Larry Lindahl, photographer and co-author of the upcoming book Ancient Southwest with Gregory McNamee, shared this piece he wrote as a foreword for the book. We’ve published an excerpt here; you can read the rest on Larry’s blog.
The sandy trail leading up Horseshoe Canyon offers soft footing, slowing the pace, quieting my steps. Along the canyon floor, cottonwood trees shimmer with fantastically bright yellow leaves below pastel sandstone cliffs, and a shallow, meandering creek glistens and sparkles under the deep-blue autumn sky.
After driving a 31-mile dirt road from the highway, then descending a 750-foot cliff on foot down switchbacks into the canyon, a three-and-a-half-mile trail then takes me to the most revered rock art panel in the entire American Southwest. Photos I had seen show a majestic, otherworldly grouping of ghostly figures spread two hundred feet across that appear to float above the canyon floor.
Walking up the canyon in this remote extension of Canyonlands National Park, I reflect on what I’ve read about this place. The twenty or more life-size figures were painted 2,000–8,000 years ago. During this time, the nomadic hunting and gathering people slept in brush shelters in caves.
Along the trail, small collections of pictographs appear up on the cliffs and hidden in caves. In the back of one enormously large alcove, I discover a series of roughly painted pictographs on the pale-peach sandstone. They sit low to the ground in faded red, gray, and brown. Sounds in this space seem to float and shift.