Friday, August 12, 2016

Hike 2016.038A -- Parowan Gap, Utah

Hiked Saturday, July 30. One mile. By itself, this is not really a hike. It's just part of what I did that day.

I was poking through some tourism information as I sat in my motel room in Cedar City the night before, and came across information on Parowan Gap. Ironically, I may have come across it before, but several on-line sources still describe the final approach to the Gap as "a good gravel road." Good or not, a long drive on a dirt road may not have appealed to me in the past. But, seeing it so prominently featured in several different handouts, I figured it must be pretty accessible.

Turns out, it is, because it's no longer gravel. In fact, the way has been fully paved for quite some time.

Parowan Gap is a natural break (gap) in the mountains, west of Parowan, UT. From Cedar City, follow Main Street (UT-130) north, across I-15, and a total of about 13 miles. A sign will direct you to turn right, on Parowan Gap Road. Parowan Road heads towards the only break in the hills before you. At the entrance to the Gap, a sign welcomes you. A large parking area, picnic benches and a pit toilet, are on the east side of the gap. The sign says it's 1000 feet away.

Not knowing any better at the time, I parked on the east end. Either way, the road is lined by a hardened walking area on the shoulder, and fences to keep you away from the rock art. You should, of course, respect the art and avoid climbing or touching the rocks, as this would speed their deterioration.

Pay attention to the road as you walk and take pictures. On the day I was there, there was very little traffic. Still, you should always be paying some attention to traffic, if you're standing right adjacent to any road.

Some icons on the rocks looked familiar; I've seen similar etchings elsewhere in the West. The centipedes, for example. Some humanoid shapes also looked familiar. But I saw no desert bighorn, nor spiral patterns. I also saw several unfamiliar etchings, like the "zipper," or bug antenna, which local experts believe are tied to the use of this gap as a giant calendar.
Whether that's the purpose or not, we'd never be able to know with certainty. But it is still neat to be able to gaze upon the rock art left by people from hundreds, and perhaps over a thousand, years ago.
There's also one panel with work from the late 1880s, right about when this place first became a state. There is also some (but, mercifully, relatively little) more contemporary graffiti.
After walking the two sides of the road, I also admired the quiet solitude of the sagebrush around me. And I wondered where the dinosaur tracks would be.
Turns out they (or at least, some of them) are near another, signed stopping point, maybe one mile east of the petroglyphs. Not only is the general area marked, but they also have these metal dinosaur-shaped markers, right next to where the imprints can be found. That's very helpful for stupid people, like me.
I walked along the base of the sandstone, checked out the blocks, but was pretty sure I did not see any imprints that were not already marked, and wasn't even sure about some that were marked!
Walked the area and on up a bit on the cliffs, looking for more imprints. They're natural casts, formed when the dinosaurs walked over silt, left imprints that later filled with sand and pebbles, which were then compressed to form sandstone casts of the dinosaur imprints. Very cool.

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