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.

Sundays with Midnight:
I Hear the Kids Playing in the Snow

Flashback to the year 2010.
We woke up to a beautiful day after Christmas snow storm so naturally, we went outside to play in the snow as did the kids in the neighborhood.
In today’s photo Midnight is hearing the kids next door playing and having fun in the snow.

This winter memory is for sharing.  Let it take the place of a cold memory, of one where you aren’t as successful, where you feel weak and small.  You can set down that memory, have mine instead for a time. 

It is cold outside, a grey overcast sky and two feet of snow.  It is a deep winter day.  There are some critter tracks in the snow, but most are moving silently or not at all.  Today is not a school day; you are going to go play in the snow.

You are bundled in thick rubber boots, deep blue snow pants, bright pink snow coat, a red beanie, red earmuffs, and black snow gloves.  Your scarf is red checked, and underneath all this you’re wearing black sweatpants and a teal sweatshirt with a puff-paint image of a fluffy white cat on it.  

You tromp through the snow, the perfect thick snow for making a snowman, and decide that is what you are going to do.  You go to the neighbor property, between where you live and where your grandparents live, because no one will interrupt you with snowballs. 

You begin rolling the base.  Around and around and around the yard you push it, your small muscles feeling the joy of motion.  You are clever, dodging mud and too thick spots until you finish the first ball.  It is almost as tall as you.

You roll the second and third balls in the same way, and line them up near the first.  You are sweating and your face is red, but you are delighted at how perfect they look!  Only a few pine needles, only a small amount of dirt.  Behind this old house there are some plastic egg crates used for transporting gear.  You run behind the house and grab one, wedge it into the snow and dirt so it will be steady.  You muster all of your energy and pick up the second snowman ball, climb up the crate, and place it firmly on the first snowman ball. 

You take a breather and think about how you’re going to get the third ball on.  You don’t want to ask for help because this is yours, proof that you can do this by yourself.  There are tires in the shed from old rigs.  You roll one of the tires near the snowman… almost lost control there!  Roll slowly!

Your snow pants are keeping out the snow, but you are beginning to feel them get damp.  You find an old board and put that upon the tire, then the crate back on top of the board.  Very carefully, slowly and with calculated movements, you are able to roll the head snowball up the board, and then lift it to the top of the snowman.  You almost lose it but you are successful!

In the yard, you find two good arm branches, and you place your own red check scarf about the snowman’s neck.  You find rocks for eyes and buttons by digging down in the snow, but there is nothing out here that looks like a carrot.  

You have to ask a parent for the carrot, and you do, trudging back to the house.  Your mother comes out with you to the snowman, not believing you’ve made it yourself.  She puts on the carrot and is so impressed she has to take a picture. 

You are seven.  You are small, and you’ve made a snowman, by yourself, which is nearly six feet tall.  You breath in the pride of the adults, and feel like you can accomplish anything you decide to.  You cross your arms and grin with pride for the photo. 

Your memory will be waiting for you whenever you need it, but so will this, the joy of successful accomplishment, of being powerful and clever.  This is your memory too now.