Petroglyphs & Lonely Road Rambling

Photo: M.V.
Photo: M.V.

 I have been writing a series of posts about rambling and roving in Nevada. It’s a big state. Not as big as Alaska or Texas or California, but bigger than American Samoa, which is not a state, but you get the drift. It’s fairly big. So there’s plenty to write about in theory. At any rate, this is the third installment.


Depending on where you you live in the state of Nevada, most cool and worthwhile excursions are usually three to four hours away.

If you get out to north central Nevada, get out and ramble down highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America.” You’ll find it is sparsely populated, and full of open space. There are things to do and things to see.  Make a pit stop between the towns of Austin and Eureka at Hickison Petroglyph Area. Resting between the Toquima and Simpson Park Mountains, Hickison provides a convenient opportunity to stop and stretch and see a few etchings made by pre-Columbian inhabitants. Two groups of petroglyphs are near the outhouses and parking area, while a another batch of rock art lies up a trail loop the more ambitious can hike.

A couple weeks ago my family and I got restless. After brainstorming about where to go, we at last decided to make the three hour drive out to see this particular petroglyph site. Depending on where you you live in the state of Nevada, most cool and worthwhile excursions are usually three to four hours away. It’s just how it is here in the Silver State, and pretty much in most rural, middle-of-nowhere places out West.

We had a grand time getting out and seeing the highways and byways of the Nevada Outback on this trip. The unseasonably warm weather had the sage and rabbit brush  greening up. We saw one lone pronghorn (or antelope) buck stray close to the highway, though we didn’t spot any others. Occasionally, there are wild horses and burros spotted on this stretch of road as well. Once we arrived at Hickison, we were more than eager to just plod out and begin our self-guided tour. First, however, we had to bust out the jackets, hats and mittens and dress our small children in winter wear because, despite the sunny weather, the wind chill was still probably close to freezing that day (as the snow on the ground reveals).

Setting off! (Photo: A.V.)
Setting off! (Photo: A.V.)

With our village of children dressed for war, we were finally ready to begin our half a mile hike, making our own small “discoveries” along the way.

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Photo: A.V. One of the ‘glyphs at Hickison. My wife and I debated on what this one is depicting . Some beast, dinosaur, or something for cryptologists to figure out?

  Interpreting the Hickison Petroglyphs: Hoof Prints or Vaginas?

I did a quick search on the ol’ interweb and found some interesting things about Hickison. There are at least two ways of interpreting this petroglyph site according to Online Nevada Encyclopedia , “[Hickison] was interpreted as a hunting locality… because the most common motif at the site was thought to represent ‘hoof prints.'” Alright, so far I’m tracking with this. The way the topography lays, sort of like a canyon, with ample natural rock obstructions, I can totally see how it would have made a great locale to corner pronghorn or deer. But wait, there’s more.

The article, which is brought to us by the Nevada Humanities, goes on to say, “An alternate interpretation identifies the marks as vulviforms (representations of female genitalia)…” Wait, What? “…[P]ossibly indicating that the site was the location of girls’ puberty rituals or the locale for a female cult of affliction centered on reproductive disorders.” Well, OK then. I suppose it’s how you look at the ‘glyphs because when we were out there snapping hundreds of photos with our small children in front of these things, my wife and I weren’t excitedly telling each other, “Hey isn’t this great to get out and take pictures of tons of ancient vaginas with our kids?”

I tend to interpret this as modern culture over-sexualizing things in the past. The same article further states, “There is no historic ethnographic record, however, of girls producing rock art as a part of their puberty ritual.” TRANSLATION: Basically, we made this crap up.

Moving on…

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I’m going with hoof prints… (Photo: A.V.)

So, as I try to salvage the rest of this post, it’s sufficient to say that it was a fun day with my family outside and seeing places where the ancients once stood and carved on rocks. Whatever the objects might be. As I’ve said before, Nevada has a treasure trove of things to explore, history to discover right off the highway, and above all, it is a fantastic catalyst for making memories.

Epic shot with the distance in the background (Photo: L.B.)
Epic shot with me and four out of five of our children with the Toiyabe Range in the background (Photo: L.B.)
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