There are still some enduring mysteries in Death Valley. One of them is the 1834 Rocks. These puzzling inscriptions, found at three sites and separated by a wide distance, each bear a unique combination of symbols: a date, a cross, and a chalice, with an enigmatic "SP" monogram at all three.

Keen to investigate, I met up with noted Death Valley expert Matt Jones on a couple of hikes to visit the 1834 Rocks. As we explored, Matt shared stories of fellow researchers working to unravel the secrets behind these symbols.

1834 is an early date for explorers in Death Valley. One theory suggests that the inscriptions were left by renowned fur trapper Joseph Walker during his 1834 California crossing. Leading a party of fifty-two men through the Sierra Nevada via the pass that now bears his name - Walker Pass, as he sought alternative routes to the California Trail. Could these symbols mark a cache, route, or some meeting spot?

Another possibility involves Spanish missionaries facing upheaval in the 1830s. As Mexico gained independence and began expelling Spaniards, particularly Franciscan friars, the secularization of Alta California missions in 1834 left many dispossessed. The 1834 Rocks could be their work, marking a secret route to safety or hidden valuables spirited away from the crumbling missions.

Emmett Harder, author of These Canyons are Full of Ghosts, discovered one of the sites over forty years ago. Since then, he and Matt Jones have tirelessly pursued the mystery, poring over historical records, consulting experts, and embarking on numerous treks into the wilds of Death Valley. Despite all of our efforts, these symbols remain a mystery.

To protect these sensitive artifacts, I won't reveal their exact locations. If you're fortunate enough to find them, please leave everything as is, preserving these pieces of history for future generations to appreciate and ponder.

My photos are from 2024.

No directions or GPS to these sites. Photos below.