enjoy views and blooms.

Early the next morning I decided to give it one more go. SUCCESS! I found the secret entrance and gate.

The geology was so yummy.

The “swell” or anticline runs for 75 miles and has a width of 30 miles.

I was feeling pretty satisfied to have found two out of three POI’s.

The location of petroglyphs always surprises me.

The style of this panel is different than anything I’ve previously seen.

The pictographs were outlined in white. I can’t help but wonder if that was added later.

This one made me think it was a fake.

After spending some time gawking at the rock art, I began my hike. According to the WOW guide, I was to ascend the slickrock ramp shown as purple on the right side of the photo.

Walking these sidewalks makes me giggle with delight.

There was only one scramble section; definitely not my favorite activity.

As I ascended, I was rewarded with views like this.

These ramps kept me going and going and going. It was only the developing black clouds that motivated me to turn around.

As I turned the corner there was more awesome slickrock . . . but alas I had to call it.

With recent rains water was begin saved nicely for the wildlife and plants.

There were even a few blooming beauties to soften the expanse of rock.

I was thrilled to be off the slickrock before the rains came to make it slicker than slick, and out of the sandy wash.

I made it back to the viewpoint and took a few photos before the rain began in earnest.

I finished my tour of the San Rafael Swell by visiting Temple Mountain.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 6-7, 2019


  • There were a couple of nice campsites available a the Rochester Panel Trailhead.
  • There are quite a few dispersed camping options near Temple Mountain and on the road to Black Dragon.



UT – San Rafael Swell, Little Grand Canyon aka The Wedge

After spending a couple days in Nine Mile Canyon (link), I was anxious for some good hiking or preferably some good backpacking. I stopped at the USFS office in Price to see if they had any ideas. The ranger sadly told me the nearby forest is inaccessible for at least another 3-4 weeks. He referred me to the BLM office. The ranger happily told me about Little Grand Canyon in the San Rafael Swell. From my previous visits (link), I knew I loved the geology of the swell but had never visited the northern end.

If only this was the scene I’d observe over the next few days. Instead I was jarred by the fact that this is an ATV playground and it was Saturday. My initial memory is dust, dust, dust, traffic and people. Definitely not my idea of fun. Why oh why did I listen to the BLM rangers? I clearly told them I liked more isolated places and was looking for hiking.

I decided to visit the Buckhorn Wash Rock Art site first. The BLM ranger said this panel was far superior to what I’d seen in Nine Mile Canyon. I was skeptical.

This is a restored site as it had been severely vandalized over the years with paint, chalk, carvings and bullet holes.

Here are some before and after photos.

The detail of the art is exquisite, much finer detail than I’ve seen elsewhere so for that reason and for the fact they were able to resurrect this panel, I’ll say it exceeded expectations. 

The panel is primarily known for it’s pictographs (painted), but there were also a few petroglyphs (carved, pecked or chiseled).

I especially liked this one that seems to represent trees and plants.

I also liked this one that shows friends or family holding hands, so much nicer than the hunting scenes.

Although I’d originally planned to continue to the Swinging Bridge over San Rafael River, the amount of dust and traffic had me thinking otherwise.

Will I be impressed?

I spent the afternoon walking along the rim enjoying many views. It was indeed impressive and just as challenging to photograph as the Grand Canyon.

As I walked along the rim, I watched for possible places to gain access. I saw this group just bail off the edge. They had no experience and were kicking rocks into each other. Was this an accident in the making? I don’t know, I kept walking.

The rim was delightful to walk; it would be easy to walk or bike for miles and miles. Camping is problematic. A sign is posted that no camping is allowed past this point but it was clear many areas had been used previously as there was road access. In this photo you might be able to see a van and at the very point a tent.

I wanted to break the rules too, but just couldn’t bring myself to taking the risk of being fined. Oh why can’t I be a rebel?

Instead I found a legal campsite about a mile away that seemed to be safe in stormy and wet conditions.

While walking along the rim, I found a safe escape hatch into the canyon. So early the next morning I was off to explore.

As I made progress into the canyon, the view back up to the rim and especially the corner with the tent camper looked so very different. I was thrilled to be IN the canyon.

