FEBRUARY 22, 2023
Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs
Communication is a vital part of any society and has taken many forms throughout history. In the Southwestern United States, ancient people often communicated and recorded their lives in the form of pictographs or petroglyphs. While both are a form of communication and often tell a story, there is a distinct difference between the two. Pictographs are images and designs made by using natural materials to paint on rocks. This process makes pictographs quite fragile and vulnerable to the forces of nature. If left unprotected, they do not survive the passing of time. On the other hand, petroglyphs are images created by carving, engraving, or scratching through the dark surface, often termed desert varnish, of a rock. Most of the ancient rock art we find today is in the form of petroglyphs.
I recently visited a site with hundreds of impressive petroglyphs located in Grapevine Canyon just outside Laughlin, Nevada. The area is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. In the canyon there are over 700 glyphs. They are believed to have been carved by the Ancient Mohave People between 1100 and 1900 AD. The reason for so many carvings here is thought to be the canyon’s location just north of Spirit Mountain or Avi Kwa’ Ame as known to the Mohave People. This mountain is considered sacred and believed to be the spiritual birthplace of the Mojave People.
The site was only a short drive off the main highway with good signage. Once we located the turn, we had to travel down a short well maintained gravel road to a small parking lot. From the parking area, it was just
under a third of a mile walk along a wash to the location of the first petroglyphs. As we continued on, the canyon walls were covered with numerous rock carvings, everything from recognizable big horned sheep, human forms, and lizards to abstract, geometric drawings whose meanings have been lost to time. We spent a good hour or so near the entrance just inside the canyon exploring and photographing the carvings. It was impressive how many there were and how accessible they were.
Satisfied with what we had seen, we chose not to continue the hike further into the canyon. My research indicated that the best petroglyphs were at the beginning of the canyon and after that, the trail becomes much more difficult as it winds 1.7 miles through the granite boulders further into the canyon. The trail is lined with cottonwood trees, wild grapes, early cave dwellings, and a 15-foot waterfall when the water is flowing.
This was another great adventure and like most, makes me want to know more. I wish the rocks could talk. Oh wait, they are telling a story. A story of long ago in another time and place.
JANUARY 22, 2023
Have you ever been sledding down a hill of gypsum in your bathing suit? If not, you have probably never visited White Sands National Park where you can rent a sled and spend the day picnicking and sledding down pristine dunes of white gypsum. This is exactly what we did when we visited. Well, my husband sledded, and I just picnicked.
It was an amazing experience to drive into the park and see the massive hills of small white grains of sand with soft ripples from the wind. The power of the shifting dunes was evident in the vegetation, where plants continue to reach for the sky as they are slowly covered by the shifting sands. As we approached the center of the park, there was a noticeable stillness and a calm feeling like a blanket surrounding us. In every direction we looked, all we could see were white hills. Even the road was packed white powder. We were completely surrounded by the massive dunes of gypsum.
What exactly is gypsum? Gypsum is a fine grain crystal that has many uses including the making of sheet rock. It’s crystal form is well known in the metaphysical world as Selenite, a protective stone that shields and helps eliminates negative energy. This positive energy was noticeable even in Alamogordo, a town just down wind of the white sands area. During our time there, we were impressed by the friendliness of the people. I thought it might have been my imagination, but even my husband noticed and commented on the calm energy of the area.
On the day we visited there were many people enjoying the park. Some were sledding and picnicking, others were hiking around the dunes and taking photos of the beautiful hills in the distance, many were just hanging out in the sunshine enjoying the calming energy. Throughout the park were picnic areas with covered tables to help block the bright sun as it reflected off the hills. It reminded me of spending a day at the beach but with a much more quiet and peaceful feeling.
White Sands National Park is located in the Tularosa Basin in Southwestern New Mexico. The area was first proclaimed a National Monument in January of 1933 and later, in 2019, it was designated as a National Park to be protected and enjoyed by all. The park itself only encompasses approximately 115 square miles of the total 275 square miles of dune fields, making the total area the largest gypsum field in the world, large enough to be seen from space.
Interestingly enough, the rest of the dune field area lends itself to a much different purpose. Instead of a place of leisure and exploration, the remaining 59% of the area is government land and is known as White Sands Missile Range. It is the largest missile and space testing site in the United States where new technologies have been tested since World War II. It was here, at a site 60 miles from the national park, where history was made in 1945 when the United States tested the first nuclear bomb. Today the area continues to be a testing site for new technologies by both the military and NASA.
