Part One - A SEASON TO WANDER A WILDERNESS PAST
Dec. 16, 1985. Packing isn't fun, nor is it easy. It's time consuming drudgery. It's heavy labor. Move, lift, heft, pry, reach, grunt. What lies ahead can make it an interesting time. A month ago I answered the phone, took the call in stride, said "thank you," hung up, and looked intensely about my abode. Receiving notice to move is never a complete surprise to a journeyman tenant. I thought immediately of the now nearly complete packing. My material abundance is in storage.
Though I know little of what now lies ahead, I have a certain sense that it can only be exciting. Attempting an overland injury to South America ought to be. Be that so or not, while already half packed, my resolve settled on revisiting Peru, land that nurtured two years of my life. The faraway Andes and Amazon are not my only goals. I want to gain a clear and certain perception of the scale and diversity of our planet by voyaging on land across the continents. I want a journey that will impart a direct recognition of the enormity of the human discovery of the Americas, of the aboriginal peopling of the hemisphere. I want to rediscover a lost America, the America buried in ancient obscurity. In the little known footsteps of unknown discovers an enchanting pilgrimage beckons. In a few days the journey begins.
Dec. 19. Provo, Utah, after 900 miles of frigid weather. Driving from Portland, Oregon, to Utah this week is akin to going to Beringia to vacation. Life in the ocean-warmed, west coast valleys-ever green and rarely frozen-is a tropical wonderland by comparison and certainly ill prepared me. I'm prepared materially with "Himalayan" wool socks, wool clothing, lined gloves, caps and warm boots, but I'd forgotten what 20 degrees below zero means. My body turned blue in utter disgust. All night long and then all day yesterday I shivered with regret for not changing routes upon encountering a forceful, cold head wind in the Columbia River Gorge, a wind cold enough to warn any coastal dweller, "It's totally arctic on the other side of the mountains." I doubt that the first Americans turned inland this far north.
I decided upon this route for a reason. Although a headlong rush south to hot sunshine is most tempting, this journey's itinerary is defined by interests. Many journeys south of the border followed my two years of Peace Corps service in Peru. Living with contemporary Native Americans and amidst ruins of prehistoric cities led to my continuing interest in American history and archaeology. I wish to see old friends in Peru more so than Incan walls, but above all I plan to visit many libraries, museums, and ruins along the way.
Researching archaeological papers published in Provo led to the Brigham Young University Library. Based on the information found today the Southern Mexico pyramid site of Izapa is most certainly on the itinerary. After gathering Izapan data from known sources, quite unexpectedly from my seated perspective at a library table, the word Izapa on a book jacket in the stacks caught my attention. The Master's thesis, Astronomical Orientations of Izapa Sculptures by V. Garth Norman, demonstrates that Izapan standing stones align to astronomically significant horizon points. The author observes that such relationships may aid in deciphering the symbols carved on the stones. Ancient undeciphered symbols on immutable stone are grist to my mill, a focus of my lens, and an object of this journey. And the more ancient the better, so as to start reading the story from the beginning.
7:43 p.m. A main street cafe in Price. This evening, in route over the Wasatch mountains, I spotted a herd of elk browsing very near the road edge in a meadow. A soft glow of moonlight on snow illuminated the canyon. I stopped, turning off the engine but not the music, filling the canyon with pure vocals by the Harmonic Choir. While letting the elk hear people sing they tolerated my close presence.
Yesterday I watched for large wild quadrupeds and saw only bovines. In the Snake River valley there were many hawks. I've been collecting owl feathers when possible. Yesterday I thought one was the victim of a semitrailer I was about to pass. I saw the bird flip-flopping in the truck's air turbulence before it smashed into the pavement. I stopped, backed up and found it was a hawk. It was alive, moving, totally disoriented and not seriously injured. While the bold youth found hitchhiking that icy region held the creature we three drove on. Initially the hawk's head was repeatedly tracking slowly across in one direction and rapidly jerking back the other way. After a few miles this involuntary motion stopped and it seemed sedate. Soon the hawk was obviously looking at us and observing the world passing by at 60 mph. I saw its claws begin flexing and advised the hitchhiker to raise it.
