Sometime in the wee hours I woke to a pattering sound, at first I didn't understand what I was hearing. I was enjoying that state of existence where upon the body is in this warm pocket while cool air nips the nose. It's a feeling I find most often when camping, cocooned in my sleeping bag, just the right temperature. I blinked a few times as I listened, then I realized it was raining.
As comical as it might sound I actually said aloud, 'it's raining, it's raining in the desert and you camped near a wash up the canyon.' I tried to focus on how long I'd been hearing the rain, waste of focus that was. I sat up and slithered forward and unzipped the net tent and turned on my headlamp. It was clear the sand was wet but it didn't look like it had been going on for a long time. Nevertheless I didn't want to be caught up in that canyon if it really started to pour.
I had planned on a morning fire but in light of the weather impediment and concern for being stuck in a serious storm I pulled the old pocket rocket stove out and made breakfast plus coffee from the relative comfort of the Megatarp. Incidentally, the kettle in the image below started life in Norway. It's the 1.5L version, I also have a 4L, both of which were sent to me by two fine friends more than half a world away. The kettle in the picture spent a decade or thereabouts on various adventures in Norway and Finland, made it's way to me and I've had it all over the place including North Slope of the Brooks Range in Alaska and now the deserts of Utah.
After downing the 'breakfast' and some coffee I struck camp quickly, loaded up and started the journey out of the canyon in the darkness and the rain.
The drive was just plain old fashion fun, the road narrow and winding and at times a sheer drop on one side or the other. The rain ceased and I drove higher, I wanted to try and catch a sunrise over Temple but it was too overcast. I drove back out of the area and stopped long enough to snap a pic of the pictographs at the mouth of the canyon.
I headed back to I-70 and rolled out to Green River. After fueling up I plotted my course for another canyon about halfway back to Provo that has been referred to as 'The Worlds Longest Art Gallery', Nine Mile Canyon
which is anything but nine miles long. It's actually little over 40 miles long and is home to over 1,000 rock art sites and over 10,000 individual images. There's more rock art concentrated in this canyon than anywhere else in North America.
The drive back up 6 was unadventurous but beautiful nonetheless.
The first section of Nine Mile before you get into the rock art sites is a twisting, turning, demon of a road with incredible vistas. The rain picked up and was going pretty good by the time I got to the first site.
Back on the road the rain lessened a little, coming around a bend I spotted some mule deer.
The clouds continued to disperse as I drove deeper into the canyon, simply amazed by the surroundings. I constantly saw game, I saw plenty of water, I saw canyon fortress like walls and I began to understand. Humans have lived or passed through this canyon for between 8,000 and 10,000 years. It's full of resources, littered with defensible positions, protected by rugged terrain, heights and sheer impossible to get to easily spots. Many cultures have lived here, all for the same reasons.
By the time I'd made it this far the sun was out and there was a pretty solid breeze flowing. I rounded a bend and pulled off the road at the foot of the trail leading up the mountain to a 'Fremont Village'. This is a fairly steep trail that leads to a 'pithouse' and further up the mountain to several alcoves on the wall with narrow ledges and breathtaking scenery.
Further up the mountain you'll find the alcoves in the ledges. I can only imagine what life must have been like living here. I can see a lookout posted, watching up and down the canyon floor. How smoke must have wafted through the alcove up high, nearly invisible against the sky. Children playing just below, a mule deer being worked in the shadow of the mountain.
Walking back down I had the sensation of being watched. I stopped multiple times and looked around, I looked hard at every nook and cranny. I know the feeling, it's unmistakable, I know when I'm being watched. I must have searched with the naked eye and my field glass for upwards of forty minutes but I could find nothing. With a physical shiver and the hair standing up on my arms I slipped quickly back down to the jeep.
Another bend in the road and I was at 'Big Buffalo' panel.
Another short drive and I was at the Great Hunt panel. Probably one of the most recognized panels of rock art in the world.
The Great Hunt is the last primary panel in Nine Mile Canyon that is easily accessed. In all I don't believe I saw a tenth of what's out there. I still had this unshakable sensation of being watched. My eyes continually scanned the canyon rims but I, as expected, saw nothing.
There are two ways out of Nine Mile, either drive out the way you come in or head up the unpaved section of the canyon, 32 miles north it will dump you out near Myton, east of Duchesne. The first section of this drive is unpaved and there was absolutely no rock art that I could find. It's a twisting and winding even more than before road. I climbed and I climbed, the skies darkened and the rain returned. Finally I nosed the jeep up and out and onto a high plateau, it felt like I'd climbed out of something, something I cannot explain. As the jeep gained speed and the Colorado Plateau, red rock and pinyon pine as far as I could see played out before me I had the oddest sense of relief.
The skies opened up at this point, torrential down pour.
I hit 6th and didn't look back, eventually the Wasatch Mountains loomed in their own foggy fortress before me.