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Posts tagged ‘Petroglyphs’


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 019I love driving cross country, especially when the roads—whether highways or back roads—follow along wide open spaces.  I feel lucky whenever I travel.  There are good roads these days with gas stations and fast food joints at almost every exit.  There are rest stops where one can just kick back and stretch one’s legs before getting back into an air-conditioned vehicle.  Next month I will be traveling in the southwest, and I still have not decided if I will travel out to Chaco Canyon because I know the 25-mile road into the place is gravel—so bumpy, dusty and slow.  But it is still a road!

Eventually on my travels my thoughts turn to the Native People who lived in this land long before asphalt roads became the norm.  These people called these open spaces home.  They lived and loved and raised their families for hundreds of years before we even knew these lands existed.  Many current Native American Tribes trace their roots back to these courageous, hard-working, remarkable people who survived for centuries.

Whenever I can visit the ruins and petroglyphs these people left behind, I am in awe.  I can only imagine what these ancient people could share with us about what is really important in life.  Here are a few of the locations that give a glimpse into these past lives.


TNP in caveThe Tonto Basin sits near the Sonoran Desert and was home to Native People for centuries.  They lived, hunted and farmed here as they settled into life in and around these cliffs.  Rugged terrain isolated the area from the modern world until at least 1870 when ranchers and soldiers started into the basin.  In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt set the area aside as a national monument to protect the site from vandals who would excavate the site for pots, cloth and other artifacts that show the life from the area—and could easily be sold to collectors.

View Looking Out from Lower Cliff Dwelling

View Looking Out from Lower Cliff Dwelling

TNP looking outTwo of the hundreds of dwellings evident throughout the area are preserved within the national monument.  These two cliff dwellings—Lower Cliff and Upper Cliff —were in use from 1250-1450.   Here are some photos of the Lower Cliff Dwelling that can be reached via a short hike from the Tonto National Monument Visitor Center.

TNP mid 2 room

TNP mid 1

TNP shelf

TNM big inside


CG general wallsThe Casa Grande Ruins National Monument preserves multiple structures that were created by the Hohokam, who farmed the Gila Valley in the 13th century.  Archeological evidence suggests the Hohokam practiced irrigation farming and extensive trade connections in this area until about 1450.  Casa Grande is the largest structure within the village; it was named by Father Kino, the first European to view the complex in 1694.

CG whole house distantThis large house was four stories tall in the center with outer rooms that were three stories high.  The walls are made of caliche, following the traditional adobe process.  The separate covering—rather like a carport—was erected in 1932, even though the original adobe has withstood the harsh elements for centuries.  Situated roughly halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, Casa Grande is easy to find and thus catch a glimpse into the past.

CG close with other rooms

CG mid 1

CG mid 2

CG window

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison named the Casa Grande Ruins a national monument, the first cultural and prehistoric site to be protected in the country.  The purpose of Casa Grande is not known, but there is an Indian Legend.  Supposedly, Casa Grande is God’s House and he comes once a year to visit, or a Crazy Man lives there and celebrates the sun.  For me, not knowing its purpose makes this grand house that much more intriguing.

CG big house closest


KP 3Located outside of Albuquerque, the Coronado Historic Site was dedicated in 1940 as part of the 400th anniversary of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s entry into New Mexico.  Although named for Coronado, what is really impressive about the site is that it houses the ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo that was established about 1235.  The area was abandoned by Kuaua in the late 16th century in response to encroachment and pressure from the Spanish as well as the Navajos.

KP 2

KP 1The excavation of the area in 1930 revealed a Kuaua village that existed for at least three centuries and included several kivas.  The murals found in one of the kivas are now on display at the Coronado Historic Site Visitor Center.  These impressive murals represent the finest examples of pre-contact (pre-1492) Native American art from anywhere in North America. The artistry displayed in these murals is overwhelming. Here are photos of four of the fourteen murals on display.

KP 4


PG Road distant“God’s Own House” is what Chief Wakara, a respected Paiute tribal leader, called the Parawan Gap in 1840 when the first Mormon Pioneers entered the area.  The Gap is a canyon and passage through the Red Hills west of Parawan Valley. Fremont and Anasazi Indians lived in the area from 750-1250.  The ancient trail through the Gap provided convenient annual passage to the west where desert resources could be harvested.

PG Gap Road

A brochure about the area explains how the Gap was formed:

“Approximately 15 million years ago, a long slender section of sedimentary rock sheared from the earth’s crust along parallel fault lines.  This up-thrown block, later named the Red Hills, began to inch its way above the surrounding valley floor.  At the same time the block was rising, a stream was cutting a path perpendicularly across the ridge.  For millions of years the uplifting of the ridge and the down-cutting of the stream remained in equilibrium.

