Chips off the old block: Coso Petroglyph Tour

Coso Range, CA

Coso Range. (click for larger version)

Little Petroglyph Canyon represents one of the most outstanding and best preserved displays of Native American rock art in the country. This area, located in the Coso Range west of Death Valley, has been occupied for millennia by Native Americans; current groups are of Paiute-Shoshone descent.

Paiute-Shoshone peoples have been in this area at least 600–800 years, practicing a hunter-gatherer lifeway. They would seasonally move to harvest resources by a carefully planned schedule that required constant monitoring of potential resource areas as well as knowledge of which resources were useful. (source: Maturango Museum)

Atomic age petroglyph. Since it's now more than 50 years old, it's generally considered historic.

Atomic Age petroglyph. Since it’s now more than 50 years old, it’s generally considered historic.

Pre-tour activities
(I am not making this up)

The US Navy assumed management of the area in 1943, and the site lies within the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake. The Navy’s presence has helped ensure the excellent preservation of the petroglyphs as we see them today, but has added some interesting complications to visiting the site.

Tours are organized by tireless volunteers at the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, CA. After reserving our spots well in advance and filling out mountains of Navy-required forms, we received a fairly lengthy briefing.

Dried water tank for wandering animals. This canyon appeared to have plenty of water.

Dried water tank for wandering animals willing to dig for it. This canyon appeared to have plenty of water.

During this briefing our vehicles were searched and we were warned about the following, including but not limited to:

  • rattlesnakes,
  • the heat,
  • not missing the turnoff,
  • drinking enough water but not peeing in the canyon,
  • not stowing 60mm mortar shells under your front seat (this happened last year),
  • herds of tarantulas migrating across the desert (yes, really),
  • mustangs, burros, and sundry wildlife,
  • tripping on things,
  • not climbing on boulders to get closer to the art,
  • not driving faster than the speed limit,
  • flat tires and horrendously expensive helo rescues with the potential of one’s car ending up as a bombing target,
  • not touching the art, and
  • the possible existence of unexploded ordnance from mistakes made during bombing runs.
Wee foot.

Wee foot.

Finally, escorted by guides, our group of about 20 people drove 40 miles up through healthy groves of Joshua Trees to the 5000′ plateau at the head of the gently sloping canyon. We walked down-canyon about 2 miles, turning back at a 75-foot dry waterfall.

This petroglyph site is one of more than 400 documented in the area. Here is a tiny fraction of the staggering amount of rock art we found in this canyon.

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There is no agreement about who actually created the rock art in Little Petroglyph Canyon, and the art is almost impossible to exactly date.

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Significance and interpretation of the art have been the subject of much speculation.

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The canyon started as a sandy wash whose walls gradually closed in. In this canyon alone, there are thousands of petroglyphs chipped into the volcanic basalt, as well as a few pictographs (paintings on rock).

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Hunting was done with atlatls (upper left) and bow-and-arrow, which is also depicted on other panels.

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There were many images of sheep, and some of deer.

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It appears fairly clear what is going on here!

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There were many images of elaborately decorated people, which are thought to be shamans.

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Shaman, or bad hair day?

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Many rocks had “layers” of older art with newer art chipped on top.

It is unlikely we will ever fully understand the complex cognitive world of these people, whose culture was so unlike our own. 

“It is unlikely we will ever fully understand the complex cognitive world of these people, whose culture was so unlike our own.” (source: Maturango Museum)

Labor Day from 14K: White Mountain Peak

Keepin' it klassy, with chardonnay and chips in the afternoon sun, at the trailhead.

Keepin’ it klassy, with chardonnay and chips in the afternoon sun, at the trailhead.

On Labor Day weekend we did an overnight trip up to the White Mountain Peak trailhead, high on the crest of the White Mountains that—along with the Inyo Mountains—form the eastern side of the Owens Valley near Bishop.

A paved road travels the crest several miles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center, run by the US Forest Service. This is a great place to learn more about the bristlecone pine, most of which grow only here, in this mountain range. Beyond the Visitor Center, it’s another 18 unpaved, but very scenic, road to its gated end above treeline at 12,000′, near the University of California’s White Mountains Research Center Barcroft Station. The station and surrounding area are sites for high altitude ecological research of all types.

