Indian Rock Art

This trip, in large part, was to discover for myself, a couple examples of ancient Indian pictographs (rock art). In the course of my time away, I've been informed of several places with outstanding examples of these ancient paintings. This new knowledge has gotten me more excited about seeing these places too. But all the ones I've learned of will have to wait until another trip.


Sunrise at Toroweap

Shaman's Gallery, if you'll recall, was my top priority for Rock Art. It is located relatively close to Toroweap, somewhere off of the road leading down to Toroweap. Well, despite my best efforts, I could not get to it's location. While I do have maps and some descriptions of how to get there, in reality that information did not get me close.

With some rain overnight, I had to close up the Santa Fe. That made it uncomfortable until later in the night when I open up windows  and the hatch to give me more air. Again I watched the sunrise and started out across the landscape to take pictures. Along the way I was trying to follow a path which seemed to go down into a narrow gap between huge boulders and pick up from there. Being 5 feet above that narrow gap I looked down to see if it made sense to go that way. As I gazed down I saw a small cactus in the way and then, something else. Something moving. Moving over part of the cactus. A RATTLE SNAKE!!! Holy crap! 


Look closely along the bottom edge of the rock. He blends in nicely, doesn't he?

Interestingly enough this is the first rattlesnake I've seen. I had one pointed out to me once hiking down North Mountain a few years ago. I'd never have seen it until a woman hiker showed me. But this time I saw this one, colored pinkish to probably blend in with the rocks. Since I was plenty far enough away from him and any danger, I just observed it. He moved very slowly, flicking his forked tongue several times, maybe he smelled me, or sensed me, but in no way was he aggressive or defensive. And I was not about to provoke him. Being well out of harms way I just watched as he very slowly inched along. In all, over 5 minutes, he didn't more more than his length of about 2 feet.  


Since the evening rain, many of the "pockets" in the rock surface contained water, which glistened in the morning light. I stayed away from any hikes in the near vicinity. Still, it does give me the creeps, just thinking about that s-s-nake.

On the third day camping at Toroweap, I decided that would be my day for exploring for Shaman's Gallery. Armed with my Arizona topographical atlas and some printed material from the internet, I packed my days supplies and headed out on the treacherous drive away from Toroweap. Upon reaching the ranger station 5 miles back up the road, I saw a woman, so pulled in to get information. Marjorie is a ranger volunteer, saying the ranger was not there at the time. I explained that I wanted to locate Shaman's Gallery. She was taken there by the ranger, she said, but could not help me tell it's location. We looked over my materials and talked about a few other things about Toroweap and the Arizona Strip. I told her I may also hike to to the top of Vulcan's Throne by Lava Falls later in the day, if time allowed. And since I was there I was able to inform someone (Marjorie) of my plans, so that my whereabouts were known. Marjorie, herself, was going to hike to Toroweap to check on a new camper, a girl from France, who had driven in a Ford Focus. We both were amazed that she was able to drive it all the way in with the condition of the road and the low clearance on such a small car. Back to the point… I told Marjorie, I would leave a note at the station upon my return letting her know if I was successful in locating the rock art.


                An old road grader sits idly by near the ranger's station. It's been in the same spot every time I've gone to Toroweap


Driving another 8 miles or so up the road, I came to what looked like what might be the intersection I sought. However, upon driving on one of three branches of that road, the most used one just took me back to Toroweap Rd. there was a shack, a water tank, corral, and two water ponds at the junction, so I next tried to follow the fence line road along the corral. It was obvious no one had driven on this patch of earth in quite some time. It was just a two track with lots of weeds and grasses growing up in the center and in the tracks. 


Next I tried the least visible track and that REALLY led me out to pasture, so to speak. I think it was really a cow path. I turned around and thought about it for a bit. Obviously my directions were wrong and it made no sense to go off to heaven knows  where, and then still not find what I wanted. AND, if I drove around all day looking for the elusive rock art, I would 

burn up fuel that I'd still need to get out of the remote Arizona Strip. (There are NO gasoline stations within the who vast area). Fredonia is the closest to where I was in this backcountry for fuel.

Since plan A had hit a dead end, I then opted to hike Vulcan's Throne. On the way past the ranger station, no one there, I left a note telling Marjorie that the first plan failed and that Vulcan's Throne was my next adventure of the day. 


Vulcan's Throne ahead, on a better part of the road.