Thrown into the air over soft snow it took off flying. Does its mind deal with what transpired, its ten mile displacement and how it got into a vehicle? Is it lost or recounting to other hawks how warm it is inside an Automobilis rectangulariformis, unknowing that they are indeed the coldest?
Beginning at daybreak yesterday, while descending into the Snake River drainage, and until nightfall in Provo all was a frost land. Every tree branch was white. In areas with only sage brush, every sage was whitened by frost. Even where barren the earth was white. All day all the world I could see was white, frozen, silent and unmoving, seemingly incapable of change or growth. The frost, the deep freezing cold, the stillness of life seemed infinite. Such a cold, white land in the deep freeze seems infinitely inhospitable to me.
I didn't entertain the elk herd for long; it was too cold out there for Homo sapiens, variety liquidus. Had it been warm the elk herd would have been elsewhere, probably at a higher elevation. Here in Price the outdoor conditions are milder than in the Great Basin and Snake River region. Beginning in the Wasatch mountains southeast of Provo the sky was clear compared to cloudy yesterday and foggy in the Great Basin today. A colorful land will be visible at sunrise. In all that bitter cold and snow, in that vast white frozen land followed by a Salt Lake City forecast of "foggy until further notice" I had lost sight of the fact that the Colorado Plateau is far milder. It's a sun-warmed desert and, with little snow, there is more than one asphalt ribbon of choice. While shivering along my consciousness had descended into my cold feet. I should have been imagining sun lit sandstone. I can see bananas already.
9:19. Mike's Place. Someone pulled up close to my elbow to examine my papers and this journal, perhaps rare sights in this tavern. We spoke briefly. When I began writing he returned and spoke about writing books. His first monologue was about Mormons and how the Book of Mormon is a history of the people of this continent, how "people moved here from Europe" before Columbus by following the birds while "Columbus and all them thought the world was flat" and how things get more interesting as you go south, beginning at about the Arizona border, and are most interesting in Central America and then they peter out into South America because "the more distant you get from the thing, the further away it is." Wishing not to influence the conversation, I let him go on for too long. He said what he thought and moved on. I spoke too little to keep him talking.
It was this moving pen that caused him to return the second time. He told me that one has to have a little fiction in the story to keep people's interest, like Louis L'Amour who writes fiction about real places you can go see. Mike's Place and its occupants are real and warm on this cold night. Here's the same guy again--got to listen. Fossils, dinosaur tracks and ancient leaf imprints interest him. He's a hard rock miner and sees these things in the overburden. My informant is named Clark. The bartender is Harold.
Dec. 20. Big Boy restaurant. Hot coffee and breakfast during sunrise bright. It's a beautiful, clear air morning. Hopefully similar desert sunrises will continue for a few tomorrows. I slept comfortably in sub-freezing temperatures with four blankets over two sleeping bags and with wool clothing on.
9:20 a.m. College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum. Price. It's warm inside. Upon entering I noticed a photo of serpent depiction in the rock art of nearby Nine Mile Canyon and a circular stone tower photo. Both serpent depiction and circular stone towers are cultural features also found in prehistoric Mexico.
Nearby stands the skeleton of a 140 million year old Allosaurus dinosaur. The W. Doug Wilson dinosaur track collection has twelve 100 million year old impressions found on a coal mine ceiling. I'm viewing petrified wood, marine fossils, a dinosaur track from tonight's destination, Buckhorn Wash, 225 million year old tracks from Tomsich Butte and a fossil of the first known bird, Archaeopteryx lithografica, with intricate feather imprints. The old bird had twenty tail bones. Surprise, a fossilized dinosaur egg, the first ever discovered by museum curator, Don Burge, who tells of newly discovered dinosaur eggs with embryos. There is a Paleozoic era display with 400 million year old fossils, a recent Pleistocene (ice-age) fossil display and seemingly everything in between.
