Monday, November 23, 2015

Chloride AZ Ghost Town

Chloride used to be a silver mining camp in the state of Arizona. It is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in the state. Valuable minerals were first discovered here in the early 1840's. The town was founded in 1863, but mining did not really take off until they found a way to cheat the local Hualapai Indians out of their land. The town then prospered and became the county seat. By the mid 1940's it was considered a ghost town (or close to it). Today, there are still a couple hundred people living in the area. 

Allegedly, some of these buildings date back to the early days of Chloride and some were moved here from somewhere else. To me, it looks like most were built on this site from old wood. 
Allow me to rant for a bit...
Don't get me wrong now, I love history and I certainly love ghost towns. However, I'm not terribly fond of mining camps and/or ghost towns that are created, or allowed to exist primarily for tourists. An example: This little western "cul-de-sac" is not here for historical significance, it's here for theater. During the tourist season, mock gun fights are staged every Saturday at noon. That is so darn cheesy! Most of the folks who are interested in this, don't even see the back streets of the town. Many of the buildings on the actual main street of town, although newer, are much more historical and real, than this "contrived" history side show. The best parts of Chloride are either outside of town, or on the back streets. 

 Can you imagine two gunslingers pacing towards each other ready to shoot it out? Yuck!

Below are two photos from the early 1900's (thanks to Wikipedia)

 Some of those same buildings today

 Another (there are plenty more)

The next few don't really have any historical significance, but the scenes really appealed to me and I snapped them.

The next post will be about the part of Chloride that I loved...


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Hemet Maze Stone

They say you have to start a story with the end in mind. That has no bearing on this post at all, but I thought it would be cool to say it. Sorry...

The petroglyph (yes, just one) we were going to see is about 1/2 of a mile up this road. It is a very important piece of prehistory. Not because of what it means, because we have no idea what it means. We are going because it is EXTREMELY unusual. I guess all of this is lost on my wife, because she is lollygagging walking up the hill and taking photos of every little thing that catches her attention. Don't worry, she probably won't even see this post.

This was a well used back county road at one time. However, it runs very close to the amazing petroglyph we are walking up this hill to see. Rather than subject the site to the traffic and unavoidable vandalism, they CLOSED the road. A simple and effective way to protect the site; the fewer people that see it, the safer it is. Sometimes though, the opposite is true.

This has nothing to do with the post, but doesn't that boulder in the center look like the head of an eel? It even has a black eye.

Based on all the fencing around those rocks, that must be the place.


Not just one fence but two! One of them is even topped with barbed wire. 

So hard to get a good photo without the fence screwing it up. 

Finally, I my wife climbed up the fence enough to get a good photo. You can now see why they call it the Hemet Maze Stone. Maze, because it's a maze, and Hemet Maze, because it is outside of the town of Hemet. The one and ONLY bit of vandalism is visible in this photo. It's hard to see, but in the lower left hand corner, somebody scratched in a swastika. If I had a drone, you'd get a better view of what I'm talking about.

 As you can see, this is an amazing piece of work. It is clearly a"maze"ing.

Doesn't this rock look like some kind of a sea mammal, covering it's ears with both flippers?

Here is some actual (but maybe not so accurate) information on the Maze Stone
People much smarter than me, have weighed in with their opinions relating to what this maze actually is, and when it was created. Some of those opinions area:

  • It was created by shipwrecked Buddhist missionaries.
  • It was created 15,000 years ago, by the "Cascadians" who were thought to be Mayan ancestors.
  • The most balanced opinion, places the creation of the maze, at about 2000 years ago. 
  • I (not unlike the really smart people) have no idea what-so-ever...
There are many other "maze" stones in the American southwest (and very few anywhere else), and this one seems to be the most intricate. I think it would be pretty cool if it was created by ancient Buddhists or Cascadians, but it was most likely the Cahuilla, or Luiseno tribes who deserve the credit. 


Monday, November 9, 2015

Cahuilla Pictograph Boulder - San Jacinto Mountains

These pictographs were created by the Cahuilla Indians several hundred years ago (at a minimum) and related to female puberty initiation rites. The initiates themselves are thought to have "painted" the symbols. The symbols included various forms of chains, diamonds and zig-zags. These patterns are known to represent rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are the "spirit helpers" associated with females. 

"Other parts of the initiation rites involved isolation in a warmed pit for three days, thereby mimicking the ritual isolation and immobility practiced at childbirth; the ingestion of tobacco and resulting receipt of a supernatural vision; and apparently at the culmination of the initiation, the painting of the designs representing the spirit received during the girl's altered state." (David S. Whitley)

 A slightly different take on the last part of the initiation follows:
"The final event of the Indian puberty celebration consisted of a race, called a "hayie," to a certain rock where a relative of each girl awaited her with a little pot of red ochre paint. On arrival, each initiate painted a design on the rock.  Indian informants indicated that these designs were always diamond-shaped and represented the rattlesnake." (Dolcie H. Vuncannon)

Once the initiates had completed these rites, they were considered women.

 A photo of the "pictograph rock" You can see part of the fence around it also

 The same photo enhanced by DStretch

A closer view of  the symbols

 Same image after DStretch - Notice that all the patterns described above are present here

 Included just because I liked it

Earlier posts to similar pictograph sites:
Female puberty initiation site in Joshua Tree National Park
Female puberty initiation site (possible) in Joshua Tree National Park
Female puberty initiation site in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park


Monday, November 2, 2015

Cerbat Mountains Rock Art - The Good and the Bad

First off, thanks so much for the supportive comments and emails I've received lately. It feels good to be back to posting my normal stuff.
I'll start this post with the end first. Please examine the following photo. The colorful mural in the middle of the photo is certainly beautiful and the artist is clearly talented. However, does it belong in the same area as a sacred native american rock art site? Further, does it belong on the SAME rocks as ancient petroglyphs (check out the middle right of the photo)?  I REALLY don't think it does, but apparently some folks in the local area don't agree. 
please embiggen

The Good
The Cerbat (mountain sheep) Mountains lie in the northwestern part of Arizona. These petroglyphs were probably created by the Hualapai (people of the tall pines), or possibly an earlier group (no one really knows). This site isn't very large or elaborate, nor is it very well preserved. It is however, very old.

A few miles in the background is the little ghost town/mining camp/artist colony of Chloride, Arizona. It is the oldest mining camp/town in the state. It's called a ghost town (for the tourists), but even if it isn't, it's still worth spending some time there.

The Ubiquitous Bighorn Sheep 

 Yes, unfortunately, those round marks are from bullet impacts.

The Bad
In the mid-1960's, a well known artist (Ray Purcell), created brightly colored images on rocks in the exact same location as the above petroglyphs. In some cases, side by side. Vandalism? Ignorance? Arrogance? Clearly (and unfortunately), somebody comes up here on an occasional basis and touches up the murals.

Do I think Ray Purcell's art is beautiful? Yes, I do.
Do I think it is TOTALLY out of place here and should not be touched up? Yes, I do.

The discovery of gold and silver (and other things) had an absolutely terrible and inhumane impact on the indigenous people of the area. To disregard and disfigure their sacred places, is like rubbing salt into the wounds. Maybe it's just me that is bothered by this, but I hope that isn't the case....

I hope I don't get any negative comments from people in Chloride because of this (remember my post on the town of Needles?). Especially not before I do a couple of posts on the actual town.