Hiking to Ute Indian Petroglyphs


A day or two after we arrived in Montrose, Colorado, the owner of our vacation rental home – an archaeologist –  invited us to attend a tour she would be leading of Ute Indian petroglyph sites.  IMG_3616She left us a short newspaper calendar entry which said those interested should meet at the local Ute Indian Museum. She didn’t give any other details of what it would entail.

We were thinking of going as a family but at the last minute, the kids weren’t in the mood and Lee suggested I go alone. I’m so glad I didn’t bring the children because this was not something for preschoolers!

It turned out we would drive to a private gated property 10 miles away and then hike up a steep trail to look at carvings right near a cliff. While our leader initially said we would be back in two hours, we weren’t back for three!

About 40 mostly local people showed up for the opportunity.  The majority of them were seniors IMG_3619and some of them appeared to have some difficulty walking up the trail and not slipping on the loose rocks. I thought it was interesting that neither she nor the newspaper gave any idea of the terrain that would be covered or how difficult the trail would be. Maybe Coloradoans are naturally tough so no such warnings are necessary. I overheard a couple of senior women talk about how they used to go on hikes with their small children strapped to their back.

IMG_3613The art we saw included depictions of a horse, bear paw prints, snakes and maps of the area. Unfortunately we also saw a lot of graffiti – some of it from the early 1900s – as well. Our leader said the Indian art was hundreds of years old. She said she got help interpreting what they meant from local Ute Indians who are familiar with the traditions. The views of the mountains and fields below were stunning.

I also enjoyed chatting with a local named Pete who loves archaeology and knew a lot about the history of both the cowboys and Indians in the area. He gave me a ride back and forth from the site since I didn’t know the area well. In retrospect, it was probably a bit risky that I accepted a ride with a stranger but I got a good vibe from him and he was great.

I’m glad I got a chance to see this rare art that I would never probably see otherwise.

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