Museum plans include expansion to accommodate five large, real bone dinosaurs. First $150,000 must be raised for the addition. Donations are welcome. Thereafter perhaps small dinosaurs will fill the corners. Recently 17,000 bones were excavated from the nearby Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, a site which has yielded 100 fossilized animal species.
Later. After more conversation with museum personnel and helping move a display case I reviewed the prehistoric people of Eastern Utah section. The Pilling figurines and other local unfired clay anthropomorphic figures decorated with applied clay ornamentation are elaborate compared to typical American figurines. One of the five small sculptured stone heads, the one found in a gravel deposit, poses a symbolic mystery. It appears to be part human and part feline, has fangs and pointed ears and seemingly holds something in its teeth. The ancient astronomy display illustrates regional rock art interpreted to represent the 1054 supernova, a brilliant stellar explosion near a crescent moon.
I'm ready to depart this fascinating prehistoric oasis. A sunny afternoon beckons, nearby rock art panels await.
5:02. Buckhorn Flat. Last rays of sun on Cedar Mountain. A nearby coyote just sang a verse, attracting my gaze. We exchanged a look, then it ran. It's cold immediately without sun.
A possible dinosaur pictograph, anthropomorphs and a scattering of petroglyphs decorate an ancient habitation in a gulch in the area I explored near the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. What did the aboriginal occupants think about the surface scatter of dinosaur skeletons and myriad other fossilized life forms?
I'm turning into ice without the sun. Onward.
5:39. Almost dark in Buckhorn Wash. Moon bright, small sky, deep winding sandstone canyon. Temperature near freezing. Arrival was relatively mud free because today's thaw was shallow. Clear, clear sky. Obviously someone arrived very, very long ago.
Dec. 21. 8:09 a.m. Crows are calling loudly from lofty heights. "Buckhorn Indian Writings," according to the Bureau of Land Management sign, which reads: "This is a fine example of ancient Indian art. These pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings) were created by people of Fremont Culture nearly 1000 yrs. ago. There meaning is a mystery." The misinformation is no mystery, the sign must be termed ancient. Presently the pictography is considered Barrier Canyon Style, classified as the oldest in the region, existent perhaps 10,000 years ago. The ancient paint is enduring mineral pigment. The "canvas," over 100 feet wide, enlivens the base of a towering, vast, sheer sandstone cliff.
The ancient pictography is bullet riddled and painted over with individual names and dates. "AVON OVAN 1805," "1846 Jim Bridger," "Bill Jackson," "William J. Powell Jr. 1884," "CRC ARM." Et. al. The BLM installed a visitor's register, complete with pencils. An Idahoan wrote: "Make the Wash a National Park." On Oct. 26 a Utahan wrote: "I think they should hang the fuckers by the balls if they get caught doing this shit. The FBI should take the names off the wall and find the son's of bitches. Let the National Guard use them for target practice." Another: "Are vandals forever?" Followed by: "Very nice place, greetings from Norway."
9:00. A breeze is gently flowing down canyon. It's still cold though sunshine has de-iced my beard. The vertical cliff sunrise created the effect of a curtain of light advancing across the painted cliff as solstical rays illuminated figure after figure. I followed with the camera. Ah, the sunlight feels great. The sun returns northward--so to speak-- beginning today. Hoorah!
5:00 p.m. Needles Overlook. Solstice sunset. Bright moon. White Manti-La Sal peaks basking in pink light. The air is utterly still. My pen is shattering the silence, an otherwise complete silence. Now a contradicting coyote sings a single verse from the plateau far below. A crow gliding near overhead responds with a single caw. The yet bright horizon sky is fast fading. The Needles formation, a multitude of tall sandstone pinnacles, and myriad other sandstone monuments to prior ages stand in expansive ranks of intermediate horizons. Lowering light. Silence and stillness. Silence and stillness. A star. 5:30. Southward.
