Footsteps of the Ancients
If I keep up with this kind of update schedule Face of Stone might just make a name for itself! Today I have photos for you from another trip through Picture Canyon, hidden away on the east side of Flagstaff. This hike was taken with my family, so there aren’t as many feats of photographic daring as before, but the canyon was perhaps more beautiful than last time as plants finally shed the skeletal clutches of winter. Many of the banana yuccas throughout the canyon had grown gaudy flower stalks since last time, visible as the rosy artichoke-like bunches before, which are both phases I had not seen for that particular plant anywhere else.
Also noticeable on this trip are the many more petroglyphs we discovered concentrated on the north side of the canyon. Above you can see what might be regarded as the site’s mascot, the two-headed deer or pushmi-pullyu (a la Doctor Dolittle), maybe some age-old joke told around a campfire there. As I mentioned last time the complex network of pathways on the north slopes makes it nearly impossible to go the same way twice, leading to much wandering up and down as we searched for petroglyphs and the cave dwelling. This time though, I came prepared.
Equipped with flashlights and a headlamp (considerable improvements over a tiny focusing light), I was able to explore the large cave much farther than before, passing through the low opening visible in last month’s gallery. After a brief crawl over and under sharp basalt the passage enlarged and I was faced with a most interesting sight – the remnants of a stone wall built across the passage, shown above, crumbled but still bearing remnants of plaster on its right side. Whereas the wall across the entrance to the cave is likely modern, this one is undoubtedly ancient. Through the wall the cave ended in a large round room, tall enough for me (six feet) to stand up in the middle. This was perhaps the sleeping room, guarded by the wall and sheltered completely from the elements, with only light traces of fire-blackening on the ceiling. The floor of the room had heavy deposits of some kind of rodent droppings, along with urine stains on some of the rocks scattered around, but with no noticeable smell, leading me to think some community of small animals lived back there not so long ago. After poking around a bit I made my way back out into the bright afternoon sun, which had been completely absent from the low passage inward.
From the cave we worked down to the creekside, and along the way found a great many sherds of pottery half-buried in the loose dirt. I have heard that the Sinagua, along with other Puebloans, would ceremonially break much of their pottery when they left an area to move on elsewhere. This may be what happened here; the utilitarian bowls, plates, and pots tossed from the cave overlook down to the creek, memorializing the home that was and the journey onward which would follow. We left them where they laid, content to examine one large fragment or another and guess at what they had made.
From the creekside we elected to cross and head out along the south rim, which to my experience had only one safe place to ascend, luckily right across from the cave. Going further upstream can be challenging, and with a group of people may not be in everyone’s best interest. The south rim allows a level stroll to be taken right along the cliffside, ending in a great view of the large waterfall at the canyon’s first tumble down. From there I took a few shots with my new 4×5 camera (more details to follow once I see the results) and an obligatory photo with the digital, then we headed out after a great adventure.
As always these photos are linked to the new gallery with many more shots and alternate compositions, so give that a look and let me know what you think. Also, if you would like a beautiful print to grace the bare walls of your home, all these are available in the Store. Keep an eye out for more photos soon!