Little Petroglyph Canyon, or Renegade Canyon as it's also known, was our destination today. This canyon is cut into the basalt covered Wild Horse Mesa in the Coso Range. Its walls rise 20 to 40 feet on either side of a 1 1/2 mile long wash and they are literally covered with petroglyphs inscribed in prehistoric times by the Panamint Shoshone and later by the Paiute-Shoshone. This site, and its neighbors, constitutes the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the western hemisphere.
It had to be pretty special to get us out of our cozy sleeping bags after a chilly night at the 5,550' elevation of our Bircham Springs campsite! The other lure was the tantalizing aroma wafting from the campfire breakfast that Joel Briggs, our eminently qualified guide and wild man of archaeology, was preparing. Sausages sizzled as custom omelets stuffed with sautéed peppers were wolfed down. There was even reheated corn bread from last night's feast. We were anxious to get on the move. Gear was soon packed and trash collected. However, Joel's living dinosaur, the FJ40 Landcruiser, would not start. Of course not one of our group of eight experienced desert explorers had jumper cables. Loren, our escort from the Maturango Museum and accomplished hiker, tried his emergency battery pack, but it didn't have the energy to crank the big straight six. Push starting it by hand gave Danny, Brian and Henry some exercise but was also a flop. Finally, a tow strap was located in the Lizardmobile and we were able to tow start it with Jose's big truck. At last we were on our way!
Little Petroglyph Canyon is divided into two parts. The shorter upper canyon is the oldest and most sacred. The petroglyphs here are deeply incised into the lichen covered walls of the wash and wear a patina of deep chocolate brown. The oldest dates for these are a staggering 16,000 years ago, with 10,000 being a commonly agreed upon figure. The lower part of the canyon winds its way down to an impassable drop off at its end. Some boulder scrambling is necessary, particularly as you approach the drop-off. However, the magnificent array of petroglyphs found there is well worth the effort!
Click on the photo link below to view a kaleidoscope of bighorns, mountain lions, deer, dogs, snakes, bows, atlatls, stars, comets, anthropomorphic figures and abstract "entoptic" designs.