I found a lot of cool geology including this rock that appears to be a mud fossil???

I can’t remember what these are nodes are called.

While I was unsuccessful in finding a route down to the river, as I wandered about I came upon this survey marker.

Trash is a serious problem. You can tell trash is regularly tossed over the rim. I found a lot of broken glass bottles. I picked up a few water bottles and other trash. While I was hiking in the canyon a group of young men were tossing rocks over the edge. They need to go to Junior Ranger class and learn why that behavior is NOT okay.

While I was in the canyon, I found a place where I could see campers. Later I hiked more of the rim and found many floating the river. It looks like a fun journey!

Always happy to find flowers on my adventures.

The tiniest cactus I’ve ever seen blooming.

The Claret Cups were just starting to bloom.

Sadly my camera is on the fritz. The lens got stuck in this out position but after a bit of work I was able to get it to recede but it’s glitchy and there seems to be a spot on my lens now. I have it insured but I’m going to try to limp it along through the last few weeks of this trip. I apologize in advance for photos with the spot which I can’t edit out while traveling.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 4-5, 2019


  • Would I recommend for hikers? NO! But for cyclists there is a great around the canyon option I’d consider.
  • The “rules” have been bent significantly and don’t seem to be enforced. There were at least 50 campers in a small area near the primary overlook. I noticed a crew blocking access areas with huge boulders and logs. It seems to be the only area to ensure compliance.
  • For lesser known rock art and ancient sites, please turn off or remove geo-tags from your photos.




UT – Nine Mile Canyon, Geocaching for Petroglyphs and Pictographs

After my time in Colorado National Monument (link) and McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area (link), I found myself just a few hours away from must-see destination Nine Mile Canyon.

Why it’s called Nine Mile when it’s really nearly 50 miles, I don’t know. I couldn’t find any reference as to the history except in one brochure that indicates an expedition cartographer used a nine-mile transect for mapping the canyon.

I used the Climb Utah Guide (link) to find the rock art and other sites of interest. Some of the references are dated and I’ll provide updates in my tips section. This might be a better option from Castle Country (link); however, it includes far fewer sites. There are several other resources online worthy of a look if you have time to plan and prepare prior to your trip. First tip: don’t bother entering the GPS waypoints in your device as they are inaccurate. The road has mileage markers. Those were the most helpful as well as obvious paved and unpaved pullovers, signs about pedestrians, and occasionally a sign such as this.

It’s 26.6 miles from Wellington to the first panel. By the way, what’s the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs? Petroglyphs are carved or pecked into an exposed rock surface, while pictographs are painted onto those surfaces. 99% of my findings in this canyon were petroglyphs.

Here are a couple of the pictographs I found.

Access to the rock art is varied. Some is at ground or eye level like this one, most can be seen from the road with binoculars or high powered zoom lens; however, climbing up to the sites is the only way to see the full panel and get the detail frequently.

Way too inaccessible for me.

This is what you might find when the helpful hints lead you astray. I wandered a canyon finding this amazing horse only to figure out the major attraction was a bit further up the road. I’d call this a lucky accident and a reminder there are many more panels if you’re willing to hike and wander beyond the beaten path.

Besides rock art, there is history such as the buildings left behind in the ghost town of Harper.

And the signatures of those whom traveled through the canyons. It seems the pull to leave your mark is hard to resist especially on sandstone.

The hike up to Fremont Village shows a little remodeling going on.

The real reward is climbing higher and getting a view down into the valley and at the buildings across the way in the tiny crack. You know I wanted to climb up there . . . but alas access is limited by private property. Speaking of which, the road along the pasture once was called Lower Nine Mile Canyon. It’s now called Frank’s Canyon. There’s a sign indicating private property and road blockage due to changing river channel. My reference page included directions going out 4.7 miles.

The benefit of doing some research is finding treasures like those shown above.

There are several areas referenced for viewing ancient sites but the remains of this tower were the only one I could find with my naked eye as I didn’t have binoculars (and don’t have great distant vision).