White Mountain Peak is just 7 miles from the trailhead, along an old gravel road that serves as a trail. However, the country is so open that one can choose one’s own route across the tundra to get to the peak. The opportunities for exploring are endless! Here are some scenes from that day.

Much of the road beyond the Visitor Center crosses treeless alpine tundra and through patches of the light colored dolomite limestone favored by the bristlecones.

Much of the road beyond the Visitor Center crosses treeless alpine tundra and through patches of the light colored dolomite limestone favored by the bristlecones.

View of the high plateau we crossed on the way to the summit. The old road is visible.

View of the high plateau we crossed on the way to the summit. The old road is visible.

Bagels and coffee at the summit, looking north along the crest toward Montgomery and Boundary Peaks, at the California-Nevada border.

Bagels and coffee at the summit, looking north along the crest toward Montgomery and Boundary Peaks, at the California-Nevada border.

View from the summit southwest toward the Owens Valley floor, Volcanic Tablelands, and Bishop (far left), with the Sierra Nevada beyond.

View from the summit southwest toward the Owens Valley floor, Volcanic Tablelands, and Bishop (far left), with the Sierra Nevada beyond.

Looking east into Fish Lake Valley, Nevada. State Route 95 travels along the valley floor.

Looking east into Fish Lake Valley, Nevada. State Route 95 travels along the valley floor.

Late Summer Garden and Rambles

One of the 5000 sunflowers in the yard. Bees and birds are very happy about them.

One of the 5000 sunflowers in the yard. Bees and birds are very happy about them.

Here’s a synopsis of August goings-on in the garden and the mountains. The days are still long, hot and sunny, but are now turning a little shorter and a little less hot. We still have plenty of sun. The drought continues and we are conserving water as best we can. Everyone’s hoping for a wetter fall and winter.

The dry weather has been good for walking in the mountains, though—from a day hike from South Lake with Chris and Bean to local favorite Green Lake, right in our backyard, to another local 20 mile overnight weekend loop out of North Lake: over Piute Pass and into Humphries Basin, and then up and over Packsaddle Pass and Lamarck Col before heading back down. Such a treat that these places are less than an hour’s drive from home!

Green Lake and Coyote Flat

Secret locals' back way "up the old water pipe" from the South Lake parking lot.

Secret locals’ back way “up the old water pipe” from the South Lake parking lot.

Green Lake, looking very blue today!

Green Lake, looking very blue today!

The trail meanders the hillside high above Green Lake.

The trail meanders the hillside high above Green Lake.

Picnic spot on Coyote Flat.

Picnic spot on Coyote Flat.

Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

Volunteer tomatillos just popped up all over the garden. If I get enough, I'll make salsa with these tart little fruits.

Volunteer tomatillos just popped up all over the garden. If I get enough, I’ll make salsa with these tart little fruits.

Getting a good crop of chile peppers this season.

Getting a good crop of chile peppers this season.

An August jumble of giant sunflowers, corn, hibiscus, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sundry herbs ...

An August jumble of giant sunflowers, corn, hibiscus, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sundry herbs …

Piute-Packsaddle-Lamarck Loop

The vast, rolling expanse of Humphries Basin.

The vast, rolling expanse of Humphries Basin.

Hadn't used the tarp in a while, but needed to set it up for intermittent rain showers. At just 4 ounces, this is a much lighter and more versatile shelter than a tent.

Hadn’t used the tarp in a while, but needed to set it up for intermittent rain showers. At just 4 ounces, this is a much lighter and more versatile shelter than a tent.

Another lousy morning in the Sierra.

Another lousy morning in the Sierra.

Heading up onto Darwin Bench.

Heading up onto Darwin Bench.

A Few Days in San Diego

We’re in San Diego this week for a conference Mike is attending, along with 15,000 other people! We’re staying right downtown, within easy walking distance of the convention center and waterfront. Here are a few photos from our wanderings-around for the past few days …

The coastal fog burned off to reveal a very nice waterfront, with lovely onshore breezes.

The coastal fog burned off to reveal a very nice waterfront, with lovely onshore breezes.

Old subs, older barques at the Maritime Museum.

Old subs, older barques at the Maritime Museum.

Noted without comment.

Noted without comment.

The USS Midway, now a museum. It took some work to get the whole ship into 1 picture!

The USS Midway, now a museum. It took some work to get the whole ship into 1 picture!

