I got the feeling some visitors were disappointed in Mouse’s tank near the end of Petroglyph Canyon, although it did have water in it and the view into the valley below was spectacular, the beauty of this hike is definitely the journey.
Thankfully the parking lot was more crowded than the trail though there were almost as many dogs as people along the way. They were polite with dogs on leash. Well, except for one couple I turned around at the trail’s beginning with a dog not on leash. Guess I lied a little when I told them I am a Park Ranger but didn’t say where. Don’t want to sound mean but the rules are for everybody and Sasha said if she has to be on a leash then so do her compadres.
A sandy 3/4 mile round trip trail meanders past some amazing natural rock sculptures. Talk about being a pareidolia, some of these shapes look like they came from outer space.
You absolutely can’t get lost in this dead end box canyon unless you start climbing the boulder walls. This really makes me wonder why people stack rock into cairns which should only be set by the managing agency in an area where the trail is not easy to find. Or if hiking off trail for your own guidance back and then removed on the return past them. Otherwise, as a Death Valley Ranger once told me, they are geologic graffiti. To many cairns can be confusing and lead people unsuspectingly off trail. I tend to knock them down.
Seems like every flat rock with dark mineral staining is covered with petroglyphs. Many hikers quickly walked past without even seeing these stories on the rocks. Others only paused because we were standing there staring and of course taking photos.
I find myself thinking about sitting on these rocks during the shade of morning, pecking away at the dark varnish to leave a mark, my mark, maybe something I’d seen that day. Sort of like writing in a journal, or the blog. Others who someday find the marks may find my scribbles as difficult to decipher as I do these.
As usual it takes us quite a while to reach the “feature”. Many have passed us going both ways. Mouse’s Tank, a natural basin in the rock where water collects after rainfall. Since the spot is almost always shaded, the water stays in the small basin possibly for months. Water in the desert is scarce so when found is special, the gift of life. Without a sign and arrow most would walk by this tiny side canyon where water sometimes flows to a valley below.
This tank is named after a Southern Paiute Indian renegade, Little Mouse, who hid out in Valley of Fire in the 1890s after being accused of killing two prospectors and other crimes of theft.
Sure are a lot of hidey holes to seek shade on a hot summer day with temperatures reaching 100F+. It was perfect hiking temps when we were there in January.
Stories abound, including one made into a movie called The Professionals with Bert Lancaster and Lee Marvin which was filmed in Valley of Fire and Death Valley in 1966. After our visit Bill bought the movie and we just watched this old western the other night recognizing many of the landscapes in the film.
After exploring a few very short, dead end, side canyons we returned down the trail thinking that Little Mouse was either an accomplished rock climber, lucky, or a ghost so as not to be trapped by pursuers in Petroglyph Canyon.
Which continued to live up to its name as we discovered more panels of rock stories on the hike back.
Valley of Fire State Park is home to one the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the state of Nevada dating back to over 3,000 years old. Hopefully they continue to survive ongoing erosion and mass visitation.
Next we headed to Fire Canyon.
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