Thursday, December 9, 2021

Circle Sun Pictograph Site

 I don't think I took any photos on the first half of this hike. I was too busy trying to catch my breath and wipe the sweat out of my eyes. The rocky wash we were following was steep and challenging, and it was an uncomfortably hot day for a hike. Which means carry a lot more water than usual, which means a heavy pack. 

On a more positive note, the site we were looking for was one that is relatively unknown. It's been visited only rarely, so that's always a plus in my book! A friend of mine, who discovered the site (a few years ago), contacted the Park Service, who told him the site is unknown and uncatalogued. Pretty cool!

Just taking it one rock at a time!

Sometimes it's easier to stay down in the wash or ravine. We had had our fill of that, and the boulders were getting large, so we were trying the side approach. Not sure that was any better. All I can remember thinking is "this hike is really kicking my butt!"
I'm following Roger as we explore. I'm not going to show a photo of the area where we eventually found the site, but let me just say it's highly unlikely you would ever stumble across it (even if you could manage the climb up the wash). The butt-kicking hike notwithstanding, the shelter itself is in an unlikely location with difficult, challenging access.

What an amazing shelter! It's actually made up of three alcoves: Two large and one small. Let's take a closer look... 
You can definitely see pictographs in this view. The circle sun picto, which this site is named after, can be seen in approximately the center of the photo. It follows a natural indentation in the boulder. Very unique!
Plentiful pictographs at this site, but I saw no signs of habitation. No lithic scatter, grinding sites or bedrock mortars, pottery sherds, or other items one might expect to find at a habitation site. 
Many of the pictos at this site are well preserved and are in deep shade. I'll share some of the more prominent pictos with you. On some of these images I used dStretch color enhancement so you can see more detail.

Circle Sun pictograph

This hole in the wall of the shelter intrigued me. It seems too perfectly formed to be natural erosion, and there were no similar holes anywhere in the area. If made by Native Americans, one can only ponder as to what utility it had.
This indented area in the shelter was an interesting find. To the naked eye, you could make out some very faint pictographs.
Same photo with the color enhanced. There's a really interesting circular picto on the left side. To the right of the circular picto is one that looks almost anthropomorphic. I can make out legs and faint arms. The "head" is unusual, with cross hatching and a circle in the middle.

This last one is unusual. To the naked eye, it just looked like a sheen on the rock. Enhanced, you can see tally marks using a whitish pigment. It's the only pictograph at this site using white pigment that I found, and it makes me wonder what significance that might have had?
After leaving this fascinating site, we followed the wash a little further up the mountain. We all agreed we didn't want to go back down the hellish wash we had come up, and Mitch thought he found a alternate way back to the cars using the topo map on his phone. 

We begin our "alternate" route back to our cars. Our guess is that if we can get over these boulders, we can go down the opposite side of the mountain to get back to where we started the hike. Easy peasy, right?
In the above photo it looks like Roger is getting ready to spear Mitch with hiking poles! The reality is that Mitch is handing his poles up to Roger so he will have both hands free for the climb up the boulders.
What's that new movie out on Netflix called? Power of the Dog??
After getting over the ridge, we are surprised to see a large flat area. You really appreciate flat hiking when you've been hiking steep all day, but it wasn't to last.
Uh oh... things look steep once you get past this Nolina. You sure about this, Mitch? And why is this Nolina flowering? Seems like the wrong time of year. Moving on...

Steep descent. Do you see Roger in the center of the photo?

Looking back up at Mitch... what have you gotten me into??

I'm just doing my best not to tumble down the mountain!

We're all thinking the same thing... Seriously? We just hiked down that mountain?? Actually, it doesn't look all that bad from here, but there's no way I would ever do it again!
By the time we got back to the cars, it was dark. A very memorable hike to an incredible pictograph site!
A 62% grade is steep!

A 7-mile hike that felt like at least 14 miles!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Wow, that looked like a difficult trip, but not without merit. You found some interesting markings with the picto Sun. That whole rock almost looks like a face. I love the rocks in your third capture. Another trip Peter, and you came out alive and undamaged:):)

  2. and this area are amazing and I thank you for taking me along. Today I took a stroll in the snowy park, it felt rather tame after seeing your outing.

  3. Wow! What adventures you do photograph for us on your blog ~ fantastic day with you guys ~ never would see this topography or the pictographs ~ and that Dog rock is fantastic ~ love it! Xo

    Happy Days to you,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  4. Dearest Peter,
    Assuming that none of the trio was aware of what they got into...
    Such an incredible steep grade of 62%, wow, sure glad you got down in one piece and even by dark; what a feeling that must have been!!!
    Love the photos.

