Thursday, April 15, 2021

Newspaper Rock??

 Does Joshua Tree National Park have it's very own "newspaper rock"? The "original" Newspaper Rock petroglyph site is in San Juan County, Utah. I've never seen the site in person, but here's a photo (by Stephen Cho, Google images). It looks spectacular! There are about 650 individual glyphs, and it's said to be one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the world. In the Navajo language, the rock is known as Tse' Hane, or "the rock that tells a story."

So perhaps you will understand my scepticism. I was nearly certain there could be nothing remotely close to this in JTNP, or I certainly would have heard about it by now, or seen photos, or something!
About this same time, my friend Mitch asked if I would be up for a very challenging hike. He had recently hiked into a pretty and remote area in JTNP, saying it was about the most challenging hike he's done in the Park. That means a lot coming from Mitch, who's done some very extensive hikes, well beyond my ability. He said he **thinks** he might have found an easier way into the area. Oh, and by the way, we can go by Newspaper Rock. Ya, right. I reluctantly agreed, but secretly worried about not having the stamina to be able to make such a tough hike. The elevation gain was huge. The route was more than a little challenging, following a boulder-filled wash with multiple blockages and perhaps not even passable. And the total mileage was high. What if I get half way into this hike and am unable to continue? It's a real possibility, and the thought crossed my mind more than once. We would need to get an early start, because this hike would take a full day and a little more. So pull up a chair, get comfortable, and join me on what would become my most challenging hike ever.
We got an early 7AM. This after negotiating a little with Mitch, who would have preferred a 6 or 6:30AM start time, which seemed rediculously early to me. After finishing up our hike, his request for such an early start would make a lot more sense. Anyway, the hike would follow this wash for most of the way. Initially, it was easy going... just a slight uphill grade over a flat, sandy surface. Piece of cake, right?
But very quickly, the wash would narrow and rocks and boulders would be the theme of the day.
Early morning in the wash. This is perhaps the first of many (please believe me when I say MANY) blockages we would come across.
Mitch navigating one of the smaller, early blockages.

Another blockage...

And another. Are you seeing a trend?

One of a handful of large blockages. For some of these, there was no way to climb over. We jokingly used something called a "Mitch Bypass", which was basically climbing up the side of the mountain to get around the boulders blocking the wash.
A "Mitch bypass" in action!

First shade. I'm feeling spent, but I know we have a long way to go!

A shy rosy boa. Not a great photo of him... he really didn't want to show himself, and we didn't want to bother him. I've never seen a rosy boa in the wild before, so this was a fun find. I have a fondness for them. My son had one as a pet for a number of years.
We finally, finally reach a plateau with a level view. An absolutely gorgeous area. We still have a ways to go, but at least we will be hiking and not climbing (for a while).
There are areas in this valley with abundant pinion pines. This area was trying to trick me into thinking I wasn't in the desert anymore!!
View through low hanging branches of a pinion pine.

As we rounded a corner, my eye was immediately drawn to this strange circular design on a rock. It's located in a prominent spot, as if designed to call attention to the area. So of course, I went to check it out.
It's like a bullseye worn into the rock. It might even have a little cross design in the center, although hard to make it out. To my eye, it definitely does not look like natural erosion. This was made by Native Americans. As I was checking it out, I suddenly noticed the petroglyphs to the left. What a fascinating find! No way that I would have found these petroglyphs if the "bullseye" hadn't grabbed my attention and guided me here.
Since the bullseye had called me over, and after finding the adjacent petroglyphs, I decided it would definitely be worthwhile to check out the area a little more thoroughly. That's when I found it...
WOW!! It does kind of resemble Newspaper Rock. Lot's and lots of petroglyphs here. Many appear to be faded and eroded away, but many can still be seen. The desert patina on the rock is light, so the glyphs are not as vibrant as Newspaper Rock in Utah. But impressive nonetheless. How come I've never seen photos or any reference to this site? Very odd. All I can figure is that's it's so remote and difficult to get to that few have seen it.

A strange wagon wheel with wavy spokes.

One of my favorites is this "tally mark" pictograph. A little difficult to count the individual marks, but I keep coming up with 30. Coincidence??
I asked a friend of mine, who is something of an expert on cultural sites in JTNP, if he was familiar with a site called "newspaper rock". He said by reputation only, and that he had never actually seen it. He also said he had heard it's really difficult to get to (true). And he sent me a couple of photos of the site he thought might be the one I was referring to from archival files. It was a match! The site was documented by Daniel McCarthy in 1975, and he called it "Petroglyph Tanks", which is a pretty cool name, given there is an area close by that traps water (and many years ago likely had water year round).
I was amazed to find standing water in this area, even in a very dry year.

