In dry terrain of grassy valleys and low bedrock ridges, this particular sandstone bluff has been weathered into a riot of rock knobs and cavities, with rounded, concave, and truncated forms crowded together in some places, reminiscent of a Bosch hellscape. The sandstone is almost white, chalky in appearance, adding to a sense of blinding heat in the sun, and accentuating sharp outlines of the weird stone forms in moonlight.
Dimensions The bluff rises about 80 feet (25 m) above the adjoining valley floor. Individual rock mounds range from 3 to 15 feet (1-5 m) high. Pits and hollows in the rock surface range from the sizes of eggs to more than a yard/meter in diameter.
The bluff is the up-tilted edge of a broad sandstone layer, and so forms a consistent wall extending hundreds of yards to left and right, hampering movement from this patch of valley to land beyond the ridge.
Individual protrusions, pits and hollows are occasionally found on many sandstone rock faces in desert regions; this place differs by their great abundance, giving a strongly irregular character to the whole slope face. Flanks of nearby ridges, the edges of other sandstone and siltstone beds, are much more smooth and typical in their appearance.
The deep cavities are very unevenly spread over the rock surface. In some spots they are sparse; in others they are so closely grouped that they are only separated by thin stone partitions. While these differences somewhat follow the lines of rock bedding, there is no other apparent pattern or rhythm to them.
There is a ramp of poor, sandy soil and rock fragments leading up to the base of the exposed, sculpted sandstone outcrop. It supports only scattered patches of weeds and brush.
The ancient river deposits making up this rock have been sculpted not by wind, but by millennia of freeze and thaw, seeping moisture, expanding salt crystals left by evaporation, and uneven dissolving of minerals cementing the sand grains together. It seems that some parts of the exposed rock surfaces have actually been hardened by their long exposure to sun and air, and where there were nicks in this armor, the rock has worn away much more rapidly, creating deep cavities. Wind then did the lesser job of carrying away grains of sand loosened from the disintegrating sandstone, quite thoroughly sweeping out even the deeper rock hollows.
Some hollows in individual rock mounds are large enough for one or two people to shelter in; larger hiding places can be found beneath wide overhanging layers of sandstone.
To pick your way up this slope requires a mix of careful walking and clambering, shifting laterally to avoid large overhangs and tall, unusually smooth rock faces. It is important, if at all possible, to clearly see where you are placing feet and hands. This desert space is shared with scorpions and rattlesnakes who may be especially drawn to warm upper rock surfaces in morning hours.
Cliff swallows inhabit some fractured recesses in the most vertically rising sandstone faces. Their small, hollow mud nests oddly echo the forms of some of the most cavernously weathered bedrock knobs. Adult birds with young in the nests will dive close to the heads of people approaching too closely.
Narrow paths between the ascending ranks of sandstone mounds are filled in with loose sand, and so easier for walking. However thin stone plates wedged from the rock surfaces by frost are scattered there as well, likely to make clattering and cracking noises when stepped on.
Encased in the bedded sands of the rock, showing in cross-section in a hollow, is a layer of round, black, near spherical blobs of obsidian. This marks a time when a volcano nearby was spitting molten rock into the air, which cooled quickly to glass before reaching the ground. The blobs now appear as if cut through, about even with the rest of the rock surface. Fractured shards of the glass, half an inch (1 cm) long, will sometimes be found on the ground below. These will have very sharp edges useful for fine cutting.
If there were a wagon trail following the valley floor, this bluff would be a very appropriate place for a band of robbers to emerge from various nooks and crannies, and pounce on travelers.
This could be a special place of reflection or training for a leader of a clan, town, or organization. The complex, crowded forms here would stand in contrast to the simple, clean landscape forms (mountaintops, straight slopes, ocean beaches) typically featured in images evoking leadership, inspiration, and power. The different sizes of rock hollows, sometimes clustered, sometimes dispersed, could symbolize the accomplishments of past leaders, or the problems that the new leader will need to address.
Climbing this slope in the dark could be a rite of passage for adolescents. Local parents might anxiously use nursery rhymes, scavenger hunts and other games, and rote memorization to improve the chances of their children surviving the test. Dishonorable/maverick parents might cheat, with hidden candles, ropes, or other forbidden safety measures.
This could be an excellent place to lose pursuers. Local people might become quite adept at climbing here; knowing how to quickly get to the top could be part of a community's emergency plan if invaded (this could explain the rite of passage above).
It would be quite a challenge finding someone lost, dehydrated, unconscious, lying or holed up somewhere in all of this. Continuing to follow a trail of footprints that leads onto this slope could present special problems for a tracker, with loose, easily shifting sand and many patches of bare rock.
It would be rather annoying to follow a treasure map across the region to this spot, with final direction saying "look for it in the small pit in the rock!"
The base of this slope could be a distinctive place for a ceremony. The rock hollows could be populated with animal skulls, broken pieces of technology, or other objects, On a calm night, candles could be placed in them.
Signs of ancient volcanism in the rock might prefigure a new eruption starting up somewhere in the region.
Under a specific sun or moon angle, the pattern of light and shadow might create a clear image or symbol on the slope face.
Roadside on Wyoming Hwy 120 between Thermopolis and Cody, just north of the southern intersection of Wyoming Hwy 171 to Grass Creek.