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Library Author Series returns in person with Craig Childs

Adventurer, explorer and award-winning author Craig Childs will discuss his book, “Tracing Time: Seasons of Rock Art on the Colorado Plateau,” and answer audience questions at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Bud Werner Library in Steamboat.
Courtesy photo

Adventurer, explorer and award-winning author Craig Childs has been studying and writing about archaeology for 25 years, but up until now, he’s never written on one topic: rock art.

“It’s a topic that I’ve avoided because it’s complex and hard to define,” he explained. “But it’s everywhere in our landscape.”

At the start of the pandemic, as his other assignments got canceled one by one, he decided to tackle rock art and headed out into the field — the Colorado Plateau — to gather information. Often spending days or weeks at one site at a time, he observed the landscape and the art through different seasons over the course of a year and a half.



His experience is chronicled in his latest book “Tracing Time: Seasons of Rock Art on the Colorado Plateau.” As the Bud Werner Memorial Library’s author series returns in person, Childs will be at the library on Thursday, May 5, to discuss his explorations and discoveries.

Childs, who is known for following ancient migration routes on foot, said that his in-depth study of rock art provided a level of intimacy that he doesn’t normally find in his explorations.



“Usually, I’m on the move going from continent to continent or mountain range to mountain range,” he said. “This was much more sinking my feet in and spending time in one place. I could see how the light shifts over time, where the sun rises and sets on different days, how the stars align in the sky. It was nice to be that focused.”

Speaking with those who are deeply familiar with the canyons and caves of the Colorado Plateau — elders, friends, scholars and many members of the Zuni and Hopi tribes — Childs set out to explore different ways of viewing rock art.

“It’s not so much about what the individual images mean,” he explained, “but more about the different perspectives and different ways of looking at it.”

Although he had been to many of the sites several times before, spending days at a time at one panel, Childs was able to notice underlayers of each etching that he hadn’t seen before.

“These were sites that I thought I knew really well, that I had seen for years,” he said. “But in returning to them over and over again, I began to see what hadn’t stood out before; the panels became more complex. I could see how things were related.”

Visual material, Childs pointed out, is older than words and goes back to a more universal language, transcending time in a way that words can’t. “Tracing Time” invites the reader to look and listen more deeply, to consider the past and understand its stories in a new way.

“These aren’t random scratches on rocks,” he said. “They’re all there for a reason. We might not know the reason, but it’s enough to know that there was one.”

Childs is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books on adventure, wilderness and science. He is a contributing editor at Adventure Journal Quarterly and his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal and Outside.

Often referred to as the “modern day desert father,” Childs will discuss his book and answer audience questions at 6 p.m. Thursday in Library Hall.

Craig Child’s latest book, “Tracing Time: Seasons of Rock Art on the Colorado Plateau,” will be a topic of discussion on Thursday, May 5, at the Bud Werner Library in Steamboat.
Courtesy photo
If you go

What: Library author series presents Craig Childs

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, May 5

Where: Library Hall

More information: SteamboatLibrary.org/events/craigchilds

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