Near the Arizona border. With wheels rolling south through the Navajo Nation and while thinking about the single verse coyote songs heard two sunsets in a row a large coyote bounded across the road, brilliant, beautiful and fast.
Dec. 22. 11:51. Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki Ruin. Masonry walls of the multi-storied, multi-family pueblo structure stand nearby. I'm sitting at the blowhole. A strong current of cool air issues from this entrance to an estimated seven billion cubic foot space below. Hopi legends refer to these blowholes. At night the earth inhales. The underground chambers were created by volcanism. The nearby San Francisco Peaks are volcanic, this is a land of cinder cones and pumice dotted with abandoned ancient stone dwellings. The Puebloan ruins attest to much labor expended constructing thick-walled, enduring stone housing and, adjacent to the blowhole, the northernmost ballcourt structure, this one a rare oval form. It is thought that Hohokam people of southern Arizona introduced the so-called ballcourt, a Mexican architectural feature, when increased agricultural potential due to the 1065 Sunset Crater eruption attracted a mixture of settlers to the region. The increased agricultural potential of the area was short-lived and the area was later abandoned.
Any people who understand the earth's axis must know that the earth spins. What else of cosmology and astronomy did they understand? Enough to migrate?
2:34. Wukoki Ruin. What a view, the Peaks and the Painted Desert, moon above eastern horizon and a few wispy clouds in the western sky. It's a warm, sunny, beautiful day. Earlier this afternoon I found a trail across the Little Colorado River to Inscription Point, a Hopi rock art site featuring a unique fecundity scene, an ancient bug-eyed anthropomorph, and images of Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute player.
3:28. Painted Desert Vista. Tree line. Facing the Hopi mesas. It's one thing to hear that for pueblo construction the Hopi carried tree trunks across this desert. To view the difficult terrain, the Hopi mesas at 40-50 miles distance and the vast intervening treeless desert is quite unlike hearing the story. To view the difficulty and yet undertake the task is what the Hopi did.
Onward. The road ascends into tall pines, snow and Sunset Crater National Monument, an area with more lava and pumice than life and the most recent cinder cone in a region dotted with hundreds.
Dec. 23. 9:15 a.m. Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff.
The superb Native American section features pottery and weaving. One display cites a paleo-Indian site, 15,000 to 8,000 before present, near Inscription Point. Is any of the rock art of equal vintage? In the Geology section the earth's formative history is displayed, including how the volcanic San Francisco Peaks formed. Geologic evidence on the peaks indicates three periods of glaciation; the Illinoian (-160,000 years), the Iowan-Wisconsin (-65,000 years) and the Wisconsin (-25,000 years).
A cast of a Triassic dinosaur, Colelophysis bauri, has bones of a small Colelophysis within its body cavity. What a rare fossil!
Dec. 24. 7:45 a.m. The sun's rays have begun to warm this part of the earth again. I'm in the sleeping bag, half warm and half chilled. Scraping the frost from the van window to view sunrise proved futile, the outside is also frosted. A rock art site is somewhere nearby. After a full day in the Museum and their Research Center Library I arrived late, laden with 160 newly copied pages of Southwest rock art articles, more than an adequate supply while waiting for the sun to warm the surroundings. I bypassed nearby Meteorite Crater to get an early start studying human art. What did the ancient artists think of the huge crater? In deserts the past is as evident as sunrise on a cold morning.
10:42. Cottonwood Ruin. Overlooking Winslow, Arizona. Viewing the San Franciscos. The sawmill is burning something. A large plume of smoke is created. It does not rise high. This morning the plume drifted like water in a stream steadfastly following the Little Colorado River, a low hanging, airborne stream in a contracting atmosphere. Wind slow indeed! Now the sun is bright, the air is expanding, and the plume moves the opposite way. The mountain view is clearing.
