Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Before and After - Borrego Springs California

Those of you who have been around for awhile know that we like to spend time in and around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California. It is a huge place and even has a small town in it. That town is Borrego Springs, and like most desert towns, it is well worth exploring.  Here is a link to the post that contains this photo and some other oddities we saw there.

This photo was included in the older post. An English double-decker bus is the kind of oddity that is usually found only in the desert.  About a month ago, I received an email with an attached photo from the owner! 
Hello Patrick,
 Hey, that’s my bus! I ran across it with a simple Google Image search of “Bus Borrego Springs”. I got a kick out of seeing Buster on your blog site. Yeah, why not? That’s what I said, so I bought her - sort of a rescue case. Please come back and take another picture. She’s got a nice new coat of paint now. BTW her motor’s kaput. - Grace

Here is a current photo of the bus she sent to me. They have done a lot of work on it and the new paint job really looks good. For sure, we are going to go visit the bus and its nice owners a little later in the year. 

I thought it was pretty cool that she emailed me. Just one more reason why I love the desert.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Iron Door Cave - Joshua Tree National Park

Not only is it a great place on its own, the legend (or legends) of the Iron Door cave are just as amazing. It's not on any map, it's not in any brochure and no one who does know, will tell you where it is. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the immediate area and I never even heard about it.  We will get to the legend in just a bit.

I had spent many hours looking for it, to no avail. On my last attempt, I invited my granddaughter to go with me. I admit that it was a bit self-serving, because that girl flies around the rocks like a spider monkey flies through the trees. 

you might want to embiggen this one to see how jumbled this area is
I had it narrowed down to a fairly manageable area that looked pretty much like this, only larger.

 Once we got there, I turned her loose.

She climbs up

She climbs down

She disappears into the cracks like a reptile. Then she yells out my name.

This is where she was standing. Do you see the door? No wonder nobody can find this place. It's not only hidden, it is also hidden in the shadows. 

A very narrow entrance to get to a hidden iron door that opens into exactly what?

 Tay is already in there with her flashlight. 

Okay, now to the legend.  As you can see the iron door locks from the outside by sliding a length of wood through it when the door is closed. There is no way of opening it from the inside. The room is about 8 by 10 feet in size and has no windows. There is one small opening built into it though. Just big enough to pass small things in and out. 

The LEGEND is that this cave was used by the local rancher/miner big-shot (William Keys) to keep his schizophrenic son imprisoned. Others say that it was used to store dynamite. Others still, claim that it was used for both purposes at the same time. Either way, it is darn creepy. Not quite to an "oh shite" level, but, but still plenty creepy. The thought of his already impaired son, being isolated in this creepy little cave, getting more and more insane as time passes, is enough to freak anybody out. Truth or fiction? I have no idea, but I do know the cave exists and I also know that it looks more like a holding cell, than a place to store TNT. 

 Lots of graffiti in here and maybe even some petroglyphs. I haven't examined the place (or my photos) enough to find any yet.


This thing looks like it is about to eat whoever walks by.

These guys were bouldering (as in free-climbing boulders) and had no clue that they were close to cave. We didn't tell them either.

Pretty creepy, yeah?



Monday, May 19, 2014

Creepy Cold Storage Cave - Joshua Tree National Park

I have many more historical desert related posts coming, so I hope you aren't getting tired of them yet. We've spent so much time in the desert the past couple of years and seen so many things, that I've become totally backed up (posting wise). In addition, I had no idea exactly what would happen when I decided to combine  my old written blog with my photo/travel blog a few years ago. Now I know.  If I am to ever catch up, I need to start posting more and doing it on a regular basis, If I do, I hope you will still find them interesting enough to comment and thereby validate my fragile existence.
Enough of that...  I have read and been told that some people find things like ancient rock art and artifacts kind of creepy. I understand, but don't feel anything like that myself. At least, I didn't until I first saw this little spot the winter before last.

Just some bare winter trees and branches. Nothing creepy about that, right? I walked right past this spot and didn't give it a thought. My wife was about twenty yards behind me and called out my name. Being a more astute explorer than myself, she parted the branches to see what might be on the other side. I walked back to her and took a peek. I believe my response was something close to...

Oh shite!  
Because to me, this looked like the teeth, gaping mouth and jaws, of something scary and not-of-this-world. I could even see right down its throat! I admit it, I got chicken skin (chill bumps) in about one second.

A closer look cleared it all up. There was some wild erosion on this spot and it hollowed out a large boulder. At some point in the distant past a Shaman (most likely) painted a couple of pictographs in the cavities of the cave. Later on, some rancher/settler type, used the rightmost cavity as what looks to be a cold-storage cave. It's pretty nice stone work, but today, it would land him with a hefty fine and/or jail time.  Rightly so, I might add! There is also a bedrock mortar (or mortero) in front of it. 

The pictographs aren't very bright now, but we could still see them pretty easily.

Even better, when enhanced with DStretch

A closer view. This "rake" looking pattern is believed to represent rain.

