April 20 - Most people going where I was going tent camp at the trailhead, but I didn’t want to take the trailer in there, so instead, I was on the road as the sun started thinking about showing itself.
The sign said it was 32 miles to Horseshoe Canyon, at least to the trailhead. Although the sky looked like it last night, it never got around to raining, so I was good to go. Even better, the overnight temps were in the high 40’s so it was going to be good hiking temps.
The road is dirt that turns to mud when it’s wet. It runs through open range, and the cattle like to use the road for a path. The end result is that much of the surface, especially for the first ten miles, is rough thanks to the hoof marks in the road that have hardened as it dries out.
No two references give the same information about this hike. On a Canyonlands bulletin board at the intersection where I headed to the trailhead, it says it is a 6.5 mile round trip, but Kelsey puts it at 8 miles. It wasn’t the miles that concerned me as much as the 750 feet to climb back out of the canyon. If you haven't figured out, I lean towards lazy.
There are four major panels in this section of Horseshoe Canyon along Barrier Creek. The vast majority of it is pictographs, some considered to be possibly the finest examples in the world. There is a bit of petroglyph additions and some vandalism… This is the “High Gallery”.
A close-up of the “High Gallery.” As always, you can click on a picture to get a larger version.
I tried to do panorama shots of the other three panels since they were so large. This is the “Horseshoe Shelter” panel.
Here’s a tighter shot of part of the panel. In every case, the more you looked, the more detail you’d see. While the large designs dominate, there are other designs smaller than a human hand interwoven into the art.
The “Alcove Gallery” is now very close to the ground because of a rock fall. The end result is that it was difficult to photograph and it had suffered lots of vandalism over the past 100 years.
It looked like the pigment on this panel was originally thick and much of it was now gone, leaving the images fainter than some of the other panels. The Park Service had erected a fence around each panel in an effort to keep honest, caring citizens from touching the panels.
The hike itself was beautiful, and worth doing even without the pictographs. I included this picture to give a sense of scale. I was carrying my camera in my day pack, but stopped to get it out when I turned this corner, realizing that art was visible from that distance. There’s a large image and several somewhat smaller just to the right of the tree.
Here's a tighter view. Between the four figures on the left, and the two figures on the right, there is a series of big horn petroglyphs that were added at a much later date.
Under the tree was some stones stacked for benches which made a wonderful spot to stop and contemplate.
I wish I’d paced it off to get an estimate of the length of the main panel of the “Great Gallery” It’s huge! I wasn’t happy with my attempts at a panoramic shot of this panel. This photo excludes some on both the left and the right ends.
While these larger than life sized images are what the panel is known for,
I kept coming back to the smaller figures in the lower left side of this picture,
and the detail in some of the figures towards the right side of the panel.
A super big thanks to my buddy, Shari, and her amTopo for the excellent topo map which helped me tremendously. I met two groups on the trail that had no idea where they were going. One thought they needed to cross the canyon and go up the other side, the other group had managed to totally miss the first panel in spite of cairns stacked 6-8 stones high.
I was surprised to complete the hike as quickly as I did – 5.5 hours from the truck until I was back to it. Kelsey said plan 6-8 hours. I was blessed by blue skies and mid-70's temperatures for my return out of the canyon. In addition to the hike, there was also nearly 3 hours of driving round trip from the highway. Home for the night was the same as last night - a boondock on Temple Mountain road just west of where the road to Goblin Valley State Park intersects.