Water Canyon

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - October 20, 2015

Water Canyon

Under threatening skies, twenty vehicles assembled at the Apple Valley Sinclair station for the always enchanting and fun trip to Water Canyon.

After the traditional pit stop and collecting all the participants, Joan and Phil Hayes led us off on our adventure. Ron Bryce was the tail gunner. We traveled west on Rt. 59 to Hildale, Utah, and onto Rt. 389 in Colorado City, Arizona. We passed through Colorado City and turned onto the Cane Beds Road a few miles southeast of Colorado City, where we aired down.

Once aired down, we traveled east on Cane Beds Road, Rt. 237, crossed back into Utah on Rt. 43 and passed Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. If you have never been there, the drive to and past the Park is worth the trip. It’s a nice alternative route to get to Kanab. Four wheel drive is (usually) not needed. A short distance past the Park we turned onto Hancock Road and traveled to Sand Spring Road. Along Sand Spring Road, BLM 51, we drove through some very nice ponderosa pine forest. It’s evident by the puddles that dust was not a problem on this trip, a welcome relief. (Oh, yes, ponderosa pine does smell like butterscotch.)

We were treated to some “awesome” vistas along the trail. Those of you who have been fortunate enough to have been on our Tuesday runs know the significance of the awesome in quotes. The views below are looking back toward the northwest and Zion National Park.

We were blessed with very comfortable fall temperatures, photogenic clouds, no rain and some really fun trails. An added bonus was some new Jeepers on this run.

Below is an aerial view of the trail end and the pictograph alcove where the dark shadow is located. We arrived at the Water Canyon site before lunch and had time to go explore the alcove and check out the pictograph archaeological site. It is a short hike, only about 200 yards.

The art is interesting due to the durable colors they used. There are reds, yellows, whites and blues, among other shades that were painted onto the rock wall. Some images, which may or may not be of more modern origin, were just scratched onto the stone. Below, we check out these fascinating treasures.

A question is what do the appendages on the shoulders of the two characters in the lower left signify? Why are the “adults” done in white and the “child” in blue?

One of the favorites is the baby footprints. They were about two-three inches long. One of the neat things about Indian rock art is that we can all try to put ourselves into the heads of the artists and create our own theories about what it all meant.

It seemed that the reds and blue pigments held up better than most of the others.

What might be a family, or perhaps a Thunderbird on the left?

A Kokopelli?

“Kokopelli has been revered since at least the time of the Hohokam, Yuman, and Ancestral Pueblo peoples. The first known images of him appear on Hohokam pottery dated to sometime between 750 and 850 AD.

Kokopelli may have originally been a representation of ancient Aztec traders, known as pochtecas, who may have traveled to this region from northern Mesoamerica. These traders brought their goods in sacks slung across their backs and this sack may have evolved into Kokopelli's familiar hump; some tribes consider Kokopelli to have been a trader. These men may also have used flutes to announce themselves as friendly as they approached a settlement. This origin is still in doubt, however, since the first known images of Kokopelli predate the major era of Mesoamerican- Ancestral Pueblo peoples trade by several hundred years.

There is another story from the Hopi Culture that talks about Kokopele being a hunchbacked member of the village who tricks the village beauty into having sex with him. This is well cited in an article in the Wiley online library.

Many believe that Kokopelli was more than a trader, and more significantly, an important conveyor of information and trinkets from afar. As a Story Teller, par excellence, Kokopelli had the gift of languages with a formidable repertoire of body language storytelling skills to complement his many talents. Kokopelli's usual noisy announcement upon arrival secured both the identity, and therefore the safety, of his unique presence into a community. Often accompanied by an apprentice in his travels and trade, Kokopelli was important in linking distant and diverse communities together. In the South American Andes, the 'Ekeko' character functioned in much the same way. Upon arrival, his banging and clanging of his wares dangling all about his person signaled to all that a night of entertainment and trade of his goods and talismans was at hand.

Even today, occasional outside visitors may be called or referred to as 'Kokopelli' when they bring news, stories, and trinkets from the outside world to share with the little pueblos or villages.

Another theory is that Kokopelli is actually an anthropomorphic insect. Many of the earliest depictions of Kokopelli make him very insect-like in appearance. The name "Kokopelli" may be a combination of "Koko", another Hopi and Zuni deity, and "pelli", the Hopi and Zuni word for the desert robber fly, an insect with a prominent proboscis and a rounded back, which is also noted for its zealous sexual proclivities. A more recent etymology is that Kokopelli means literally "kachina hump". Because the Hopi were the tribe from whom the Spanish explorers first learned of the god, their name is the one most commonly used.

Kokopelli is one of the most easily recognized figures found in the petroglyphs and pictographs of the Southwest. The earliest known petroglyph of the figure dates to about 1000 AD. The Spanish missionaries in the area convinced the Hopi craftsmen to usually omit the phallus from their representations of the figure. As with most kachinas, the Hopi Kokopelli was often represented by a human dancer. Kokopelli is a cottonwood sculpture often carved today.

A similar humpbacked figure is found in artifacts of the Mississippian culture of the U.S. southeast. Between approximately 1,200 to 1,400 AD, water vessels were crafted in the shape of a humpbacked woman. These forms may represent a cultural heroine or founding ancestor, and may also reflect concepts related to the life-giving blessings of water and fertility.”

Is this a Thunderbird, and could the red dot be a depiction of the sun, a planet or the moon? Or is he a soccer goalie? 

The Bird Symbols - Mythology of the Thunderbird

“Bird symbols, myths and legends: The Thunderbird symbol is one of the most iconic Indian signs. The name of the Thunderbird name originates from the belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind and the sound was viewed by some tribes as an omen of war. The Native Americans believed that the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes.”

Below are two photos of tool sharpening wear depressions. It’s not hard to guess what they did in their spare time while at this alcove. It is easy to imagine what else might have happened here, also.

After taking the short hike back to the vehicles we enjoyed what is one of the highlights of many of our trips, the social (1/2) hour, also known as lunch. It was not an easy task getting all the remaining 19 Jeeps turned around for the trip out, but the Trail Boss managed it quite well.

On the way out we turned off BLM 51 onto BLM 52. This was a fun trail and a bit challenging in spots. Most everybody managed to drag a rear bumper going down the below steps. High clearance is recommended. 

Below is an aerial shot of the above stretch of trail leading down into the wash.

OK, kids just have to have fun. On the southeast side of Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a sand hill that is too tempting for most Jeepers to pass by without giving it a go. Below are photos of, some successful, some not so successful attempts to climb the hill.

Chad pouring the coals to it. 

The little car that could, Gil Meacham takes his Geo up and over the top.

The first Jeep to make it to the crest.

Glen Higgins going for it.

Steve Friend takes it over the top

And yes, the first vehicle to make it to the top, Ron Bryce and his Toyota FJ. Must have had a tailwind...

After a little fun in the sand and re-inflating our tires, we concluded another great off-road adventure in southwest Utah and northwest Arizona.

Submitted by Bud Sanders