My goal this weekend was to locate and document a wall of petroglyphs I had stumbled upon a couple years ago near Cherry Creek. My son and a couple of his friends loaded up Big Blue and we headed off toward Globe, Arizona. After about an hour of driving on a lumpy dirt road and crossing the creek a few times, we finally located the area, just a few miles from the Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings.
It was a somewhat overcast day with gray cirrus clouds hanging high overhead and the cottonwood and brittlebush still dormant, so it wasn’t the most scenic landscape, but it was a nice warm day. After a short hike we located a sandy beach to camp on, but the swift running Cherry Creek stood between us and there and we couldn’t find a place to cross. So off with the boots! We headed straight across the freezing cold water, one of the guys had tied his lunch to the outside of the pack and it came loose and was instantly swept away – there goes lunch!
We set off in search of the cliffs with camera, climbing gear and water. The area was EXTREMELY overgrown with brambles and thorny bushes – we hacked and slithered and scraped our way forward, well away from any trails.
It was very difficult to make any kind of progress but at last we were there – awesome examples of ancient rock art everywhere! The Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings are fairly well known and located in several of the rugged canyons in this wilderness area. They were built between 1280 and 1350 AD by Indians known presently as the “Salado”. I’m guessing that’s who created these etchings. I’m sending the photos and location of the wall to our archeology department to hopefully find out more. Almost all the petroglyphs were well off the ground – twelve to twenty feet up – I’m guessing that originally they were carved at about waist high but over the years the ground has eroded away from the base of the cliff.
From there we moved down the face of the wall and rigged some climbing gear. After just a couple attempts on the shear sixty foot cliff, disaster nearly strikes. A sharp jagged rock, about the size of a football, broke loose and slammed to ground, just a foot away from two of the boys! Had it hit one of them, it would have likely been fatal. We quickly moved away from there and decided to head back to the safety of the beach camp!
That afternoon I swam out into the chilly waters for a while then took a stroll along the water to document the multitude of metamorphic rocks. The boys stayed at camp and did what 14 year old boys generally do: play with knives and fire and eat. I also had a chance to test my newest piece of gear, the MSR Dromedary – a really nice water bladder that I filled with filtered creek water.
The evening sky was clear and moonless and bursting with starlight. The night brought crisp cold temperatures and I lay staring upward for as long as possible – hoping for the shooting star and pondering the day’s events, and satisfied with a mission accomplished!