Thursday, November 28, 2019

Return to Rattlesnake Cave

Just a quick post as I sit here reflecting on all the things I'm thankful for, and getting ready for Thanksgiving. At or very near the top of my list is all the joy my granddaughter Lilly brings my wife and I. We were out at the desert earlier this week and Lilly and I went on a quick hike over at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park.

Indian Cove is such a beautiful area, and it's very close to our house, so we hike it on a regular basis. I've posted about it before here and here.

Someone is watching!!
It was about a year ago that Lilly and I were hiking in the area and came across this shelter or cave formed by two large rocks. As I prepared to go inside to explore, I heard Lilly say "Papa, is that a snake??" Well, that stopped me in my tracks.

Sure enough, there was a rattler right in the middle of the cave. And the worst kind of rattler... the kind that doesn't rattle!! I told Lilly to move away from the cave, I took a couple photos, and off we went. 

So here we are, about a year later, and Lilly and I find ourselves at the same cave.
Lilly's a year older, a year wiser and a more experienced hiker (at the wise old age of 7!). She approaches the cave cautiously.

One of the huge boulders making up the cave has this weird rocky "skin" on the outside. I'm sure a geologist could help us understand how this was formed. Really interesting!

There is no sign of Mr. Snake, so we can do a thorough examination of the inside of the cave. I see no rock art, but there is an indentation in one wall that forms kind of a natural fireplace, complete with an overhead opening between the rocks making up the shelter. This would provide for good ventilation. A little hard to tell from the photo above, but the rock in and above the "fireplace" is blackened from what looks like years of use, perhaps dating back to Native American times.

After checking out "rattlesnake cave", we continue exploring the area.
Not far from the cave we come across an absolutely HUGE boulder. It's the largest boulder in an area full of large boulders. One side has this interesting tafoni weathering (photo by Lilly).

Lilly wants to take another photo, so I let her take this one of her little stuffed animal she's brought along in her backpack. I don't even know what it is, but I think it enjoyed the hike!

We continue exploring, making an attempt to circle the giant boulder. It's been my experience that sometimes large boulders have shelters under them, either from natural soil erosion or from other boulders propping them up. This one does not disappoint!

The "cave" underneath giant boulder was extensive and impressive. The photos above just show Lilly at the entrance. It was too dark to capture additional photos on my cell phone, but it had multiple levels and extended the entire length of the boulder. Lilly and I had fun checking it out!

For those that celebrate, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for stopping by!
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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Grinding Slick Shelter

For today's adventure I'm taking you to a really cool spot in Joshua Tree National Park that I think you're going to like. This is a first visit for me. Relatively easy to get to, yet remote enough that nobody goes here or knows about it. I say nobody... well, there are a few, but very few. And I know I'm not the first to find this site, but I feel incredibly fortunate and lucky to be one of the few to see it and experience it.

There's no trail that leads to it, but fortunately, it didn't require too much bushwhacking. And unlike my last couple adventures, I didn't have to climb under any rocks or wedge myself between too many boulders!

For a while, I was following a wash that looked a lot like this one. I'm looking for a shelter with a large grinding slick inside. I know the approximate location.

Hmmm... may be somewhere up in those rocks? Let's go take a look. Keep in mind, these photos represent the hike, but are actually in a different location in the Park. That way the true location is protected.

Bingo! Here it is!! A beautiful, large shelter. I don't see any signs of rock art, although it may have been here at one time and faded away over the years. But there are two very obvious grinding slicks in this shelter. Very cool!

A closer look.

And an even closer look!
Even if you weren't looking for a grinding slick, and even if you didn't know what a grinding slick is, I think you would notice that something, over years and years and years, has smoothed out the top of this rock in a couple places. This is the best example, and most obvious example of a grinding slick that I've seen.

As you are probably aware, a grinding slick is just that... a flat smooth area used by Native Americans to grind things. Anything from manzanita berries, pine nuts, mesquite seeds, you name it. The more grinding that took place, the flatter and smoother the surface. And a large rock or stone was used as a pestle (or mano) to grind and crush the material. The mano would be smooth on at least one end. The rock you see in the photos above is not a mano. At least I don't think it's a mano. I found it on the ground next to the grinding slick. It's not worn smooth on one side (or more) and it's probably a little too small. I just placed it there for effect.

