A Funny Looking Hat and the Mark of the Wolf

"...he had a hat!".  So goes the punch line of one of Gary's funny jokes that would stick with us for the duration of the trip.  Thanks for the laughs Gary, as well as the intriguing insurance seminars...

As we left Monument Valley on the Road to Nowhere, we were headed toward what would be the last leg of our Desert Southwest adventure.  But no trip to these parts would be complete without a stop in the little village of Mexican Hat.  This small town is situated on the San Juan River about 20 miles northeast of Monument Valley.  Yep, it sure does seem like a strange name for a town in Utah, but when you notice the peculiar rock formation just to the north on Highway 163, it all starts to make sense.  

The large sandstone disk seems to be precariously balanced on a very thin and narrow base, and looks a little like an upturned sombrero.  All along the San Juan River is some interesting geology with upturned and folded rock strata.  The alternating colorful layers of sandstone and shale make for some interesting images with the silty river in the foreground and deep blue sky in the background.

Leaving Mexican Hat, we headed a bit further to the north to Bluff, Utah, and checked into what would be our home for the next couple of days.  After unpacking the cars and taking a brief moment to relax, we headed out for a short hike and to catch the last rays of the sun for the day.  Our hike was into Lower Butler Wash, located adjacent to Comb Ridge, an area well known for ancient Anasazi rock art and ruins.  

The Anasazi, or "Ancient Ones", inhabited the Four Corners region of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona until approximately 1300 A.D.  Ancestors of the modern Pueblo people, the Anasazi hunted, farmed, and lived in the region for well over 1,000 years before leaving the area.  It is thought that ongoing climate change and exhausting of natural resources may have been contributing factors in the disappearance of these people.  Nevertheless, when they left, many of their homes and much of their artistry was left behind for us to study and enjoy today.  

Wolfman Panel is one such rock art site and was our destination for this evening.  These particularly well-preserved and intricately detailed petroglyphs are at once an interesting, yet very peculiar thing to see on the sandstone canyon walls.  One can only wonder what the different figures mean and what message these ancient people may have been trying to convey.  If you look closely at the image below, you might see what appear to be two paw prints of a wolf, for which this site is aptly named.  You also may notice what appear to be bullet holes in the rock face.  Sure enough, for reasons that I cannot imagine, someone has seen fit to use this site for target practice.  If humans still inhabit the earth 1,000 years from now, I wonder what message they will glean from this...

As the sun settled behind the distant canyon walls, we began the short hike back up the ridge. Along the way, it was evident that the light clouds along the horizon were going to provide us with a spectacularly colorful sunset and twilight hour.  A few images were made before hopping  in the car and heading back to town.