Friday, September 13, 2013

The All American Man

There is a large National Park in Southern Utah called Canyonlands National Park. It covers a territory of canyons, arches, standing rocks, creeks and portions of the Green and Colorado Rivers including the confluence of the two rivers. It is very wild and remote, with much of it accessible only to 4 wheel drive(4WD) vehicles, backpacking or raft. There is also some mountain biking.

Canyonlands was made a National Park in 1964. Sometime in 1964 National Geographic ran a story on Canyonlands, which I saw somewhere, although I was not a subscriber. I remember being very impressed and decided that I needed to explore that area. In 1969 or 1970, while I was in practice in Utah I laid into a Ford Bronco, 4WD. I also got a large scale map of Canyonlands and managed to locate a copy of the National Geographic issue on Canyonlands at a used bookstore. I then started plotting trips.

One of the most striking things in the article was a photo of a pictograph called The All American Man. This is what is called a shield figure, which there are several of in this area. However, this one's shield is in a red, white and blue pattern. It is the only one like this ever found. I decided I had to see him.

I located him on my map, packed up food and water, etc. and went for it. The entrance to the Needles district of the park, which is where the All American Man is located, is south of Moab. A little ways into the park is a sandy wash called Salt Creek. I turned off the park entrance road and drove south up Salt Creek. For the most part I drove up the creek bed. Salt Creek always has water in it somewhere, unless there has been a big storm, when it has water everywhere. The water was never deep enough to cause trouble. I drove past the small side canyon where Angel Arch is located and continued south for about another seven or so miles. The All American Man is located in a cave the mouth of which is about 10 or so feet above the canyon floor. At the point I stopped Salt Creek had stopped running south and there was now a wash running east and west. Not being sure where I was and not seeing a cave, I turned around and went back out. It turns out I was probably a few hundred yards from the cave when I gave up.

The photo above is of the road in towards Salt Creek. Below are kids playing in Salt Creek.

Below is typical scenery along Salt Creek.

Above I believe is Peek a Boo Arch, although I wouldn't swear to that. The photo below is Paul Bunyan's Potty. Both of these are north of Angel Arch Canyon and either in Salt Creek or Horse Canyon, which you get into from the Salt Creek road.

The next time I went down there I only got as far as the Angel Arch canyon; a big cottonwood tree had fallen down across a narrow point in the canyon/creek bottom and blocked vehicle travel. I was not prepared for a hike so I didn't go any further.

In the spring of 1972 I decided to have a real go at finding the elusive pictograph. This time I took some friends, water and food for several days, prepared to camp near Angel Arch and hike in and find this guy. We got up early and ate breakfast. I dug a hole, built a fire next to it, shoveled the hot coals and embers into it, put a stew in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven in the hole, shoveled the rest of the coals on and around and then covered it with sand/dirt. I took a small back pack, my Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL 35mm SLR, a small electronic flash, an extra lens, lunch and plenty of water and Kodachrome and headed off. We hiked about seven miles up Salt Creek, mostly in sand and when we came to the east-west wash turned east. Below is a photo of part of the group hiking along the Salt Creek wash and another photo of a flower. I'm afraid I don't know what variety it is.

 After a few hundred yards someone shouted “There it is!” Sure enough, on the north side of the canyon was a cave about 10 feet above the canyon floor and on the west wall was the All American Man. The entrance to the cave is not very big, nor is the cave more than about 15-20 feet deep. The All American Man is probably about four feet inside the entrance. It would be easy to miss the cave and, unless you looked west, easy to miss the All American Man from the wash. At the back of the cave is a small man-made wall, either to delineate a small dwelling place or a storage place.

The old cowboy at  the back of the cave next to the small wall. Sorry about the focus. 

The All American Man is about 5 feet high and maybe 3 feet across at the widest point of the shield. At some time someone had outlined him with chalk .Now frowned on, this was often done by anthropologists/archaeologists to improve photos. Personally I find it quite helpful in these photos. As I remember that's the way it is in the Natioinal Geographic photos. There have been doubts about his authenticity, but he has been authenticated by radio-carbon dating to the 14th century and is attributed to the Anasazi people. He was not found, or at least not reported by whites, until the 1950's. I met one of the men who ranched and ran cattle in that area who had not seen it. I know this old cowboy has never seen anything like it. There are also a series of hand print pictographs on either side of him. Hand print pictographs are quite common in Anasazi country. 

The photo below shows a wider angle view of the All American Man. In this view you can see the number of hand prints made around him. The cave entrance is just out of view to the left; the small wall just out of view to the right. The second photo below is another shot of the All American Man.

After photographing and looking around the immediate area, we hiked back out. We got to our campsite just at dusk, pulled the stew out of the ground and had dinner. It was delicious!

The Park Service has become quite secretive about the existence of the All American Man. He does not appear on maps anymore and there is no mention of him on their website. In addition they have virtually locked up Salt Creek with a locked gate and permits needed to go a little ways by 4 WD or all the way by Shank's mare, roughly 21 miles. I understand the need for protection of artifacts, but at times it feels like they are trying to “save” this and other things for the elite. In any event I am glad I saw it; it was well worth the effort.