1:05. Petrified Forest National Park. I stopped to gain detailed information and directions to five concentrations of rock art that drew me here. The Visitors Center clerk said I cannot enter a large portion of the park because of landslide danger at Newspaper Rock. I spoke with the clerk's boss. He moved the discussion to the privacy of an office, away from my fellow tourists, and stated that the real reason the area is restricted is to preserve the area for study. At one point I asked, "So essentially what you are telling me is I can't go to the site to study it because it needs to be protected so I can study it?" "That's right," the ranger responded. I've since examined maps and articles and find that four of five sites are off limits as they defined the restricted area. I'm going back into the Park headquarters.
1:24. "The Newspaper Rock area is closed as per Title 36, the CFR code of federal regulations, Section 1.5 (f)," I was told by the "Acting Park Supervisor of the day," M. M. I asked for a definition of the so-called "Newspaper Rock Area." M. M. responded, "the vicinity of Newspaper Rock," and I complained of the ambiguity. He started to fume and went on "from south of the Puerco River, I don't have exact definitions here sir, I--" and then into his walkie-talkie, "700-3-7." I repeated the numbers back to him to make certain I had written them accurately and he angrily stated, "None of your business." I'm of the opinion that everything the Federal Government does is my business. I continued to pressure the young man and was told, "from south of the Puerco River and west of the park road and to the west park boundary and to a point approximately one mile south of Newspaper Rock."
2:00. Puerco Ruin. Parked beside a National Park squad car. I inquired with the officer about area definitions and boundaries. Same story. Simply explained, I cannot cross the road. I most certainly am being kept from the most interesting rock art in the Park. It's the petrified stonewall treatment.
2:58. Back from a short hike and run. After viewing the Puerco (Spanish for pig) Ruin rock art I noticed the squad car parked on the hill to the south. I did not much mind being restricted but I do mind being kept under surveillance. The terrain provided the perfect setting to verify if I was being observed telescopically. I walked north down the road toward the Puerco River bridge then departed the road and the squad car's line of sight at a point where I could enter either roadside unobserved. While remaining out of sight I ran back to the ruin. Before very long the ranger was standing on the ruin's highest point, binoculars in hand. Without undue delay I moved into view. He is now parked to the north from where he can telescopically observe the restricted area. The man wearing desert camouflage clothing and binoculars and seemingly studying the parking lot has a new tan van. Southward, there is nothing left to accomplish here. Will I be hounded?
3:52. Rainbow Forest Museum, Park headquarters. Yes, the squad car followed me. Petrified wood from all 48 continental states is displayed. One case displays prehistoric pottery, 700 year old corn cobs, arrowheads, a stone tool fragment and an interpretation telling us this about the Petrified Forest: "The Navajo believe the logs were the bones of Yietso, a fierce giant their ancestors killed in a great battle." Petrified trees for bones? The Navajo clerk states that she has never heard such a myth. I informed her of my source.
4:02. Petrified Forest National Park boundary inspection station. Ten antelope on the Painted Desert below the moon. When I entered the ranger asked if I possessed any rocks. I answered honestly and turned over two rocks for inspection. The United States National Park ranger dutifully placed the rocks in a paper bag and stapled it closed faster than I could say "Save the tree." I was cautioned to not unstaple the bag while in the park. Upon exiting the same ranger asked, "Have you removed any petrified rocks?" I'd like to assign these many rangers to the protection of living trees, the remaining old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest or perhaps the Amazon. Somewhere off my back.
Well, onward. I plan to surprise my parents with a "Ho, Ho, Ho" at their window tonight. That's 200 miles away. Meanwhile, don't kill a tree for Christ's sake!