A better look at the bedrock mortar

Cactus growing out of the top of a nearby rock formation

Although it looks like old trash, these very old and rusted cans are also historic. They aren't held in the same regard as pictographs, petroglyphs, or cupules, but are historic just the same. In the context of this place, they are part of the story. If you find things like this, in places like this, please let them lie where you find them.

I recently took my granddaughter to this place. You can tell by her face, what she thinks of it. We may have a budding archaeologist on our hands. She denies it though and says she wants to be a baker. 

I have something from JTNP that is is even creepier than this! Coming up soon...


Monday, May 12, 2014

Did You Wash Your Hands?

Just a short-one today...

I've spent a large chunk of time in places that either don't have outhouses and/or bathrooms, or maybe just have "vault" toilets. I'm sure you're asking yourself, "why in the world is he telling us that?"  I'm just giving you a little background info. Umkay?
I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandma's house. It was actually more like a cabin. Not a mountain cabin, but a desert version. It was a very rustic place, but it did have an indoor bathroom and septic tank. Normally, that would be a great convenience, but we (me and my brother) were never allowed to use it during the day or evening hours, we could use it in the middle of the night, but only if we couldn't wait until morning. 

That means that ninety-nine percent of the time, we used the outhouse. Upon our return, there was never a single word said about washing our hands. However, on the rare occasion that we used the indoor bathroom (snow, rain, thunderstorms, etc). She ALWAYS asked if we had washed our hands. 

Is that more than a bit odd, or is it just me?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hexie Mountains - Desolate and Beautiful - Joshua Tree National Park

I apologize for my absence here. We've been out there, doing what we do, but I just haven't had much free time lately. I have plenty of backed up posts in draft form. Some from places, some stories and some that are just the general nonsense I post from time to time.
The Hexie Mountains are a desolate and beautiful place. Clearly off the sightseeing agendas of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park. This area is pure wilderness. No people, but there are animals and they only have two things to worry about...

 Finding food and avoiding becoming food!

My wife and I spent the better part of a day here and didn't see another person. The same is true for the last time I was there. Even human footprints are few and far between. 

We found some of what we were looking for, some things we weren't looking for and didn't have time to find a couple of things that I knew the location of (that sucked!).

 We could have easily spent two or three days in this area. It is beautiful.

Remember those wooden Tiki necklaces people used to wear? I thought this guy looked like one of them.

Okay, enough of the scenery for now. I really liked the eroded little arch in the middle of these boulders. These were just a fraction of the photos I took. Rock formations may all look alike to some folks, but not to me. They are all different and all beautiful.  By the way, none of the these photos necessarily relate to the next group of photos. I'm not going to make it that easy for anybody (if you catch my drift).

There are many clues that this area was lived in by local Indians for a long while. This bedrock mortar (mortero) was close to a quarter mile from....

 This broken milling stone or "slick" 

Here is a close-up of the same stone. You can see that it is worn smooth on top and slightly concave. As I look at this photo, I wish I had given a closer look to the small dark stone to the left of it. I'd bet a donut that the bottom side of that rock is also smooth and was used to grind things (as a mano) on the larger one.

This is the side opening into the high point of the day.  It leads into...

 This rock shelter! The shelter is great on it's own, but reaches amazing stature because of...

These rocks! They appear to have been arranged a very long time ago. They aren't just sitting there, like it was recently done, they have settled into the ground (or the ground is reclaiming them). I'd say maybe it was a fire ring, but I didn't see any ashes around it at all, nor did I see any smoke or carbon stains on the rocks around or above it. Maybe it was a cache for weapons, food, etc. Although caches were usually created in higher, more isolated and protected locations. I have no idea what it is and I'm fine with that. 

In another area, there were some petroglyphs (pecked, scratched, scraped into rocks) and pictographs (painted in some manner onto rocks). If you look at the center and just to right of center, you can see a grid design scraped into the stone. 

Here is a closer look at the petroglyph. It is very faded and probably easier to see in the other photo. When this design was created, it would have been scratched through the desert varnish (the dark stuff) and right into the rock. It takes many centuries and sometimes thousands of years for the "varnish" to reform to the point where it totally covers and destroys the petroglyph. this panel looks to almost be at that point.

 Very close to the petroglyph in the last photo, is this small alcove. In the alcove is a....

  human form (anthropomorphic) pictograph.

 Here is the same pictograph after enhancing with DStretch

One more small pictograph 

Even enhanced with DStretch, I have no idea what it is. 

This is an awesome big panel of petroglyphs! Unfortunately, they are also just about gone. 

Same photo as above, but tweaked a little bit. It doesn't help very much, but if you look at it closely, there are some interesting shapes. One actually does look kind of like a flying saucer. Ancient Alien theorists believe that..... Sorry, too much cable TV.

About a quarter mile away from that last photo, are two more bedrock mortars and at least one cupule. In case you don't remember, cupules are an ancient form of rock art (maybe the oldest). The cupule is to the right of the larger mortar and towards the edge. I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't have started a new mortar in that spot.

These next four photos and the first few, don't necessarily have any relation to the rock art, shelter, or mortars. They are here so you can see why we think this area is so beautiful. I think this looks like an eel. 

I included this photo, because it looks almost exactly like one from another part of the park. One that I can't seem to find right now.

That is all for now!