Friday, March 13, 2015

Painted Rock Petroglyphs

"One of these days we'll get into a self-driving car, plug in a destination and just sit back and enjoy the ride," a friend recently speculated.  "Road signs will become a thing of the past."

I shuddered.  I already get testy when my travel buddy switches on the GPS every single time we get into the car.  "I like to know where I am," he says.

"Uh.  Look around you.  You know where you are."

What does this have to do with Painted Rock Petroglyphs, you may wonder?  Well . . . on the way back from Tucson, I put my foot down.  No GPS.  No Phone Apps.  No hotel reservation.  No Trip Adviser. We were going to look at a map, take a new route home and just explore.  We were going to READ Road Signs and if something looked interesting, we'd check it out.

And so we did.  We found this ancient historical site just west of Gila Bend, Arizona, on Interstate 8.  All because of a sign.
And we were blown away!

There are nearly 800 images on this crop of basalt boulders.  It is a veritable art gallery of Native American symbols; the earliest dating back to 7500 BCE. These include man's earliest attempt at art--the formation of geometric and abstract designs like circles and zigzags. As the centuries passed, so did man's artistic skill.  Human and animals forms were chiseled into the rocks.  An entire history of the region from the daily lives of the  Hohokam people to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors is all here.   Modern day graffiti, for better or for worse,  adds another layer to this fascinating timeline. 

There is a campground nearby and several picnic tables at the site.  Only a few people were here and we all walked the path around the outcrop in stunned silence.  There are posted signs warning of rattlesnakes (I suspect to keep people from climbing all over the rocks), but there are no fences or barriers.  We saw a chuckwalla, a common, but oh so distinguished lizard in this part of Arizona!

Another sign seemed almost apologetic for not knowing what all the symbols meant.  I couldn't help but see a parallel to our recent tiff.  Why do we always need to know everything?  Why do we need to know the longitude and latitude of our own two feet?  Isn't it enough to simply say: I am here. 


  1. I agree! And I think that symbol represents "going with the flow."
    My husband uses the navigator just to drive around locally sometimes. I at least make him turn off the volume.

  2. Going with the Flow. Love it!!!!

  3. Must be so good to just go and discover. These rock drawings are amazing.