Hieroglyphic Trail

This morning Liz, her daughter, and I hiked the misnamed Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstitions in Arizona.

The trail is accessed off of Hing’s Ranch Road n Gold Canyon, a town that is actually part of Apache Junction but they don’t want to admit it.

After taking the winding roads to the trailhead, parking is usually a challenge. This is one of the more popular trails, due to the ease of the trail and the fantastic reward at the end. The hike is easy, one and a half miles to the end. Mostly a gradual incline, with a fairly steep climb at the very end, you have a very scenic walk. Walking sticks are recommended.

The view to the east gives you a view of the Superstition wilderness.  You will see miles of saguaro, cholla and in the spring miles of yellow brittle bush adding color to the desert terrain. Turkey vultures circled the sky around us.

The trail from the limited parking lot takes you to the Hieroglyphic trail and the Lost  Goldmine trail.  If you have never hiked thus trail before, you will want hiking boots with firm support and not sneakers, as the trail is rocky.

The view to the west and north displays the vast wilderness that makes up the Superstition wilderness. Even with this easy trail you will want to make sure to pack enough water to maintain hydration.

The entire trail is 1.5 miles, On our hike we hiked about three miles, burned 400 calories, hit an elevation of 3264 feet.

From the trail you can see Phoenix and Tempe ,AZ as well as an awesome view of the Superstition mountains from the backside.  As with any hike in the Superstitions you will want to be aware of rattlesnakes, but as this trail is heavily hiked it is rare that you will wander upon one.

Why am I writing about this hike in an art page? Just look at the scenery and then answer me! If you ever need inspiration for a painting, it is all hand delivered to you. This is God’s country.

One nice thing I noticed is that there was absolutely no litter, hikers abide abide by the code “carry in, carry out”. Too often I see discarded water bottles and candy wrappers. This trail head is more difficult to locate than most, so the weekenders from other states are more likely to find other trails.

We had two days of rain prior to this hike.  In Arizona, that does not equate into muddy trails. As the mountain is coliche, which equates basically to concrete, there is little to make mud. You are walking over rock littered with smaller rocks. most of the one and half mile hike up to the petroglyphs is over rocks and boulders.

The end of the hike is worth it.  The main obstacle is a climb over rocks and boulders to an oasis in the desert. There is a stream that feeds a pond. You can rest and take lunch, sip some water, and view graffiti engraved in the rock face of the mountains that is likely 1000 years old.

As you sit and rest, ground squirrels which many mistake for chipmunks due to their distinctive colorations, will come and visit. They are welfare recipients, seeking handouts of crumbs. I would say, “Don’t feed the wild life”, but that would do no good.  They will pose for photographs.

But the view of the glyphs is the purpose of this hike. The side of the mountain is covered with drawings from a people that lived here anywhere from 800 to 1000 years ago. Drawings of antelope and more. This is an area that most would call inhospitable.  Rocks and hills and rattlesnakes, nary a flat surface. But it has a spring that feeds a water hole.  Water, the life if the desert.

The drawings on the walls of the mountain depict antelope. I doubt there were many antelope at this location. The natives that lived here weathered the seasons and sheltered here, drank from the scarce waters of the desert, protected their families from marauders, wrote their diaries on the rock.

Little is known of the natives that resided here. Some say Ho Ho Kam, some say Salado.  Quite possibly Apache.

The Apache were latecomers, and it was the Salado and Ho Ho Kam that settled and created the more permanent residences.  However there are some glyphs that indicate Apache presence. There is one glyph in particular that appears to be of crown dancers. Of course it is hard to differentiate between the original drawings and more current graffiti such as ASU devil drawings. Unfortunately,  too many vandals have added to the “art” and defaced history.

I wish I were able to see the original art before it was desecrated, because a few of the drawings seems to depict spacemen.

Some of the depictions are just weird.  At the very least we can understand that art is as a part of the human condition as life itself. Life. You live, you breathe, you eat, you survive. And in the midst of survival you draw and create art. Art seems to be as old as survival itself. From the earliest cave drawings to these petroglyphs, man has created art.  And this is why this little walk into history makes its way into my website. A trek into the wilderness to get inspiration leads me into the inspiration of primitives that also had to depict their own view of life.

Life is living. Sometimes living is hard. Is art a religion? Is it a way to dissociate from life’s hardships? A way to cope? Are the antelope pictographs a way to maintain an accounting of the hunt? Or are they the weirdo artist in the community a way to ern living?  Are the weird beings that look like Crown Dancers a depiction of history or are they something more?

Are spermlike men something more? The Arizona wilderness is filled with these drawings from times prehistoric. Unfortunately I cannot transport back into time to see the glyphs before we began to deface them.  We can be certainly sure that the pics of devils with arrow staffs were defaced by ASU students.  By the way, it is a federal offence to add to or to deface the existing drawings.

Graffiti seems to be a human condition. We are compelled to add our  footprint to wherever we step. I prefer to tread lightly. Tread lightly. Perhaps it is better if nobody knows we walked these trails?





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