|In The Valley of the Gods|
9x18 inches - pastel on construction paper
© 2012, S.Johnson
On Thursday morning, we headed out for one of our favorite destinations in southern Utah: Comb Ridge and Butler Wash. The plan was to hike to a few ruins and petroglyph sites listed in a guidebook and then find a good location in the early afternoon where I could do a plein air painting.
Alas, it didn't happen. The guidebook we brought to find the particular ruins (called Double Stack ruin) was so vague in its description of the route that we never found them. Trying to find such hidden archaelogical treasures is really difficult without a GPS and reliable beta. So, we spent far longer hiking up Comb Ridge than we'd planned, and by then, it was too late to start any painting.
But, that was a minor setback in the scheme of the trip. Instead of risking more disappointments from said guidebook, we decided to head west along the highway and check out the BLM area known as Valley of the Gods. Not to be confused with the Garden of the Gods, which is near Colorado Springs, this area forms what is essentially the southern edge of the Cedar Mesa. A 17-mile loop drive on a dirt road takes you through the valley and past countless buttes, spires and amazing balanced rock formations.
If these eroded structures look similar to Monument Valley, that's because it is about 25 miles to the southwest. Probably the same sedimentary rock, but I cannot confirm this.
Anyway, here are a few of the photos from the hike up Butler Wash.
First stop is the Wolfman petroglyph panel* - a short hike takes you to these remarkable examples of rock art. They can be seen from several hundred feet away:
You would need a ladder to reach these. Aren't these designs beautiful? So precise and symmetrical - these were artists who were clearly skilled and took pride in their work. I've often thought about how fascinating it would be to travel back 1400 years and meet the creators.
Another section with a central animal figure (it looks like an owl to me), a botanical design and maybe a staff of some sort?
Why I love abstract art: interpretation is up to the viewer
This makes me smile; I like to think this figure is doing a Happy Dance
Next stop: a side canyon creek in Comb Ridge...frozen solid
No ruins to be found!
Obligatory abstract image: detail of ice from creek
Trapped air or crystal formation? I'm not sure, but I love the patterns created.
*Editorial note: readers will be disappointed if visiting the Wolfman petroglyph to see that doesn't look quite like the photo - several bullet holes from vandals deface the surrounding rock facade and some of the actual art. Sad, but true. I opted to edit them out as best I could, since they are ugly and shouldn't be there to begin with.