Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trail of Effigies

Are you tired of the snow, slush, cold, and biting wind?  Do you need a vacation, but are low on money and time off from work?  Take a virtual hike at Joshua Tree National Park, using these photos taken in May 2010. No sunblock needed!
     Starting point is Cottonwood Springs.
There isn't any surface water visible, but there is enough seeping water to support these trees.  This water supported the Cahuilla tribe for centuries.  In a clearing beyond the trees stands this split boulder with deeply worn mortars.
The Cahuilla didn't live among the palm trees, because they are very flammable.  They lived in thatched huts and came here daily for water and did their chores here. The surrounding landscape is a jumble of boulders which eroded from the heavily fissured monzogranite bedrock.  Generally, smaller boulders rest on larger ones.

 However, we see some boulders suggesting alteration by humans, such as this propped boulder.
Here it looks like someone worked away the top of the lower boulder, leaving small supports for the upper boulder.  Close by is what looks like an effigy of a snake.
The "smile" continues to the other side.  In native mythology, the snake was the guardian of springs and water. This picture always reminds me of the plumed serpent carvings of Mesoamerica.   Undoubtedly there was a great deal of cultural exchange, as petroglyphs of macaws and horned snakes are common in the Southwest. There are no petroglyphs here since the granite is not suitable for artwork.
     This massive split boulder stands across from the snake effigy.
There aren't many split boulders at Joshua Tree.
After a little more hiking, we notice this strange outcrop on the left.
It looks like a horse, but the Cahuilla didn't have horses.  Perhaps it was a deer or other animal. Even if it is just a natural formation, there is something deliberate about it, especially with the stone placed on top of the head. A little further is this strange comma-shaped stone atop an outcrop. This shape appears again later along the trail
This boulder was stacked deliberately.
It's a  larger rock on a narrower base, and turned at an angle. Further along the trail, another propped boulder.
I see disk-shaped "feet", suggesting the  rock was carved.
Finally the trail reaches a small hill above a wash.  A massive structure overlooks the wash, the left boulder having the same comma shape as the smaller stone seen previously. These unusual shapes suggest the boulders were sculpted.
Maybe this is supposed to look like two animals mating, or be a doorway.
Nearby is what looks like the Cahuilla version of a manitou.
If this rock split naturally, where is the other half?  There are no obvious carvings on the face.
This seems to be the end of the effigies, and time for a leisurely, if rather hot, walk back to Cottonwood Springs through some bold scenery.


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