If your goal is to make it to the Great Hunt Panel, I suggest you budget your time. There are so many places to stop enroute it’s easy to get distracted and feel rushed by the time you realize you need to make it to mile 45.9 to see the most famous panel. Tip: if you’re using a GPS app, such as Gaia, I recommend marking spots you see along the way to explore further on your way back or on a future trip. Lighting makes such a difference in what you’re able to find, and traveling the opposite direction may add more to your list.

Nine Mile Canyon is known as the world’s longest art gallery. I took hundreds of photos but I’ll share just a few of my favorites.

You can’t take for granted that these images will always be here forever due to nature’s erosion, human vandalism, and pollutant damage. There is evidence the increased traffic on the dusty roads is already eroding the images. Furthermore much of this area is not protected and therefore has become private property, limiting access.

It’s really challenging to enjoy this canyon in one day. I took two and know I could easily spend a week. I’ll be back! Don’t short change yourself by only giving yourself a few hours.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 1-2, 2019


  • Keep your eye out for these signs. They’ll help you locate some of the POI’s.
  • Postpone your trip if there has been recent hard rains. There are lots of these dips and they go through the washes.
  • You might also want to postpone if there have been recent snows. I hadn’t noticed I’d be going over a pass between Wellington and Nine Mile Ranch.
    • I was camped nearby and watched the snow (blue) on the radar as a few big thunderstorms passed through.
  • The road between Wellington and the Great Hunt Panel is a paved Back Country Byway.
  • Lower Nine Mile Canyon Road no longer exists.
  • My resource had me driving Dry Canyon for about 2 miles. I walked down it a bit and it looks to be more of a hiking or ATV trail now. I didn’t walk far enough to see if you’d have to cross the creek which was running quite high during my visit.
  • Enjoy but don’t destroy.
  • There are a lot of distractions while driving this road. Not only are cows wandering about, but I found tons of deer, and of course cars and people, plus watching the rocks for petroglyphs. It would have been helpful having a co-pilot and navigator on this trip.
  • When I saw the Nine Mile Canyon sign, I got confused and initially headed toward Myton. Stay on Cottonwood if the Great Hunt Panel is your destination!
  • Showers are available at Miller’s Travel Center in Wellington.
  • The library in Price has lightning fast internet.
  • Dispersed camping within Nine Mile Canyon is limited as much of the area is privatized, and other public lands are closed to camping.
  • To learn more, stop in at the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Price (link).





UT – Sego Canyon Rock Art and Ghost Town

Upon leaving the Moab area, I was undecided on direction of travel. Should I go east toward Grand Junction or west toward Green River? It was late in the day and I noticed dispersed camping options on BLM land in Sego Canyon. I’d picked up a brochure at some point and knew the area had some rock art. Sounded like a good place to delay my decision for the night.

BLM has provided a parking area with a restroom and walking trails for exploring the rock art.

The interpretive signage could use updating. They have been the subject of weather and vandalism.

According to BLM, Sego Canyon contains three culturally distinct styles of rock art: Fremont, Ute and Barrier-style.

With the ease of access, there has been a fair amount of vandalism, including bullet holes and graffiti.

This panel begs the question when are signatures considered historic versus graffiti? 50 years and older seems to be the magic answer.

Cool to think of the those who spent time in these canyons.

This panel shows the variety of style.

I spent a few hours driving the road through the canyon looking for mining relics and evidence of the coal mining town of Sego. The company store was built to last. According to Wikipedia, “Sego was inhabited about 1910–1955.”

Rock lasts; wood not so much. Interesting to see how quickly structures can fail when abandoned to weather. In less than 50-100 years . . . hard to imagine after looking at the ancient puebloan structures still standing thousands of years later.

I like how you can see the roof line on this house.

Sometimes you have to leave behind your car and refrigerator.

I found this marker at one of the sites.

Some structures are easier to spot along the road, others take a bit of exploration by foot. Wander the side trails/roads, some might only lead to campsites but mostly they’ll lead to history.

I’m guessing this was an old shaft.

There is also a cemetery welcoming a wander. It was interesting to see graves that were from the mining days, but others from more recent times.

