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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Postcards from the Past

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. – Indian Proverb

It is good for a man to mellow with age...to temper frustrations of wrong turns and getting lost into opportunities for new adventures. Seems all I curse these days are stupid drivers.

It took three attempts over two days to find the backroad that would lead us to Grapevine Canyon. We made the most out of wrong turns by connecting a few more "dots." We are in no hurry. As the Ancient Ones once said, When life's puzzles are solved, it is time to die. 

I'm going to break "Grapevine" in half. As a teaser, let me state upfront that we were enthralled by what discoveries beyond Grapevine Canyon's curious, petroglyphed entry, so much so that we resolved to return and push deeper next time...when weather is less threatening.    

Less than a half mile from Grapevines half full parking lot, at the mouth of a seemingly ordinary desert canyon, one that funneled a chilled wind through less than adequate clothing, our hearts were warmed by countless postcards from the past.  

I've seen petroglyphs before, more times than I can recall. Most were unremarkable "stick figures," like those found stuck on refrigerators of parents with kindergarteners. But there was something different about the rock-scratchings at Grapevine that left Bobbie and I somewhat dumbfounded. The more we explored the more evident it became that this band of prehistoric Mohave Indians (1100 AD) had something important to say. 

Grapevine is a rarity among desert canyons in that there are places where water surfaces year round. Said "water" explains the tangle of grapevines that choke the canyon's floor. There are a few places where it's so dense that, if not for those who wore a slight path before, one would need a machete to continue upstream. More on that in Part II. 
For now, let's focus on the "postcards."

I could hardly believe my eyes...bounding up boulders and cliff faces in order to get a better look at the expansive array of petroglyphs. Bobbie finally hollers out to remind me that there was a sign at the trailhead that said to stay off the rocks. Oh.

Fortunately, Congress had shut Govie down and Mr Ranger Sir had the day off. 

One of the problems with Grapevine's petroglyphs, besides people like me who don't read signs, is that they are too easily accessible; just a short SUV drive up a well graded road followed by a half mile stroll. Anybody can do it, including some stupid guy who thought it would be fun to shoot the figures with his paintball gun. 

Fortunately, he was apprehended, fined, and jailed for the offense, and the rocks he defaced were restored. Heeding Bobbie's warning, I tiptoed down off the artifacts with care, thankful for the Ranger's absence. Stupid guys...

Grapevine's petroglyphs are truly amazing. They proliferate sunburnt rocks like some stone-age version of the Sunday New York Times. Artistically, the symbols seem more advanced than most I've witnessed, as demonstrated by the employment of "negative space." What on earth were they trying to communicate?

The truth is, nobody knows for sure. Not even Mohave descendants. So much for the merits of "oral history." 

As we wandered up canyon, we continued discussing possible meanings for the rock art, and why it seemed to suddenly disappear further in. I guessed the graffiti to be a "No Trespassing" warning...that this canyon is occupied so keep out! Any canyon with a year-round water supply would be quite prized in this inhospitable summer furnace.  Though the Colorado River is only 5 miles as "the crow flies,"  back then, before all the dams, it was prone to ravage nearby crops with violent flash flooding. 

I guess some mysteries are destined to be kept secret. 

We passed under a future choke-stone.

Then fought through a tangle of grapevines and thorny undergrowth that threatened to bleed us out. We seem to "Give Blood" everywhere we go. But it's a small price to pay for what is sometimes stumbled across...

Beyond the grapevine thicket we broke into a familiar landscape of "sunburnt" rock, as experienced on the previous "random canyon hike." 

On the horizon we began to notice collections of light colored monolithic spires, and set a goal to check them out. 

Hmm. What prompted this sudden change in landscape?

Then came a sudden change in our surroundings...an abrupt demarcation from "sunburned rock" to white granite...almost reminiscent of that found in Joshua Tree, only in miniature. 

Now I'm "all in." 
Stay tuned for Part II.

Peace out,
Mohave Mark.  

Sometimes it pays to push beyond well-trodden paths...
Indian proverbs...possible interpretations for Grapevine's petroglyphs???  
Some wise people, the Ancient Ones...

Those who have one foot in the canoe, and one foot in the boat, are going to fall into the river. 

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. 

Beware of the man who does not talk... and the dog that does not bark. 

All dreams spin from the same web. 

If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. 

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.

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. 

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. 

When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard. 

A brave man dies but once, but a coward dies many times.

Listening to a liar is like drinking warm water.

The bird who has eaten cannot fly with the bird that is hungry. 

A hungry stomach makes a short prayer. 

White men have too many chiefs.

The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives. 

Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. 

Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf. 

Man has responsibility, not power. 

Each bird loves to hear himself sing. 

And my favorite:
They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind. 


  1. You found a great place to hike. Can't believe the number of petroglyphs on those rocks. Looks like they had a lot of free time to draw!
    I love this quote "Listening to a liar is like drinking warm water." We've had to drink a lot of warm water this past year!

    1. Boy that is the truth about the warm water. Mark - great photos of a beautiful area.

  2. Is this the grapevine canyon near Laughlin? Pretty awesome place...

  3. Without Bobbie, your photos wouldn't be nearly as impressive as she gives a wonderful perspective to it all.

  4. Amazing! Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos. Anxiously awaiting Part 2.

  5. Thanks, and that's all I have to say about that.

  6. Glad you found the canyon. We lucked out and had an empty parking lot. Perfect! The petroglyphs are fantastic. It takes some time to search them all. I can't believe you went through the mass of grapevines!!! Crazy! There was a great up and down trail off to the left that went above the grapevine tangle and then back into the canyon.

  7. Wow. I've seen some of these...but never in this high a concentration. Amazing. My favorite saying is the one about the frog not drinking up his own pond.

  8. My grandfather took me to the petroglyphs at grapevine 40+ years ago and I forgot about it until I saw your photos. Look forward to seeing what lies beyond.

  9. We loved our visit to the amazing petroglyphs at Grapevine, enjoy!

  10. Those are better than any petroglphs I have seen! Great pictures.

  11. Love petroglyphs and the wisdom of those our ancestors were too stupid to listen to. What a fabulous place you visited. So many glyphs. Thanks for sharing it with me. Oh and I actually like to drink hot water, prefer it to tea or coffee. Do not prefer liars.


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