Dec. 28. 2:08 p.m. Hunting the trail head to Hieroglyphic Springs. Apacheland Movie Ranch. Superstition Mountains. I'm turning back to a rough side road. Meanwhile, close in front of me a thin young coyote crossed the road, turned at the chaparral edge and crossed back.
2:53. Tonto National Forest. Afoot and getting close, at a rock with deep, pestle-type mortar holes, a certain sign of ancient habitation. Fragrant ironwood trees shade me. A variety of avian calls, a land of lithic splendor and subtle green vegetation graced with tall columnar cactus surrounds me. A breeze is cooling this hot, brilliant afternoon.
3:35. I crested the little ridge just past the mortar holes and heard the unmistakable sound of water. Looking up from the rocky trail was a surprise and a delight. Instantly my vision was filled by a gentle cascade over smooth rock feeding a tranquil pool reflecting the surrounding multitude of ancient symbols.
Artistic denizens of a former age clutter the rocks surrounding this short stream. Water springs from the rocks, flows a short way, cascades into the pool, flows over more rock and submerges amidst rocks anew. What a setting for a spring, a 300 degree towering stone amphitheater plus a view of very distant mountains down canyon to the south. The many bird songs blend well with cascading water. A natural combination. And now a deep drink of water, avian voices, winter flowers, old growth cactus and mysterious symbols.
4:46. Ascending the steep canyon wall to a large balanced rock, thump, thump, and taking a coronary break. Below, while jumping from rock to rock over barrel cactus and other spiny creatures, I suddenly noticed I was on an ancient retaining wall near a single, simple petroglyph, a human form with an upraised arm. A bird perched on a nearby saguaro cactus just voiced a startling loud call. Pulse now normal. Upwards again.
5:26. Hold your breath near this balanced rock, the base is a few broken pieces of rock. Behind the rock ridge on which it rests a desert garden of vivid colors and ferns prospers in the shade. While climbing I began to fall due to a rock handhold breaking. Grabbing a non-spiny plant prevented my tumbling down the cliff amidst the cactus. The sun is descending--so to speak--so I must also, and in a hurry.
6:10. The dim western sky reflecting off the van's white roof saved me the trouble of continued searching in the dark. Not the first time.
Dec. 29. 2:24 p.m. Near the Gila River Indian Reservation below an immense granite cliff pocked with caves. Admitting one's shortcomings isn't easy. I'm lost again today, which seems to lead to beautiful sights and sites. Earlier I drove far out of the way after confusing information about two sites. Finally I arrived at Sacaton, a village near Petroglyph Canyon, and I began trying to find the right road. It seemed that all the villagers were sleeping. I stopped beside the first person I saw and sought directions. "What exactly are you looking for?" he asked.
I took an immediate liking to his not easy question. When T. offered to show the way I agreed, welcoming the company and the guidance of a Reservation resident. My new found Indian friend of few words broke an initial silence by complaining, "Speaking English makes the tongue go wild." At intersections he simply pointed the way.
In Petroglyph Canyon, a pass through the Santan Mountains, T.'s keen interest in the rock art was immediately apparent. He knew the locations of the art and identified the glyphs. He also pointed out a medicinal plant, a fever remedy. We reviewed the multitude of images, literally hundreds of human, animal and geometric designs on some seventy granite boulders, and then sat in the sun amidst them and put fire to a peace pipe.
"Why do you study rock art?" T. asked. Few words can produce very good questions. Our ensuing conversation about why rock art is fascinating led to discussion of the rock art astronomy sites, sites where rock defined beams of light shining on petroglyphs are used to read seasonal passage. We went on to discuss the far more advanced astronomic achievements of the prehistoric Americans; knowledge of the 26,000 year precession cycle, eclipse prediction tables, standing stone and pyramid alignments, observatories and a complex calendar. I speculated that complex astronomic achievement may yet be demonstrated by rock art study. Whether because of what we discussed or not I do not know, but T. decided that I would like to visit another site, saying only, "You'll like this." Speaking many words or, for that matter, writing are not the only ways of communicating. T. quietly directed the way to a 180 foot long earth drawing, variously called intaglios or geoglyphs.