Many of the grave markers had offerings like coins or trinkets. This decorated tree was nearby.

A fair amount of infrastructure was built for transporting coal once upon a time. I saw many cement bridge abutments, now missing the bridge. There were also a few wood structures remaining.

My turnaround spot.

Is any trip complete without finding blooms?

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 22-23, 2019


  • Stop in the town center of Thompson Springs for a look at the map.
  • There are good dispersed camping options on Sego Canyon Road after the cemetery.



UT – Cedar Mesa, Lower/Middle Grand Gulch

“Cedar Mesa is a network of canyons that are home to numerous prehistoric ruins and rock art panels. Excellent exploration opportunities exist for those seeking beautiful scenery and fascinating cultural remnants. Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the canyons and mesa tops between 700 and 2500 years ago. Many of their dwellings, farming areas, and rock art sites remain in excellent condition. Stone and bone tools, pottery pieces, and other artifacts give us hints of the lifestyle of these people.” Source: BLM Trip Planner

This was another J&J adventure, my 5th year sharing a spring trip with Joan aka Hemlock. We spent five days roaming the canyons of Grand Gulch first going south and then east, starting and ending at the Collins Spring Trailhead. I hiked a portion of this section in the fall of 2017 with Nancy aka WhyNot?! (link). Since I don’t have a great memory, it was almost like a new trail. The first point of interest was the Cowboy Camp, now that I remembered.

This trip made me feel like I was in a living art gallery.

Besides wildflowers, rock art is one of my favorites. When I posted about my last trip, I was reeling from a comment left on facebook inferring that the sharing of these panels was disrespectful. I’ve since spoken with rangers who have stated otherwise. Most of the sites have been looted and it’s important that what remains be preserved, thus they recommend removing geo tags and withholding exact location. Part of the thrill of walking these canyons is self-discovery. I’ll admit my vision is not nearly as good as Joan’s and I would have missed a lot without her eyes. Furthermore, while these sites have been removed from current digital and printed maps, research may offer additional details. The theme of this trip was hands, birds and anthropomorphic characters, as well as red, white and blue.

There were also architectural sites to be discovered.

Shaw’s Arch was chunky compared to those in Arches National Park.

Viewing pottery sherds, corn cobs and other historic items in their natural environment is a real treat. Something like 90% of these sites were pilfered long ago. I’m glad the Edge of Cedars Museum now houses many items of historic significance.

We saw a ton of buds and a few blooms, a sure sign spring is on it’s way.

Another theme of this trip was mud. It was to be my first experience walking on spongy sand turned quicksand where I sunk to my knees and felt the death grip trying to steal my shoes.

This is The Narrows at 4pm on April 19th.

About 8pm we witnessed a spring flood, said to be fairly rare, when we discussed our experience later with the rangers at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. We heard what sounded like leaves rustling from wind only to discover what had been mostly a dry canyon now flowing rapidly, carrying with it plentiful debris swept from the banks as the water surged. The next morning we hiked back to The Narrows to see the difference. The Ranger we spoke to said it was caused by the 200% snow received in places like the Abojos, combined with 80-degree temps of past few days, late snow fall, cooler temperatures earlier in the month resulting in south facing slopes holding snow longer than usual (such as Bears Ears).

It was a cloudy day and we were a little nervous about rising waters since we didn’t know what had caused the surge. I checked weather on my InReach. It indicated we might get a few sprinkles. Thankfully we met a couple who were out for a day hike and had stopped at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and were assured while there might be slight rises in the afternoon, there wasn’t any significant rain in the forecast.

Just like in the mountains, as the temperature warmed during the day, the water rose. We were on an out and back hike so we saw this waterfall in the morning and again later in the afternoon when indeed it was rushing and gushing a bit stronger.

We kept our feet fairly dry as we crossed the gulch a zillion times during our first three days but by the fourth day our luck ran out and we gave in to having wet feet.

Sometimes you just gotta embrace the muck . . . and pretend like you’re sitting next to the Chocolate Milkshake River.

Collecting water wasn’t a problem for our first few days when water was plentiful in puddles and pot holes.

