Pleasant Valley Beacon (Joshua Tree National Park)

I sometimes like to go off into the desert without any set destination, having no idea what I’m looking for or what I might find. A lot of times I find nothing more than peace and quiet, and an opportunity to escape the chaos of what is life.

On this particular January morning I awoke to it being a mere 25 degrees outside. For us desert rats, that is damn cold! I had told myself the night before that I was going to go for a hike, and as much as the temperature outside tried to discourage me, I went anyway. I didn’t know where I was going to go, I just knew that I didn’t want to stray too far from home, so somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park would be my destination.

I drove through the park aimlessly. Because of recent rain storms, the dirt road pass that I like to take was closed, so I continued to follow Park Blvd. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had never hiked out to Malapai Hill, so I set my sights for Geology Tour Road. I was surprised yet happy to find that Geology Tour Road had not been closed due to the rains, as I splashed my way down the muddy road toward the basalt hill.

Just before reaching where I had thought to make my pull off, several large boulder stacks in the distance caught my eye. I had never been out to those either, and their close proximity to Squaw Tank made them a good possibility for having been used by the Native Americans that once lived there. I abandoned the Malapai Hill idea, and began to hike across the valley to the first sets of boulders. I wasn’t too far out before my attention was turned to a huge stone beacon perched upon one of the stacks of boulders, suddenly I felt as though I had a destination.

 

The Pleasant Valley Beacon

The Pleasant Valley Beacon

 

A line of Joshua Trees grow along a pile of boulders.

A line of Joshua Trees grow along a pile of boulders.

 

On the hike out to the beacon there were several interesting boulder formations, I checked each of them for signs of primitive life, but came up empty-handed at each of them. There were however many shelters that could have been used, there was just no fire damage, petroglyphs/pictographs, or broken pottery sherds and lithic scatter. What there was however was a significant number of sets of mountain lion, bobcat, and coyote tracks. The mountain lion tracks made me a bit nervous about poking my head into the rock shelters, but it didn’t stop me from doing so.

The beacon is however what continued to intrigue me. My thoughts went to this having possibly been a sacred place to the Native Americans. Finally reaching the formation with the beacon on top I put in extra effort to look in every possible nook and crany. On the north side I located one single petroglyph, but I question it’s authenticity. Despite appearing to have some age to it, the design is one that I haven’t come across before in my previous wanderings. It also struck me as odd that this one single petroglyph is all that I had found in the vicinity.

As mid-day came around I decided to throw in the towel for the day. It wasn’t a very eventful morning, but I was able to check off another place on the map.

 

The Pleasant Valley Beacon, and what may possibly be a petroglyph.

The Pleasant Valley Beacon, and what may possibly be a petroglyph.

 

Close-up of the suspect petroglyph.

Close-up of the suspect petroglyph.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

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