Lori Carey Photography

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Heap of Broken Images

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats...

T.S. Elliot just always seems so appropriate for the Mojave desert. No sun this day, though.

The images are from remains of an F-4D Phantom that crashed in the Crucero region of the Mojave Desert over 40 years. ago. I find it amazing that so much of the wreckage is still in place, and I have to wonder why the military never cleaned it up. We were able to locate the crash site a few weeks ago while taking 27 other jeeps on a tour of the area. It was overcast most of the day, and it rained hard while we were at this crash site. Not the best day for photography, but I think in this case it adds to the mood of the images.

P.S. - I know that I was supposed to post the images from Inscription Canyon and finish that trail report. To be honest, I got caught up in researching Native American rock art, and then found a scientific imaging program for the enhancement of rock art and have been playing around with that a bit. Rather than wait any longer to post while I organize my thoughts and images, I figured it was best to just keep moving along with some of the others images I've been creating.

Nothing after the jump.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Black Mountain Rock Art District, Part III - Scouts Cove

From our last stop we continued along the trail through Black Canyon. This section of Black Canyon Road wraps around the western side of Black Mountain, first through a sandy wash and later alongside a lava flow. Our next stop was at the site of the Black Canyon Stage Station. There was little to see here but the snow was deep enough for the kids to have a friendly snowball fight.

There is no water source at the Stage Stop, which is perhaps the reason it did not last. About a mile and half further down the trail is the Black Canyon Well (also known as Dove Springs and Pigeon Springs) and a stone trough. At one time there was also a windmill, but that has long since disappeared. It's not known for certain when the well was dug; the first public record is dated 1915 but it is thought to have been dug in the 1870's during the Death Valley mining boom. Apparently once the well was dug the stage began stopping at this location instead of the original Stage Stop. There is another Tillman signature at this site - "A. & J. Tillman, Sep. 30, 1974".

We couldn't find the trail to the famous Birdman petroglyph (perhaps access is being restricted), so in another mile we took a side trail to Scouts Cove, an opal mining camp that was financed by the Tiffany Jewelry Company of New York during the turn of the century. The Scouts Cove Mine shaft was one of the first chosen by the State of California for remediation due to the danger of the open shaft and it was filled in early 2003, but Opal Mountain is still popular with rockhounds for fire opal and jasper. Small pieces of fire opal were easy to find and we each left with a pocket full of tiny pieces and a few good nuggets. I keep thinking that one of these days I should buy a tumbler and polish some of my finds so at least they look better on display.

The most unusual feature at Scouts Cove are the tufa mounds. Tufa, like that found at Mono Lake and Trona Pinnacles, are calcium carbonate deposits - exactly the same material as stalagmites. But tufa has a spongier texture and is formed differently. Almost all methods of tufa formation require water so I'm speculating that this area was at one time under water, but I haven't been able to find any information to confirm that.

A shelter was dug in one of the tufa mounds. There are two holes in the roof, one for the fireplace and one for ventilation. Of course the sun was on the opposite side from the entrance, sorry for the bad light in this shot:

I found a copy of Desert Magazine from November 1958 that showed a photo of what was called the Scouts Cove Dugout. It appears to be this same structure, but at that time the entrance was elaborately framed with rocks, including an arch. I suppose those are the rocks seen lying at the base of the structure now. One can only wonder if the damage was done by vandals or the harsh environment. The 1958 photos of the Scouts Cove area are really neat to see and I found the accompanying article fascinating so I've embedded here if you're interested. The article begins on Page 18 and the photo of the shelter is on Page 21.

195811 Desert Magazine 1958 November

I'll conclude this trip with photos from Inscription Canyon tomorrow. If you want to visit Scouts Cove, here is a map of its location:

View Larger Map

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Black Mountain Rock Art District, Part II - Black Canyon

Our adventure through the Black Mountain Rock Art District in the Mojave began in Hinkley, 7 miles west of Barstow, where we picked up Black Canyon Road. The beginning of our route follows Desert #21 - Black Canyon Road in Massey and Wilson's BackCounty Adventures (see sidebar), but in reverse. Movie buffs might know that Hinkley was the setting for Erin Brockovitch, starring Julia Roberts.

This is a brutally harsh environment, and as we stop at the trailhead to air down and disconnect I can't help but think about the stories of the people who choose to live out here. There is not an easy place to live.

I have to admit that I've often thought about building a little ranch out here, tempted by the quiet, the solitude and the stars overhead, but I'm not sure I have what it takes to survive the summers unless I were to become a creature of the night. And I think I would soon miss the beach and the grocery stores.