The well know intaglios near Blythe, California and the Nazca lines in Peru are damaged by tire impressions. The intaglio we viewed is protected by an enclosure and apparently as yet undamaged. Although I have not visited other intaglios I quickly concluded that this first one was no ordinary effigy scrawled in the desert. What I considered extraordinary was the 16 two to three feet wide rock cairns incorporated with the drawing's approximately one foot wide shallowly depressed lines, lines created by removing the surface gravel covering the desert soil. T. interpreted the three figures as a woman, her child and the arrow that killed the woman, saying that such is the legend. While standing at the large head cairn of the largest figure, the woman, and looking down the torso line (which points north-south) we discussed the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, a Wyoming mountaintop rock configuration which also has cairns. Big Horn Medicine Wheel has a central cairn, 28 rock spokes, an almost 90' in diameter outer wheel with five cairns and one cairn outside and beyond the wheel. The outermost cairn-central cairn alignment is to the summer solstice sunrise horizon position. Three of the other Big Horn cairn alignments point to horizon positions of three bright stars, Aldebaran, Rigel and Sirius. At the time of Big Horn's human use Aldebaran was visible on the horizon in the summer solstice dawn light. Twenty-eight days after Aldebaran Rigel begins rising in dawn light followed by Sirius after another 28 days.
Archaeologically our next step was to view cairn alignments. The main torso is a possible four cairn line, there are several three cairn lines and interpreting the arrow as an anthropomorph means all three head cairns are in three or four cairn lines. There are alignments to two eastern horizon notches, an eastern horizon hilltop and a far distant notch in the SW horizon. One cairn is unattached to the intaglio, one is more rectangular than round. Several of the intaglio lines inscribe arcs, some are straight. If the construct is not an astronomy site I will be more surprised than not. It certainly is an interesting configuration and, in my experience and to my knowledge, an entirely unique ancient monument. After some photography T. had to return home. We said farewell, I said, "Thank you," and I was soon lost again. That's how I arrived here, a beautiful spot indeed.
7:51. Camping near Red Rock. I realized it was impossible to drive to near the other rock art area I was hunting. Instead I surveyed several basalt outcroppings and found ancient pathways and petroglyphs, including several isolated petroglyphs of the common depictions T. called "horned toads." Somewhere on the basalt ridges I lost a 135 mm lens. That combined with getting lost makes me feel like an unsuccessful explorer, yet, thanks to a Native guide, it's been a delightful day. I'm especially impressed by the combination intaglio-cairn site, a possibly archaic and certainly mysterious ancient monument on a grand scale.
Dec. 30. 11:47 a.m. Having breakfast. Neither the intaglio nor the basalt ridge rock art sites were marked on the Arizona State Museum site file maps and therefore are possibly unknown. On to the library.
Dec. 31. 12:32 p.m. Awaiting an oil change and lunching along the freeway to El Paso, Texas. This morning I met with A.W. We discussed local rock art, including the much depicted horned toads. A. W. reports that the horned toad is a lizard, not a true toad. He produced an obscure article reporting use of the large toad of this region, Bufo alvarius, as a source of a chemical which is also a neurotransmitter in the human brain. I've read about the chemical and possible medical significance of toads. I wonder about the relationship of their chemical properties to their occurrence in prehistoric art. Can such significances provide clues in deciphering ancient iconography?
After much searching I replaced the lost lens complete with polarizer for only $50.00 thanks to a good deal at Alpha Photo. I got lost again thinking Tucson an easy grid system. I had to skirt a large, controlled-access military base and found what appears to be the largest military aircraft graveyard in the universe, or perhaps the best aviation junkyard.