Once the water started flowing, finding clear water became a challenge. One solution is to gather the muddy water through something like a buff, bandana or shirt and then let it settle for about 12 hours before pouring off the top 50%.

We stopped at the Edge of Cedars Museum in Blanding. Well worth the $5 to see the fantastic displays of pottery, fabrics, tools, etc., as well as absorb more information provided through interpretative displays.

And then it was time to close the chapter on another memorable spring trip with Joan. Where shall I go next? When will I once again reunite with Joan? Only time will tell!

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 17-21, 2019


  • Good navigation skills are recommended for this route. You may find some helpful and others not so helpful cairns, as well as both human and animal trails. Lots of options. Using a hiking tracker like Gaia can be beneficial.
  • Available water can be slightly alkaline. I recommend bringing a flavor additive. Using a prefilter is helpful to strain floaters and swimmers.
  • Respect ancestral sites and rock art by following LNT guidelines, as well as turning off geotags on your photos and not mentioning the site name nor location when sharing on social media.
  • Be wary of the biological soil by camping in established sites, walking on rocks in washes or on established trails.
  • The Kane Gulch Ranger Station includes some excellent interpretive and educational displays.
  • I recommend a stop at the Edge of Cedars State Park and Museum to learn more about the area and history.



UT – Cedar Mesa, Fish and Owl Canyons

This is my fifth year spending time in southern Utah. There’s never a problem finding new places to explore. A major criteria in April, as spring break crowds arrive, is finding the quieter, less-visited options. Cedar Mesa limits visitation to 20 overnighters per trailhead.

For me the best thing about spring break in Utah is getting to spend extended time playing with my bestie hiking buddy Joan.

The first decision to be made is direction of travel, clockwise or counterclockwise. It’s a bit of choosing your poison and playing to your strengths. At the mouth of Fish Creek Canyon is a 10-12 foot crack and a steep 600′ talus slope. Would you rather go up or down? We both prefer ascending these conditions and thus decided to go counterclockwise, descending the much more gentle rock scrambles and slickrock down through Owl Creek Canyon.

The scrambling was slow and somewhat technical. The trail is considered more of a route with advance navigation skills required. You’ll find some cairns along the way to help guide your progress. Using a tracker like Gaia, which shows the trail, is helpful.

Sometimes it’s best to take your pack off to scramble those rocks. This is when having a buddy is beneficial.

With a wet winter, we were happy to find plentiful water allowing us to minimize our water weight.

With plentiful water came multiple crossings but with minimal effort we kept our feet dry.

There are some ancient sites and rock art along the way to be viewed up close or from afar. In this case, you’ll find a metal case with information about this particular cliff dwelling. Part of the permit process requires watching a film which discusses expected behavior around the sites to protect them for future generations.

It’s good to have great vision, binoculars or a zoom lens to capture the details of the dwellings high up on ledges.

An example of a cliff dwelling you might miss if you spend too much time looking at your feet.

Nevill’s Arch is the largest along this route, and is a sign you’re getting near the confluence of Owl and Fish Creeks.

We camped near the confluence so we could spend a day exploring lower Fish Creek Canyon. Another permit requirement is using existing campsites to minimize impact.

The next morning we were out early to catch reflective light as we began our travel downstream.

It’s always tempting to follow somewhat established aka social trail. Sometimes you find a prize, others you’re left wondering.

On our return trip we scouted from a different angle and found this arch. Maybe that’s where the trail led?

Other times you find yourself trying routes that don’t quite work out. Too steep, too crumbly, too scratchy . . .

Tamarisk groves are NOT hiker friendly!

The reward for exploration, possibly the remains of a signaling tower.

Doing a little research in advance might help with locating POI’s such as this.

Another permit criteria is not adding to museum style arrangements such as this one, nor removing items previously placed there.

When you find pieces on the ground, you’re expected to look but not touch.

Light and shadows may prevent you seeing some things in the morning you’ll find in the afternoon like this fantastic site. If we’d found earlier, we would have taken a better look.

When you forego social trails, you miss out on unusual sites such as this one at ground level.

We didn’t find many petroglyphs, but this one of sandals was interesting as Joan had recently read about the importance they played in differentiating tribes.

