Thursday, April 11, 2024

Pictographs & Petroglyphs

 Somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park on a cloudy day. I won't share exact locations because we came across some Native American rock art as we explored the area. Let's go take a look!
A threatening sky, but no rain.
This fence was built a very long time ago, using whatever spare branches they could scrape together (slim pickings here in the desert). Amazing that all these years later the fence still stands. On the other side of the fence is the original Bill Keys property (160 acres) that he homesteaded in 1910 (the Desert Queen Ranch). It was likely Bill Keys himself built this fence.
Area closed. No trespassing. Caretaker on site (I doubt that!).
Guillotine rock (my name). A geological oddity. You do NOT want to do any rock climbing above that razor-sharp rock edge!
The first site we found had an interesting mix of pictographs and petroglyphs. The pictographs (red dye) were very faint, while the petroglyphs (rock etchings) were more visible.
Same photo as previous, but using dStretch to enhance the color. Most of it looks like a big red smudge, but there is definitely a pictograph to the right of the smudge (circle with a line through it). Above and to the right are petroglyphs, and more petroglyphs below.
An exciting find!
A nearly toppled-over Joshua tree. Look at all those juvenile Joshua trees growing out of the original trunk! Reminds me of all the kids hopping on Papa's back for a piggyback ride!
A beautiful little alcove!
Why does that Joshua tree in the foreground look so tall???
The going gets a lot rougher with some rock scrambling required. We're all wondering how much farther should we continue? We definitely don't want to be back in these rocks when the sun sets.

Onward! Our persistence pays off. We find a large rock overhang with a second rock art site. We were initially disappointed as none of us can see any rock art. The others start to leave but I call them back. There's a circular indentation in the rock with faded red marks inside.

Yes!! dStretch confirms the pictograph.
It's no wonder we nearly passed up this site. The pictographs are extremely faded (above). How many sites like this have we passed by on our many hikes?? Photos below enhanced with dStretch.
It's interesting that we come across a pictograph with a circle and a line through it, which is very similar to the first site we came across today. This circle with center line motif has a little head or banner at the top. We find another that's almost identical (photo below) except the center line stops at the bottom of the circle. What all this means is anyone's guess, but I've seen this same motif (with minor variations) at other sites throughout the park (one I can think of is about 75 miles from this site).

The end to an awesome day of exploring and discovery!!
Thanks for stopping by. 
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Addendum: Below is a photo I took in November of 2019 of a motif with circular shape and centerline bisecting it. This location is far removed (about 75 miles) from the hike above, yet the motif is very similar.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Behind Dog Park

 Yes, a strange name for a post. But just behind (to the south) of the dog park of this high desert town is the border for Joshua Tree National Park. The area gets few visitors (certainly no tourists). It has an impressive diversity of desert plants. If you are a geologist or just like to admire rocks, you are in for a treat.
A pretty bunching cactus under a gorgeous sky.
 Close up of same cactus species, I think. It's common in this area, although relatively rare throughout the rest of the park.

A big, healthy red barrel cactus.
Cholla are common in the area.
I'm out walking with my cousin's daughter today. They are visiting from the Chicago area. I say walking because the plan is to walk up the wash for maybe 1/2 mile at most. As it turned out, our walk turned into a hike!

Before long, we came across this marker. It means we are entering Joshua Tree National Park. It seems odd having a designated wilderness area here. In theory, I could bring a tent and camp overnight! Turning around to face the other direction (photo below), you see the town of 29 Palms. I'm used to wilderness areas being out in the middle of nowhere, which is definitely not the case here!
Beautiful skies!
We came across a large area of beautiful spotted boulders. Of course, "spotted boulders" is not the proper geologic term. I believe the proper term is "alkali feldspar megacrysts", also know as "potassium feldspar megacrysts." I think I'll stick with spotted boulders!
This boulder is both spotted and striped! I'm sure a geologist could tell us more.
As you can tell from the photos, we make a spontaneous decision to hike a ways up the rocky mountainside. Look really closely and you can barely see Karrin (in orange) making her way up.
Steep & rocky.
Beautiful views was the payoff for the climb up the mountain. But I was happy when we made it back to flat land. I was wearing crummy shoes with slick tread, carrying no water, and my cell phone was just about dead. All novice errors that could get you into trouble, but like I said, we didn't plan for a hike, just a short walk. Famous last words.
Hiking back to the car, we passed this large structure under construction. It appears they are framing in what will become the basement (in CA, we call it a wine cellar😊). The property line goes right up to the national park. It should be a gorgeous property, but it makes me a little sad. Soon this area will be full of expensive properties, fenced off with no trespassing signs posted, and just a few privileged homeowners will have access to these hills. My days of hiking this area are numbered.
Thanks for stopping by!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

North of Lost Palms Oasis

 This is a hike I underestimated, and that can be a dangerous thing to do. On Google Earth, the area looked interesting, with some huge rock formations that called to me. I carefully mapped out my route and transferred it to my phone. I figured 4-5 hours should be plenty of time to explore the area, which turned out to be a significant underestimate. Join me as I explore the challenging terrain north of the Lost Palm Oasis trail.
I started at Cottonwood Spring where I picked up the Lost Palms Oasis trailhead. The oasis here is full of palms and cottonwoods. A very pretty oasis in the desert, and one of only a handful in the entire park!
Not surprisingly, Native Americans were here first. This mortar is at the beginning of the trail and is one of the deepest I've seen in the park. They say the deeper the mortar, the more it was used and the older it is.
Following the Lost Palms Oasis trail made for easy hiking at the start. The low elevation here means no Joshua trees, but the ocotillo cactus are an added bonus!
I veered off trail a few times to check out rock formations. This looks like the remains of a fire ring.

Giant cracks, as if something hatched out of this rock. Yucca Man, perhaps??!!
Once I left the trail and started exploring the rocks to the north, this is the type of terrain I was up against. Beautiful but challenging, and I woud often hit dead ends and have to double back. It made for slow going.
Can you spot that tiny little piece of the Salton Sea at the top of the photo? I was surprised to be able to see it from here. It's about 20-25 miles away.
Big nose!
Tiki head in profile!
So many interesting rocks to explore!
B&W version. Interesting textures and shadows.
Another Salton Sea view.
I did this hike back in December, and I took this photo at 4:12PM, with the sun starting to set behind the high boulders. If memory serves, sunset was about 4:45PM. To get to the places I had marked on my route would take at least another hour, probably longer. I vividly recall the feeling of urgency to leave. Head back now. I would be very lucky to make it back to the trail before sunset, and I did NOT want to be hiking back in these steep, rocky hills in the dark!
I was worried I wouldn't have time to get back to the trail before dark if I followed my route back the way I came. I needed a straight line "short cut" back to the trail. The problem is, with these huge rock formations and steep-sided washes, a straight line is impossible to follow. A "short cut" also increases the risk of getting turned around or lost. I decided to take a modified straight line approach and just do the best I could.
Hmm... Straight line through here? Nope, one of many detours.
What a huge sigh of relief when I finally stumbled upon the trail! Elation! This must be why people like to push and challenge themselves... for this feeling you get when you successfully finish the challenge. It was after sunset, but just enough ambient light to make my way. At this point, I stopped, drank some water, and put my headlamp on for the remaining couple of miles (on trail) I needed to hike to get back to the car.
Back where I started... Cottonwood Wash, with the big Cottonwood tree in the wash! 8.5 miles, but it felt like at least twice that distance. With a surprising amount of elevation gain (820'). Next time, I'll be careful not to underestimate the hike!
Thanks for stopping by and joining me on this adventure!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.