Thursday, August 27, 2020

Return Visit to Water Dagger Petroglyph Area

I made this hike back in late January 2020. It's just too dang hot to hike right now, so I'm looking back in my files for hikes that I haven't shared. Let me set the stage for this hike.

My friend Mark and I were looking for an excuse to hike together again. I mentioned I had recently discovered a Native American site that, in my opinion, is the largest and most significant in the NE Joshua Tree area. It's got it all... pictographs, petroglyphs, a large grinding site with mano, pottery sherds, bedrock mortars, even a water source. If you want more detail, click here. My specific goals for this hike: [1] Try to get into the area via a new route (from the west) and [2] Check on water levels at the water holes I had found. I told Mark that if we go here, he is sworn to secrecy regarding the location. He said "yes" and "yes", so off we went!

These rocks appear to be sniffing at the clouds!

Early in our hike, we discover this beautiful little arch. Lets go take a closer look.

Hey Mark!

View through the backside of the arch, looking NE.

As we continue down the wash, the rocks on either side of us get interesting. Does anyone remember the movie "Tremors", with the giant worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh??

We come across this little baby arch. Look closely and you might be able to see Mark's hat as he peaks out from behind the crack in the rocks.

The thing about these small arches is they photograph well. You might mistake this for a big arch because there is no frame of reference.

Not sure what this is, but I see an ear, an eye, and a nose that looks like it's being used as a kick stand!

As I was planning out this hike route on Google Earth, I remember thinking this section looked kind of sketchy. It was in the shadows so I couldn't make out much detail. I was hoping it wouldn't be full of rocks, making it impassable. One of my biggest fears of hiking off-trail like this is getting blocked and having to turn around. As it turned out, it was passable, but with difficulty. By the time we came out the other end, my clothes (and skin) were full of stickers and thorns. I remember concentrating hard on just getting through, and I didn't even think about taking pictures. I also remember thinking "let's never go this way again!" But not so with Mark. We got to a spot that he seemed very interested in, and I couldn't understand why. I found a shady spot and let him do whatever he was doing. I needed the rest anyway!

Photo by Mark Robben (

Mark later shared this photo with me and said this would make a great location for a night sky shot of the Milky Way. Really Mark? I figured he had been out in the sun a little too long. Didn't look like anything special to me. Plus, are you kidding me? Hiking to this remote location in pitch black middle of the night? Impossible! You would get hopelessly lost, or worse!!

Well, hang on to your hats. Here's the shot he took at this exact location a few months later.
Photo by Mark Robben (
 WOW!!!!! Did I mention Mark is an astrophotographer? I see a lot of Joshua Tree night sky photos, but Mark's are consistently the best!
OK, continuing on our hike...

Bedrock mortar

A narrow space that leads to the water source

Large rake and cowboy hat pictographs are faint but visible.

Water source (east side) is a deep water seep under a large boulder.

Water source (west side) is deep hole in the bedrock.
It was about a month ago when I discovered this mini water canyon with the two water sources, and I'm happy to see water is still available.

On our hike back to the car, we pass by the dancing rocks.

Echinocactus polycephalus

A quick photo of "rip curl" rock as the sun sets and the light turns golden!

Somewhere straight ahead awaits our car!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by.
Stay safe & stay healthy!!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rocky Photo Frames

I wish I could give credit to the fellow blogger that gave me the idea for this post, but my memory fails. I can't even recall the exact photos, but I do recall being impressed by photos which were framed using natural surroundings. And that person's creativity sparked the idea for this post. Amazing how the human mind works!

I'm always crawling in and around caves and alcoves while out hiking in Joshua Tree. Some are cramped, but some give impressive views looking out, and I've always liked the way the rocks can provide natural framing. With a wide angle lens, I can usually pull in the sides of the alcove, which provides a sort of rocky photo frame.

Sometimes the rocky frame itself can prove interesting. Anyone else see a birds head?

This rocky frame provides the silhouette of a bird!

This large shelter, which I came across on a recent hike, appears to have a large grinding stone at the entrance. I love finding stuff like this!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe & stay healthy!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Coyote Hole: Petroglyph Paradise!

Coyote Hole is an area I've been avoiding. On the one hand, I've heard that there are many petroglyphs to be seen in the area, which is obviously a plus. But there are major downsides. The area is only about a mile from downtown Joshua Tree. It is well known by locals, and frequently visited. These are big negatives in my view. Over the years, there's been extensive graffiti. The best post I've seen that documents this was written by my friend Pat Tillett, and can be seen here. But be forewarned: It's depressing to see all the graffiti in this beautiful area. Pat also posts about the areas beauty and the petroglyphs here.

It was early May with temperatures already reaching into the '90s. I had a free afternoon, so granddaughter Lilly and I headed out to find Coyote Hole and hopefully find some Native American rock art. I did no research prior to the hike, so I had no idea where to find the petroglyphs.

