A Hike in the Mojave Desert
A long time ago, perhaps as much 2000 or 3000 years, an Indian was hunting for bighorn sheep in a land that he'd never hunted before. The sheep sign was getting thicker, it seemed, with every step until he came to the edge of a cliff and looked down and saw a pool of water, where the bighorn sheep had been watering for untold ages. He could tell by the algae and the water bugs that this source of water lasted for months at a time and he knew that he would come back to this pool of water (or tanaha) many times, and perhaps he was the first put a petroglyph at this site.
The tribe or society that he belonged to came back and hunted here for many generations, perhaps a thousand years or more. And in time, they added a number of petroglyphs that had beauty, meaning, and mystery, then and now. Then there came the year that seasons pass from one to another and no one came to hunt the sheep. Year after year came and went till this society was no more and this water source was no longer held in human memory. Only the petroglyphs were there to speak of the people and of their knowledge and use of this place. And so, things were as they had been before the first human found it - before the first glyph was made, and it was theirs and theirs alone once again.
How long the bighorn sheep had this water source to themselves, I don't know, but I suspect it was a long, long time. When I walked up the canyon for the first time, I suspected that there would be water because I had used modern technology such as Google Earth in combination with the ancient knowledge of understanding the lay of the land and reading sign.
When I first got to the water I could see the petroglyphs and only a small cup or two of water at the very bottom of the tanaha. However, it was obvious that there have been a lot of water here, and for a long time. And if there was any doubt as to importance of this site, the petroglyphs spoke loud and clear.
While I doubt that I was the first modern human to find this place, I like to think that I was the first to understand it in terms of the desert bighorn sheep and their environment, and perhaps the first to bring the knowledge of this site back to a society that cared about the ways of the desert bighorn sheep and the environment in which they live.
'Footnote' the society that I speak of at the end of this article is none other than the society for the conservation of Bighorn sheep and you can find there website at http://sheepsociety.com
By Carlos Gallinger