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!!

42 comments:

  1. Gorgeous landscape, I always going on a hike with you

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  2. Beautiful, the desert looks so inviting but is hard to grasp the scale of it at times

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  3. I love your adventures. You are so intrepid. Not only are those rock images hard to find, stuck in to alcoves or such, I think many people, including myself, might miss what we were looking at it right in front of our faces.

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  4. Stunning images. You are crazy for hiking in that heat, though. It won't be too long when the desert will be a nice place for hiking ;)

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  5. So beautiful. But that heat and humidity put it out of my league!

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  6. It is a rare privilege to join you on your rambles! Thank You. [ yes, interesting and scary how weather patterns are changing]

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  7. Once again, a wonderful selection of images--- and descriptions! I'm always glad when I see a new post from you.

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  8. Lovely scenery and rocks! And even the tree shapes are cool.

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  9. Another jewel of desert discoveries.

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  10. Your pictures are always so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Wow! What an adventurer you are and persistent! Humidity would have done me in long ago ~

    Fantastic photos and what an experience viewed by you and us ~ thanks!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores

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  12. Stunning landscape and sky photos. It's always a pleasure to see the results of your journeys. Thank you!

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  13. Oh, wow, exciting times. Those huge boulders look like sleeping monsters that could come to life at any moment.

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  14. So beautiful, so hot, so absolutely amazing with skies so blue. I certainly don't see the humidity. What else can I say?

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  15. I enjoyed coming along on your hike -- from my airconditioned living room! We were just in the desert near Tombstone and Flagstaff and our longest hike was a mile, on a day that the temp was 110. But all worth it for the scenery! I would be so excited to discover drawings from so long ago as you did. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

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  16. My daughter camped at Joshua Tree when she used to live in LA. She loved it there and I can see why now. Your photos give me a good feel of the place without the heat and humidity. You are crazy hiking in the desert in high temps but I can see it was worth it for you to find those ancient pictographs.

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  17. You always have the most interesting hikes out there in desert country. Please be careful, I'm sure you are. beautiful skies.

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  18. Amazing shots! And I LOVE your header shot.

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  19. Beautiful and interesting.
    Coffee is on

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  20. If I would be asked where I'd want to live, I would live in a place like this - with these views I see every single day.

    Worth a Thousand Words

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  21. How wide is the whole area? Judging from your travels it seems like there's always somewhere new to explore.

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    1. Hi Amy. JTNP is 790,000 acres. It's larger than the state of Rhode Island, so it's huge. And most of the popular areas are in the NW corner of the Park, so much of the Park is wilderness area. They say you can spend a lifetime exploring and still not see everything, and I think that's true!

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  22. Beautiful shots of the desert scenes. Interesting rock drawings!

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  23. I can't think of anyone but yourself and Pat who are more qualified to record these treasures SPP, you are both so respectful of their historical value. I feel very privileged to see these ancient artistic endeavours and desert sights through your lens, merci beaucoup ✨

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  24. Going to Joshua Tree is one of the things I miss most about leaving Southern California. - Margy

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  25. What an adventure. Even though the GPS didn't really say where you wanted to be, you stayed and found rock drawings. Miracles happen. Your photographs are always so in focus, composition is amazing, you definitely have the photographer's eye.

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  26. Wonderful! That is a hike I would love to make.

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  27. Lovely sky shots . keep commenting on my blog because I love your comments.

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  28. Well, OK, we do know you got out because you're posting the wonderful pictures -- but I am hoping there wasn't a rescue vehicle or whatever involved in the conclusion. Oh why am I worried... it is you and (as you admit) you are the only one who would hike in that area in that kind of weather... but also the only one who knows how to do it and how to get out safely I'm sure!

    Such beautiful scenery and wonderful pictographs even if it was kind of a mishmash in that cave .... my imagination says maybe that was where they taught younger people how to make them before they took over from their elders to record their history in a more orderly manner in wherever the place was they designated as their recording area.

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  29. Kudos to you for hiking in the 90s with humidity in the desert. By yourself. If I was your mother I would be sitting you down for a strong talking to. You DO tell someone who loves you where you are going, right? OK. Now that I have that off my chest. Stunning. Jaw-dropping. Must have been enhanced photos (kidding). Enough with the superlatives? THANK YOU as always for these absolutely wonderful images and your enticing commentary. Looking forward to the next installment.

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  30. These are great and interesting photos and I love your header!

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  31. What great photos you've shared with us and what an adventure.

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  32. ahhh...I realized this Saturday talking to a hiking neighbor...I hadn't been on a SINGLE hike OR paddle all summer. I guess hitting this particular decade has got me pretty sensitive to the heat. It's been a warm summer.

    On a side note...I signed papers for a new Goldwing...so you never know where I'll end up soon. May be knocking on your door one Saturday ready to follow you into the hills.

    :)

    (Loved your story and photos, of course!)

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    1. Congrats on your new Goldwing, Mac, and if you're out this way, you BETTER look me up!!

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  33. Interesting post. I wonder if we could travel back in time, would we see some native graffiti artists at work making that mysterious artwork?

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  34. It doesn't surprise me that P.T. beat you to those petroglyph images. You two are kindred spirits! I love your observation about the cave being an original party site. Ha! I can just imagine the paint party after partaking in strange substances. Probably not unlike what it would be like today!

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  35. Nice find,hope it will be around for a long time

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  36. You found the art! Great shots.

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  37. Great article..I am looking so forward to your blogcomment and
    I love your page on your post.. That is so pretty..
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