Trek Date: April 4, 2015
How to turn a short hike in J Tree into a day-long event? Start out at the Barker Dam trailhead. Hike in the Spring when the wildflowers are blooming. You'll see a spot of color off in the distance and just have to check it out. Try to get a picture of every lizard you see, they are very fast. As are the rabbits. Name the rocks as you hike through the formations. Rest in the shade of a Pinyon pine while eating crackers. Be on the lookout for abandoned cars. Inspect that old pile of mine tailings. Scramble to the top of that rock pile. And that one over there. Try to spot a bighorn sheep. Keep an eye peeled for bedrock mortars. Look into every possible cave, under all those rocky overhangs where Indians may have camped, and most important, behind every boulder you pass for pictographs and petroglyphs. Before you know it, it's the golden hour. Where does the time go? I've heard the Wonderland of Rocks also referred to as the "Wanderland," and I can easily understand why.
My journey started at the Barker Dam trailhead. I was heading into the Wonderland, and luckily, I had the whole day ahead of me. I was looking for a unique Indian pictograph site referred to as either the "Red Hands" site, or the "Bloody Hands" site (I think I prefer the "Bloody Hands" moniker, which was given to the site by Death Valley Jim). There's not much information out there about this particular location, but the "Bloody Hands" boulder is a great example of why it's a good idea to look all around the boulders you pass while hiking through the Wonderland. And sometimes, it pays to look under ledges and overhangs :-)
The picture above is one I took of Barker Dam back in 2013. Take a close look, those are not the kind of "petroglyphs" that make me happy. Luckily, park officials have recently been working with restoration experts from various universities and have gotten a great start on eliminating the thoughtless vandalism that covered Barker Dam. Click HERE to read a bit more about the program.
Here's what the dam looked like on April 4, 2015. Kudos to all involved in the restoration.
Don't be a Kate or Alex. Treat nature and history with respect.
This may appear to be some kind of ground squirrel or chipmunk. It's actually a motion-activated, remotely controlled surveillance camera. These have been placed at sensitive sites throughout the park and will help track down vandals in the future. Well, maybe not. But I think it's a great idea.
After wandering about for a while, I came across one of the largest Manzanita trees I've ever seen in the park.
Little splashes of color distracted me often. It's amazing how far off you can spot wildflowers.
Great, another huge rock in the trail to either hike around, squeeze through some small gap to continue, or go crazy and climb straight over. I choose the hike around method and made sure to check out the other side of the boulder once I was able to.
I had arrived at the Bloody Hands pictograph boulder. The pictographs are under a bit of an overhang, which has probably helped protect them over the years, resulting in nice, strong designs. Which appear to have been make by small, paint-covered hands pressing onto the rock.
Here's a closeup, with my attempts at enhancing the images via Photoshop. I'm not that good at it yet, but it does help make the designs stand out more.
While we may never know what these pictographs were meant to convey, they are certainly a great part of J Tree's history and evidence of the Native Americans who lived and traveled through this area. And it's always fun to try to figure out the meaning. I'm pretty sure the image above is of someone shooting arrows while storm clouds are appearing overhead. You never know what you'll find under a boulder.