Part 3 of a rock art road trip, spending eight days and seven nights driving 1,870 miles through Utah, Nevada, and California.
We still had a lot of rock art to see near Bishop, California this day and we wouldn’t even get to half of it. Chris and I first hit up two petroglyph sites close to our camp, one at Chidago Canyon and the other near Fish Slough. There were also quite a few inscriptions near Chidago Canyon dating to the late 1800s.
The previous evening my phone had started having an issue. I’d plugged it in to charge but when I checked on it later it was dead. When I tried to turn it on it would begin to start up but would just die again. It took me a while to figure out if I unplugged it and tried turning it on it would get further along before dying, so I assumed it was something wrong with the USB-C port. So, after visting those first two rock art sites, we drove to Bishop and I bought an overpriced wireless charger. That did the trick and we got back to rock art hunting, but not before a quick stop at a public restroom along the Owens River to clean up and change our clothes. We stopped at a couple of petroglyph sites close to the road along the river first, then drove onto the Volcanic Tablelands and hiked about a mile to see a couple of shall alcoves with pictographs.
Next we visited the very nice Sky Rock and 13 Moons panels. I wasn’t 100% confident I knew where to find them but my guesses were pretty close and we found both sites. Rather than stick around this area to see more rock art–since we’d seen probably the best it had to offer–we decided to put some miles behind us and headed farther south.
There were some petroglyphs near Swansea so we checked them out, then found a place to camp in an old rock quarry. There was nice sunset light in the sky but it didn’t last long. For dinner we had baguette slices toasted in butter, topped with cream cheese and salmon that I smoked myself at home. We slept in our cots again–we’d lost quite a bit of elevation since those cold nights in Nevada and the weather was warming up, so we slept very comfortably.
The next day was–well, I wouldn’t say it was a disaster but we had some setbacks. The plan was to enter Death Valley National Park and stop at Hunter’s Cabin and the Ubehebe Talc Mine on the way to some pictographs at Sand Flat. Silly Utah boy here didn’t really consider that there would be snow, and a lot of it, above 6,000′ elevation in southern California. We did stop at the Boxcar (aka Buckhorn) Cabin. After crossing over the divide between Grapevine and Mill canyons, the road up Hunter Mountain was icy and there was no berm to keep a vehicle from rolling off the steep hillside to one side of the road. We decided not to risk it and backtracked, then took the very scenic drive to Panamint Springs for fuel. Along the way we stopped at the Rainbow Canyon overlook to watch some planes do practice runs through the canyon.
Leaving the park and continuing south we made a quick stop at the Ayer’s Rock pictographs. Even farther south we drove up Indian Wells Canyon with the intention of hiking to two separate pictograph panels. The road was rough higher in the canyon, then it became snow-covered. We paused at one place where the road crossed a steep drainage, worried that we wouldn’t be able to make it back up the hill on the return trip. We pressed forward and eventually the snow just became too deep. I parked the Jeep just short of where somebody else had obviously been very badly stuck in the snow. We donned our jackets and backpacks and continued on foot, but I wasn’t optimistic we’d make it to even the closest rock art before it was too dark to photograph it. The road ended and we made a steep descent into the canyon. I was pushing myself pretty hard to see the pictographs before full dark, and I think that did me in. After starting the equally steep climb up the opposite side of the canyon I slowed way down while Chris pulled ahead of me. Looking at the sky, I chose to give up the chase. He made it to the rock art, and even tried hiking to the next site farther up the canyon before he called it quits, while I hiked back to the Jeep and warmed up while waiting. We drove nearly to the bottom of the canyon where it was much warmer and found a spot to camp, and I made pork chops and Spanish rice for dinner.
Photo Gallery: Auf Wiedersehen Part 3