Midships on the Midway, with other boats for scale.

Amidships on the Midway, with other boats for scale. There are also lots of working naval vessels, here at the home of the Pacific Fleet.

Stern (and café!) of the Midway. Note battered hull.

Stern (and café!) of the Midway. Note battered hull.

The famous statue. Is it art? Or something else?

The famous statue. Is it art? Or something else?

Right there in the backyard: Mt. Humphreys

Last Saturday Mike and I finally made an ascent of Mt. Humphreys, which is one of the “big three” peaks just west of Bishop. Many postcards and photos of Bishop feature Humphreys, Basin Mountain, and Mt. Tom looming over town from the west. At just under 14,000′, Humphreys is the highest of the three, although it doesn’t look like it because it’s further back than the others.

Humphreys (1), Basin Mountain (2), Mt. Ton (3). [Big pink numbers are usually not seen above the peaks.]

A winter shot of Humphreys (1), Basin Mountain (2), Mt. Tom (3). [Big pink numbers are usually not seen above the peaks.]

Getting there involved about an hour of Subaru-able 4WD, with a couple of crux rocks that we managed to bypass without damage. We were able to drive to ~8500′. Then it was around 3 miles and ~5000′ more elevation gain across ridges and sandy ledges to gain the east arête of Humphreys, which we followed to the summit. All told, it took 14 hours car-to-car. A Grand Day Out, and right behind the house, at that!

Mt. Humphreys looms behind Manor Market and its equally large rooster.

Mt. Humphreys is back there, behind Manor Market and its equally large rooster.

A 3:00 am wake-up and drive put us walking through the flower-filled lower meadows by 5:30.

A 3:00 am wake-up and drive put us walking through the flower-filled lower meadows by 5:30.

Many ridges to cross: Making our way toward the base of the arête, with the spectacular multicolored rock of the Checkered Demon Couloir area at left.

Many ridges to cross: Making our way toward the base of the arête, with the spectacular multicolored rock of the Checkered Demon Couloir area at left.

We stopped to get water in this high meadow filled with a tiny creek and thousands of knee-high shooting stars.

We stopped to get water in this high meadow filled with a tiny creek and thousands of knee-high shooting stars.

I appreciated a belay for this rather exposed traverse on the arête.

I appreciated a belay for this rather exposed traverse on the arête.

Find Mike in this sea of slabs and win a prize!

Find Mike in this sea of slabs and win a prize!

This was a great ledge for one of our several lunches of thick slabs of bread stuffed with cheddar cheese, mayo and salami (lunch begins right after breakfast).

This was a great ledge for one of our several lunches of thick slabs of bread stuffed with cheddar cheese, mayo and salami (lunch begins right after breakfast).

summit

Lots of 3rd and 4th-class scrambling (roped and unroped), plus a final pitch of 5th class climbing, brought us to the summit!

Our route: View from near the summit of the east arête, with the Buttermilks and Bishop beyond. White Mountains in the far distance.

Our route: View from near the summit of the east arête, with the Buttermilks and Bishop beyond. White Mountains in the far distance.

View northeast from the summit toward the backside of Mt. Tom.

View northeast from the summit toward the backside of Mt. Tom, and the Volcanic Tablelands on the valley floor.

Looking west toward Humphreys Basin and the Paris Lakes.

Looking west toward Humphreys Basin and Desolation Lake.

Snow up high on the route was a lucky find, as we were low on water.

Snow up high on the route was a lucky find, as we were low on water.

Oooof ... we had to do a couple of short rappels on our lightweight webbing harnesses. My ribs weren't too happy ...

Oooof … we had to do a couple of short rappels on our lightweight webbing harnesses. My ribs weren’t too happy …

Long, long descent on talus and sandy gullies, back to the lower meadows.

We down-climbed the arête a little ways, then dropped into a gully for an easier descent on talus and sandy gullies, back to the lower meadows.

Sisters Storm the Eastern Sierra

Hijinks at Father Crowley Point, overlooking Panamint Valley.

Hijinks at Father Crowley Point, overlooking Panamint Valley. (photo by Cindy)

Searching in vain for the elusive U2 Joshua Tree, Darwin Plateau, Inyo Mountains.

