Monday, March 23, 2015

Dead Mountains Petroglyphs - Eastern Mojave Desert

The Dead Mountains are a fairly small range in the Eastern Mojave Desert. About 20 years ago, the federal government created the Dead Mountains Wilderness area. That designation bans vehicles of any type from entering the area and assures (allegedly), that there will NEVER be any type of development allowed. The only tire tracks to be found here are those from BLM jeeps, who enter the area to enforce the laws. Like most other desert mountain ranges in the Mojave, during the summer daytime temperatures can reach deadly high levels (how about 120 degrees). That is why we were there recently and not in July!

In the early 1800's, mountain man and frontier explorer Jedediah Smith* was tasked with finding an acceptable route for crossing the brutal Mojave Desert. The route had to lend itself to both horses and wagons. The canyon in which we found these petroglyphs, is about six miles long, and was part of the very route Smith hoped to establish as part of the route for pioneers and others traveling west. He observed many of the same petroglyphs we saw there two weeks ago (love the history of that). Unfortunately, there are a few places in the canyon that were blocked by dry waterfalls, or very rugged areas. Wagons would never be able to use the route. The path was moved a little bit to the north and was eventually known as the "Mojave Road."  The Mojave Road, has an amazing history of it's own, and today is used only by four wheel drive vehicles out for a few day's adventure into the past. More about the Mojave Road, in the future.

*Jedediah Smith is credited as being the first white man to travel overland from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Colorado River, through the Mojave Desert, and eventually into California. He is also credited with being the first United States Citizen to explore and cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into the Great Basin. He was also thought to be the first American to travel up the California coast into what is now called Oregon. Not much a hero to me though, because this period marks the beginning of a long period of genocide, inflicted upon the Native Americans. The Spanish deserve some of the blame also, but the later expansion of the United States from "Sea to Shining Sea, was much worse.

Here is one of the areas deemed impassible for wagons. Now back to the beginning...

After driving about an hour from where our RV was parked, we had to go off pavement and onto this "power-line" road. Very deep sand in places and very easy to become stuck. The wilderness area starts a few hundred yards up this road and to the right. When we reached a spot just over the horizon, the driving part of this trip was over. We parked the jeep and started hiking towards the Dead Mountains. You can see a little bit of the them in the upper far right of this photo.

Did I mention that it's been getting warm and there are rattlesnakes out here? While we were hiking our way into the canyon, my wife stepped off a little eroded ledge in the wash and almost landed right on top of this guy!

Judging by his length (about 18 inches) and that he only had one rattle segment, he was clearly a youngster. However, being young doesn't make him any less dangerous or deadly. Like most snakes, they like encounters with humans, even less than we do. He went his way and we went ours. No harm done.

Working our way down wash, towards the canyon.

The actual entrance into the canyon is just to the right of center. We were hiking in the opposite direction as Jedediah Smith.

A look back

My wife on the north side, while I'm on the south.

Very rugged country in the Dead Mountains

See what is right next to the orange blotch towards the top?

A closer view. This petroglyph is very old and the desert varnish is reclaiming it. As far as we knew, the petroglyphs were only supposed to be around a spring, which was still a couple of miles into the canyon.

I don't know (or claim to know) much about geology, but I do know that those veins (of whatever it is) is an amazing sight.

You need an eagle eye to spot the petroglyphs in this jumble. The next photo is a dark horizontal rock just above center.

A cross in the center (much conjecture about exactly what it means). In the upper left are a couple "atlatls." If you don't remember, the atlatl predates the bow and arrow as the means of propelling arrows/darts and spears.

My wife is the one with the eagle eye and here she is using it.

To me, the most interesting part of this panel, are what appear to be antlers of some type. Not like the usual mountain sheep you usually see around here.

Interesting symbols in a pretty scene

Most of the petroglyphs in this canyon are geometric symbols, and referred to as being of the "Grapevine Style." There are many "styles" out there, and many of them overlap, so I'm sure they are called other things as well.

Diamonds and what looks to me like a "D" as in Damn graffiti! I hope I'm wrong, but it looks totally fresh.

LOVE the anthropomorphic symbol with the huge hands in the upper right.

This part of the canyon is covered with petroglyphs and close to a spring. If there was any habitation here, it probably took place in this area. I also say that because, it was fairly level here and the canyon seemed to drain in both directions.


Even closer. See the big hands near the bottom?

Here is the spring.

The round "baseball" looking symbol on the right part of this rock, looks very similar to a symbol in Joshua Tree. I need to find it and post it under this photo.

Where is Waldo?

This is the level area I was talking about. There were a couple of very shallow grinding stones near here. I have so many more photos from this place, but I think I've already overdone it...
One thing I almost forgot to mention... There were more animal footprints in this canyon, then I've seen in a long time. There was one kind of animal that we saw exactly ZERO footprints from. HUMANS! Not a single print for miles.