Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Elusive Diamond Pictographs

Picking up where I left off with my last post... I had found two of three rock art sites I was looking for W/NW of Barker Dam. I even found a rock art site by sheer luck all on my own, so I was feeling like this was turning out to be a great hike! With an hour of daylight left, I decided to go in search of rock art site #3.
As I got close to the rock art area (based on the published GPS coordinates I had plugged into my phone), I came across "sliced bread" rocks. This might look familiar to you. I shared it a few weeks ago.

A nolina in bloom. These look so regal when in full bloom, and significant because they were important to Native Americans both as a food source (stalks) and the leaves, which were weaved into baskets.

Rock art site #3 has been called the "diamond solstice" pictographs. One reference mentions something about being "hidden in a low recess of the rock wall". My mind grabbed onto the "low" description, and assumed it had to mean low to the ground.
Based on the GPS coordinates, the pictographs should be right there! Somewhere low along these rocks. Looking all over for a low rock shelf or recess, I'm not finding anything. I double check and triple check, even assuming the GPS could be off by 50-100 feet as I scour the entire area.

I even crawled through a thick stand of manzanita, keeping an eye out for snakes.

The manzanita bark catches my eye. Really weird and interesting looking! Manzanita are native to CA, and they "peel" once a year. Once the manzanita is done shedding its outer bark, the red branches are silky smooth. These smooth branches are more resistant to insect attack, so an excellent defense mechanism. Only seen at higher elevations in Joshua Tree National Park, which is where this photo was taken.

After searching every square inch multiple times, I finally had to admit defeat. It had been a great hike, and I found lots of rock art, but site #3 (diamond solstice pictos) had eluded me. The sun was setting and I still had quite a ways to hike to get back to my Jeep, so best be moving on!

Another beautiful nolina lit up by the setting sun!

Nolina next to sliced bread rocks.

 Yet more rock art?? I think so, it sure looks like both orange and black pigment on the rock, although I can't make out any distinct symbols.

Yet another lucky find... a Native American pottery shard! I was getting a complex because everyone seems to find these but me. I was definitely overdue to find one, and here it is!

Following the wash back to the Jeep as the sun sets behind the hills. My favorite time of day!

A classic desert sky!!

Look closely and you will see the couple up on the roof of their van enjoying a classic Joshua Tree sunset! I like to think they are enjoying a little cheese, bread, perhaps a glass of wine... perfection!!

Keys Ranch Road

Last shot of the day (literally). I was tired (really tired) and running late, but I just couldn't resist pulling over to take one last skywatch shot!!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Take only pictures, leave only footprints!
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Looking for Rock Art

About a month or so ago I was trying to think of a hike in Joshua Tree National Park that would meet a few criteria: [1] Not too far, perhaps 2 miles round trip (because of the blistering hot summer temps). [2] Be at higher elevations (same reason as #1). [3] Explore an area I hadn't seen before. I settled on looking for some rock art in the Barker Dam area (actually a little W/NW of Barker Dam).
I started my hike from Keys Ranch Road and I was armed with GPS coordinates for 3 distinct rock art areas. I felt confident I could find and easily hike to the first rock art location called "Diamond Solstice" pictographs. According to a published reference, I had the coordinates for the pictographs and a description that they were "hidden in a low recess of the rock wall". What could be easier? Well, stay tuned. Desert hikes are rarely as easy as we anticipate!

Right from the get-go, the hike was tougher than expected. The temps didn't drop like they usually do as I climbed in elevation from 29 Palms up to my hike location. Also, it was very humid. "Humid" and "desert" usually don't go together except for a couple weeks during monsoon season at the end of summer, but this summer we've had humidity for... well, the whole summer!! Anyway, I was sweating like crazy as I made my way through the soft sand and thorny brush. One of the few hikes where I drank my entire water supply before the end of the hike. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Despite temps well into the '90s and high humidity, it was a picture-perfect day with beautiful cloud formations.

As I circled the rocks on my right, I came across the view above. It looked familiar, and I thought somewhere in these rocks are the diamond solstice pictos. But checking my GPS, something was wrong. I was still a good 1/4 mile or so from the location. Oh well, might as well explore while we are here.

Climbing up and exploring the rocks above, I found this sweet little alcove. And inside the alcove...