The "road" to Vulcan's Throne is about 3 miles from the ranger station. I turned off and found the road a bit rougher that I remembered from a previous drive to Lava Falls. The further I drove the more unnerving the whole drive became, some areas nearly washed away and then the most harrowing of all a spot that had deep ruts where a previous vehicle had driven when the road was under water. To top it off the whole roadway was sunken, meaning it was more like a ditch in that there were no berms or shoulders, or even open land on either side. I could not back out of the spot, so, having stopped I saw my only option was to ride the ridges left after the other vehicle(s) had carved those deep ruts - and pray that my car did not slip and fall into the grooves.No way was it possible for me in my Santa Fe to drive in the ruts, as the depth of those ruts would have had me scraping bottom. Another place had me tilted so far, to avoid a washout area, as I straddled the only dry, intact land on one side. It was a couple of miles out to the mountain, and I felt discouraged if I would not be able to make it there. But more disheartened if I had to abort this exploration too and then walk out. 

I suppose it's needless to say, I didn't give up that easily. I forged ahead and, having made it through the tough spots, I then faced Vulcan's Throne. Several years ago I had attempted to hike down Lava Falls to the Colorado River - in August. That turned out to be a very bad idea. While I had enough water with me, the hike in August heat, on black lava rock was almost a disaster. Luckily I was able to conquer that days'  heat distress and overexertion and come out alive. But, getting back to Vulcan's Throne. It is an old volcanic cinder cone, very rounded, smooth appearing, and not especially intimidating. There is a sign at the base saying there is not a real "trail", but rather a "route". Not really comprehending the difference, I set out on what was a fairly well marked path with cairns placed along the way to direct hikers as they wound their ways to the summit.


Starting out seemed like a not too difficult hike. But to my right as I walked along was a very long slope to the old lava flow and then the Colorado River below that. The composition of the throne, is, basically, small cinder stones, with some larger rocks thrown in for good measure, and then some very large outcropping volcanic rocks hanging out along the path. For most of the hike up I was ever conscious of the slope of the throne, the looseness of the cinder stones AND the possibility of a misstep sending me careening head over heels to a certain calamitous culmination in the Colorado River. If standing on the edge of the canyon overlooks had me weak in the knees, this was much more precarious.

                                                                         Yes, there is a path. As you  can see, there is nearly a 45° pitch to the hillside;


For the duration of my trek up Vulcan's Throne, I felt like a billy goat and that one foot had to be shorter than the other to negotiate along such a steep slope. Then I came to a spot that had me scramble over some large volcanic rocks that jutted into the path. After VERY, VERY carefully climbing atop those boulders with all their sharp, jagged volcanic edges, I felt even more vulnerable. I could then see, oh too clearly, the dreadful slide to oblivion if I were to slip. But I also surveyed my position and then saw what faint a trail that existed continued  further to my left  and 8 feet lower as I, sitting like a crow also looked down that cinder covered slide to suicide. There from my perch, I could see no reasonable way for me to pick my way down off my perch and resume the hike. As much I would have liked to mount the summit and take in the views, my discretion told me that safety was better than risking unspeakable pain or death. As it was, getting down from the rock was a slow, difficult endeavor. I inched, really inched my way along, hanging on to the stable rock outcroppings from whence I had sat and ever so gingerly made my way back along the "route". 

Now my balance was again shifted, right side leaning into the mountain, going heel to toe over the most precarious portions of the pathway. Additionally, as I had done on the upward climb, I dug the inner edge of my shoes into the loose cinder stones to get some bite out of each foot step and to help level me on the slope. 


I was so glad to have NOT completed that hike. I know others have done it and more will do so too, but my instincts were telling me to give it up. I made the attempt and am happy to say so.

After the equally nervy drive out, I finally returned to camp. Whether it was the hike, being unable to get to Shaman's Gallery, or who knows what, I decided I'd had enough of Toroweap for this trip. And I had my days mixed up, thinking I was to be at Bar 10 Ranch on Sunday. This was still Saturday, and I had no other things I cared to do there. I showered (I have a solar shower bag, put in several gallons of water, lay it in the sun and in one hour you have a nice warm shower). Lay the bag in the sun for all day and the water will be very HOT (the voice of experience speaking). Marjorie stopped to check in on me, before she began her hike back to the ranger station. Having already packed up my gear, I sat for a time, sat atop a huge round boulder near the camp and decided to return to Fredonia and the next day, today, Sunday, see about locating the other rock art in Paiute Cave.

On the way out I stopped at the ranger station and found both Marjorie and the ranger there. The ranger is a young man, who knows the area very well. He went over my maps and in the Arizona atlas corrected several of the roads. Many no longer exist, so he "x"ed those out and then he helped me locate the correct way to Shaman's Gallery. It is only about 30 miles in from the paved road. But he highly suggested that a higher clearance 4-wheel drive would be a better choice getting to the trailhead. The road there is rough.He also helped me with directions to find Paiute Cave. We talked for some time, about my day's activities, both aborted explorations and he reminded me - It's not the destination, it's the journey. It was good to be reminded of that and so, I headed off back on the dusty road to stay for two nights at the Grand Canyon Motel in Fredonia, AZ. 

Sunday morning would begin another adventure.


Does that huge rock near the foreground look like a bear? This is next to my camp area. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments