Photography in Paradise

peeking from behind the sensor

The rock cravings in the Coso mountain range is the largest collection in one place in North America. I first explored this area in 1963 while I was in the USAF and stained at Edwards AFB. I was blown away by all the carvings left by a people who the current indians say they don’t even know who made the petroglyphs. Maybe is was their ancestors or not it is still a mystery that many have guessed as to what they mean. To me this was their BLOG. A way to express themselves and communicate with others who roamed this territory.
To be there you are more than impressed with the landscape. It is Basalt Lava weathered by centuries or wind and water and sun. The petroglyphs have endured several thousand years. How long do you think the stuff you created will be around that long? The terrain is harsh and rugged and my hiking boots didn’t last on day on the lava. Primitive living in this area had to be tough.
The US Navy took this area over in 1943, all one million plus acres and that has keep the petroglyphs somewhat free from idiots who would add their mindless graffiti.
Along with other agencies there has been a strong effort to keep the area pristine. During a few weekends each year only a few people are allowed in the area in small groups guided by members of the Matarango Museum in Ridgecrest. You have to be escorted for 45 miles through the mountains of the China Lake Naval Weapons Facility to get to the only open site of petroglyphs called Little Sheep Canyon. All the other sites, and there are many are protected and off limits to everyone. You have to make you reservations about one year in advance and there is no guarantee that the Military will honor the times you pick. It takes more than 2 hours to get throughout the security and on the road to the site. You will have only about three hours to walk, climb, fall and stumble down the canyon and back up to the staging area. The weather can be brutal at 5000 feet altitude. The dark lava walls of the canyon heat up from the sun and you are quickly baked. The dry air sucks the liquid out of your body and you wilt. If it is in the winter you freeze and the constant wind takes its toll on you. The canyon loses 500 feet of altitude in one mile and the hike is about two miles. A four mile round trip in 5 hours if you can make it that far. My shoes blew out at the one mile mark and Cass’s duct tape saved me for the trek back up the canyon. (see the photo of my shoes).
The designs left by the ancient people who lived here fill me with wonder and respect. I do not know what they meant to them but for me it is a spiritual awakening.
Cass Greene and Shelly Brinton when with me on the adventure. We drove up there on Saturday and spent some time in Randsburg, a gold mining town that is half ghost town. Then we drove the Trona, another town in remission. There is the ancient Tuffas called the Trona Pinicales that you may have seen in the movies and car commercials of late. We spent the night in Ridgecrest so we could be ready at 6am to start the process to get into China Lake Naval Weapons Center. They are great travel companions and we never had a dull moment.