Searching in vain for the elusive U2 Joshua Tree, Darwin Plateau, Inyo Mountains. (photo by Cindy)

Cute sisters at the Flaming O, Las Vegas!

Cute sisters at the Flaming O, Las Vegas!

Sisters Jennifer and Cindy made their first excursion to Bishop via Las Vegas in early May.

They had a few days of big-city spas, casinos and restaurants before braving the Mojave desert and cruising across Death Valley over to Bishop. That made for a sporty day, from 98-degree temperatures at Furnace Creek to 40-knot winds blowing down the Owens Valley (dust storms! tumbleweeds!).

After that drive, Cindy and Jen definitely appreciated the adult beverages and home cooked dinner that awaited them here at the Vintage Digs.

We spent the next few days checking out the Bishop area before they headed back East. Here are a few pictures of our adventures!

 

Pointing out stuff, Rock Creek.

Pointing out stuff, Rock Creek.

Tally Ho! And bonus sore-foot soak, Rock Creek.

Tally Ho! And bonus sore-foot soak, Rock Creek.

Family resemblance and Mt. Tom.

Family resemblance and Mt. Tom.

Pondering meat options, Manor Market, Bishop.

Pondering meat options, Manor Market, Bishop.

Bishop: home of Large Animals on Roofs.

Bishop: home of Large Animals on Roofs.

A sandy walk downhill 1.2 miles to the lakeshore.

Mono Lake, and a sandy walk downhill 1.2 miles to the lakeshore.

Tufa Cave! Views! Flies! Shrubbery!

Tufa Cave! Views! Flies! Shrubbery!

All this baby needs is a coupla seats ... and maybe an engine ... and wheels ... but it's a great deal.

All this baby needs is a coupla seats … and maybe an engine … and wheels … but it’s a great deal.

Boardwalk takes across Mono Lake's wetland shoreline.

Boardwalk takes us across Mono Lake’s wetland shoreline.

Bench-with-a-view, Mono Lake.

Bench-with-a-view, Mono Lake.

Mono Lake shallows with tufa, which forms from minerals in the lake.

Mono Lake shallows with tufa, which forms from minerals in the lake.

Still life with Russian thistle (tumbleweed), Mono Lake.

Still life with Russian thistle (tumbleweed), Mono Lake.

Wonder what Ellery thinks of her very own campground?

Wonder what Ellery thinks of her very own campground?

Jen at the inlet stream leading to Ellery Lake, Inyo National Forest near Yosemite.

Jen at the inlet stream leading to Ellery Lake, Inyo National Forest near Yosemite.

 

The Impatient Gardener

Garden also features columbine in various colors.

Garden also features columbine in various colors.

Garden 2014 is underway. Last fall I cleared out a lot of weeds and dead vegetation that had accumulated over a period of some neglect. I also located the hoses and sprinklers that make up the irrigation system — these had been buried in the tangle of plants.

This year’s garden will be quite a bit more organized and I am taking advantage of the entire space. The compost pile is three times larger. All the beds have been dug and shaped and de-weeded. It’s been so warm that I have planted some things early. I check the garden a few times a day in an attempt to try and speed things up …

Not sure what this plant is, but it has a pretty pink flower despite being pretty aggressive in the garden.

Not sure what this plant is, but it has a pretty pink flower despite being rather aggressive in the garden.

The ongoing project of pulling or relocating approximately 40,000 volunteer sunflower plants will keep me occupied all summer. This year’s veg lineup includes:

  • cornhigh as a house finch’s eye right now, barring late spring frost!
  • potatoes
  • carrots taking their sweet time coming up, thank you very much
  • beans — not planted yet
  • garlic — planted last fall
  • various and sundry herbs
  • sweet peas and snap peas
  • kale and cabbage
  • tomatoes and chili peppers— in the on-deck circle, started inside in the mini greenhouse, on a heat mat
    Not much going on yet, but as the days warm things will start moving. I check several times a day ...

    Not much going on yet, but as the days warm things will start growing. 

    Garlic is doing great!

    Garlic is doing great!

    The "frog pond" attracts only hornets right now, despite the cool solar powered disco light.

    The “frog pond” attracts only hornets right now, despite the cool solar powered disco light. The plants around it are filling in nicely.

    Potatoes are planted in the round hollows.

    Potatoes are planted in the round hollows. Carrots, tomatoes and peppers will go in the boxed bed.