Bingo, some definite, if faint, pictographs! Looks like both red and black pigment was used. Not the diamond solstice pictographs I was looking for, but really fun to stumble across some rock art that I had never seen described anywhere and that I had discovered on my own.

Side Note: A few days after this hike I contacted my friend PT to see if he was aware of these pictos. Not only was he aware, he had a blog post about this exact spot: Small Rock Shelter Alcove Pictographs. A lot of good information, check it out!!

Hiking down off the rocks and looking back up at the little alcove, this is what you see.

Yet another "split rock". These huge boulders that are split in half seem to be all over the park. I figure if I keep hiking long enough, sooner or later a big boulder is going to split in half right before my eyes!

The hike into a typical desert wash. Thick with vegetation and at times appears to be impassable.

Eventually you get to this huge cube rock. It's like a giant guardian who's saying "you can't get past me!!" (you can if you do a little bushwhacking). Actually, getting around and past him is when things get interesting!

On the back of guardian rock, there is a low shelf with a number of pictographs. This is one of the three pictograph sites I was hoping to find, and it's been referred to as "bloody hands" pictographs. Look closely and you can see some pictos that look like bloody hands! This would be a fun image to enhance because I think there is more going on here than we can see with the naked eye.

After a lot of bushwhacking, cursing, sweating, and dead ends, I came across this sign. The Schwarzenegger Wall?? Never heard of it. I was looking for something called "Alister's Cave", and I was pretty sure this was it. Now I had a moral dilemma: Closed to climbing and bouldering. Am I a climber?? No. Am I a boulderer? I don't know, maybe, but more of a hiker. 

It's such a beautiful area with towering rock walls, I carefully continued to explore. Who could resist? I had not seen a single person on my hike all day (who else is crazy enough to be hiking on a blistering hot, humid summer day in the desert??)

An easy climb up to Alister's Cave. Not a cave at all, but a nice picturesque alcove. I have no idea who Alister was. I've even heard that Alister's Cave is somewhere up above this alcove and only accessible to serious rock climbers. Maybe that's what's closed to climbers? Whatever, I'm calling this Alister's Cave and I'm going to take some pictures!

The view out.

One of the first things I noticed weren't pictographs at all, but petroglyphs on the floor of the alcove. Very weird that they were on the ground, and perhaps one reason to discourage people like me from exploring the alcove. (I was very careful not to step on the petroglyphs!)

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see more and more pictographs all over the back wall and overhang of the alcove. There are many... perhaps even hundreds of pictographs. The longer I looked, the more I saw.

Interestingly, the pictos are in multiple colors. Red, white, and black pictos can all be seen. Some seem to be on top of others, and there's a certain disorder... almost sloppiness to the Alister's Cave pictographs. Makes me wonder what this cave was used for by Native Americans. Perhaps it was a party cave, with mind-altering substances being used and resulting in pictographs scrawled haphazardly all over the place! I'm joking, but heck, you never know!

Here's the view of Alister's Cave from the other side of the wash. The alcove is just visible above the scrub oak, and, like many things in the desert, it would be very easy to walk past and miss altogether.

I have at most about an hour of daylight left and I'm wondering if I have time to get to the area of the third rock art site. Sorry to keep you in suspense, but you're going to have to wait until next week's post for the exciting conclusion! I'll leave you with a couple of sky shots taken as I start my trek over to the third rock art site.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Take only pictures, leave only footprints!
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

End of Summer

Well, technically not the end of summer (which is Sept. 22 in my neck of the woods). But what better defines the end of summer than going back to school, which my granddaughter did this week? So humor me while I share a few of my favorite Lilly shots from the summer of 2018!
It was a hot summer for sure. The newspaper said the hottest July on record. Ever!! It was also a humid summer (by S CA standards, where we usually have very little humidity). I can take the heat, but not the humidity!

Best neighbors ever!! Our neighbors have a pool and we have an open invitation to swim whenever we want. We really took advantage of it this summer, and Lilly has developed into a strong, comfortable swimmer. 

View from the Huntington Beach pier (looking N). This was taken on a weekday. Weekends are much busier!

Spent some really fun days at the beach. Mostly near the Huntington Beach pier. The shot above was taken by my wife when the US Open of Surfing was taking place.

Just hanging around at one of the local parks. We spent a LOT of time at parks over the summer!

Working on her "lego-license"!

A visit to Legoland!

The morning before her first day of kindergarten (showing off her new backpack)!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!