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Utah hiker finds rare blue panel in San Rafael Swell

Published July 23, 2011 5:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The San Rafael Swell is a maze — a 650,000-square-acre maze with canyons, plateaus and pillars of rock.

So it's no wonder it took Jon Bailey six years and, he estimates, 50 miles of hiking to find something there. But the search ended this month when Bailey found the special rock art he was seeking.

The pictograph contains blue pigment, which is rare. Most Utah pictographs contain only red or brown pigments.

Bailey, who lives in Ferron, describes his photography and pictograph hunting as a lifestyle rather than a hobby. Six years ago he came across a sketch of the panel in some research papers written in 1988 discussing what locals simply call "The Swell." The documents had some location information, Bailey said in an online chat with The Tribune, but nothing specific.

Bailey said he asked ranchers and people who are one kind of expert or another about The Swell, but none of them knew the panel's whereabouts.

When weather and time allowed, Bailey would hike to look for the panel. He estimates he hiked 50 miles during those six years.

So where is the panel? Bailey isn't saying. He will give one hint: It's not that far from one of The Swell's popular trails.

With the elusive blue panel found, Bailey said there are other pictographs he has read about and wants to see in person.

"I set myself objectives, and I do my best to achieve all of them," Bailey wrote in the chat.

— Nate Carlisle