Hiked today in the Black Lava Butte, part of the new Sand to Snow National Monument

I hiked with a group of 27 others up to the top of Black Lava Butte. The Butte, along with the adjacent Flat Top Mesa, is part of the new Sand to Snow National Monument in the Southern California desert established by President Obama last February under the Antiquities Act. The top of Black Lava Butte is full of cultural artifacts from the Native Americans, including about 2,000 petroglyphs and several settlement areas and inhabitant circles. Petroglyphs and pictographs are also located on the rocks, boulders and cliff facings on the way up.

Here’s an aerial view of the Black Lava Butte, taken by a friend of mine 9 years ago. At that time, the locals were fighting an attempt to establish a wind farm on the top of the Butte. The locals prevailed.

Not many people have visited this area, particularly at the top. The absence of visitors means that the cultural artifacts at the top are well-preserved (subject to erosion and degradation from the elements). At the base, a lot of the artifacts have been stolen (carved right out of the cliffs and taken home or sold) or destroyed, or covered in soot from campfires. Monument designation will help to preserve everything that’s left.

We climbed from the base to the top, but not in this extremely steep area you see at the front of the photo. If you see a slightly more gentle slope to the right, about halfway up the butte area on the right, that’s where we ascended.

It’s been cold in the desert the last several days. When we started it was 43 degrees and windy, with gusts up to 50 mph at the top of the Butte. It warmed up to about 51 degrees. You can see how some of our hiking group was dressed for the cold. It snows up here. The desert can get really cold.

The view of the adjacent Flat Top Mesa and a nearby mountain range while we were sitting, eating lunch:

Some of the petroglyphs. The last one shows us hands. The hand prints were small. Either the Native Americans were small, or these were prints of children. And what happened to the index finger?

This one is fun. The top photo is a petroglyph. If you lift your eyes just a bit, you see the view in the second photo. Was the rock artist drawing the view he/she saw, or something else?

That’s all for today. I’m tired, my face is sun- and wind-burnt, and I need to do couch potato stuff after I go grab some delicious junk food with some friends…..i.e., pizza at my favorite local restaurant.


Drone views of the Atacama Desert

Desert - le désert - el desierto - пустыня

Sand- le sable - la arena -  песок

Cactus - un cactus - el cactus - кaктус

Prickly Pear - la figue de Barbarie - la higuera de pala - опyнция

(It seems that there are a few names for prickly pear in Spanish)

Peyote - le peyote - el peyote - мескалин

Dust - la poussière - el polvo - пыль (f)

Drought - la sécheresse - la sequía - засуха

Oasis - l’oasis (f) - el oasis - оaзис