A small amount of standing water in another area near Newspaper Rock (or petroglyph tank, take your pick). The rocks in this area are smooth and water-worn from many thousands of years of flash floods.
A bedrock mortar in the petroglyph tanks area. Look closely and you can see the grinding stone (pestle) was rubbed against the left wall of the mortar, as it's worn away at a smooth angle. The right side is straight up and down.
The smooth rocks at petroglyph tanks turned out to be a challenging obstacle. Mitch kept getting to about this spot before sliding back down again. 
See Mitch smiling? He likes this route better, but I'm not convinced it's any easier. I think I required some help getting up this section.
As we started exploring the upper valley, we came across this old campsite. This area has been designated "day use only" (no camping) for a long time, so this is likely quite old.


This skull seems a little small to be a coyote, so I'm thinking fox.
Makes me wonder how it met its demise. Hopefully nothing too painful or violent, but nature can be both.
Wow, check that out! A perfectly formed arch on the hillside. It's further away than it looks, and it appears to be quite large. Not enough time to check it out today. There are very few arches in this part of the Park, and given its remoteness, I wonder if anyone has ever photographed it? My achy joints are telling me I will likely never do this hike again, but the opportunity to climb the rocky rubble over to that arch for some proper photographs is the one thing that might get me back.

Even though it's only mid-afternoon, we need to start heading back. Although I hate to leave this beautiful valley, no way do I want to be navigating this wash in the dark. See if you can spot Mitch in the photo below.

The hike back. We're exhausted, and a trip and fall is much more likely during this part of the hike, when leg muscles no longer obey commands from the brain. We completed the last 1.5 miles in total darkness, wearing headlamps and navigating by handheld GPS. Mitch was right. Should have gotten and earlier start!
If you've stuck with me on this long hike, THANK YOU!
A few hike details:

Straight up the wash, hike around in the upper valley for a bit, and then straight back down. Very symmetrical! Looks like total distance was 10.6 miles, which doesn't reflect the degree of difficulty of this hike.
Total ascent: 1759 feet. That reflects the degree of difficulty! Also, the hike duration was 11 hours and 49 minutes. By far a new record for me, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it took close to a week for my aching joints to recover. But so thankful I was able to do this hike. 
Would I do it again?? 
Linking with Skywatch Friday.


  1. Wow, another incredible adventure. What a find you guys made. I love how you obscure where it really is.
    My wife and I went hiking in southwest Oklahoma last week. It might have been a taste of what you do. We went on a series of 1-1/2 mile out and back hikes which seems short but lots of vertical and lots of going from boulder to boulder and so our 3 mile total hikes wore us out. But we had fun.

    1. Thanks, Alan. Three miles of rocks and boulders is like 10 miles on a trail!

  2. ...this sure isn't a walk in the park. Thanks for taking me along, I never could have done it on my own!

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  4. Petroglyph tanks!! I've been looking for that site for a while on google earth, it's very cool that you got to visit. Love your website, the writeups and photos always make me want to get out and explore JT.

    1. I'm so glad we connected. You are a wealth of information and hiking experiences!!

  5. Dearest Peter,
    Well, of course the eagerness to discover more and to tackle yet another obstacle gives one wings... Not so much on the way back out though.
    Incredible photos and yes, those do resemble crosses. Is that maybe a reason it is not being publicized a lot?
    Kudos to you both!

  6. Wow. I can imagine a week of recovery after that. But worth it to find that newspaper rock.

  7. Outstanding Brother Man - Beyond Stoked For Ya And Amazing Photos - Have Taken A Few Friends Down To Newspaper Rock And We Basically Drove Right To It - Your Adventure Gains Merit For Sure - And Yes, Fox - Well Done - Keep On Keeping On


  8. Wow! Difficult hike but well worth it. Great pictures.

  9. Amazing pics. Another great post.

  10. I had similar apprehensions on many occasions as whether I can hike or not? Most of the times, they turned out to be futile. Love the way you narrated the hike. Such documentation of memorable hikes is truly worth the time

  11. Wow! I´ve never heard of that, this is... more than just "interesting"!
    Glad you have a friend to go along on these hikes! I´d be afraid to slip and...
    Oh, that formation of "day use only" (how sad) is really outstanding!
    And the skull! The teeth really stuck?! Wow (again).

    Your hike reminds me of Flinders Ranges, Australia. I cried. I wanted a helicopter or something to get me out, LOL (as "excuse": my arm was still healing from a break and I had but one to cling on). After over 8 hours we reached our tent. Ingo cooked, I fell asleep for the whole "evening/night", boy, was I naggered. Too tired to even eat.
    Will not repeat this! 😉

  12. It's wonderful to read of your adventures. Even when I was 50 years younger, I doubt that I could have kept up with you. I could walk, I could dirt bike, I could... well all manner of things that are only memories now. I'm glad you had Mitch to help you get there and back. These will be good memories for you someday.

