Sunday, April 23, 2017

Satellite Circles and Unnamed Arroyos

 I spend a lot of time at work on Google Earth looking at the desert floor for interesting things. One day I noticed a couple of rock circles off the S-2 that I thought looked interesting. I was still feeling kind of puny after being so sick in Rockhouse Canyon and the hiking to this site looked easy, so it seemed like a perfect day to check them out.

When I arrived to Ocotillo I noticed the Border Patrol checkpoint was open and instantly felt anxiety. After passing a series of cones I arrived to find two cars parked haphazardly in the road with engines running and doors open. Off to my right I saw two men being escorted away in cuffs and two squatting next to the building. Agents were taking gruffly and the agent that approached my car was stressed and sweating. "This is an immigration checkpoint, are you a US citizen?" He said hastily while peering into the back of my car. "Yes sir, I am." I replied, my stomach doing flip flops but glad an agent FINALLY asked me if I was a citizen instead of my life story. "Where are you headed?" The agent asked. It only took my mind a second to weigh out the pros and cons of using this opportunity to assert my rights and I decided nothing good was going to come from me being difficult with keyed up agents, so I responded, "Hiking in Vallecito." The agent nodded and told me he was going to move the cones and I squeezed by the obstruent vehicles and proceeded on into the desert.

Vallecito is always green due to the presence of springs that bubble up between the fault line. This area is a county park and a fee area, and as a result I have never been on the south side of the park to the base of the Laguna Mountains but I look forward to exploring that area in the future. Today though, my trip took me to the north side Vallecito at the base of Whale Peak and Ghost Mountain. I didn't have cash to pay the parking fee, so I decided to try my luck just parking on the side of the S-2. I found a wide spot on the shoulder and prepped for the day, noticing the bushes were producing a beautiful red berry which I think is called a wolfberry and is related to the goji berry. It is edible for some but can cause problems for those sensitive to nightshades.

I started hiking up a broad wash under cool temps with a nice breeze and it felt good to be there. I took in the views of Storm Canyon in the distance blanketed in yellow brittlebrush flowers as far as the eye could see. What a gorgeous day!

As I waded through the soft sand I passed several areas with discolored dirt that looked unusual and wondered if it was a mineral in the ground or if it was a sign of a Kumeyaay agave roasting pit.

I checked my GPS frequently to make sure I was in the right area of the canyon and headed toward the waypoint I'd created for the rock circles. To my surprise, when I arrived I found they weren't rock circles at all. They were large circular stands of agave! I wonder if this is from Kumeyaay agave roasting practices too? Agave usually just grows bunched up together, I've never seen it grow in rings like creosote. This was kind of neat! I did some poking around the area and found a few potsherds and unusual rock scatters that made me feel like these formations were influenced by man.

I was still feeling pretty good after I found the circles so I decided to explore a canyon that leads toward Blair Valley. I'd like to do this in its entirety one day and maybe make a loop of it by linking other canyons. I had to do a little backtracking to find the right wash, but once I did I found the canyon was lined with beautiful rock formations and some interesting caves. I climbed up the sandy bit until it became choked with brush and then moved on to an Indian trail turned Sheep trail that meandered along the side of the canyon.

As I followed the trail I noticed it was still marked with a few cairns and I saw more signs of Indian life in the form of Yoni and potsherds.


The more technical the rock scrambling became the more my stomach started to hurt again so I opted to follow the Indian trail back down the wash and poke around some other canyons on my way back to the truck. It was getting hot in the lower desert so I thought I might head up to Blair Valley to the top of this canyon and hike down for a bit to see if I could find a viable route for thru hiking.

The temperature was substantially cooler and a whole lot winder in Blair Valley. I parked at the Mortero trailhead and cinched down my hat while heading into the canyon. I've been here a couple of times and it always amazes me. I was staying close to the south side of the canyon to see if I could line up the lower Indian trail to the top. As I circled the main trail area I found this crazy accurate yoni and even blushed a little! It has a butthole even! HAHA! There were some red stones at the base of the formation which made me wonder if this was the site of a puberty ceremony.  There is debate on whether yoni are Native made or if they are just a geological formation but I have to say, if the Kumeyaay didn't assist in making this then nature's understanding of anatomy is on point! My personal position on yoni is that they are natural geological features that have been enhanced. The ones that hit you like whoa, that's a vagina, are usually surrounded by pottery and other signs of Indian occupation. So, my uneducated opinion on yoni is that they need to be analysed in the context of their surroundings. I personally keep an eye out for them though, they are usually a good indicator of archaeological activity.

There was an abundance of pottery near the yoni and I love that this site still has artifacts in tact. If you visit please, please, please, don't take this stuff home, put it back just were you found it so we can all enjoy it in it's context.

I passed through the main village site and admired the moreteros and the abundance of cupules on the rocks. Cupules are small circular indentations in the rock and can be horizontal or vertical. They are supposed to be a ceremonial petroglyph and are present in many culture's rock art.





Morteros and Cupules

As I continued down the canyon the interpretive trail led to a large boulder with a dark black pictograph. I'm not sure about this pictograph's authenticity as it is very dark and on an exposed surface. I put it into the D-stretch program and it looks like there are some other pictographs around it that are really faded. While I don't doubt there were pictographs on this rock, I don't know about this particular drawing. I'm going to have to ask someone about this picto when I ask about the agave circles.

The day was getting away from me and I was feeling wind blown and nauseous so I decided to save the rest of the canyon for another time. All together I did a bit under 6 miles of exploring, which wasn't bad for being sick the day before!

I packed up and headed back down the S-2 since I always get a kick out of driving through the rocks on I-8. I noticed several Border Patrol vehicles well inside the state park, and as I neared Bow Willow camp I saw a huge plume of dust fill the sky followed by a helicopter taking flight. I pulled over and grabbed my binoculars to see what was going on and spotted not one but two huge Navy helicopters, the same kind who seem to hoover over me when I'm hiking closer to Ocotillo. I'm not sure what was going on but the Border Patrol was definitely all atwitter and it was quite a sight to see.

I headed home and ate some soup and crackers and prepped for another week of work...which means more Google Earthing. :-)

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