Finding Appreciation and Perspective among Ancient Rock Art

Hohokam Spiral

It had been a long day and it was far from over. Business had brought me to Phoenix the week prior and that week had taken its toll. Staying an extra day to take in Saguaro NP while in the area would prove to restorative, but the Bajada Wash – Valley View – Dobe Wash – Esperanza – Hugh Norris loop route (7-8 mi) on a bright Spring day after the pre-dawn, 90 minute commute from Phoenix was now taking ITS toll.

It had been a brutal work week and by mid-afternoon, I was hungry and ready to relax, perhaps to hike just one more trail before heading north. There were cold beverages and sandwiches and chips and cookies in the car calling to me. It was time to listen. That’s when I was once again reminded of my minuscule position in the universal stream of time and place; always a good lesson.

Just past the Red Hills Visitor Center located in the Tucson Mountain District (West) portion of the Park* the paved road gives way to the Golden Gate and Hohokam dirt roads that create a convenient circular route that affords easy access to a handful of trailheads, view points and day-use picnic areas. For a first time visitor like me, it was a good place to get a sense of what this portion of Saguaro National Park had to offer.

As expected, red volcanic boulders and rugged hills were made more vibrant and alive with broad stands of blooming Saguaro cactus, scrub oak and creosote. Wild flowers scattered among the foreboding landscape softened the view and made this otherwise inhospitable environment gently welcoming. Gazing across the jagged horizon was certainly helping me to leave the previous week behind me, but even after trudging across this surprisingly beautiful terrain, I hadn’t let go. Too many important things on my mind and next week was already filtering into my quiet thoughts.

It wasn’t until after sitting under the shade of covered picnic enclosures at the Signal Hill picnic area that I began to let the place really sink in. The quiet wind, shadows of ravens passing overhead and the very scent of wildness finally began to work their respective magics. A nearby trail promised views of ancient petroglyphs only 1/2 mile away. The magic of the place was working as the trail was soon underfoot.

Winding its way to the top of the hill, the first signs of early peoples came into view. Simple images of human forms, antelope, connected geometrics and mystical spirals were everywhere, rudely carved into the hard stone. They remained as silent testaments to those who were here first. The Hohokam peoples lived and likely thrived here over 1,000 years ago. It was here and in this place that people hunted, ate, laughed, loved, fought, made babies and homes. It was here and in this place that people would look around and above questioning their place in the universe. In many ways, the makers of these monuments to their own life were not unlike me. Suddenly, my past and looming weeks seemed far less important.

Looking about, I nodded in appreciation and wonder. I was standing where ancient people stood who could have never imagined someone like me or the thousands of others who have passed this way. My time here was fleeting to the extreme and my existence a mere mote in the eye of the universe. Everything and everyone is connected in a never ending web.

Experiences like this are important and can often be found in the wilderness. They are sweet, often sublime and should always be greeted with gratitude and reflection.

*Saguaro National Park is made up of two distinct areas, Tucson Mountain District (West) and Rincon Mountain District (East). The eastern portion is generally higher in elevation and differs in terms of terrain, plant and wildlife.

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