Here's a close-up of the larger of the two grinding slicks. This is looking in from the other entrance to the shelter. Well, not really an entrance because the rocks are in the way. More of a window, perhaps. Anyway, this is the larger of the two grinding slicks. If memory serves, at least 12" in diameter. There may be other grinding slicks on the smaller rock next to this one, but I was so busy taking pics of this one, I forgot to check it out.

Feeling totally elated about finding this very cool shelter and grinding slick, I leave things exactly as I found them and move on to explore the area.

Nearby, I squeeze between some boulders to find this beautiful area surrounded by rocks on all sides. One rock surface immediately grabs my attention because I can see some color. I also like the rocky "wing" sticking out on one side.

Getting in closer to the surface of the wall, you might be able to make out some faint red dots near the center of the photo. Let's use Dstretch to get a better look at whatever color might be here.

Now you can easily see the red dots, along with a number of other pictographs if you look carefully. Wow, this is a cool site!

 A close-up of the seven large dots, with a z-shaped symbol on the right.

My favorite symbol from this panel is this double star or sunburst symbol. Very unusual. Without Dstretch, it's pretty faded, but with Dstretch it really comes alive!

A net symbol, which isn't all that unusual. I'm pretty sure this is a basketball net... or may be that's just because I've been watching all the Laker games 😉

A headless dancer with her arms up in the air? I have no idea, but I've promised myself to try to learn more about Native American rock art and culture. It's totally fascinating!

With the sun getting low on the horizon, it's time to head back. This has been one of my most rewarding hikes, and it only makes me even more interested and grateful to see sites like this.

If you look really closely at the next to last photo, you might make out the crescent moon. It's easy to see in the last photo, especially with the help of that leaning Joshua tree that appears to be pointing at it!

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Thanks for stopping by!!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Cave of the White Orbs

I'm on something of a roll with regard to finding (well, mostly being told about) remote and seldom-seen rock art sites and Native American shelters. On my last post I shared a site I stumbled across (I called it Children's Shelter pictographs) while in search of some nearby sites. So today, let me take you to one of the sites I was actually looking for!

I had seen photos of pictographs from this site that were very unique and unusual, and I had a pretty good idea of the approximate location. Of course, that doesn't mean you will actually find it once you go looking, but I got very lucky on this hike.
Looking for one particular boulder with some faded rock art is like finding a needle in a haystack. But half the fun is in the search!

A little local color on the hike in.
And a little local texture.
Gotta be around here somewhere!
Could this be it? Looks like there's a very small, tight crawl space under this rock (hiking stick for perspective). Seriously, you expect me to crawl in there??! Well, let me at least see if I can stick my head in there and take a look.

Well, what the heck. Once down on my belly looking in, I figured I might as well go all the way. It is in fact a hollowed-out boulder on the underside, but not as spacious as it looks. The wide angle lens makes it look bigger. If you don't like crawling on your belly, or have an aversion to tight, dark areas, you may want to avoid this site! By the way, look very closely and you might spot a pictograph on the top, left of center, of the photo.

With Dstretch to highlight the picto, you can't miss it.

Thankfully, there is a second opening (above) that makes crawling under this rock feel a little less confining. Still, it's a tight, dark area and really glad I brought a light with me so I could better check things out and take some photos.

Very interesting pictos. One thing that stands out to me is the two colors used (white and red). Looks like the white coloring kind of highlights or reinforces the red symbols. What those symbols mean is anyone's guess!

Nearby, I can make out a faint red picto on the ceiling of this hollow rock. Keep in mind I'm now flat on my back, holding a heavy camera in one hand and a light in the other. I'm sure it would have made for a very comical photo! Anyway, let's use Dstretch to see if we can't get a little more detail on the picto.

Wow!! This is a great example of how Dstretch will make visible details that you would have totally missed.

I've never seen any pictos quite like these. With a little imagination, I can see a magic wand, a popsicle, a baseball, a telephone, and a space ship! And then it occurs to me, may be I've been under this rock a little too long!

But the above two photos are the "money" slides!! Wow, really unusual, and these white orbs are what the site is named after. Interesting how two of the orbs are solid white, and two are hollow with red circles. It's been conjectured that this picto is representative of female, and perhaps has something to do with a female puberty ceremony.

It's time to see if my sore, stiff body can crawl out from under this rock. I look at the ground and notice my car keys have fallen out of my pocket and are lying in the dirt. Right next to my reading glasses, that were hanging from my shirt pocket. I can do without the glasses, but I need those car keys to drive home. And without cell service in Joshua Tree National Park, you don't want to lose your keys!!

