Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Martinez Canyon Adventure

A couple weeks ago I went on an adventure to Martinez Canyon with by buddy, Mike.  The area is filled with a wealth of things to discover and it very seldom visited.  Judging from the footprints in the canyon, since we were their two weeks ago only one other person has hiked there.  I'm hoping we can find a trail leading from the village site we were at a couple weeks ago but you never know what you'll actually discover on one of this expeditions.  The joy, however, is in the looking.

I always feel that you cannot have a truly great adventure until you draw blood.  This day is starting off just right.

We leave the canyon after a couple miles to see if we can find an easier path overland on the mesa above the canyon.  We don't find a trail but we do discover that other's have been here before us.

There are a number of grinding slabs in the area where Cahuilla made their meals.

Pottery sherds are also quite prevalent.

This large flat stone would be the perfect kitchen table.

This area would have been the master bedroom.

This would have been the kid's room.  After traversing the entire mesa we decided to go up instead of down into the canyon.  We thought we might find an easier pathway down to the place we wanted to go.

We didn't.  It's a LONG way down

But the Ocotillo are starting to green up and the views are outstanding.  We also know which way NOT to go.

When we finally make our way back to the canyon--after I have a nasty encounter with an agave--we find remnants of a recent visitor.  With all the things out here that can stick and cut you I don't know why anyone would want to leave their clothing behind.

More recent remnants of inhabitation are some barbed wire fences that we used to keep stock.

This area is an incredibly rich in archaeological interest.  Pottery sherds are everywhere.

Old and newer litter abound.

The newer ones will doubtlessly disappear due to rust.  The Indian remnants will remain.

We make our way back up to the site we were at two weeks ago to look for a trail.  I have a new respect for Agave like those pictured here.  I've got some new body piercings and a few of the tips still remain in my flesh.  My wife tried to dig a couple out last night to no avail.  I'll have to wait until they work their way out, I guess.

Although we saw over a dozen bedrock mortars at this site we come upon a few more that we missed.

We work our way up a ridge but, alas, no trail.  All we're met with is wonderful views in every direction.

We've barely tapped the potential of this wonderful section of the Santa Rosa Mountains.  As we leave today the only thing that's exhausted is us.  I'm looking forward to many, many explorations in this remarkable area.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

South Of Sheep Canyon

Wednesday, I had a few hours between dropping off my son at school and having to pick him up so I decided to go for a little adventure south of Sheep Canyon.  If you are unfamiliar with Sheep Canyon I am not surprised.  It's a small canyon south of Martinez Canyon in the Santa Rosa Mountains.  Not many people go there.  Access is difficult and if you ask me how I got there I would not be able to tell you.  I just drove down some dirt roads until I got to where I wanted to be.

The reason I wanted to visit this little side canyon is because the last time I was in the vicinity I thought I saw some palm trees in the distance.  If there are Palm Trees that means there's water.  Where there's water there were probably Indians and in places the Indians visited there are probably trails.  I love finding new trails.

This is Sheep Canyon.  Once I drop down into it I will take an old Indian trail into the canyon I want to explore today.

As you get back into the canyon the walls become tall and vertical.  I can only imagine the amount of water that was required to cut these walls so cleanly.  In places the walls are almost 40 feet high.

As the canyon narrows, I take off on the Indian trail on the left side.  I know you can't see it but trust me, it's there.

The trail is never very distinct but it is at least visible enough to follow.

As I drop down into the canyon I came to explore I can see the effects of the rain we got last month.  The Ocotillo are full of leaves and soon flowers will be blooming all around the desert.

This is the canyon I came to explore.  No evidence of a trail down here.

But there is evidence of how remarkable the desert is.

After navigating a canyon filled with sand and rocks, it becomes chocked with brush and my legs are not happy.  Note to self: next time up here, wear long pants.

It turns out that those Palms I saw were, in fact, Cottonwood trees.  They are dead from winter but their green leaves are what caused me to think Palms were up here.  It really doesn't matter because Cottonwoods also require constant water so the possibility that Indians were here and trails exist is still valid.

But I run out of time and easy passage.

Looking further up the canyon I see a Palm Tree but oddly it's not a native but a Date Palm.  Intriguing.  There's no way I can get to it without long pants, a machete and more time.  But I'll be back because this canyon holds possibilities.

Lots of possibilities.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Martinez Canyon Cahuilla Village Site

Saturday, I had the entire day to go hiking and made the most of it.  A friend of mine, Mike, knew of a possible Indian village site up Martinez Canyon and promised to show me where it was.  We've talked about it for a while but since we're both busy and Mike has a new baby at home, it's been difficult to put together an adventure.  This is one I've looked forward to a long time.

We drive as far as possible in Mike's monster truck and get out to start our adventure on foot.  The canyon is very rocky and it's a welcome relief to be on solid ground.

Instead of just going right up the canyon, like a sensible person would, I want to go and investigate the sides of the canyon to see if we can find any trails.

We don't.

But it's not long until we find some evidence of prior Indian inhabitation.

And this bedrock mortar means they lived here for a while.

We leave the canyon again to see if we can find any more evidence of those who came here before us.

And we do but it's not really what we were hoping for.

The canyon narrows and is choked with mesquite and bamboo.  We wish we'd brought a machete--seriously-- because this stuff is thick and nasty.

We make our way through the growth and again leave the canyon.  This time up a very steep Indian trail.

We reach a place that's relatively flat but one that I'd have never considered a potential village site.

But I'd have been wrong.  There are bedrock mortars everywhere.

There are several boulders with multiple mortars.

There are wide ones

Small ones

All in close proximity

And there's this incredibly huge one.

The mortal hole is so deep that it has actually gone all the way through the rock.  That took a LONG time to do.

A lot of food was prepared here and it is incredible to still find a pestle here.  These are usually stolen by ignorant or selfish collectors.

There are sherds of pottery strewn all around.  This piece has part of the rim.

This multi-mortar has filled with dirt but we forgot to bring a broom to clean it out.  Next time, we'll be better prepared.

The canyon below is filled with mesquite which was the primary food source of the people who lived here.  It is astonishing to consider that people survived with nothing but what they were able to find out here.  Left on our own, most of wouldn't last too long out here.

But the Cahuilla were able to not only survive but thrive in this harsh and unforgiving environment.  It is a testament to their hard work and ingenuity. 

And a total lack of supermarkets.  It seems like the Indians were not the only ones who left evidence of their past inhabitation.

I appreciate Mike showing me this very special place and look forward to being able to come back and exploring more in the area.  I'm sure there are many, many more incredible discoveries yet to be made.  I can't wait.