On a scale of 1-10, Black Canyon Road is rated a 10 for its scenic value and a 3 for the terrain difficulty, but you need to be aware that the trail crosses several dry lakes. Caution is advised if you attempt it when the lake beds are wet because they quickly turn to a quagmire of deep, gripping mud that will bog a vehicle down. A properly equipped vehicle, advanced mud driving skills and recovery equipment are a necessity if you attempt to drive across the lake beds when they are wet.

As we crossed Harper Dry Lake the trail was more like a stream than a track and it became obvious that the recent snowstorm was going to make the terrain a bit more challenging than the easy drive we had anticipated. No worries, even the one stock jeep in our group was equipped with recovery gear and everyone was excited to see the desert blanketed with snow and ready to handle whatever came out way.

The Black Mountain Rock Art District is located between Superior and Water Valleys and contains the largest concentration of Native American rock art in the Mojave Desert. There are an estimated 12,000+ petroglyphs and a very small number of pictographs placed here over the past 12,000 years. This is an area of high volcanic activity and the basalt lava flow walls covered in desert varnish are the perfect canvas for the engravings. Large deposits of quartz and other hard minerals also made this an ideal location for making the stone tools needed to create the petroglyphs. The outer layer of patina-covered stone is removed to reveal the lighter colored rock below. The various styles of art work represent the many cultures who used the area over the years. The area was utilized by Archaic people many thousands of years ago.Then came the Southern Paiute, the Shoshone and historically the Kawaiisu people. The Rock Art District is on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by federal law against vandalism and artifact removal.

At our first stop as we entered Black Canyon the work of vandals was obvious. There were many petroglyphs riddled with bullet marks and damaged by people attempting to remove them. The good thing is that this was the only spot where we noticed any significant damage. I'm glad that destructive idiots never seem to be willing to venture too deep into the wild.

There are many interesting ideas and theories about the interpretation of rock art symbols. Not all of the experts agree and I won't pretend to even be able to say for certain what style a glyph is. But it is fun to look at a panel and imagine the story behind it:

In the photo above I see a bighorn sheep and a hunter and I imagine the circle above as the sun. Below left is a symbol that I've seen interpreted several times as a water glyph that points direction to the nearest water source, but have also seen interpreted as an atlatl (an ancient weapon that predates the bow-and-arrow) or as an opening in the rock where a shaman enters the spirit world. I haven't yet found an interpretation for the symbol the on the lower right. Left to my own imagination I see it as rain since that symbol has always represented water to me, and water on its side would be rain.

I found these bighorn sheep glyphs with bent legs interesting. One archaeologist called them man-sheep. Unfortunately these are some of the petroglyphs that have been damaged by vandals. You can see bullet marks on the rock and the damage caused by someone attempting to chip out and remove the glyph.

Older petroglyphs naturally eventually become revarnished and are harder to see and photograph. These older anthropomorphic figures were a little more faded:

There are several more recent, yet historical carvings in the rock as well. One well-known signature is that of A. Tillman, a teamster who regularly traveled the Black Canyon route during the silver boom of the late 1800's. He left his signature in several places throughout this area. This one in Black Canyon is dated July 1874:

This next one caught my eye, of course initially because of the jeep, but also because it was well done:

I found another Desert Foxes signature in another section of the Rock Art District later in the day. It was fun to think what it would've been like to explore this area in a jeep back in the 60's. I imagine it wasn't much different than it is today.

It also got me thinking about man's desire to leave his mark on these rock walls over the years, and at what point do these etchings cease to be considered graffiti and instead become artwork of historical significance. What makes the Desert Foxes glyph any different from those of Native Americans, other than when they were created? And along that line, what will future generations think of the fact that we stopped "writing on the wall" in the mid 1980's? Some interesting ethical dilemmas present themselves along that line of thought, and I've been in touch with an archaeologist who has kindly provided me with additional reading and study sources. I think I may have the kernel of a project in here somewhere, I just need to do more studying and thinking to refine exactly what it is that I have to say.

I'll leave off here and continue the trail in my next post. If you've read this far I would like to appeal for your feedback on something that I'm having a difficult time figuring out; would you rather see an entire Trail Report all in one post no matter the length, or do you prefer it broken into smaller chunks? Does this post give you too much information, or not enough? I stopped when I had reached just over 1,000 words and I've been told that an ideal post length is 400-700 words, so I know that I'm pushing the limit. I really would like to know from my readers if you would prefer that I make each Trail Report one post with less information.

