From the high desert to the low desert, California’s deserts have a number of unique, weird, and isolated locations. Some of these locations range from the known, the unknown, and everything in between. One of the more obscure locations, Corn Springs, is located a short drive from the Interstate 10 in Southern California. Although Corn Springs is not well known in the hiking, camping, or exploration community, it is an interesting spot with a number of outdoor opportunities.
The Valley of Fire is further away from Las Vegas proper; but it is Nevada's first State Park; and it contains the eroded remains of red sandstone formations that were formerly sand dunes some 150 million years ago. The Valley of Fire also contains Atlatl Rock, a series of petroglyphs carved over 1500 year ago. This rock is considered one of the best representations of an "atlatl" - a throwing board - among other things. There are also a number of other great petroglyphs near and around the actual rock.
In the case of the Volcanic Tablelands petroglyphs, my decision on whether to provide directions was fairly easy. The Volcanic Tablelands are an area outside of Bishop, California that was formed over 700,000 ago by the Long Valley caldera. In more recent times, the Paiute-Shoshone Indians resided here and created a great deal of rock art – petroglyphs – throughout the Tablelands. Although there are petroglyphs throughout the area, there are a number of large – and stunning groupings in certain specific areas. Even though this land is public land – managed by the Bureau of Land Management – and a protected area, it is a large area that cannot adequately be patrolled by the BLM.
Sometimes, adventures are easy to find – they’re marked in large white letters on big brown signs right next to highways, telling you where to turn to find something unique. Other times, adventure takes a little initiative to find. Take Hospital Rock, for example. It’s located at the southern end of Sequoia National Park. It is well marked, but other than that, not much is publicized about it other than that it’s a picnic area. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be that interesting of a spot, nor a spot containing adventure – but it is. For starters, let’s address what it is – it’s not just a National Park Service picnic area, but a large quartzite rock that is partially is a “cave” due to its resting location next to other rocks.
What is Fossil Falls: It is an area with unique geologic features. The area was part of the Coso Volcanic Range, which was an active volcanic area thousands of years ago. Some of the remnants of this volcanic activity can be seen in the form of a cinder cone, Red Hill, which is next to Fossil Falls. The other remnants of this volcanic activity are the “falls” themselves, which is a large area of basalt (hardened lava). This large sheet of basalt blocked portions of ancient Owens River, and probably portions of the Owens Lake. The significance of this is that during the last ice age, water from receding glaciers (and the river and lake) flowed over this basalt, smoothing it, eroding it, and forming the canyons and holes that remain today over a period of thousands of years. Today, what remains is smooth basalt that has eroded into a distinctive geologic area. (For more information click here and here).
I’m a fan of petroglyphs, pictographs and anything old. It’s intriguing to me to see things from the ancient past, and wonder what inspired them and what they mean. It’s also interesting to see what similarities exist from site to site, and what differences also exist. It’s also fun to imagine what exactly life was life when they were created thousands of years ago. In California, where I live, most petroglyph and pictograph sites are either require a hike or some exploration; and while I don’t mind either of those activities, they’re generally hard to find and in some cases, found by too many people. On a number of occasions, I’ve been told of great rock art secreted away in remote areas, only to find that innumerable prior “adventurers” have already ruined the spot, or the art. Because of these unfortunate experiences, I’m also a little skeptical when I research or hear of a new spot for rock art, and temper my expectations accordingly.
Hole-in-the-Wall Petroglyphs, Main Boulder
If I said to you, "Riddle me this, Bat-boy, which is the third largest national park/preserve in the lower forty eight states?", you'd probably pause for a minute, and respond with, "Yellowstone", "Yosemite", "Grand Canyon", or maybe if you were feeling erudite, "Big Bend". But you'd be wrong: the answer is the Mojave National Preserve. In this respect, Mojave National Preserve ("MNP") is probably the stealthist park in the National Park Service network, which is quite a feat considering how large it is! While I can't say exactly why this is - perhaps it's because it loses visitors to its more popular siblings, Joshua Tree and Death Valley, to its South and North, respectively; or perhaps its because it's in a remote area (halfway between Las Vegas and halfway between Los Angeles); what I can say for sure is that it's full of interesting items and adventures.
For example: the Hole-in-the-Wall Petroglyphs. These petroglyphs are located within a quarter of a mile (.25) from the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center on the Ring Loop Trail, and yet, are relatively unknown, undiscovered, and even on a weekend, berefit of visitors. These petroglyphs are roughly ten to twelve thousand years old from what I've been told, and from what I saw, are in good condition, considering they are on some exposed boulders, and have likely been visited by thousands of people.
Directions: Take the Ring Loop Trail from the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center. Follow the trail South/Southeast for a quarter of a mile (.25). Before the trail turns West, there will be a grouping of boulders. The petroglyphs are on the main face of a larger boulder, but smaller groupings appear on other boulders in the cluster.
Tips: The petroglyphs are faint in places, and if you are booking along, and not paying attention to your desert surroundings, you will pass them easily. Take your time, and scan the exposed rock faces as you pass by. In addition, should you want a good 360 degree view of the surrounding hole in the wall region, the hill above the boulders can be scrambled up easily for a great view! It's also worth noting that the interpretive rangers at Hole-in-the-Wall are conducting programs about the petroglyphs once a week, at this point, occurring on Saturdays (check with the Visitor Center should you visit to ensure that this is still the correct day when you visit). And, as it is the desert, do take plenty of water, and be respectful of the ancient art that exists on these rocks.
Hole-in-the-Wall Petroglyphs, Main BoulderHole-in-the-Wall Petroglyphs