The light didn’t work in our favor on this panel but if you look closely you can see the turkey on the left and a few figures toward the right side.

In these deep, narrow canyons the sun disappears early.

Another decision is how many nights you want to spend in the canyon. We met groups spending anywhere from one to five nights. We thought two was right, but would recommend one more if you want to get further down Lower Fish Creek Canyon.

As we began our slow ascent up Fish Creek Canyon, we found it more sandy, with more water crossings, and more obstacles and a less obvious path than we’d experienced in Owl Creek Canyon.

My favorite part was walking the slickrock sidewalks.

So much back and forth, pick your poison. We both did a pretty good job keeping our feet mostly dry.

The reward for creek walking was occasional waterfalls.

While scouting for petroglyphs, we stumbled upon this stunning rock. Gotta love geology!

There are two very important navigation signs to watch for including this one that points the way up, up, up to the rim. The other is making a left at Fish Creek Canyon fork.

Then the true climb out of the canyon begins. It’s a combination of rock climbing, scree climbing and finally shimmying up the slot.

The recommended method for ascension success is frequent rest breaks in shady areas.

There is also a nice canyon wall to study for ruins. We found at least one and while I can see it on my camera it’s a bit too blurry to share here.

And finally, time to face the crack.

We utilized the recommended method of cord to haul our packs up. Teamwork is key; Joan’s my hero!

Her well-earned break between pack lifts. So convenient that this little seat was perfectly placed.

After our successful summit, we celebrated with some yummy chocolate Joan had saved for the occasion. Go team J&J!

Once at the top, we had views back down into the canyon from where we’d come. The loop without our detour is about 17 miles.

A nice view of Bears Ears. Upon leaving the trailhead, we noticed the right ear still sported a bit of white.

The Abajos on the other hand were very white. In fact all the mountains around southern Utah have more snow than I’ve seen during my past five spring visits.

Flowers were just starting to pop.

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 11-13, 2019


  • Good navigation skills are recommended for this route. You may find some helpful and others not so helpful cairns, as well as both human and animal trails. Lots of options. Using a hiking tracker like Gaia can be beneficial.
  • Available water can be slightly alkaline. I recommend bringing a flavor additive. Using a prefilter is helpful to strain floaters and swimmers.
  • Respect ancestral sites and rock art by following LNT guidelines as well as turning off geotags on your photos before sharing on social media.
  • Be wary of the biological soil by camping in established sites, walking on rocks in washes or on established trails.



AZ – Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

As I traveled from Yuma toward Organ Pipe, I saw an opportunity to stretch my legs.

They provided helpful interpretive signage to help explain these petroglyphs and the history of the area.

WHO MADE THESE PETROGLYPHS? Many of the petroglyphs at Painted Rocks were authored by people from nearby villages along the Gila River. The closest villages were less than two miles to the north and west—a 20-minute walk away. People lived there year-round, farming on the floodplain. Archaeologists attribute the earliest of these communities to the Hohokam and Patayan cultural traditions. During the Spanish colonial era (1699–1821), explorers met descendant communities of O’odham-speaking “Pimas” and “Papagos” and Yuman-speaking “Cocomaricopas” living in nearby villages. Today, we know them by their own names: Akimel O’Odham, Tohono  O’Odham, Hia C’ed O’Odham, and Piipaash. Several other contemporary Native American tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Baja California recognize ancestral connections to Hohokam and Patayan traditions and cultural properties. These include Quechan, Cocopah, Yavapai, and Mojave, among others.” Source: Archaeology Southwest,

A highlight for me was getting to see a couple lizards, I believe collared lizards. Crappy photo, I know but best I could get from a distance.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 22, 2019


  • Camping is available both at the campground and on nearby BLM land.
  • Gila Bend is nearest town for groceries, gas, etc.



CO/UT – Dinosaur National Monument

I landed in Fairplay after my Lost Creek Wilderness backpack trip. I was on my way to a wedding in Boise. With a week and 800 miles before my deadline, it was time to update my loose itinerary. Options, options, options . . . 

Weather as usual would play a role.