Jan. 1, 1987. 10:20 a.m. Hueco Tanks State Historical Park. Thirty-five miles northeast of El Paso in one square mile three bare rock mountains of erosion resistant syenite porphyry rise over the desert plain. The durable impervious rock traps rainwater in "huecos," Spanish for holes, a feature which made habitation possible for the prehistoric occupants. With such a reliable water source there therefore are many ages and kinds of pictographs at the more than 60 rock art sites. It is thought that humans arrived at this 34 million year old volcanic extrusion by 10,000 years ago.
11:53. In the shade and shelter of a rock overhang next to an elbow deep mortar with prehistoric painting overhead. I stopped at the ranger station to seek detailed information about the rock art locations. The available relief map and the displays are designed to assist rock climbers, not the anthropologically inquisitive. The park archaeological excavation report offered no further rock art data so I asked the clerk for any information. She reported that no information was available then said, "Wait, I think there's an old map." After a short search she produced a piece of paper, an outline of the mountains with the site numbers written on it. Hardly a map, but little data is better than none.
I began transcribing the numbers onto a blank outline-map. My hand reached out and opened an album before me on the counter, an uncontemplated action which surprised me. I immediately recognized the page of rock art photos as the imagery of a dream I had months ago. I awakened from that dream surprised by dreaming in color pictographs I had researched in black and white. As in the dream I turned to the next page of the album and then I recalled more of the dream. I knew, I became totally certain, that someone would enter the room from the door behind me, would walk across the room to the counter on my right side and then say something. Before long all transpired as expected. I didn't look up, I was frozen with expectation. The man asked the ranger a mundane question and departed. A strange deja vu indeed!
The albums had color photos of the art complete with site numbers, as much information as I needed. I now know approximately where to look amidst this jumble of boulders, cliffs, and huecos for the crevices, caves and overhangs that feature the very best artistic records of the past.
12:22. After photographing three beautiful well-preserved multi-colored masks at site 4, I began walking toward the end of the canyon where the would-be map indicated site 6. A hawk circled overhead and landed across canyon. I decided to approach and before the creature took flight I noticed it was perched above the site 6 overhang, where under I now sit. Before me are painted a very large snake, an eight pointed shield and a fecundity scene. In the back of this cave hidden below boulders in a crevice there is a truly large hueco, a stone tank with hundreds of gallons of cool, clear rainwater, a remarkable amenity in stone age housing.
Jan. 2. 8:13 a.m. Having breakfast. Lucy's Budget Lodge on Mesa. El Paso. Yesterday time permitted finding and viewing 12 of the over 60 rock art sites. Masks of many shapes and variations are the most common design element. They are often found in non-habitation areas, in crevices and small sheltered niches. I also saw more than 100 mortars; pestle types, mano types and some very small ones. The area was obviously inhabited for considerable time and may have been a very significant oasis. It is about a day's walk across the waterless desert from the Rio Grande. In the past the Rio Grande was only a river and certainly a prehistoric pathway. Today it's a national border, an arbitrary line placed on our One Earth by the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty; on the map just a line, on the real earth two very different countries, as different as historic and prehistoric. Eggs, toast, hash browns and coffee for only $2.05, I'm definitely close to Mexico.
While Mexico awaits only miles away much preparation remains. To budget for the return I've added up auto expenses, 3,000 miles on $168 in gas and oil. I need to shop on this side of the border for film, prepaid processing mailers, new shoes and more. I also need to do some banking. And I must organize and pack my backpack for I shall park the van here in El Paso at the home of cousins Arlie and Corrie. I've resolved to hitchhike from here south for several reasons. I wish to interject a measure of randomness and nonselectivity to the journey, I want to be meeting and interacting with people, conversing and ferreting information rather than driving alone and, on my budget, it is the only way I can travel as far as Peru. Additionally, I'm experienced at hitchhiking, I've logged over 100,000 km. on two thumbs. Indeed I very much enjoy hitchhiking.