Thursday, September 20, 2012

False Kiva

A typical Canyonlands view.
The drive from Upheaval Dome to the False Kiva trailhead is a short one.   But you have to know where it is.   False Kiva is considered a Class II archeological site.  I think it means it's not super important, but all the same they don't want a lot of traffic going through it.  So it's not on any park maps, and there's no labeled trailhead -- and if you ask a ranger they are supposed to tell you how to find it.

On the trail to False Kiva.
I had done a little research ahead of time, even going so far as to talk to a guy who had been there.  He didn't want to post the instructions for all to see, but if you emailed him he said he'd send you the coordinates and some instructions.  Which he did.   I won't post them here for the same reasons.  But you can find out how to get there with a little diligent web searching.

We were to park in a little pulloff on the east side of the road.  I'd seen it on a sattellite picture and I also knew approximately where we were.   The GPS coordinates weren't quite jiving with mine down to the thousandth, but there was only one pulloff.   We walked a couple hundred yards down the road and found the unlabled trailhead and started walking down the wash toward the canyon.  It was about 5:00pm.  The sun had been setting around 7:00pm.  Two hours.

In my zeal, I had forgotten a couple of important things.   One... my headlamp.   Two... my super-wide angle adapter.   And I grabbed a camelback for water ... not knowing that  it was Vicki's and that she had removed the bladder.

I didn't realize any of these things until we were well on our way.  

Thin layers of sandstone.
Vicki was a bit nervous about the timing.   It wasn't an OBVIOUS trail in many places, but it was very well marked with cairns -- surprisingly well marked.   I knew the drill.  Hike to the cliff's edge to the south of it, look up north and see the hole, and hike down a pretty rough "trail" with some boulder scrambling, below and past the hole, and then back up to it.  It was reportedly maybe a whole mile hike.   Shouldn't take long.

I knew Vicki was tired and done with hiking after the hike to the granaries.   But I told her my thinking.   She's tired.  Heck, I'm tired.  We need to get some things done in town tomorrow.   It's a bit of a drive just to get here, and then spend the time and go back.   And ... tomorrow would be a nice day "off".   And we're here.  Now.  And the sun is setting.   Any photographer knows about the light at sunrise and sunset.  This is a perfect opportunity, and I don't want to waste it.   The long views at Canyonlands have been disappointing because of the smoke ... so ... if you let me do this now, tomorrow we'll fix the windshield, do some laundry, and putz around in Moab ... hit the tourist shops.

False Kiva Hole (I didn't take this
one ... I had neglected to take this
shot as I was in a bit of a hurry.)
She went along.   But I could tell her heart was far less than "in it".    But one thing I did remember to bring is the walkie talkies.   I told her when we get to the edge, if I decide to head for the "cave" and she doesn't want to, I'll leave her at the edge with a walkie talkie.  She can watch the sun going down with a pretty spectacular view, and I'll go ahead.   She'll be able to see me all the way.

We got to the edge... it's hard to call it a canyon because it's vast and there's nothing narrow about it ... but I guess it technically is one ... and I showed her where I was going.

Me at False Kiva.  Had to adjust the
brightness so you could see me.
Too much backlight, no flash
"Why do you have to do that?"

There's some things you just can't explain.  Two things, here.  1) not everyone who comes here even knows it's there.  You're kind of in a "club" if you've been there.  And 2)  It nicely frames photos of the canyon.

"You don't have to go.  I will go by myself and I won't be long."

It had only taken us about 40 minutes to get here, and I left her there.  She didn't want to go.  I scrambled down over rocks and boulders and slickrock and scree, up under a cedar, across and below the kiva.   We saw a man up in the cave, and we commented on it over the walkie talkies.  But I pressed on, up the slope from the northwest and into the cave. 

German photographers, waiting
for sunset in False Kiva hole.
There was a group of 4 German photographers there, cameras on tripods, waiting for sunset.  I greeted them and looked around at the False Kiva itself, taking some shots of it, and trying to frame a good wide angle shot with the edges of the cave.   But I couldn't get the whole thing.  I should have brought my 0.45 adapter.   :-(

Having seen other Kivas, I could see why this one's "authenticity" might be questioned.  1) it wasn't built down into the ground, and 2) no mortar.   I could see why one might consider this a sacred place and start to build one, though.  Or maybe someone was going to start a cliff dwelling here ... still ... no mortar.

My best False Kiva shot.
Still, it was worth it just to have made it there.  But Vicki wanted me to hurry back, and I didn't particularly want to leave her sitting there long.  It had only taken me 10 minutes to get here from where I left here, and I spent about 10 minutes in the cave.  I started to leave, but thought ... wait!  I need a shot of me here to keep ... and to show Megan Owens, who has been lots of places I haven't, but this is a place I know she wants to go that she hasn't been yet.   Fortunately, Germans know English, and photographers often reciprocate photos anyway .... they took a photo for me with my camera, and I scurried back to Vicki.

Overhang and red rock protrusion
at False Kiva.
She'd been marvelling at the veiw, and especially at the giant red wall of sandstone in front of her.   I knew she was worried about it getting dark.  Frankly, I was a little concerned myself, but I wasn't panicked or anything.  If it got dark, it got dark.  I knew the lay of the land and which direction the road was.   We'd be fine.  Might be a little harder after dark, but we'd be fine.

The light on the surrounding landscape was now ideal, and I of course snapped what I could while walking.   As we climbed out of the wash and toward the road, the sun was pretty low on the plateau, and the sunset was spectacular due to the same smoke that limited our views.  I actually got a few good shots of it, the last one showing purples and pinks .... almost surreal.

We got out to the road, got back to the car, and drove straight out of the park.  It was just getting dark.

This is why photographers love
It was completely dark by the time we got to the turnoff to dead horse point.  We could see bright light coming from a place on the horizon ahead ... couldn't figure out what it was. 

And later we saw another down off the plateau as we were heading down it... turns out it was gasses burning off of oil drilling operations.  Giant flames of natural gass just burning.  Going to waste.  But that's the way it goes, I suppose.

 I did NOT feel like cooking, eating, and cleaning at the campsite after dark and after what had been a pretty long day.   We got into Moab about 8:30pm and hit a Denny's.  It was freezing in there!  I kinda felt dirty and gritty, but I'm sure they see a lot of that there.  We ate, went back to the campsite.

The smoke was good for something.
Probably responsible for some of
the richness and unusual colors.
I went down to the river and stripped down to my boxers and dove in.   Cold.  But refreshing.  I splashed around and scrubbed a bit.  And I felt clean enough when I got out.  A thousand times better.

Back to the campsite.   And to bed.

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