Hieroglyphics in the Superstitions

January 1, 2017 was a rainy day as we left Tucson; we drove on Route 77 from Oracle to Winkelman and then through the southern portion of the Superstition Mountains from Winkelman to Superior on route 177. Just north of Kearny on route 177, our cars had managed to haul our homes from 3000 to 3400 feet in a little under a mile; if I did the math right, that’s a 7.5% grade.  I know that Winthrop Hill in Augusta from the airport to South Chestnut (only a few hund
red feet) is an 8% grade; I was very proud of my navy blue Traverse!

As we drove east on Route 60 through Superior, I was entranced by the peak to my left (south).  I saw signs for Bryce Thompson Arboretum State Park.  Mental note: must get here!

Further east, the Superstition Mountains escalated and expanded the closer we got to our destination.  In addition, there also were mountains just ahead in what I guessed was the Phoenix area and in the far southwest as well. Once again, it seemed that I been drawn to a high and holy place.

Back in 2011, not long after leaving my position at MaineDOT, I registered for a course in Healing and Therapeutic Gardens at the Boston Architectural College (BAC).  In that course, the professor introduced me to Julie Moire Meservey, Author of the Inward Garden, Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning.  In her book, Ms. Meservey’s book encourages readers “to feel the space around them and to use their hearts and minds to figure out how to turn (an) imagined space into a reality. Culling from archetypes and spiritual insights, guided by the practical methods of hands-in-the-dirt gardening, the result is a happy blend of myth and art with logic and organization.”[1]  This is where I was introduced to the concept of Landscape Archetypes: “the sea, the cave, the harbor, the promontory, the island, the mountain, and the sky.”[2]

On my first night of class at BAC, after introductions, our instructor led was to use crayons and markers she provided to draw our favorite childhood place. Instantly, I drew a place located in my childhood backyard. My cousin Jeanne and I had named one of the ledges on the side of rock faced bluff overlooking the City Center on my home town’s Kennebec River – ‘old abe’.  As children, we had always referred to the top of the bluff as “the Maine top”. Most recently, others in our hometown of Augusta would now know this place as the location of the Sand Hill communications tower that reaches high over the city.  The best vantage point for “the Maine top” is while crossing the Memorial Bridge (Route 201) heading from west to east. At about the bridge’s midpoint, looking upriver and to the west (left), the eye is immediately drawn to the tower, just below which sits another Archetype – the spire of the Catholic Church where I was baptized.  As a landscape archetype, this was either a “promontory” or a “mountain”.  Either way, it was high and home to me! (This photo was downloaded from the internet.)

I recalled my first American Planning Association National Conference held in Denver in the mid ‘80s in late May.  Arriving a day before the conference began, my co-worker Ed and I rented a sedan and drove west into the Rockies.
We made it all the way to Berthoud Pass which traverses the continental divide at just over 11000 feet but had to turn back as it was still closed for the winter.  I was so moved by the beauty I saw that it brought tears to my eyes; for me, this was another “am I really here” moment!  Little did I know at the time just how healing that moment was for me. On our way back to Denver, we stopped at a roadside bar and grill in Silverthorne. I bought two beer mugs there that I had for a very long time. The things you remember! (photo from internet)

After arriving and setting up at the Superstition Mobile Village in Apache Junction, we drove to the nearest grocery store as a way of getting oriented and to obtain something that did not require much preparation.  It’s exhausting attempting to maintain focus on travel while being immersed in beauty. I needed to ground my energy in a big way! What better way to do that than to eat Mac ‘n Cheese. I think I also cooked a burger!

The next day, after meeting my first new neighbors (Dan and Diane), I contacted Hope’s Boarding Kennel which was located less than 5 minutes away.  I arranged to visit their location and for Nuttah to have day care later that week.  Based on his medical records, he needed a Parvo vaccine; that meant I needed a vet.  I called one of the ones recommended by the kennel; it too was about a ½ mile away.  I set up an appointment with them for the day before day care.

That daycare visit was a test; the following week I was scheduled to be at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu New Mexico and I wanted him to have some introduction to the staff before dropping my buddy off for 9 days.  At the end of that day, when I picked him, all seemed good so I scheduled his boarding right then and there.  Within that week, I also visited another kennel managed by one of the vets and decided I’d already made the right decision. The vet I used and this kennel were well worth the investment.

Within a few days of arriving, David was ready for a little exploring. He’d found a trail in Gold Canyon, just east of Apache Junction, called the Hieroglyphics Trail.  I was game!  Mae said she’d sit this one out. The trail was about a 3 mile loop.  The day was beautiful, cool, crisp and sunny. Equipped with a hiking pole, my phone/camera, a small day pack for water and snacks, my Open Range hat and sunglasses, we set out mid-morning one day.  The parking area was less than half full.   We set out in the foothills and the scenery immediately drew me in.  The day heated up quite nicely as we moved up the trail toward a small boulder-filled canyon. I learned that we’d be rising some 650 ft.  We stopped numerous times along the way to turn a full 360 degrees and admire our surroundings. We met some people coming down and we passed or were passed by others.  This trail had every characteristic of a favorite local hike: close by, plenty of parking, short, not too steep with wide trails at least ¾ of the way. It was only the last several hundred feet that had us climbing up over boulders to sit and enjoy the magical glyphs.

It took us just over an hour to reach the headwaters of a stream that, in winter, scours the line creating the bed in this canyon. The canyon walls on which we climbed were made up of boulders and massive sheared off rocks.  On the trail side there were many places to sit and admire the wall on the opposite side of the stream. Dozens of petroglyphs adorned portions of the jutting rock walls. There was a sweet intoxicating energy in this place. From my viewpoint, there were petroglyphs painted or almost sandblasted into rock faces that in some instances seemed sculpted to give the pictures a multidimensional appearance.

This was an area important to the Hohokam people who inhabited this desert area some 1500 years ago. Apparently creating petroglyphs in small canyons with a stream such as this was a practice these people engaged in.  Were they thinking about the future?  Were the petroglyphs meant to convey messages?  Were these the images of people or animals in their physical environment, or were they images of the spirit beings in their midst?  It was only after I returned that I would fully realize what I’d experienced.

On the walk back to the parking lot, I felt almost high; I was buoyed by joy. It took us less than an hour to return to our vehicle. We both agreed that we would do this trail again and we wanted K Mae to experience it as well. Our second visit did not come until after our next day long hike on the Peralta Trail but the experience was none the less magical.

That evening, when I looked at the photos I’d taken that day, I was amazed at how much I’d actually missed while standing in the petroglyphs’ presence.  So much more of the energy and spirits of these rocks displayed themselves in the photos; maybe the light that our naked eyes see is sullied by multiple layers of thought-energy distractions thus creating a thicker energetic pattern (a fog of sorts) that prevents us from seeing what is right in front of us.  Imagine, if you will, that our cameras are only slightly better in truth, at picking up what is really there. In shamanism studies I’ve made, they call the imagination based practice ‘learning to see in the dark’. To me, it’s seems that we have a whole lot to learn about seeing in the light as well!

[1] Quotes from Book review found on Amazon.

[2] Quotes from Book review found on Amazon.