Big Eye Mine, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge


My friend Micah and his family joined us for a fun little trip to the great Sonoran desert at the start of 2016. Winter is a great time to be in the southern deserts and this time we had our sights set on the Big Eye Mine which is down in the south end of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the Castle Dome Mountains. The mine is reached by fifteen miles of 4wd roads.
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Cary’s Castle, Joshua Tree National Park

The front of the Castle in Janurary, 2016. Note the door is missing.

Tucked away in the backcountry wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park is a hidden gem called Cary’s Castle. In 1935, and at the tender age of 24, a young man named Arthur L. Cary (often misspelled “Carey”) moved from Colorado to the Coachella Valley. Besides starting a small family, he almost immediately became involved in mining. He staked a few claims, along with his father, in their spare time. This one was called the “Welcome Stranger” but seems to have been owned by Arthur alone. He spent much of his time out here from 1938 to 1941 developing the mine and enjoying the remote country. He probably built the Castle at that time.

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Spoked Wheel Geoglyph

The spoked wheel geoglyph.

At the end of a long day exploring pictographs around the badlands of Anza Borrego, we made one last stop – the Spoked Wheel Geoglyph.
This ceremonial site is a twenty foot diameter geoglyph consisting of two circles with spokes connecting them. A native trail runs nearby.
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Blue Sun Cave Pictographs, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

This is the Blue Sun Cave. My friend Don coined the term.

My friend Don Austin coined the name “Blue Sun” Cave. The Kumeyaay people once lived here. And even though there is no water nearby, the shelters created by the massive granite boulders provided a welcome home in this harsh desert.

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Piedras Grandes Pictographs, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Horse and rider.

A few weekends ago, I went out to the Piedras Grandes pictograph site. Piedras Grandes means “Large stones” and these granite boulders out in the southern part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park certainly are that. The site is inside of the Piedras Grandes Cultural Preserve and it is a short walk from a parking area to the pictographs in the rock shelter.
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Carizzo Gorge Pictographs, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The other-worldly figures.

Overlooking the rocky wash of the Carrizo Gorge, down in Anza Borrego State Park, sits a small rock shelter with an unique set of fascinating pictographs hidden inside.

The mostly black drawings are of anthropomorphs (human-like figures), suns, stars, nets and other abstract designs. Some of the pictographs are amazing fresh after all these years. (They are relatively protected from the weather). The pictographs are classified as the La Rumorosa style, which is more common to the south into Baja California and they are associated here with the Kumeyaay people. It is thought these designs were put here sometime in the last 1,500 to 2,000 years.

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Quail Point Petroglyphs

Overlooking the site.

I met up with friends Rick Colman and Rob S. to explore a lesser-visited petroglyph site in Arizona. We didn’t know what we would find. We discovered Quail Point has hundreds of petroglyphs and was certainly worth the trip.

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