February 12 2005 - Sand Canyon

Mike and I were supposed to go to Joshua Tree National Park, but our three-day trip got rained out before we left.  Saturday was drier so we drove up to hike into Sand Canyon in Owens Peak Wilderness of the South Sierras.  This area is west of Ridgecrest, about 80 miles north of here.

  The mouth of Sand Canyon is desert at probably 3000',  The area isn't particularly special except that there's springs here - it probably was a route for Indians to get to pinion trees in the Sierras.  We'll look for rock paintings rumored to be here, but we don't know where they are or how many sites are here.  Regardless, nobody hikes here but guys like us, and quail hunters.

  Self-shot photo at lunch.  I accidently dumped half my baggie of Goldfish here, and had to take note of just how weird a color of neon orange that is against a desert background.  They were probably the closest thing to actual fish that this landlocked basin ever saw.  I wondered if anyone else would ever stumble by and find them, and they'd probably ponder such a find.  But before that could happen, a mouse would probably get drawn in by the scent of the cheez-tastic snack.  But I digress.

  We find lots of big obsidian tool flakes ('lithic scatter').  They stand out against the granite sand, even on a cloudy day.  These indicate that people once lived here.  We aren't collectors, so we always scatter these flakes back out after picking them up, but we like finding them because it's amazing that people once lived around here.

  Up the south fork, just below the 4000' level is a large boulder with these three weathered pictographs.  I highlighed them for you to see better.  The upper left and lower right images are usually referred to as 'shields' though not in a literal sense, they're just roughly circular and that's what they're called. I tried adjusting contrast to get a better idea of the center image but I coudn't.  This might be a sacred Paiute-Shoshone ritual site, we thought.  50 yards down the hillside was what we assumed to be a gravesite:  an area about 10' across, fenced in by 5' high stock fence, with no gate and no stone.  There's nothing in it to indicate what it is, and this is within designated wilderness - no vehicle access.  Somebody with some kind of motive packed in those fencing materials.  Then, on each of the four compass points around this boulder was a larger obsidian flake in the dirt, which was interesting.  I saw that once before at a different site that tribal members still visit, so I was sort of looking for them.