Trek Date: November 28, 2015
Ok, raise your hand if you've ever been to the Stirrup Tank area in JT. I see a few of you have. Those of you who didn't raise your hand, shame on you. If you enjoy desert hiking amidst and amongst enormous, oddly disquieting-shaped granite boulders (and who doesn't), then set aside a half day the next time you're in the park to visit the Stirrup Tank area. Odds are you'll have several squares miles to yourself, to explore and enjoy some amazing sights. Things like the Wooly Spider Boulder, Zippy Rock, the Rumble Crags. And if you're eyes are sharp, maybe you'll spot some Native American habitation sites, bedrock mortars, pictographs and petroglyphs.
The Stirrup Tank area is easy to find. It's accessed by a dirt road that starts about half a mile south of White Tank Campground. It's on the west side of Pinto Basin Road. Take the dirt road 1.5 miles to a small parking loop. The dirt road doesn't require a four-wheel-drive, passenger cars should do fine, unless it's right after a period of heavy rain.
So what's up with the name? Stirrup Tank. It's not known who first put that moniker on the area, but it most likely came about from an oldtimer. He must have imagined that the huge rock located across the wash from the water hole looked like a stirrup. At least, that's my guess.
I'd explored the area a wee bit on a few occasions, but never more than a quick look. This trip had the whole day set aside exclusively for Stirrup Tank. Here's what happened:
Roughly four hours of wanderbout with a little over five miles hiked. As you can see on the map above, there's still a LOT of territory to cover, and I'm sure a LOT of interesting stuff to find. Here are some of the highlights of the day.....
I'm not going to say anything about this rock.
It didn't take long for me to see what my day was going to be like. It seemed like every time I hiked around some big boulders, a canyon like this would open up that I had to go into and explore.
Here's one of the two rock formations in the area named "Stirrup." This one is called Stirrup Rock, and we're looking at the south face. If you run across this boulder and desire to climb it, I recommend trying the Peter Easter Pumpkin Eater route, or maybe Overpowered by Funk.
This will require return trips.
A couple of bedrock mortars.
And maybe a possible habitation site. Nice shady spot.
The clump of pointy rocks in the middle ground are known as Bronto Rock. Way off in the distance, the 80-million-year-old White Tank Monzogranite boulders of the White Tank Campground area are visible at the base of the mountains.
A close-up of the Bronto's west end.
Somebody cut that rock right in half.
Hole in the wall. Ok, I put this one in here upside down to see if anyone would notice.
All morning long, I had the feeling I was being followed...
This odd formation is near the parking area. The rocks off to the left remind me of three shadowy, hooded ghouls out looking for trouble.
This large, north-south formation is also located near the parking area and is known to the rock climbing community as the Stirrup Towers. That big chunk hanging at the south end is The Stirrup.
Another, closer view of The Stirrup.
So. Stirrup Tank. I've looked for this elusive water hole a number of times. It's been described as "a natural rock tank that occasionally held water. It was little visited and used only by prospectors." I imagine that animals probably used it as well, and maybe the Chemehuevi also, as they migrated through the area. But where is it? And don't even get me started on the other water source reportedly in the area, "Hidden Tank."
This is my best guess as to the location of Stirrup Tank.
The spot is definitely a natural tank, and 100 years ago wouldn't have had nearly this amount of sand in it. I'm going to call this Stirrup Tank until someone lets me know otherwise.
Here's the landmark to look for, the tank is just in front of it. It does require a little bit of a climb to reach it.
Heading off from Stirrup Tank, a bit of wandering brought me to this boulder with some very faint petroglyphs.
Another possible habitation site, as there was a very shallow mortar close nearby this overhang.
Hard for me to tell if this is a modern-day construct, or something that has been around much longer. Maybe a bit of both.
The valleys kept appearing, inviting me in to explore. I call this one The Valley of the Totems.
A very faint pictograph. I see a horse and rider.
It seems like it doesn't really matter which direction you hike in the Stirrup Tank area, there's always something yelling at you to come and explore. I'd like to say I had the energy to climb to the top of this hill, but I only made it up about one-third of the way.
I heard a small voice in the back of my head telling me to climb up the hill to get some nice panoramas of the area. I blame Murbachi. But climb I did, and got some nice overviews of the Stirrup Tank area.The Stirrup is visible in both of these panoramas. I always try to keep a well-known landmark somewhere in sight, to help guide me back to T Red. My gps helps too. It's too easy to get turned around and lost out here to not be careful about where you're hiking.
Another bedrock mortar, at the side of a wash. Water must have been available somewhere nearby during parts of the year.
Desert Gold. Maybe there's a forgotten mining camp out here somewhere, or maybe they washed down from a camp high up in the hills.
Cucurbita palmata, the Coyote Melon. Not palatable, but Indians did grind up the seeds and eat them. The dried gourds were also used as rattles in ceremonial dances by some tribes.
The last sign of Native American habitation that I would find on this trip.
Nearly back to my truck, could these be giant desert jelly fish?
And a last look at The Stirrup. There is still plenty to explore in this area, so it looks like I be back again, to see what else I can find at Stirrup Tank.
Feel free to download any of my images to use however you might like. Credit back to Cali49.com would be nice, but it's not required. My goal is to share the beauty I'm able to see and magically capture in that Nikon thing I carry around with me.