Trek Date: April 4, 2015
I haven't been able to figure out who "Alister" was (perhaps an early-day rock climber/explorer?), but this impressive rock art site in J Tree's Wonderland of Rocks bears his name. I also haven't been able to figure out why it's called a "cave," as it's really more of a ledge up on a cliff with a nice overhang above it. But I've taken creative license with naming places I've discovered in the park, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it...
Alister's Cave (shelter) is probably one of the more well-known rock art sites in the park, but that's a relative thing. Documentation on such places in J Tree is minuscule and their locations are not found on any maps. So a small handful of people knowing about a site can make it "well-known."
It's usually through a combination of research, random luck, keeping my eyes open for tell-tale signs while hiking, and a lot of dead ends and false hopes that I'm able to find one of these intriguing sites. In this case, research and a GPS were the necessary tools.
When I finally arrived (I can easily turn an hour-long hike into an all day excursion...wildflower!), it was amazing. There are hundreds of pictographs covering the walls of Alister's Cave, in faded colors of red, black, white and grey. It must have taken years and years to create all the art.
The crumbling nature of the rock and the shelter's relative open exposure to the elements is likely the cause of the fading of the pictographs; unfortunately, in another hundred years they might no longer be visible. I'm glad I was able to visit the spot and get pictures to share. Here are some of the pictures I took while enjoying Alister's Cave. Most have been slightly tweaked in Photoshop to bring out the designs a bit. Left click on any of the images to enlarge, right click if there are any you would like to download. Feel free.
As I said above, it's a pretty amazing place. It makes me wonder what else I might be able to find out there in all those rocks. If you're fortunate enough to visit a site like this, please don't touch the designs or any other artifacts that might be in the area, let's keep them around for as long as we can so future visitors can enjoy their own discovery.