Soon we came upon the first (smaller) rock art gallery high on the eastern wall of Horseshoe Canyon.
We took a few pictures and wondered how they had been able to paint so high on the wall. This group was 25’ or 30’ above us as I recall.
To continue up the canyon we crossed the wash a couple more times. It was becoming apparent that the trail was washed out in some sections. We knew that there had been a pair of hikers in and out the day before and we could see their tracks. Theirs were the freshest tracks, and we followed them in many places where the rock cairns weren't obvious. The tracks always ended at the edge of the wash. The footprints were also dappled from a light rain that had fallen since they were laid down.
That light rain isn't what was responsible for the flood damage to the trail. This canyon had flash flooded yesterday afternoon sometime after the last hikers exited.
It was also obvious that the rain that produced this flash flood hadn't fallen here but somewhere upstream and then flushed down through the canyon washing out the trail and cairns that marked it as it crossed the wash. This would have been a potentially deadly flood had someone been in the canyon.
In this picture, you can see how high the water had gotten and the debris washed up onto the rock is testament to the force of the rushing water that had passed this way not long before. This was all food for thought as we still had a mile and a half to go before we reached The Great Gallery. This isn’t a slot canyon and there are higher areas in most of the canyon that you could get to as long as you saw the water coming. I began to keep an eye upstream when we started crossing the wash again. We had a topo so the loss of the trail and marker cairns wasn't a safety issue. We knew right where we were and where we were going at all times. NEVER attempt a hike like this without a topographic map. After all “Desert Canyons Don’t Care”.
We came to the second grouping of pictographs on the west side of the canyon.
There were a few much much closer to the ground and smaller and likely more recent than others in the canyon as evidenced by the depiction of a bow and arrow.
We continued picking our way along the trail trying to avoid snakey looking places and staying close to the stream. We came to the Alcove Gallery but decided we’d check it out on the way out and plough onward up the canyon.
Somewhere along this stretch Sharon noticed some movement and saw the hind end of an antelope disappearing over a rise to our right. Sure enough, we came upon the fresh tracks near the water.
Not a bad place to hang out for an antelope. Plenty of water and forage and more plants would be springing to life now that the canyon had been irrigated. The only thing the antelope had to worry about would be a mountain lion. Hmmm.
As the day got hotter, we were ready to be at The Great Gallery. It was just past midday and it was hot! The appearance of clouds, as benign as they seemed, only increased the bit of anxiety that we were both quietly feeling. These clouds are the precursors of thunderstorms and were lining up nicely on our little section of wilderness. We made sure that we knew where the highest nearby ground was along each stretch of trail just in case.
We came around one final bend in Horseshoe Canyon and there it was. The Great Gallery. This group of pictographs is the largest grouping known in North America. They are thought to be 2,000 to 8,000 years old and no one knows what they were for or what they mean. From a distance, it appeared that they were created at ground level and then the canyon floor eroded away. Yes, these images are VERY old.
For those of us intrested in ancient americans and their art, this is our "Sistine Chapel". I'd waited long to make it here and am grateful to have a companion who would make the journey with me. Sharon had wished on the falling star she's seen at Bryce that we'd make it in here this time. We both got her wish. Thanks Honey ;^)