Trek Date: April 3, 2015
Long before modern-day campers began coming to J Tree, olden-day campers lived and traveled through this land. They were the Cahuilla, the Chemehuevi and the Serrano Native Americans. Did they enjoy the desert solitude and jumbo rocks as visitors do today? I'd like to think so.
Throughout the park there is evidence of where camps were made. Bits of broken pottery, bedrock mortars, petroglyphs and pictographs provide proof that people have been in this land for a long time. I always enjoy stumbling across such sites. They take a bit of searching to find, and the Rangers won't tell you where they are. But if you do some research and keep your eyes open while hiking in the park, odds are good that you'll stumble across one yourself. If you do, follow the old adage, "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints."
The Wonderland of Rocks holds many secrets and is a great place to search for signs from the past. It's also a crazy maze of huge boulders, dead-end canyons, sandy washes, mean pointy sharp blood-thirsty plants and snakes. If you're not careful, it would be easy to get lost in the Wonderland.
I had read about a small pictograph site near Hidden Valley campground and decided to check it out. One of the best things about setting out to search for something in J Tree is that, even if you don't find what you're looking for, you're going to see a lot of interesting stuff anyway. No hike is ever a waste of time. Here are some pictures I took while wandering about.
So that's the general direction of where I was heading. Looks kinda bleak, but there's a lot of life right there in that picture.
A Claret Cup Cactus was busy showing off. Any little bit of color really stands out while hiking in the desert, and me being curious, I can easily double the length of any hike by checking out everything that catches my eye. Note: see the baby Joshua tree to the left of the cactus?
I was extremely fortunate to discover this rare hybrid "Joshuapinicus."
Mr. Rabbit thought that if he didn't move, I wouldn't see him.
Spring is a great time to hike in J Tree, especially if there's been a good amount of rain. This Beavertail cactus had a few flowers. I think I'll be taking a return trip is 2-3 weeks, as my guess is that will be prime time for wildflowers.
Nooks and crannies.
I climbed a lot of rocks while looking for the pictograph site. It's part of the hunt, along with checking out every overhang, concavity, and possible habitation site in the area. That takes in a lot of ground. I liked this view looking out towards the Comic Book rock climbing area, on the hillside in the upper left of the picture. The rock in the foreground is a great example of places where rainwater can accumulate during a storm, providing water for several days afterwards.
This Joshua tree had so many branches, I just had to take its picture.
I eventually narrowed my search down to the right area and was rewarded by finding the site. There are only a few pictographs at this spot, and most are very faded. The above image is of the most visible pictograph. Here is my amateur attempt at enhancing the image to make the design more pronounced:
So, what do they say? Were they created to impart some kind of message? Is there any significance to them, or are they simply the product of a creative artist? I don't have any idea. My guess is that there is some significance, some meaning to most of the pictographs and petroglyphs found in the park. We'll probably just never know for sure. This one looks a bit like the sun to me, with a staff over on the right side.
While not a large pictograph site, it was definitely the highlight of my late afternoon walk around the fringes of the Wonderland. Even if I hadn't found it, I would have still counted the hike a success.
How can you not have a good time in Joshua Tree?