After a long hike, I figured a short hike was in order to not push the muscles too hard. Not to mention, the other big loop was super long, probably a bit beyond my current capabilities. So, I decided to hike to Petroglyph plaza, and beyond to the waterfall – water-less unless a recent storm had passed by. Little did I know, I was about to have a strong zen moment visiting the area!
I am not talking about the practice of Zen, I am talking about the arrangement of objects, just so – that leads the viewer for a moment to contemplate the world in a way they did not expect, or if very fortunate, a new way that leads to greater understanding. You may disagree on my use of the term, but it’s my blog and I set the rules around here 🙂
I walked from my campsite, south along some of the flat trails, taking a shortcut along the road to get to the beginning of Black Rock Trail. The trail roughly parallels Water Fall Canyon; I can imagine the natives that used to frequent the area came up this way too. I walk a short ways in and see a small hump ahead with some rocky outcrops. As I approach closer, I see my first petroglyphs of the area.
I climb up and inspect them a little closer, checking first to make sure there are no signs forbidding that. The Hohokam natives created these by chipping away at the desert varnish to reveal the whiter rock underneath, not nearly as easy as getting a spray paint can and scrawling away. Any of these messages left behind were going to be of way more significance than “Kilroy was here”.
I climb back down, and proceed onward, wondering when I would see the next petroglyphs, as I knew the main plaza was a ways up still. Suddenly, a strong chill goes through me, enough to stop me in my tracks. What was that? The sun didn’t suddenly disappear leaving me chilled. I don’t have a cold or such. I look around me, and there is my zen moment. The rocks and their petroglyphs I had just passed were a sign telling you you had arrived. I could not say if it was a welcome or a warning.
I could see the arrangement around me – the two small knobs of hill, like sentinels I had just passed, the mountains in the distance like hands outstretched, cupping you in. I see why the natives also felt something, be it zen or otherwise. I marveled at the arrangement, turning a 360 to see all around me several times. It’s not something I can show in a picture, you had to *be* there.
I walk onward, enjoying another great day in the desert with light winds, and temperatures perfect for some hiking. I see a shade shelter in the distance. These things are setup all over White Tank Mountain Park, in the day use areas, and even some of the trail destinations, such as the one I was approaching. I see the other trail running back to a closer parking lot – this one is a big concrete sidewalk – any wheelchair could come up this way no problem, which is great! I also see dog poop, 10 meters from the garbage can with the doggy poop bags. Sigh. I get a bag and pick up the poop, right in the middle of the trail area too, some people…
These petroglyphs are much more impressive – there are two main rocks that have a whole bunch of signs on them, all nicely barricaded off so people don’t try to disturb them. The farther rock looks cleaner and newer, but with a large chunk that looks like it has fallen off, or worse, been chipped off by people looking for a souvenir.
The closer rocks look a little more faded, but there are areas densely packed with symbols, almost like an Egyptian Pyramid tomb. It’s pretty impressive, you can spend quite a while teasing out different little scenes, trying to figure them out.
I don’t know what the vertical lines mean, but from my limited knowledge, they could be a form of calendar, representing when the sun is in the sky at a specific time of day, at different times of the year. But who knows, I could be reading way too much into these too! Eventually, I walk on, heading further up the canyon to the dry waterfall. You can read that in my next post, coming soon. (Do I sound like a marketer yet???)