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Monday, November 10, 2014

Upper Centennial Flat - Just North of NAWS China Lake

 It was midnight when I topped off my fuel tank in Olancha and drove east on CA 190 to a dirt road that led me south into a Joshua Tree forest on Centennial Flat. I was hoping to complete some unfinished business and find the answers to a couple of questions in the Coso Range.
 It was a little after 1 AM when I set up camp in a narrow canyon on the eastern flanks of the Coso Range.
Dawn came a little early for my sleepy brain.
 The moon was setting in the west as I ate breakfast.
 Soon it was time to continue driving south.
 After passing a side canyon the road became rockier.
 One of the rocky sections. This road didn't seem to get much traffic.
 Shortly after the road broke onto Upper Centennial Flat I spotted a small herd of horses. These two equines stayed around long enough for a photo.
 I parked at a gate near the northern boundary of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and then started hiking west toward the upper drainage of Centennial Canyon searching for the art work below.
 In October Rachel, Dan and I hiked up Centennial Canyon and found art at the upper springs. We did not have the time or water to push farther up the canyon to look for more.
This art work appeared to be of a different style and older than what we found the month before.
I continued hiking north down the canyon looking for more artifacts. Found this mortero in an area that certainly would have water if California wasn't in the middle of a drought.
Nearby was another panel.
Soon I was back at the water trough and corral that Rachel, Dan and I reached the month before. I may have surprised a group of four hikers that had hiked up from the Astro Artz cabin. With no other vehicles at the cabin they probably assumed that they were alone in the canyon.
This panel is high on the ridge to the east.
After leaving the upper spring I hiked west exploring more of the Coso Range. Found several roads. One leading up to Joshua Flat was still, after 20 years of the DPA, very drivable. The road in the photo has a stacked rock foundation and will probably survive as long as the older artifacts in the area. Walking on these old roads made me wish I would have explored this area in a vehicle before wilderness designation.
Eating lunch at a spot overlooking Upper Centennial Flat I spent some time thinking about the people who once lived in this area.  Seemed like a hardscrabble life but they had time to create the art found throughout the Coso Range.
It was late afternoon when I began making my way back to the truck and after about an hour my Four Wheel Camper abode became visible parked in a Joshua Tree forest.
I decided to camp right where I had parked for my hike. Probably wasn't going to be any traffic on this remote road on a Sunday night.
Dawn on Upper Centennial Flat. The overnight low was 33 degrees.
Soon it was time to leave the remote and beautiful Upper Centennial Flat.
And head back down the canyon.
After a couple of miles I was through the rocky sections and in the easy open part of the canyon.
The Inyo Mountains in the distance.
A quick look over at the Astro Artz cabin revealed that no one was at home.
Once out on Lower Centennial Flat a glance west to the Sierra Nevada showed no snow, on the 14'ers from Langley to Williamson, in November.
The long dusty road back to California 190 and pavement.

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