  13. I only can say it was worth it.

  14. Wow, great hike and photos. The boa was a cool sighting. The Newspaper Rock and all the rock formations and arch are beautiful. The skull is a neat find. Thanks for sharing your hike. Have a great day and a happy weekend!

  15. What a torturous hike. But you did it and you Might do it again. What a find, eh? Love all your shots and that huge strange worn away rock just above the Nolina.
    Take Care

  16. What a challenge! You seem to have many opportunities for challenging hikes in your neck of the woods. I enjoyed the photos.

  17. What a physical feat! And so many new experiences. Am impressed , period! Can imagine you needed a week to recover!Love the images along the way, but the most the one of the "Rock that tells a story." Have an easier trip this weekend:) Jesh

  18. Wow! You hike in the best locations.

  19. interesting finding of "newspaper rock".....
    images are wonderful.... thank you for sharing

  20. Fantastic photos! That's so cool you found the newspaper! Definitely worth all the uphill and detour hiking you had to do!

  21. Some hike looked a little like mountain climbing to me getting over those boulders. Well done on you finds.

  22. What a great hike that was! Love the photos and that you added a graph to the post! I think I'd be pulled back there to climb to the arch, I wonder what the view is like from there?

  23. Animal had quite a smile even after it had expired. :-)

  24. No, I'm not going to dare you to do it again. But lots of kudos. That "Mitch Bypass" may have made a few of your readers get a real medical bypass! P.S. I like "Newspaper Rock" better. Wow!

  25. I don't think your friend, Mitch, would find an easy hike to his liking. That certainly required some effort to get over those blockages and I was wondering if there was another way to return to the starting point, but most likely there was not. I liked the newspaper wall.

  26. Wow, what a hike. I can just imagine how your legs must have felt. So rewarding though with all the interesting things you found along the way. I really enjoyed coming along!

  27. Greetings and Salutations! I tip my hat to you for being the most adventurous person I have ever known. You and Mitch actually achieved your goal to see the newspaper wall. You two are blessed.

  28. YOU AND your Adventures are . . . Better than any feature film. Thank you SO Much for sharing. (I don't want to be seen by a boa . . . have no confidence the meeting would be satisfying. . . although, I'm THRILLED you spotted a shy one and it made you happy.) 🙂

  29. The idea of a newspaper rock is amazing! I'd call it "Dazibao". LOL!

  30. Dear Peter,

    fist thank you for visiting my blog and your comment there :-D

    An impressive hike with a lot of pictures are you presenting to us. Thank you for this virtual journey.

    Best regards

  31. Congratulation on accomplishing this difficult and challenging hike with Mitch. I am glad I can enjoy the virtual hike without straining any muscle. Newspaper rock is new to me. I am learning a lot from your posts.

  32. Wow! That was a fascinating post!

  33. Seeing the petroglyph takes my break away! How amazing to get to see something like that and know that so few people have seen it or recorded it with photos. Makes me SO glad we have our blogs to share. Your hiking is so strenuous but I'm so glad you made it. We hike here in Florida but we may have to go around a mud hole and that's about all! lol Enjoy your weekend! Thank you SO much for sharing this adventure!

  34. Wow - I'm exhausted just reading your post! Kudos to you for your stamina and determination. Great pics. In addition to the amazing petroglyphs, that blooming Nolina was a real treat too. Hope you have a great week.

  35. Wow! is right and Bravo to you for doing that hike ~ gorgeous photography ~ XX

    Did not feel well most of the weekend ~ so no posts or comments ~ slowly on the mend.

    Living moment by moment,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  36. What a hike, impressive! Spectacular photos.

  37. Just when you think you have seen it all ...
    Amazing what is hidden away in that desert, and thanks for taking us along on your exploration. A pity you are not allowed to camp there overnight, it would let you explore the area so much more.
    Enjoy your day :)

  38. An exciting place, like the beginning of the world. Amazing rocks

  39. Unbelievable SPP!!!! Oh my gosh that was a hike and a half! I love seeing your adventures because there is absolutely no way I would attempt that. It amazes me that anything can grow out there at all! The rock formations are unique and how wonderfully exciting to find the Joshua newspaper rock, brilliant! Yes I did spot Mitch, that man is a hiking machine 😉

  40. In awe..of the difficulty of the hike, of the e beauty, your petroglyph finds, your pictures, your energy. ... thanks for sharing with us mere mortals!

  41. Catching up, and I'm glad I did not miss this exciting post! WOW! Good for you to be able to do this type of hike. The most elevation I ever hiked in elevation was a little over 1,000 feet and it was exhausting. I also found the hike down even harder as gravity pulls one down and footing can be more precarious. The newspaper rock is very interesting. I wish I could read the story it tells. Did you ever hear of the idea of Celtics in America? If you have a few moments watch this video: