Monday, October 08, 2007


The past week has taken me to two extremes in Southern California: the desert of eastern San Diego County and Disneyland (now officially known as Disneyland Resort to include Disney's California Adventure).

My trek out to the desert started with an early drive out the 8 Freeway and then north past Cuyamaca and up into Julian. I made a quick stop in Julian to tank up -- and ended up taking a few pictures, too. (Pictures of the trip can be found through the Picasa link.)

From Julian, I headed up the Banner Highway and then south into Anza-Borrego Park.

I drove into Blair Valley where the real fun began. Here I took my Element about 5 miles through the desert sands to the Pictograph Trail trailhead.

This trail is right next to the Mortero Trail. Morteros are depressions made by Native Americans into the boulders and rocks -- using a pestle, they would grind various grains into flour. These morteros are in many of the larger boulders in the area -- I must have seen 15 to 20 of them, and I wasn't doing a very thorough search. I was REALLY here for the Pictographs.

Apparently, somewhere along the Pictograph Trail, Native Americans had left various symbols and drawings painted on the some of the large boulders here. I had read about them online and in a desert guide book -- and I wanted to see them myself.

I connected back to the Pictograph Trail after seeing the morteros -- my first mistake. I then began to hike deeper and deeper into Smugglers Canyon. This was great -- extremely quiet, very peaceful. It is strange, though, how it takes a bit of time to get used to the silence. At first it is almost uncomfortable and makes me a bit ill-at-ease. But, after some time, the quiet is really relaxing. (I wonder if this is what being in a sensory deprivation tank feels like.) Every once in a while, a bird would fly overhead and you'd hear the wings flap from hundreds of feet away. Or a small rock would roll down the canyon face and make a disturbance. But mostly there was just silence.

I went as far as I could into the canyon without really making a 2-hour hike into a longer daytrip. Still, no pictographs.

I doubled back and found the way uphill, out of the canyon, a lot easier to hike. I certainly didn't follow the exact same 'path' (there was no real path to follow in most places). But I guess I could see a bit further ahead and could make better choices.

Still, though, I was disappointed that I hadn't seen the pictographs. Hey, that's why I'd gone all that way to begin with. I kept a watching for any sign of faded drawings on the boulders, even turning around every few yards to see what I was passing. Nothing.

Toward the mouth of the canyon, almost where the valley started to flatten out into the desert again, I turned around after going forward a few minutes. Sure enough, there on a huge boulder behind me, was a set of crisp, clear, black drawings. I walked back to where there were -- you can see the pictures of them on the Picasa site.

They were pretty impressive -- not too sure what they might represent, but I did read that most of the drawings found in that area were fertility-related.

Then, I finished working my way up the valley and back to the truck before the long drive home.

I got home, excited but a bit skeptical about the pictographs. Could they be authentic if they looked so clear and dark? I did a bit more searching and found that the pictographs mentioned on the web were made with red and yellow pigments -- and much less clear. I'm guessing the markings I found were done recently by someone imitating older drawings....

Still, it was a great hike!

- T

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