Monday, December 16, 2013

Barker Dam and Disney Petroglyphs - Joshua Tree NP

The Barker Dam Nature Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It's pretty easy and if you stick to the trail, it's only a little over a mile long. It gives you another great look at what the "Wonderland of Rocks" area is all about. In addition, it gives you some glimpses of history, both old and ancient. As in most of Joshua Tree, there are many climbing and bouldering spots in the area. Also a rock shelter contain ancient Indian Rock Art.

Barker Dam, also known as the Big Horn Dam was built in 1899 by local cattlemen (including one named Barker). It was originally nine feet high until another rancher/miner, William Keys added an additional six feet 50 years later. Today, the dam mostly provides water for wild animals. During rainy periods the reservoir can fill all the way up.

 If nothing else, it's a pretty spot

 I guess I should have said that it's an easy trail if you have no mobility problems.

 Downstream side of the dam

I don't think that Butt Rock is the official name, but it should be... 

Please Embiggen this one!
The next several photos show you how rugged and beautiful the Barker Dam area is. 

 Hard to tell by the photos that it was under 30 degrees that day.

This one as well!

I think this is the only Rock Art site that the park openly advertises. It contains both Petroglyphs (designs pecked or scratched into rock) and Pictographs (designs "painted" on the rocks).  I'm sure you'll agree that it is very colorful. UNFORTUNATELY, almost all the color is there as the result of vandalism. Hard to believe it, but the vandalism was done by none other than the Walt Disney company in 1961. Apparently, while filming a movie in the park (Chico, the Misunderstood Coyote). Somebody didn't think that the symbols showed up enough and painted over them.  Some people say there were fined and others say they had permission. Nobody seems to know these days. But if somebody did that today, they wouldn't only be fined, they would go to prison.
 It's still a very cool spot and there is a lot of rock art there.

I have several more posts to do on Rock Art sites in Joshua Tree.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Oatman Arizona - Ghost Town Back Streets

Although I haven't posted anything relating to ghost towns lately, this seems like a good time to do so. 

We're out in the desert again and I have a camera full of photos, but we've been very busy exploring and I just haven't had the time. Speaking of which, I apologize for not getting to your blogs (those of you who have them) in the last week or so, but I promise that I will soon. Umkay? Now back to ghost towns.
Don't get me wrong, I love ghost towns. However, many ghost towns still have some people living in them. Usually, just out of town, or on the back streets where visitors seldom go. We always look behind the scenes. I love looking at the old stuff and it amazes me that it is just left there. I almost always sense despair and ruin there. Some of it current and some of it very old. The "ghost town" that people see, is much different than the back streets they don't see. It is very cheap to live there and many people do so for that reason (and some others).  The back streets are almost always run down and I rarely ever see anything hopeful or positive in there. Some of you probably remember the earlier post I did on Oatman (follow the link if you like). It was all main street, visitors and wild donkeys roaming around everywhere. 

I won't do much of a narrative because I'm sure the photos will say it all. 

 Only because it's pretty!

 Park in a "no parking" zone and get your windows shot out!

 I'd love to have this safe!

The closest town to Oatman is Needles, California. I'm almost afraid to say that. The email and non-publishable comments I still get from there is amazing. Well, it would be amazing if it wasn't so pathetic.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Is it Just Me? - You Be The Judge

We are very lucky that we get to spend a lot of time on the road. We go to great places and see a ton of beautiful and interesting things. We get to explore and we get to hike. Those of you who have been around here for a while know that I am particularly fond of the odd things that exist out there. 

Sometimes though, I see things that make no sense to me.

We always make it a point to visit Palm Springs when we are in this part of the desert. They have the BEST street fair I've ever seen. It takes place every Thursday night (except for two) of the year. Lots of art, food, produce, music and tons of great restaurants. 

We all know that Sonny Bono was the mayor of Palm Springs. Yes, Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher.  Sonny died in a skiing accident 15 years ago and was buried in Desert Memorial Park.  He has a nice little memorial and grave marker there. There are always flowers on and around his grave.  I understand this and it isn't what makes me sad.

A friend told me that there is somebody else famous buried here. I started looking around for another memorial, shrine, or anything to help me find it.  There weren't anymore of them. Every other grave had only a simple marker like this one.  It's pretty hard to even read what it says. If you look very very hard you just might figure it out.  No need though, it says...

1915 - 1998

Even as I type these words, it is hard for me to believe that Frank Sinatra gets nothing better than this. Okay, maybe he wanted a simple grave (I doubt that), but I'm pretty sure he didn't ask for this.  Frank Sinatra was one of the main people who put this place on the map. He was and is bigger than life and in a few more years this marker will be unreadable.  Yet, just about 100 yards away, Sonny Bono has a memorial and marker that are clearly well taken care of. By looking at Sinatra's marker, one would think that it had been there much longer. Nope, they both died in 1998.

I won't say anything bad about Sonny Bono, but he wasn't even in the same galaxy as Frank Sinatra.  This is sad and it's just not right.

Or is it just me?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Desert Oddity - Joshua Tree

How do the following four photos relate to each other?

Room #8 

 at the Joshua Tree Inn in the Village of Joshua Tree (outside the park)

Gram Parsons (photo Wikipedia)

Cap Rock

Well, let me tell you...

