9 Mile Canyon, UT

Fall color along the Colorado River

Fall color along the Colorado River

In addition to being a traveler and writer, I’m a fine artist working mostly in acrylics. My art website is www.SusanLStewartArt.com. I’m working on a new series of paintings featuring petroglyphs and fossils. I read somewhere that Nine Mile Canyon in Wellington, Utah has the largest concentration of petroglyphs of any area in the world so I wanted to check it out.

October in Colorado and Utah is a beautiful time of year. I have a fabulous Olympus camera that takes crystal clear photos while Tom drives 75mph down the I-70 corridor. I put it in auto focus and set it up to snap three photos a

Beautiful pink and orange rock inside the canyon

Beautiful pink and orange rock inside the canyon

second. When I see something I like, I stick the camera out the window and just hold the button down while trying to maintain a horizontal skyline.

It’s a six-and-a-half hour drive directly west from Denver to Wellington. Wellington is such a small town — my guess is less than a thousand people — that we stayed in Price, about eight miles farther down the road. We got in late, about 6:30 pm but I’d made reservations at the Legacy Inn so we didn’t have a problem finding a room.

The Legacy Inn is a typical 1960s motel where you park in front of your room. It’s been remodeled and is in excellent condition. We got a Queen Deluxe room, which I would recommend. It was larger and had a comfortable couch. The room was immaculately clean and very quiet. There’s are train tracks about a hundred yards away but we slept with the fan from the heater/air conditioner unit on and didn’t hear a thing. A continental breakfast with fresh homemade waffles is included in the price of the room, which was about $70 a night. The only real complaint we had about Price was the food. We ate two breakfasts and two dinners while we were there, and none of it was anything I would recommend. Both of my dinners were inedible and I didn’t eat them.

Green cliffs spread wide

Green cliffs spread wide

The weather was beautiful. Even though it was October, the sun was out making it warm, but not too warm, to roam around. I didn’t see many — or maybe no — aspens, but the cottonwood trees were in their full autumn beauty. The bright yellows and oranges against the red cliffs made them look like they were on fire.

Our second day of the trip was devoted to Nine Mile Canyon. The cliffs and meadows were unbelievable. It occurred to me that if you’re not familiar with this part of the west—the Front Range (Denver/Metro), Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the eastern border of Utah, and northern New Mexico—you haven’t seen the rock formations that are so familiar to us. No matter how many times I see them, their beauty is always overwhelming. The rock formations that are flat on the top are called “mesas,” the Spanish word for “table.”

I took over 300 photos the day we visited the canyon. We had a printout of the various mile markers and what to look for at each

Cliff formations in 9 Mile Canyon

Cliff formations in 9 Mile Canyon

one, but we must have been in the wrong place for the first two areas. It seemed like our trip odometer, the mile markers along the road and the mile markers noted on our printout were all a little bit off and it was hard to tell which one to rely on.

After those two lost opportunities, we saw dozens of petroglyphs. Even though it’s called Nine Mile Canyon, it’s more like 25–30 miles. The last two panels in the canyon are the famous Big Buffalo and Great Hunter. I was in awe to actually be standing in front of two petroglyph panels I’ve seen in books.

The petroglyphs were created between AD 950–1250. The “painter”—I’m guessing a man from the topics of the petroglyphs—had to use a sharp, pointy rocks to slowly chip away at the cliff face. Many of the petroglyphs were created on dark, almost black, flat panels of the mountain. This made them easy to see, but I’m also wondering if that type of rock was easier to chip away.

Speeding along on I-70 going west

Speeding along on I-70 going west

We were disgusted to see example after example of people vandalizing the petroglyphs. These idiots thought it was a great idea to carve their name and/or initials into the petroglyphs themselves. Despite the vandalism, the Park Service has not kept people from walking right up to a panel to study the work closely. Only the Great Hunter panel had a log “fence” in front of it, but if someone was determined to touch the panel, they could squeeze through the fence.

The six-and-a-half hour drive from Price back to Denver seemed shorter than the one from Denver to Price. Have you ever experienced that? Even short trips within Denver always seem faster returning home.

It was great to finally get away and spend some time together traveling. Road trips are one of our favorites because we can stop when we want to, especially when something interesting pops up. When and where was your last trip? Add a comment; I always love reading them.

Until then, wishing you the best, safest, travels,

Susan L Stewart

 

Petroglyphs of 9 Mile Canyon

Petroglyph panel with Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Petroglyph panel with Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep with their curved horns

As I wrote earlier, we drove to 9 Mile Canyon in Utah in October to see the petroglyphs. The scenery was beautiful and all of fall’s finest colors were blazing. For this blog post, I want to focus on the petroglyphs we saw.

The very famous Great Hunt panel

The very famous Great Hunt panel

This is a photo I took in 9 Mile Canyon. I put the red circles around three of the objects I wanted to point out. Starting on the left, we have an animal that doesn’t resemble the sheep or antelope in the panel. I can’t think of an animal (like an anteater) that stands that tall and has such a long nose. The second figure is even more mysterious. The antlers suggest a goat or antelope, but what’s up the even longer nose? It reminds me of an elephant with the “antlers” being his big ears, but were there ever elephants in the region that would become Utah? And on the right side we have the Great Hunter. We know he’s the best hunter because he’s so much bigger than the other ones. And, yes, that thing hanging down between his legs is a penis — just in case the viewer might think the Great Hunter was a woman.

Petroglyphs are made by taking a small, pointy stone and hitting it with a larger stone to chip away at the rock face to create stories about the things that were going on in the tribe’s daily life. It seems like the majority of the petroglyphs we saw illustrated hunting trips and the various animals living in the area. In many cases they showed the relationship between ancient man and their native wildlife.

The other method used to create these fascinating murals is by pictographs. Instead of chipping away at the rock, the artist paints the objects of the story. Even though I did quite a lot of research, I couldn’t find a description of the materials pictograph artists used. Whatever it was, it has withstood the weather and other destructive forces for more than 2,000 years.

Could those be reindeer or just elk with really big racks?

Could those be reindeer or just elk with really big racks?

As I’ve done my research for a series of petroglyph paintings I’m planning to create, I’ve seen other, very strange, beings. These petroglyphs and pictographs are found more in the western part of the country, often in Utah.

In addition to the people, we saw animals I couldn’t identify.

These are two of the paintings I’ve finished for the Petroglyph Series I’m doing based on the petroglyphs I’ve seen in Utah and ones I’ve seen in books and on the Internet.