The tablelands are part of a 580 square mile area covered by a series of volcanic ash flows from the eruption of Long Valley, 760,000 years ago. Composed of several layers of a salmon-colored pumice known as Bishop tuff, it is up to 600 feet deep in places, but averages 12 feet thick on the south-east edges. For thousands of years the native americans ruled these lands. The Owens Valley was lush and fertile, and the river flowed freely. The maps of their lives are forever etched in the hard volcanic boulders of this amazing valley. When Donn told me about Sky Rock, I knew we had to find it. Sky Rock is a house size boulder cover with petroglyphs. It is NOT the only one out there either. You can find them scattered throughout the tablelands. On Fish Slough road there is a pile of rocks covered with them.
This latest adventure took us on a 3 day tripp. The beta we received was; west of the A-frame, and on the rim. I know this seems vague, but it was right on. We decided that our strategy would be to hike early mornings and late afternoons. We would hike each escarpment west of the a-frame until we found it. Driving west on Chalk Bluff road, we pass the A-frame. We pass the Sad boulders and the Happy boulders, both are popular areas for climbers.
Continuing on we drive as far west as we know it isn’t. This is where the hiking begins! The next morning we hiked up the first of 4 escarpments. The hikes were steep and sandy, we got a great workout.
Not to mention our new moccasins, which we used every hike, worked like a dream!! Once we reached each plateau, we would navigate through the sagebrush watching for spider webs and arrowheads.
The arrowheads were mostly just tips and pieces, but it was really cool to see them(i wouldn’t recommend collecting). Each bluff we hiked across was littered with house size boulders. During our search we found other petroglyphs hiding among the gigantic rock.
We would eye-spy boulders through our Binoculars(compliments of our friend John Price). Each time our hearts would beat a little faster and our stride would get a little quicker. Not only were we hoping for Sky Rock, but the boulders were so awesome we wanted to climb them all. Sometimes we were almost thankful that it wasn’t the one so we could continue exploring this amazing place. Once we found it though, we were in such awe, it brought tears to my eyes.
We also explored the Fish Slough boulders. They are right off Fish Slough road, and much easier to get to. I read they were all Entoptic patterns, and were thought to have been etched during a Shamans first moments of altered consciousness. There have been many more passers-by who have stopped to leave their mark as well.
The Owens Valley is home to some of my favorite climbing, the Owens River Gorge. As you snake your way through the desert terrain the last thing you would call it is beautiful.
Once you reach the edge, and stand on the rim looking down this 900 ft deep gully, you see the beauty that is the Owens River Gorge.
I did a bit of research on the history of the ORG, and it kinda bummed me out. Like I wrote in the beginning, the Owens Valley was a lush(and bountiful) area. After the Owens Valley Indian Wars of 1862-63 the white people started dominating the area. In 1905 the city of Los Angeles began buying up land and water rights in the Owens Valley under the pretense that it was for the US Reclamation Service on a public irrigation project. By the time the residents knew, it was too late. They began to build damns, and aqua-ducts diverting water from the Owens River. By 1953 the river was dry, then the valley dried up. It wasn’t till 1991 that the river started flowing again. There is water in the gorge now, but only a fraction of what was.
100 years still hasn’t brought the Valley back to what is was. Owens Lake is now alkali flats, and the valley is subject to alkali dust storms. The residents can’t even collect their own rain water. Apparently it belongs to Los Angeles too. Maybe someday people will learn to see the beauty instead of dollar signs.