Coming up next: Scouts Cove and the Opal Mountain Mine

Nothing after the jump!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Black Mountain Rock Art District, Part I - Casa Del Desierto and the Route 66 Museum

The fickle southern California winter weather we've been experiencing lately has put a bit of a damper on our trail schedule this year. Between rain, snow, wind, wildfires and the holidays things never seemed to work out. So it was with a severe case of cabin fever that we found ourselves meeting up with the WayOfLife family in the bitter pre-dawn hours a few days before Christmas to head out to the wilds of the Mojave desert and brave the unknown elements. A rare winter storm had brought heavy snow to southern California as low as 2,000 feet and we had no idea what conditions would be in the desert. Destination: the Black Mountain Rock Art District, known to have the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Mojave.

My jeep knows the route by heart; the 5 to the 405 to the 133 to the 241 to the 91 to the 15 to the 40. Stop at Coco's in Barstow for breakfast, where the food is good, the service is friendly, and they never have a problem fitting in a group of rowdie jeepers excited to get out on the trail. It's more relaxed than usual this time; just the five of us before we head off to meet up with two more couples suffering from cabin fever and bold enough to brave the weather. Barstow is snow-covered, a first for us and a sign of things to come. (Interesting note: Barstow was named for the president of the Santa Fe Railroad, William Barstow Strong.)

After our leisurely breakfast we drove over to the Route 66 Museum housed in the historic Casa Del Desierto Harvey House at 681 N. First Avenue. It's still early; the museum is not yet open and the rest of our group hasn't arrived so we spend some time exploring the gorgeous architecture of the building. The original alignment of Route 66 - The Mother Road - ran in front of this magnificent building listed on the National Register of Historic Place, that is, until the Sante Fe Railroad actually bought the road and moved it to it's current location.

Harvey Houses were a chain of railway hotels and restaurants built by English immigrant Fred Harvey in the American Southwest. Harvey began the chain in 1870, and at it's peak there were 84. Opened in 1911, Casa del Desierto (House of the Desert) was the jewel of the chain and provided luxurious rooms and gourmet food to Sante Fe Rail travelers stopping in Barstow. It had replaced a previous Harvey House that was built in 1887 but burnt to the ground in 1908. During the heyday of Route 66, the grand ballroom was host to many of the town's dances and social events. Female employees, called Harvey Girls, were renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. They were required to take a vow not to marry while employed and their contracts contained other morals clauses.

WWII started the decline of the Harvey Houses; food rationing, a decline in standards, quality and practices all contributed. When trains began serving meals on board the Harvey Houses fell into further decline. The train ticket office closed in 1973 when air travel overtook rail travel, and Casa Del Desierto became yet another abandoned and derelict building along the historic Mother Road. The Sante Fe Railway wanted to tear it down in the late 1980s, but public outcry urged the city of Barstow to save the building and restoration began. It was rededicated in 1999, and now houses the Greyhound and Amtrak stations, the Western American Rail Museum and the Route 66 "Mother Road" Museum.

The museum, founded in 2000, is only open Fridays and Saturdays 10-4 and Sundays 11-4. It charges no admission but does accept donations. It contains a wealth of Route 66 memorabilia and artifacts and some fantastic displays of Route 66 photography, both old and new. They have a very large selection of books containing everything from Route 66 history and photography, field guides for the local area and trail guides for the Mojave desert including autographed copies of the Bill Mann series. The volunteers staffing the museum are friendly and knowledgeable and I engaged in a lengthy conversation about the best trails and places to offroad near Barstow to see more interesting historical sights. WayOfLife bought a few more Bill Mann books (see sidebar) and I bought a Mojave Desert wildflower field guide (one can never have too many field guides!).

After spending much longer than we had anticipated exploring the museum, we headed back to our jeeps to find the trailhead that would take us to the Black Mountain Rock Art District.

To be continued....

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Using Wordles as an SEO tool

I'm still working on wrapping up the photos and research from our trip to the Black Mountain Rock Art District. Needed to take a break from editing and decided to create a Wordle from my December blog posts.

Wordles are fun; you can point it to any web page to pull the words (or you can type words in manually). You can play around with the shape of the cloud, edit the font, and use custom colors (like I did here to match my blog). One hint, if you want to save it you will need to do a screen print and paste your Wordle into an image editing program.

I also find Wordles useful as a tool. I like having a graphic representation of the words I used most frequently during my last posts. It lets me see what I've been talking about, know if I'm obsessing over the wrong thing, and lets me think about the effect of those words on my SEO. For example, I can see that I've used the words photographer, photographers, photographing and photography, and I can also see that most of the other words are about the subjects I like to photograph. I had created a Wordle a few months ago and wasn't happy about the results. That led me to realize that I needed to pay more attention to the topics of successive posts to make sure that my front page wasn't overly populated with words that won't generate the search results I desire.

So next time you need a break, have some fun and give it a try. Does your blog Wordle say what you want it to say? Feel free to post a link here to share your Wordle.

Nothing after the jump.