Posts Tagged Canyonlands National Park

A mysterious lack of mystery

Last post I talked about the desert and how I came to believe it is my soul’s home. There are several reasons for that feeling, I suppose, and I’ll list a couple here.

First the desert has no mystery. It’s nothing more than rocks and sand and scrubby plants that can barely survive the harsh climate. Juniper trees that are hundreds of years old form beautiful shapes that testify to their struggle for life. Cactus protect their internally-held water with spines that will make you wish you’d never touched them. There are poisonous critters throughout the area: scorpions, rattlesnakes and all-terrain vehicles. The desert will kill you as readily as it will tolerate you, so you’d better come prepared for the worst if you visit the desert.

Second, the desert has great mysteries. I’ll share a few examples today.

Long ago—estimates suggest 1,000+ years—there were thriving civilizations in the desert. I say civilizations, plural, because archaeological evidence suggests that there were actually several different periods of occupation over the centuries.

The first European-descended settlers in the area named them “Anasazi,” a term they picked up from Navajos. The disappearance of the Anasazi became a great mystery and was ballyhooed around the region in an attempt to lure tourists in to spend their dollars. Problem is, Anasazi is an insult to the people who lived here way back then. According to interpretations of the term that I’ve seen it means “Enemies of Our Ancestors.” Not a very nice name for the ancient ones.

Craig Childs, in his book House of Rain, explores several sites and reports conversations with archaeologists who, he says, reports that the “Anasazi” were actually Pueblo people who were nomadic and ranged from the Cedar Mesa areas of Utah all the way into Mexico, finally staying in New Mexico after the European invasion. A guide at Navajo National Monument, a place with great examples of Ancestral Pueblo dwellings told the story of Monument staff bringing some Pueblo elders to the site of the Betatakin ruin in the Monument. The elders read some of the rock art and pointed out where the springs were, where the kivas were and accurately described some of the features of the ruin without having ever been there. A pretty good indication that they know who the inhabitants were.

Another sign the mysterious inhabitants of the area left behind was rock art. I just love petroglyphs and pictographs that are found in the area. They are truly mysterious. Sure, there are representations of desert bighorn sheep and elk or deer, clearly an indication of the source of food in the area, but there are other far more indecipherable figures. What looks like people, or maybe space aliens, footprints that may indicate a clan association or what to look out for, plants and possible crops and wondrous birds. Maybe. It’s impossible to tell. Few today really know what they’re all about and they aren’t telling because it’s none of our business. So we look at the art and speculate and wonder and enjoy the mystery.

Here are a few examples of some fine rock art (As usual, click on the images to see them full-size).

 

 

There are several panels in Capitol Reef National Park. One is labeled and easily accessed. The art seems to come from the ancients named the Fremont People.

 

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

 

As you approach the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, you go by a fascinating Utah State Historical Monument, Newspaper Rock. The site was so named because of the incredible display of rock art. Here is a look at the whole panel:

 

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

 

And here are some detail shots:

 

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

 

 

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

 

I’ll share more rock art captures as time goes on. There are so many examples, all so mysterious. It’s a great treat to stumble across an ancient drawing, especially one that hasn’t been trashed by some more recent arrival. Some of the finest panels have bullet holes from high-powered rifles marring the art. But the art has outlasted the defilers. Good.

 

More to follow.

Bob

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More from the past

As I said the other day, I’ve been doing a little time travel. Here are a couple images from long ago that I kind of like.

 

I went to False Kiva with a new friend last October, but couldn’t get a decent image (it looks like someone sneezed on my camera’s sensor, so the sky had all sorts of awful marks in it). This old file worked out pretty well. It came from my first visit to the Kiva. (Click on the images to see them at the right size and with the right colors.)

 

False Kiva

False Kiva

 

Mesa Arch at sunrise has become almost a cliché foto. So many people have done this image. I have been there a couple times, but wasn’t really happy with my results. Then I got to looking in the file where this foto was stored and realized I had for some indefinable reason decided to make a two-image High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of the arch. Beyond that, I had, for some unfathomable reason, never processed the HDR. Maybe it was because HDR was the subject of a lot of bitter arguments when it first started to gain prominence. Some thought it was the best thing ever, some thought it was some sort of sin against nature to use that method. I just never got a good HDR image until a little while ago. I always had some concerns about the ‘HDR look,’ a sort of over-saturated, over-contrasty look that was pretty noticeable at the beginning.

 

I think this is pretty much under control.

 

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

 

More to follow.

Bob

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Ghosts

Well, they look like ghosts. They’re the Barrier Canyon pictographs. They’re hard to get to when you’re as out of shape as I am, but it’s well worth the effort to schlep a 30 pound camera pack 300 feet down into a canyon, then a couple miles upstream. Nobody really knows what these pictographs are all about, and I sure can’t add any enlightenment. All I can do is photograph them and show you the results. Hope you find them as enthralling as I do.

 

Barrier Canyon Pictorgraphs 1

Barrier Canyon Pictorgraphs 1

Barrier Canyon Pictographs 2

Barrier Canyon Pictographs 2

You may have noticed that these posts are text short. That’s OK. We seldom have time to do all the stuff that’s necessary to prepare a blog and then write an opus. I’m tired, too. So there.

More to follow,

Bob

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