  5. How exciting finding a new spot to explore. I'm interested to know if you have to wear sunblock when you go out there.

    1. Thanks, Amy. Yes, I usually wear sunblock, at least on warm sunny days (which is most always!). You may notice I'm always wearing a broad-brimmed hat and the same long sleeve white shirt. The shirt has SPF qualities, so try to keep my sun exposure to a minimum.

  6. you are really physically fit to accomplish such hard hikes - fascinating pictographs

  7. No wonder it hasn't been cataloged. It sounds like it's quite a challenge to get to. At least you have the photos.

  8. Never a dull moment with you. What a hike. Yeah... climbing that "mountain" looks pretty easy from where I stand ... or sit.

  9. Always love to be along for the (virtual) ride through your posts!

  10. Wow, wow, and wow! Challenging hike, interesting shelter, fascinating technology to bring out the pictographs. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Who thought there are still uncatalogued places these days!
    Good you keep it a secret.

    Scary!!! The one there (5th pic) looks like a scull, threatening the people on the ground!

    So many secrets, isn´t that wonderful? Maybe the hole was a hiding place? And the pictos... wow.
    Easy peasy?! My excuse. I´m small. (And afraid to fall). The dog looks scary, too.

    Oh, boy. The descent reminds me of Flinder´s Ranges in Australia. Again. Brrr. Never again. Aha. You had me giggling to read your words!

    Awww, that last photo! Thank you!

  12. The geology, the escarpments, and rocks--- and the hidden treasures. The first picture, without the color enhancement: My brain is always seeing faces, and I sure see one in that shot. That's without enhancement. I know it's just my brain's interpretation, but... Super post.

  13. Seriously I'm beginning to think you need your bumps read after that hike. I would have had second thoughts about even climbing up a hill like that. Could the gut not see the contours of the hill on his map. Our OS maps show this so you would know it was steep. Saying all that you took some awesome shots and I really love that sunset at the end

  14. So intriguing. I wonder who painted these.

  15. Beautiful captures of fascinating pictographs.

  16. I think you made some great findings up there.

  17. What a great find that you had. It's amazing that the pictographs have lasted so long. Also amazing that you have bridged across time to touch what the ancients touched and frustrating that we can only guess what the pictographs mean. I don't think we'll ever find a rosetta stone of the pictographs so that we can figure out what they were doing.

    Also, that is one amazing hike you went on.

  18. Those pictographs are amazing. What a great find even if you had to risk injury to get to them. You are very hardy and brave hikers.

  19. Beautiful photos!
    Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog. I was able to get a photo of the Mockingbird from my car window. Birds that live in cities are so used to cars moving along the streets that they are not alarmed when one pulls over and stops for a moment.

  20. Wonderful shots of an impressive hike again.

  21. As always, I am so impressed. I'm glad you had two people along with you this time. The dog formation is especially awesome (along with all the steepness).

  22. What an amazing and challenging hike. Interesting pictographs at this new site. Glad you all came down back to your car safely.

  23. Making beautiful photo's this way keep you for sure in shape. Well done again.

  24. Beautiful photos, and amazing nature!

  25. Wow, what an adventure! It must be an amazing feeling to be in the presence of those pictographs made so long ago. I would want to just sit there for a long time, thinking about hands and minds that made them. Thank you for sharing this experience.

  26. Wow! What an amazing hike. Those pictographs are incredible.

  27. Amazing pictographs. It's so good they are unrecorded and undisturbed. Your desert adventure always amaze me. Ours are very mild in comparison. Even so, we love our time in southern Arizona. April we are going to expand our adventures to New Mexico for the first time. - Margy

  28. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post, and hope to read more. thank you so much for sharing this informative blog.
    Fishing by the River

  29. I always love seeing your pictograph photos! The thought that art, and its use as communication tool, is as old as early man is so fascinating. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  30. Those pictographs are amazing and the fact that the people didn't seem to live nearby is so curious. Always so much to wonder about with these, and this site even more than ever. I appreciate your use of the D-Stretch app (which of course enables even more to wonder about, since even old eyes can see the whole picture). ... But both the climb up and especially down looked so difficult ; amazing that you had energy and calmness enough to take pictures; thanks for sharing the adventure. Beautiful.

  31. What an uncomfortable hiking, but great finds, thanks for sharing.
    Greetings from Germany

  32. All of this is simply wonderful, thank you so much for enhancing the images so that we can see everything so well. I like the inclusion of the tricky climbing bits of your hike and how you and your friends navigate it. Goose bump stuff!
    Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

  33. It's good you're still hiking, the fresh air and walking is keeping you full of energy.