Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Brand New Ancient Trail

Recently, I've really developed a desire to go and explore the great wealth of alluvial fans down at the southern end of the Santa Rosa Mountains.  There are two reasons for this:

One: Hundreds of years ago, when the ancient Lake Cahuilla filled the lower part of the Coachella Valley, this area was a hotbed of Cahuilla Indian activity.  Generations of Indians lived near the banks of this great lake and flourished due to the richness of life it created.  Even after it dried up, its basin became a large repository for salt which was then traded with other Indian tribes throughout the region.  I know there have to be lots of trails remaining in the area that mark these ancient people's routes of travel.

The second thing that attracts me to the area is that nobody goes there.  Even in our great National Parks and Wilderness areas you will find signs that people frequent even to most remote locations and the highest peaks.  In this place, except for the trails of Ancients, there's no sign anyone has ever gone there.  Except me.

After wandering around for a couple miles I come upon what looks like start of a bedrock mortar.  I think this is probably a good sign.

I jump up onto a nearby bluff and find a faint but followable trail.

There are sections that are actually quite distinct— like this one--while other parts are barely discernible.

Other than the trail, I have found no other sign of human inhabitation except for this little pile of rocks. It's not much but they did not get this way on their own.  Someone had to do this.

The trail becomes more difficult to follow so I wonder if maybe I should head up to this ridge to see if I can spot anything.

It's obvious that there's not a trail here but maybe I can see something interesting.

I wander up the ridge a bit and looking down I see a large boulder covered with petroglyphs.  Had I just continued on the path I was on I'd be there already.

There are petroglyphs on a few boulders here but this is the largest.  

I always love finding new places and I wonder, with a hillside full of boulders, why the Indians chose these to create this rock art on.

Another etching.

In the distance it looks like there's another large boulder which may have some more art on it.  I hike over to it but it just a rock.

Here's another shot of the main boulder.

I find this nice little petroglyph of an early model sports car.  Those Indians were sure ahead of their time.

Beavertail Cactus flowers

I find this piece of what at first glance appears to be pottery.

But it ends up just being a rock.

Silver Cholla cactus flower

Now this IS pottery.  There are several pieces of what was probably a dropped pot.  I'm sure someone got in trouble for this.

Another piece.

And yet another.

Making my way back to my Jeep I come upon this section that looks like it's an old cobblestone wall.  The water coming down this wash has sheared off this section so cleanly that it looks like someone built it here.  This area is so full of fascinating finds that I'm really surprised that no one ever comes out here. That's OK with me, though; I'm glad they don't.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Boo Hoff Trail, La Quinta

I went on a nice little hike last Wednesday but didn't post anything because I didn't take too many pictures. It wasn't a hike so much as a mission of mercy.  One of the gals at work asked me if I'd take her father in law who was visiting from Canada and loving the weather and the great hiking here in the desert.  He was taking her and their family on a wealth of adventures and, quite frankly, wearing them out.  I only had a few hours but I did my best to get even for them.

Here's a GPS track I took of the hike on my iPhone.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sheep Canyon Trail

 I live in the most amazing place.  Literally within minutes I can leave my house and get into the wilderness, a completely different world.  I drive past country clubs, farms and ranches to get to places where people once lived on nothing but what they could hunt or gather. Most modern men could not survive out there for but a few days but the Cahuilla Indians lived here for generations.  To many people, the desert is a lifeless wasteland, full of nothing but venomous creatures that sting, bite or kill and evil plants that inflict a multitude of lacerations.  Sometimes it's those things to me but more often it's a place of wonder, inspiration and tranquility.  There is no better place on earth.

I head out to Sheep Canyon to do a little exploring.  I only have a few hours and I think I really need a few months to fully explore this whole area.

There's plenty of water flowing in the canyon.  And people say this is a desert.

On the left of the canyon is a campsite that I'm sure was used by the Indians as well as more recent visitors.

This is one of the more interesting spots I know of in these mountains.  The rocks here are like concrete. I'm sure there are other sections like this but this is the only one that I've personally found.

I really like this rock and the shade it provides.  I wonder what it would take to get it moved to my yard?

The shaded area made for a very good kitchen. A few of many bedrock mortars on this slab.

The geology of this canyon is fascinating.

There are many layers and different types of rock.

And, as I said, water is plentiful.

I get to a place where I am actually able to leave the canyon so I opt to explore above.

Beavertail cactus blooms

Click to enlarge

I get to a nice flat spot above the canyon, an area that seems like it would make a terrific campsite but find nothing of interest.

A little more exploring leads me to what seems to be a trail.

It is a trail and a pretty good one at that.

It leads to another nice little flat area and this rock circle. 

The trail then leads uphill.

I prefer the travel up here to what's below.  It looks like the canyon gets a little more chocked with brush.  When I come back I'm going to have to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt.  Gloves would probably be advisable, too.

The trail leads up to some expansive views of the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea.

It traverses around this little hill but I'm out of time and need to get back.  But even a couple hours of adventure does wonders to restore one's soul.

This is a recurring theme on many of my hikes lately.  Restoring one's soul can sometimes take a toll upon one's body.

I take a different route down and come upon some more evidence of those who lived here long ago.

Yet another mortar.

I look to see if I can go down this canyon but it looks nasty.  Loose dirt, steep dropoffs and more plants that poke.  I'll try another route.

This one is not much better.  It is one of the worst hillsides I've traversed in, well, a couple weeks.  In the canyon bottom, you can see that white concrete-like slab.

After precariously downclimbing yet another hillside of crap I get to some flat, albeit rocky, ground.  All I have to do is walk directly to that little hill in the upper left of the picture.  That's where my Jeep is parked. It looks like a straight easy shot.

Of course, nothing out here is easy.  It's just a little hundred foot deep sheer canyon in the way.  Piece of cake.  If traveling out here in the desert were easy, everyone would be doing it but then instead of hours of solitude in a breathtakingly beautiful setting I'd be assaulted with crowds and noise.  No thanks.  I like it just the way it is.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heading In The Right Direction

I was going to write a big philosophical tome about how thing are going but I'll just let the number tell the story.  So far, I've lost over twenty pounds this year and I haven't had nearly the amount of time to hike as I'd have liked to.  Imagine where I'd be if I got out on the trail more often.