“Eventually, however, the relentless rise of the ridge and the drying of the region’s climate combined forces to defeat the stream.  The stream disappeared and the valley became a waterless wind gap. Continued erosion by wind and rain have shaped the gap into the pass seen today.”

PG sheep across road long

PG sheep close

PG 1When I visited this site years ago, the drive took me across fields and through a small flock of sheep before arriving at the Gap.  It was a delightful afternoon. Once there, I was able to view the site’s numerous petroglyphs.  Recent research suggests that the area was used to mark the passage of time by tracking the travel of the sun throughout the year.  Since no human intervention created the pass, Chief Wakara’s name of the area seems more and more accurate!

PG 3

PG 5

PG 6

PG 2

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“When you are in doubt, be still and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage.  So long as mists envelop you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists—as it surely will.  Then act with courage.”  Chief White Eagle, Ponca (1840-1914)

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  Chief Seattle, Duwamish 1854

“What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot (1830-1890)

“Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.”  Black Elk, Ogala Lakota Sioux (1863-1950)

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”  Sun Bear, Chippewa (1929-1992)

“All things share the same breath—the beast, the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”  Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1786-1866)

“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”  Cree Prophecy

NOTE:  This post is my response to Sunday Stills: The Next Challenge 100+.

Topic V: Valley of Fire



Barbara at Valley of FireMy sister Barbara moved to Las Vegas last year, giving me a new travel destination.  On my visit there in November 2013, we took a trek to Valley of Fire State Park.  It is a gorgeous place, lots of red rock canyons and impressive rock formations.  While area rocks include shale, limestone and conglomerates, the park’s name comes from the massive red sandstone formations that dominate the area.  The “fire” aspect comes from the glow said to bounce off the formations when the sun is just right during sunrise and sunset.  I need to plan another trip and make sure I visit at those times.  But no matter what time of day, the place is remarkable.  



Details about Valley of Fire State Park further demonstrate how impressive the area is—and has been for years and years: 

  • Part of the Mojave Desert
  • Covers an area of nearly 42,000 acres
  • Rock formations indicate the area is 150 million years old
  • Believed to have been occupied from 300 BC to 1150 AD
  • Home to petroglyphs from about 3,000 years ago
  • Some petrified logs have lodged in the area from a long ago storm or flash flood
  • The area is relatively temperate with mild winters, about 4 inches of annual rainfall and a (deceptive)  average temperature of 75 degrees





















There is even a formation named Elephant Rock.  How great is that?  Can you see the quiet giant in the rocks?

elephant rock

elephant rock cropped

100_1110100_1115Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is the oldest state park in Nevada.  It was named a National Landmark in 1968.  There is an informative visitor’s center and a range of hiking trails.  I especially love any chance to see petroglyphs up close; they are such a reminder of those who lived and loved and hunted in this area long ago.  Their stamina and courage are always a good reminder that our lives—by comparison—are never that bad.  These petroglyphs are in a natural basin named Mouse’s Tank after a renegade in the 1890’s who used the basin as a hideout.  


petroglyphs close

If you ever get to Las Vegas, forgo the casinos and visit this magnificent state park.  It is easy to reach, being only 55 miles from the city and 6 miles from Lake Mead.  You will not be disappointed.  In fact, you may have seen parts of Valley of Fire without realizing it.  Many car companies have used the locale as a setting for their car commercials.  The television show Airwolf (1984-1987) used Valley of Fire as the secret hiding place for the show’s super helicopter; the show just called the area Valley of God.  Some of the movies that were shot at this state park include The Professionals (1966) with Burt Lancaster, an odd sci-fi film Cherry 2000 (1987) with Melanie Griffith, the Mars scenes from Total Recall (1990) with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a scene from Tranformers (2007) with Shia LeBeouf., and the scene of an RV crash in Domino (2005) with Keira Knightley.  Of course, my favorite is its use in Star Trek Generations (1994) when Picard and Kirk head to Veridian III to stop Soran.  In Kirk’s death scene, there are some fleeting vistas of Valley of Fire.  

What places in Nature do you like to visit?

What thoughts about life come to mind when you are experiencing Nature, enjoying its beauty and silence?




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“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”    White Elk

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”    Chief Seattle, 1854

“What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”   Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior & Orator

“And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”   Black Elk

“O Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.”   Cherokee Prayer

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its building of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”  Sun Bear, Chippewa

“There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled, which leads to an unknown secret place.  The old people come literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. Their teepees were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly.  He can see more clearly the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.”   Chief Luther Standing Bear


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