I wasn’t expecting to see such a variety of pigments used. One can only imagine what they looked like fresh and new thousands of years ago. Some of the pigment was applied by hand and other sections were blown from the artist's mouth resulting in a spatter pattern. You can also see that, in addition to being painted, some figures also have sections that are incised into the rock. Sadly, there are also numerous bullet holes from the days before such artifacts were appreciated.
I made sure to look away from the images and out at the canyon too. The canyon is wide and slopes up gradually away from the wall where the images are. I got the feeling that this was a place where stories were told and passed along through the generations. The canyon has great acoustics and would be wonderful for chanting, flutes and drumming.
It would seem that there was one individual (ancestor? spirit? god?) who somehow fell from grace with the people and who's image was eradicated at some point. Perhaps I'm wrong and the image was created that way.
Finally my thoughts returned to the clouds and we felt it best to head out. I had plenty of images to enjoy later but still, I wished we could've spent a long afternoon here. Another time perhaps.
The hike back through the canyon was quick since we knew the way and had our own footprints to follow.
The clouds continued to build but we figured it was still early enough that we'd be out of the canyon before the storms got wound up. A least we hoped so. Of greater concern was the long, hot climb out and the 30 miles of dirt road.
It occurred to me as we beat our hasty retreat how opposite my feelings about this place were from those ancient americans whose place this had been. To me, this was the middle of nowhere. For them, this had been the middle of everywhere. I needed to get out of here to feel safe and secure. They needed to be in this place to survive. There was water here and game and shelter even. This canyon was their sanctuary.
I got the idea somehow that some of the figures in the Great Gallery might represent this and other canyons. Their shapes resemble the flat-bottomed V of these canyons and the stripes and other features might be descriptive of the attributes of different canyons or sections of this canyon system. Some of the pictographs have animal figures in them. Perhaps some canyons were known for good hunting. One can only wonder.
It didn't take long to make the hike down the canyon. I checked over my shoulder upsteam once in a while just in case but no flood came. We made our last crossing to the base of the sandy trail that starts the climb out. We found some shade to rest in and drank some water before the pull up out of the canyon. While the elevation gain would be the same as The Fairyland Loop in Byrce, there would be no gentle switchbacks. This would be a workout. We got to our feet and started up the steep, sandy first section of trail. We'd been walking non-stop since 11:00 except for the 20 minutes or so we'd spent at The Great Gallery. Our legs were tired. I came to hate the deep sand and had to stop frequently to let the burn in my legs die down. We were glad to make it to the cattle baffle since we knew that we were done with the sand and the rest of the hike would be on rock.
Still, it was a tough climb. It was about 94° F and the clouds had abandoned us. The trail is open to the south and the sun just added to the heat. We stopped more and more frequently for water breaks but never for too long. There was an underlying urgency to the hike since we could see clouds still moving in our direction. Neither of us spoke as our concentration was focused on the most productive placement of our next step up the stoney stairway out of the canyon. I made a game of making sure that each step took me up. No stepping down allowed. It became mesmerizing after awhile. I'd hiked many miles in desert heat as a youth. My mind knew how to ignore the heat and complaining feet and legs. Sharon's request for water snapped me from my merciful reverie and I noticed that she looked a little pale and woozy. It was time for longer break in spite of the rumbling we were starting to hear in the distance. There was no place to get out of the sun so we just sat on a rock.
I figured we were probably two thirds of the way out by now so I encouraged Sharon to drink water as much as she wished since we still had a couple of quarts. I used the 'misty mate' she'd brought along to spray her head and neck to cool her off. Hurrying was not a wise option. Slow and steady would get us out of here. As we resumed our uphill march, I began to mentally inventory what supplies we had in the truck in case the road washed out and we became stranded. There was still 4 gallons of water in the Jeep as well as ice melt water, maybe another 2 gallons, in the beverage cooler. We had probably 7 or 8 beers, a couple of leftover pizza slices from Escalante, some trail mix and a couple of other snacks. The camping gear was also there so I figured that, if worse came to worst, we could manage for 3 or 4 days at least. Good to know.
As we reached the rim, the rumbling of thunder was much closer and we could see the storm moving in our direction from the southwest. 3 PM…...showtime and we're outta here. We paused long enough to take off our boots and get some ice cold water from the cooler. The first bit of road was rough and first gear was as fast as we could go.
When the road smoothed out, I hit the accelerator. The only tracks on the road were ours from our drive in earlier. With storms erupting around us we blasted out of there at speeds up to 70mph. We were hit with a couple of rounds of heavy rain but never enough to cause problems with the road.
As we came around one sweeping curve at about 50 mph, a stick that was lying in the road suddenly sprang to live and leapt about 3' in the air and 5' off the road to the right. The stick was actually a snake trying to get out of the way of our speeding Jeep. I never knew they could jump so high or far! It wasn't a rattler but I have no idea what type it was. Ain't never seen nothin' like that afore!
Lightning near and far. Heavy crosswinds. Quite exciting actually. The road veered to the west finally and away from Horseshoe Canyon and the storms so we slackened the pace a bit. We’d beat it. It seemed a little anticlimactic and we'll never know if the canyon flooded or the road washed out but, we decided we could live with that little mystery.