Ah, so nice to be standing upright again, with the sun setting on the horizon. I'll share a couple more photos from my hike back to the car (with my car keys securely in my pocket!).

Ouch!! Looks like an uncomfortable perch to me.

Thanks for joining me on my latest adventure!!

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Children's Shelter Pictographs

I was hoping to hike to an obscure location called "Hidden Handprints Cave", but I ran out of time. By the time I was on the road, it was already 2 PM and things would be too rushed. I also didn't want to risk hiking off-trail through the Wonderland of Rocks after sunset. That sounds like a recipe for disaster! Then I recalled my virtual friend, D.L., had just recently shared some spots that weren't too far off-trail. D.L. has been extremely generous sharing some of the all-time best sites in all of Joshua Tree with me. Not only are they incredible sites, but they are also sites that are virtually unknown. So off I go to see if I can find these rock art sites. I had GPS coordinates, but keep in mind they aren't all that accurate. When you're exploring a field of huge boulders, even being off by 50' or so can make it a real challenge to find a hidden site.
This gives you a feel for the hike in, although this photo was taken nowhere near the actual site we're going to. I trust all of my regular readers... it's those anonymous folks I'm not so sure about!!

Weird split boulder with a rocky divider in the middle! There are boulders like this all over, with lots of little (and some not so little) nooks and crannies that could be potential shelters. That's why it's so hard to find things out here, even with GPS coordinates.

A closer view...

Cha-ching!!!! After hiking a little over two miles, I find this rocky overhang with some obvious pictographs. See them?

Here's the same photo using Dstretch to enhance the pictos. This would actually be a cool little shelter. It's got a nice rock overhang and shade from a nearby tree, but this big boulder right in the middle kind of spoils things. Below are some close-up shots of the pictos.

Really interesting pictos, and quite well preserved. As I'm taking these photos and looking more closely, I notice some pictos back behind the big boulder. That's weird. There's only a few inches between the boulder and the overhang. How in the heck were those pictos made behind the rock!!?

As I move over to the left side of the boulder, I notice the smallest of openings... may be about 15" or so. Let's stick our head in there and see what's inside.

Do you see them? Look carefully. As I looked inside, I was amazed to see tiny little hand prints along a ledge of rock. Or maybe finger prints is more accurate, as much of the palm is not captured in the print. Below is a Dstretch version of the photo to show you the finger prints a little more clearly.
There they are! They look just about the size my 7 year old granddaughter Lilly would make. May be even a little smaller. OK, so if you spotted the finger prints in the first photo, you're the winner! Your prize should be coming to you in the mail any day now!! 😉

My next activity might fall into the knucklehead category, but I'm going to attempt to squirm into that very small space between the rock and the larger overhang to access this mini-shelter and get a better photo of the finger prints. I'm having visions in my mind of hikers finding my bleached bones months from now, after wedging myself so tightly between the boulders that I get hopelessly stuck!
Fortunately, that didn't happen, and I lived to hike another day. These sure look like a child's partial hand prints to me, with just a little of the upper palm. And let me tell you that no adult in their right mind would want to squirm into this mini-shelter, but it would be perfect for a couple of small children. I did learn (big surprise) that I'm not as slim as I use to be, and I'm sure not as flexible as I used to be!

So I'm calling this "Children's Shelter" pictograph site. Pretty cool, don't you think?

After squirming my way back out, it was definitely time for a break and time to check my GPS waypoints. I was fully expecting to be right on top of one of the spots D.L. shared with me. To my surprise, I was still about 100 yards away from the closest location... which means this spot was independent of the locations D.L. shared with me! Very cool, and fun to think I'm likely one of very few who have seen this site. After checking with D.L., he didn't recall the site, which makes it all the more fun to find.

No significance... other than I like the texture and color of the wood!

I went on from the Children's Shelter to find three sites that D.L. shared with me. Those will have to wait for a future post, but they are some of the best I've seen. Very much looking forward to sharing them with you.

By the time I was hiking home, the sun had set and it was getting quite dark. This little bird kept going from Joshua tree to Joshua tree just ahead of me, as if to guide me home. But it was only a relatively short distance back to the trail, and I knew I could follow the tail even at night if necessary. But so glad I had decided against the more complex, off-trail hike through the Wonderland.

Hiking home by the light of the desert moon.
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Thanks for stopping by!!