Lilly and I find some faint petroglyphs on the rocks as we hike up the sandy wash.

More petroglyphs as we continue up the canyon. These are interesting, and some are clear while others are faded.

As we follow our way up the wash, the above two photos are more example of petroglyphs. These are the ones I'm spotting, but I have the distinct impression there are many others I am missing.
This hill of boulders is loaded with petroglyphs! I guess you'll have to take my word on this, but if you magnify the image and look closely, you can see multiple petroglyph panels all the way up to the top of the rocks. I wonder how Native Americans got up there to peck out all the petroglyphs? Truly petroglyph paradise. To photograph them, I would need to climb up on the rocks, and that wasn't an option today with my granddaughter. I hope to get back to this spot sometime to climb these boulders and photograph the petroglyphs.

As we reached the large, smooth boulders that surround the Coyote Hole area, we were totally AMAZED to see a trickle of water flowing down the rocks!
Ya, it wasn't a flowing stream, but any water in the desert (especially on a hot day like today) is worthy of celebration. And I can only imagine, back in the day when rainfall in the area was more plentiful, this area might have provided a reliable water source. The smooth stone surfaces are a sure sign of water flow. So it's not surprising the Native Americans valued the area and left their marks.
This might be a good time to mention the "Coyote Hole" name. Where Lilly is standing is where, according to legend, the coyotes come to dig for water. I can totally believe that. In fact, I've seen many holes dug in desert sand over the years in areas that look like there may be moisture. Also interesting, according to legend, is that men stood on the ground to carve out the petroglyphs up on the high rocks. Over the years, water has eroded the canyon and made it deeper and deeper, so now those carved rocks are high up off the ground. If this theory is true, it might also indicate the oldest pictrographs are the highest, and those close to the ground would be more recent.

“Chief Francisco Patencio of the Palm Springs Indians tells of hieroglyphics, on the south side of Twenty-nine Palms Valley, along the rock walls of the canyons are many of the sign painted figures that the Indian people all knew and understood.

At the time when Sungrey, one of the Five Head Men of the Fifth People, settled in the Twenty-nine Palms country, he left his people to go all about. Along the edges of the rock hills are the signs he made for his people. Some are paint signs, and some are cut in the rock. One place, called Coyote Holes on the map, the rock painting is very plain to see. The white people call this Coyote Holes, but they are not holes –no. The canyon is small and narrow, with a level sand wash floor. On entering the canyon there are on the left cliff, very plain to see, but very high, the first signs. All along the way are the sign marks. There are many of the snake sign, meaning water. Some are nearly faded away, but they have lasted through time–lasted as long as the Indians had use for them…

All about the canyon is the sign of Indian life. Parts of the broken rock, and bits of pottery. At one mile, perhaps a little longer, the canyon walls close. The way stops in a circle of bluffs, water-worn. In wet winters some waste water may make a fall in the end of this canyon, but not for long.

There is not any water to be seen there, no, none at all. There is no water for many miles up and down the valley from this place. But it is at the very end of this little canyon, in the dry white sand at the foot of the bluffs, that the coyotes come to dig. Always there is good cool water there. This gave the place the name of Coyote Holes, but all animals, men too, come to scoop out a shallow pool for the pure, sweet water…

Now these sign marks are very high in the cliff walls, but when they were first painted by the head men they stood on the ground to do it…they were very large men–very tall…but the ground is washed away during much time, until it is much lower than when the signs were made. And so does the ground get lower. Always, everywhere, all the time.” ~Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians, by Chief Francisco Patencio, as told to Margaret Boynton, 1943.

I told Lilly she could a little climbing as we headed back down the wash.
Just past where Lilly is doing her gymnastics, you have this view down at the canyon. Very pretty!
Heading back down the canyon, I'm explaining to Lilly that you usually see petroglyphs clustered in the same area, and often facing the same direction. Which means we should look most closely on the east wall of the canyon (where we saw the petroglyphs as we were hiking in). At almost exactly that moment, Lilly points to the opposite wall of the canyon and says "Look, Papa, more petroglyphs!"  I felt pretty stupid. Here's a closer look. What a nice find!
As we near the end of our hike, photographer Lilly takes a photo of me in front of this cool little cave we find. I was so pleased that there were few if any signs of graffiti on the rocks. A huge THANK YOU to Friends of Coyote Hole, who have spent a tremendous amount of time cleaning up the area, and keeping it clean.
Almost back to the Jeep, we find this large paper bag bush (also called bladder sage). It's an unusual and interesting plant, with blue flowers and purple "bags" that surround the seeds. When the bags dry up and fall off the plant, they cover large areas of the ground. When the wind blows them, and the seed rattles around in the bag, they make an amazingly musical sound. The first time I heard it, I sat for a very long time, carefully listening, until I figured out what was making the sound!
Thanks for joining Lilly and I on our hike to Coyote Hole.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe & stay healthy!!