Although I enjoyed my visit, I found myself with mixed emotions about this place and the strong contrast of the land’s use. On one hand is the tranquility and peacefulness I felt amongst the piles of white in the National Park, the other is the reality of a missile testing site. Maybe the silver lining of this area being chosen as a test site is the peaceful, positive energy of Earth’s gift of gypsum to counter the negative.
To learn more about White Sands National Park and the park’s history check out their website.
DECEMBER 22, 2023
The Laughlin Labyrinths
What is a labyrinth? What is their purpose? Why are there nine of them on a hillside just outside Laughlin, Nevada? How did they get there? These were my thoughts after I stumbled upon information about them on the internet. I was curious and decided I wanted to check them out. Because I had very little background knowledge, I decided to do a little research.
First, I wondered is a labyrinth a maze? After a bit of investigating, I learned that while they look like a maze, they are actually very different. A maze has multiple paths, many of which lead to dead ends, and are designed to challenge your mind as you search for your way out. On the other hand, a labyrinth is unicursal or one path that is designed to lead you to the center and back out. Walking a labyrinth is known to help a person focus and feel centered. With each turn along the path the walker’s perspective is changed giving them a different view or way of seeing things. Instead of busying your mind looking for a way out, a labyrinth allows the walker to calm their mind and reflect upon life.
I also learned that labyrinths have been found throughout history and in numerous societies. To some they represent a spiritual journey of self-discovery. A path one walks while meditating or looking for answers and guidance. To others they are a symbolic representation of life with the center representing birth, the path followed is life with its twists and turns, and the center is God, a higher power, divine answers, or even a new beginning. In mid-evil times they were even walked to symbolize a journey to the Holy Lands. Labyrinths have been discovered in ancient ruins carved on stone, in native pictographs, on ancient pottery and coins, and on floors of churches and buildings. It was interesting to learn they are found universally and are a part of many cultures throughout the world.
After learning more about the labyrinth, I wondered how there came to be nine of them on a hillside outside Laughlin, Nevada? After a bit more searching, I came across an interview with the creator of the Laughlin Labyrinths, Wes Dufek. In the interview, he explains how he was walking his dog on the desert hillside and got a spontaneous inspiration to do something he had never done before. He decided to build a labyrinth. Eventually he created nine of them on the hillside overlooking the Colorado River and Laughlin, Nevada.
Now that I was a bit more knowledgeable about labyrinths, I decided to visit the location and walk one myself. When I arrived, I was immediately drawn to one in a less traditional shape, that of a triangle. I later learned it is called Prosperity and was designed by Wes with the triangle of the dollar bill in mind. As I began my walk, I wondered if I was supposed to feel something or if something magical would happen. I had to remind myself that, from what I had read, there is no “correct way” to walk a labyrinth. So, I just quieted my mind and walked. It was a beautiful warm day. I was surprised how much I began to notice my surroundings. The soft breeze and warm sunshine were calming. I began to find a sense of peace, a time out from life, and a feeling of tranquility. I noticed how quiet it was with only the sound of the breeze and my breathing, something I definitely don’t notice often. It was peaceful. After I finished walking the triangular path, I decided to walk a second one built in a more traditional circular form. As I walked, I found myself thinking about the path and the stones that lined it. Every now and then I would stumble slightly on a stone that lined the narrow path. Some of the stones were small, others larger. It made me think about how we stumble in life. Some life stumbles are small, others larger, just like the rocks that lined the path of the labyrinth.
This was an interesting experience for me. If you have never walked a labyrinth, I suggest you give it a try. There are hundreds of them throughout the world. In fact, the website below is amazing and will help you locate one near you.
Worldwide Labyrinth Locator - https://labyrinthlocator.com/home
More about the Laughlin Labyrinths https://www.visitlaughlin.com/discover/articles/post/the-mystical-laughlin-labyrinths/
About Susan Homestead: Prior to her retirement, Susan spent 31 years as an educator in Washington State. Her career included, not only teaching elementary school, but working as a reading specialist and an instructional coach as well. She also developed and published educational materials. Now she spends her time traveling the country and writing reviews in an RV with her husband, Robert, and her two cats, Missy and Greyson.