Monday, April 1, 2013

Southeastern Nevada & Death Valley – March 2013 - Part One

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Spring break 2013

“I want to go up there,” the Lady said. Her morning coffee mug was in her hand as she looked up the steep granite outcropping of the Alabama Hills behind our camper near Lone Pine, California. We had spent the eighth night in our camper and the last camp of our spring break trip.
“How far is ‘up there’? I asked.
“As far as I can get, you coming?”
I had no doubt we would soon be at the top.

The Alabama Hills along with the speck of our truck were spread out below us against the eastern escarpment of the High Sierra Nevada.  

We finished our coffee and tried to take it all in, this indescribably magnificent vista before us. It is a wonderful gift, not just to be able to stand at a place like this, but to try to be part of the place – the moment - not just a visitor.

This trip’s theme, if it had a theme, was questions. It started with the question I asked after visiting Nevada’s Gold Butte area during the winter break, “Should we go back?” There was that one place I wanted to find and further research had turned up a couple of others. “Should we go back?”

Yes, we should. At least we thought so and were traveling to find out. Our friends the Spiders, Barking, Mom, and Little, asked if they could join us. We met at 5:00 am on Saturday and headed down the highway. Breakfast in Bridgeport, the pleasant drive on 120 over Sagehen Summit, highway 6 over Montgomery Pass, finding the Rebel gas station in Tonopah, Nevada, lunch at the ruins of Warm Springs, we then found ourselves on Nevada Highway 375 – the Extraterrestrial Highway – headed toward Rachel.

Rachel does its best to play up its location near Area 51……………..

……………………..and its association with possible alien contact.

As we climbed out of the valley and gained elevation we entered the realm of Joshua trees. We were surprised to see Joshuas in bloom.

The day was drawing to a close. Where to spend the night? We have used and enjoyed Mr. Jim Boone’s Bird & Hike website. I had downloaded information on the Lincoln County public ancient rock art sites. I figured one of them would make a nice stop over spot along with an opportunity to explore. After filling the gas tanks in Alamo, we decided on the Shooting Gallery.

After a quiet night alone, except for the company of the brilliant stars overhead, in the morning we explored the petroglyphs and village sites. Knowing we would visit archeological sites, Little Spider brought along her favorite hat for good luck.

We found the artwork intriguing and more dynamic than other sites we’ve visited. An example would be what looks like rainfall turning into flowing water on the panel above.

A coyote or wolf pursuing a sheep…………………………………….

…………………..and a mountain lion doing the same.

This cactus was close to bursting out with flowers.

Some of the artwork seemed to have a definite flair of fancy or humor.

The village sites were amazing to investigate.

After a wonderful morning we headed to Mesquite for a final fill of the gas tanks.

Along the way the Lady asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we ran into the Bird & Hike guy sometime?” Another question was added. I added another to the list. With the abundance of sheep petroglyphs in the rock art we were seeing and the Lady's special bond or relationship with bighorn sheep I have mentioned before, I asked, "So what is going to happen with you and bighorn this trip?" The Lady smiled and said, "We'll find out."

From Mesquite we headed south on Gold Butte Road and did not let the welcoming committee dim our anticipation for a great adventure.

Late Sunday afternoon found us home, back deep in the red rock country with our camp set up for the next several days.

The Lady & I took our night walks and still got up well before dawn. I enjoy long exposures with the camera in the predawn light when the rock glows and there are no shadows.

About the time the Lady finds me, carrying our mugs of morning coffee, the sunlight is reaching out over the landscape.

It is such a special time of day; a time for quiet voices, a time to watch and marvel at the light.

Today we were off to the circus. After returning from our last trip, I discovered we had been near a noted petroglyph site called the Kohta Circus Panel, so named because of the abundance of animal petroglyphs. My definition of “near” may be quite a bit different than yours as we enjoy cross country travel, navigating on foot through complicated terrain, and hiking long distances. This will not be a narrative to lead you to this place, but to share the joy of discovery and thrill of finding unexpected treasures along the way. In fact, I may intentionally place photos out of sequence or add a photo that has nothing to do with the hike ……………………………you get the message.

We were off, well outfitted and prepared for a good day.

Treasures and signs of the many creatures that make this place their home were right at our feet. All we had to do was look.

The Lady loves to take the lead, work the terrain, and do route finding.

There were surprises that stopped us many times.

A recurring figure was a skinny human like figure with long fingers and toes.

Even if we did not find what we were looking for, quietly traveling through this fascinating terrain was fulfillment enough that enriched us.

In this area the Joshuas’ blossoms were already transforming into seed pods.

And then we were there.

Nearby were incredible eroded shelters in the rock.

Was this one reason this place was so special to the ancient ones? – another question added. Special enough to invest the time and effort in their artwork and stories? Was this a special place to gather? – more questions.

Artwork was in places it was hard to figure how they even reached the heights.

There were several depictions of a human like figure with spirals on both sides of the head and neck, shamans perhaps? Here is one handling a snake.

Although we are tempted to try to figure out the meanings, the stories these panels and figures tell, I found it more enlightening to put my mind at ease, to back away, look at the big picture, and let the details draw me in. This place had special importance to the ancient ones. This place, these rocks, this dirt, this air held the secret and told the story. I tried to listen.

We had much more fun in store for the day. There was so much more terrain to become familiar with, so many more nooks and crannies to peek into. We walked past weeks worth of wonderful opportunities for exploration and discovery. “Should we come back?” What an easy question to answer.

We found a slot canyon and wondered where it would lead us.

We relaxed back at camp. The Spiders showed us what the awning they carried on their camper was for, shade. The high temperature was a bit above 80°, a little warmer than we were use to. The shade was nice, as was dinner, our camp chores, our story telling, and the coming night. The Lady & I took off alone on our night walk. The cooling air moved around us. We worked on our route for tomorrow. We figured out final clues. Tomorrow was a special day. We would search for that place we wanted to find, the place we had come back to find, part of the answer to that question – “Should we come back?”

Our adventure continues in Part Two.


  1. Ski and co.Once again your photo essay is top notch.Thanks for the report.

  2. You asked about the petroglyphs high on the cliffs -- I have read that the floor of the canyon moves up and down quite a bit over time, due to flash floods and gravel flows and that the higher drawings were made when the floor was higher. Don't know if it is true, but it sounds plausible.

    1. Dan, I believe in many places in canyons this could be the case. In other places associated with cliffs it looks to us there was much effort expended to get the artwork as high as possible.

      Either way it is so cool to spend time in solitude with the spirits of those who were here before.

  3. A very cool trip and yes, interesting rock art!