On September 19, 1973
In room #8
At the Joshua Tree Inn
In Joshua Tree Village
Gram Parsons overdosed
On morphine and alcohol
He was 26 years old
His friend, Phil Kaufman
Ditched his drug stash in the desert 
And later with a friend
Stole his body from 
The airport
They took it back to Joshua Tree
To Cap Rock
That's where they cremated him
Tried to cremate him anyway
A match thrown 
On five gallons of gasoline
Dumped in a coffin 
Didn't do much cremating
It did however
Create a fireball big enough
To Light up the desert night
At Cap Rock

--- pat tillett
Gram Parsons
Rolling Stone magazine rated Gram Parsons #87 on their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." That probably makes him the most famous musician you've never heard of. He is one of the people most responsible for blending rock and country music. This music is known today as "Country Rock." Although he played in several bands, the two you may know best are the Byrds (replacing David Crosby) and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was one of Parsons closest friends. I'm sure there was some influences (good and bad) flying back and forth in that friendship. Parsons was the creative force behind the Rolling Stones huge hit "Wild Horses." 

He was clearly the driving force behind the Byrd's 1968 meg-hit album "Sweethearts of the Rodeo." This was the first mainstream country rock album and is still considered one of the most influential and best albums of all time.

Parsons wanted to visit his favorite spot in the world, Joshua Tree Monument (not a national park yet) before going on tour. He checked into the Joshua Tree Inn, but never checked out. 

Phil Kaufman
Other than stealing Gram Parson's corpse, this guy is most known for producing Charles Manson's "LIE" record album from prison. He also lived with the Manson family and was later quoted as saying that he "had sex with more serial killers than anyone else in show business." I'm not sure if that is true or not, but either way it's just plain old creepy. Kaufman also said they stole Gram Parson's body because he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread at Cap Rock, in Joshua Tree. Despite this request, Parson's brother was going to have the body buried back east. 

Cap Rock
Joshua Tree is said to be one of the earth's power spots. Indians thought so in antiquity and still do today. If you ever go there, get to a silent spot, clear your mind and open your senses. You just might feel it. I certainly do. Many artists and musicians (many famous) live, have lived, or frequent the area on a regular basis because of the creative "force" they feel there. 

Although the Cap Rock trail might be the shortest and easiest in the area, it is very beautiful and anyone passing through the area, should stop there and walk it.  Every year, on Gram Parson's birthday, people flock to Cap Rock and create a memorial there. Every year the park rangers have to clean it all up afterwards.

Here are some more photos from Cap Rock.

Cap Rock is also popular for climbing (or in this case bouldering)

 Part of the VERY easy, but awesome walking trail (notice I said walk and not hike)

A different view of the "cap."  Hey isn't that a giant rock bicycle seat next to it?

4247 feet above sea level and it is PURE desert


Monday, November 18, 2013

Hidden Valley Area - Joshua Tree National Park

Within the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree is a place called the "Real" Hidden Valley. Somewhere around 1880, a man named Charlie Button had just been released from prison after serving 15-years relating to a double murder conviction. While in the Joshua Tree area, Charlie and his brother Willie discovered a small passage into a large rock formation.  Much to their surprise, the passage led to a "hidden" valley that was totally surrounded by the formation.

Shortly after the discovery, the Button brothers joined up with a local outlaw named Bill McHaney to rustle cattle in Arizona and use the "hidden valley" to hide and re-brand them. The cattle were then sold to ranchers on the coast.  Several years later, both of them were killed in a barroom brawl. (truth or fiction? I have no idea).

The next six photos were taken in the Hidden Valley area.

Fast forward about 60 years to 1936.
Joshua Tree resident and most known character, Bill Keys re-discovered the "real" Hidden Valley and dynamited a larger opening through the rocks in 1936. This happened just a few months before the area was named a national monument. Bill Keys will be mentioned several times in upcoming posts.
The opening into the real Hidden Valley (looking back out). You can see the damage done to these two boulders by the explosives. This spot marks the start of a one mile loop nature trail. How long it takes you to walk it all depends on how much you look around. It's not much exercise, but it sure gives you a huge dose of beautiful rocks. If you have limited time in the park, it's a must see. 

This photo and the rest were taken within the "real" Hidden Valley.

The valley may have been hidden to late comers, but this rock shelter and mortero (mortar) indicate that local Indian tribes used it. You won't find many things like this in the tourist guides, but if you keep your eyes open and explore a bit, they are there.

You can see it better in this one. The shallow mortero (or mortar) is used to grind acorns, seeds, plants, etc. There might have been some faint petroglyphs there also, but not obvious enough to post a closeup.

Here is another one. This one is much deeper and indicates that it was used for a much longer period of time. The Indians in this part of the country were primarily "hunter gatherers" and moved with the seasons and food sources. They would usually only be in desert areas like this during the cooler months.

Next time, I will climb up to that cave! From afar, it looks like it isn't totally natural.

Which is stronger, the rock or the tree?

I have to post at least one black and white.
Doesn't the round boulder to the right look like it has a mouth and eyes?

The rocks in the middle looks kind of like a ring setting with a "rock" in it.  The rock to the far left looks like a giant bird head, or maybe a primate head of some sort. Or maybe it's the peyote...

Look at the little reddish spot around the middle of this rock formation.

A little closer.

Joshua Tree is a world famous rock climbing destination. It has thousands of recorded rock climbing routes.On the weekends there are scads of rock climbers around. Very interesting and kind of scary to watch. More on that in a later post.
They call this thing "Trojan Rock" because it supposedly looks like the USC Trojan mascot. 

I'm not so sure!