Painted Desert Rendezvous 2008
Eric (aka Erock)
Ambika (aka desertgirl)
Jason (aka ???)
Rob (aka PageRob)
6.34 miles in ~ 6 hrs
1 mile of Rainbow Forest Loop waiting for Rob
Finally hit the road Friday evening by 7pm to meet my daughter in Flagstaff for a late dinner at Oregano's and delivery of a requisite "care package" from home. Arrived at the Wigwam Motel base camp in Holbrook after midnight and just had to check out all the Route 66 memorabilia and 50's kitsch before hitting the sack.
SIDE NOTE: Know there's some controversy about this motel's "recommendation", but for $50 a night and half the price of the local Holiday Inn Express, it's clean, it's functional, there's heat, and the showers work. In a world dominated by corporate cookie-cutter McDonald's, Starbucks, et al, I know I'll always appreciate an original...
After a hearty breakfast at Joe and Aggie's CafÃ©, made my way to the PEFO South Visitor's Center to meet up with Eric (aka Erock), Ambika (aka desertgirl), Jason (aka ???), and Rob (PageRob). With Rainbow Forest Unit permits in hand, we parked are vehicles at mile marker 24 in the Flattops and began our trek to Mountain Lion Mesa.
Our group pours over the ledge and into a dry wash following a generally northerly path. We pass fanciful rock formations with a palette of colours worthy of the name "painted desert". As my GPS indicates we are approaching the 1 mile mark and we've yet to locate our first sherd or rock art example, Rob points out a small flattop mesa to our immediate east capped with flat rock and desert varnish. We scramble up the scree slopes to a promising group of boulders and voila - our first rock art examples of the day...
We soon find other rock art examples and then an ancient cutting tool complete with hand grip and tell-tale worked edges. Rob gives us the historical low down on how we're following an ancient north-south trade route between the White Mountains and the LCR Salt Trail as well as an east-west trade route between the Rio Grande and LCR Salt Trail. We all speculate on the rock art meaning...
We surf the scree down from the small flattop and into a large wash heading north towards Mountain Lion Mesa. Rob picks out some fossilized phytosaur vertebrae bones from the wash and shares with us the true paleontologist method for determining fossils from plain old rock - the lick test... If it sticks to your tongue, it's a fossil, if it doesn't, it's just a rock!
At Mountain Lion Mesa archeology survey markers offer great clues to the location of the many rock art panels. We circle the mesa and make our way back to the PEFO roadway. Back at the vehicles snacks and beverages await us while the shadows grow long and an orange glowing sunset punctuates the end of the day.
Thanks Rob for setting this up - looking forward to another one. Great time meeting Eric and Jason. Ambika - would like to do that Friends of Arizona Highways photo hike of Canyon de Chelly some time soon...
PS. Rob, page 56 of "Tapamveni - Rock Art Galleries of Petrified Forest and Beyond" by McCreery and Malotki indicates;
...a multiroom site atop Mountain Lion Mesa...