I decided to put in a few driving miles on this weather day, pushing my way north to Steamboat Springs. I enjoyed seeing the fresh snow dusting the mountains, but most of all these glacier lilies. 

I took a stroll through the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. It was impressive.

I found more signs of spring as I headed west. 

You know it’s gonna be a bad day when . . . my morning started by accidentally activating my pepper spray in my car, then this deer decided he should take a run at me from behind (surprisingly he/she survived).

Remember those new tires I got a few weeks ago? Well that front tire got smacked hard but no damage thank goodness, although the deer hair was embedded around the rim. I was lucky. My car was driveable and I wasn’t injured. 

Not only does Dinosaur National Monument straddle Colorado and Utah, but it also has several access roads and offers so much more than dinosaur fossils.  Canyon Visitor Center is on the Colorado side near Dinosaur, CO. I was on my way out Harpers Corner Road when the deer decided to smack me. Rather than continuing on into a more remote area I decided it was best to have my car check out. First though I stopped at Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall on the Utah side. 

I was beyond impressed with what I saw at the quarry. I could have never imagined such a display. My photos couldn’t begin to capture the x size with 1,500 embedded fossils. 

The area marked in red is what’s available for viewing and known as “the wall of bones.” 

The interpretive materials were outstanding. 

A shuttle bus takes you from the visitor center to the Quarry in the summer, or you are guided there on foot in other seasons. You have the option of returning to your vehicle via the Fossil Discovery Trail, a 1.2 mile jaunt. 

I found these beauties along the way. 

I drove Cub Creek Road, and using their interpretive guidebook found more photographic worthy subjects. 

Lots of geology to learn about. 

Petroglyphs can often be found on rocks with varnish (the dark areas) such as these. 

McKee Spring Petroglyphs

Rainbow Park deserves further exploration. 

Car maintenance was the first priority before further travels. 

It worked surprisingly well and held my car together for several months before returning home to have it properly repaired. Yes, it was a great conversation starter!

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 19-21, 2018


  • Fill your gas tank. My #3 near miss on this leg of the trip was almost running out of gas.
  • Avoid wet weather trips if you want to go off the paved roads.
  • This area can get quite hot in the summer. It was in the low 80’s during my visit in late May.
  • One day wasn’t near enough to experience this park. I’ll give myself much more time on my return visit.



NM – Chaco Culture National Historical Park

After spending significant time visiting ancient sites in Utah, Colorado and now New Mexico, Joan encouraged a visit to Chaco, considered the epicenter of ancestral Puebloan culture and architecture. 

I wished I’d researched and planned a little better so I could have spent at least a couple days at this very interesting Park. I entered via the north entrance which was a very long slow bumpy 16 miles. I exited on the 20-mile southern road which took me a good hour. The campground was full and there aren’t any nearby dispersed camping options. After spending some time at the Visitor Center I drove the Chaco Canyon Road visiting the sites along the way. For the inquisitive, be sure to buy the very informative interpretive guidebooks.

There are around 500 rooms in this site including both excavated and unexcavated areas. An interesting factoid according to the interpretive guide, “There were an estimated 215,000-225,000 trees used in the construction of all the excavated great houses in Chaco Canyon.” Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is used to determine age of timber used in construction.

Treasures abound for those willing to search. 

The Park promotes quiet, respectful visitation of this outdoor museum. As I wandered around the word that stayed at the forefront of my mind was reverence, “deep respect for someone or something; a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.”

I talk about regrets frequently, and my goal of doing what I can to minimize that feeling. Oh how I wish I’d visited this site earlier in the day when lighting was optimal. 

Other cool find, petrified wood! 

Life among the artifacts. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 24, 2018


  • Prepare for lengthy time consuming drive. I highly recommend camping at the Park.
  • Morning light on the petroglyph panels is best.
  • Buy the interpretive guides.
  • Ask for the Backcountry Hiking Trail handout if interested in further exploration and hiking.
  • Trails and sites typically are open 7am to sunset.
  • I’m always curious about which structures are original as excavated vs rebuilt vs stabilized, thus one of the questions I’ve learned to ask.