Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Mysterious Rock Art of Anza Borrego

©Bert Gildart: Anza Borrego contains some of the nation’s best preserved evidence that a group of people once led extremely productive lives by living entirely off the land.  They hunted sheep, made their own flower for bread, hauled water using pottery they created, and they revered the afterlife.

Over the years of visiting this park I have attended a number of naturalist walks, during which time I learned about the morteros Natives once used and about certain sites where the Kumeyaay left their rock art.

There is, however, one of these sites to which naturalist seem reluctant to take groups of people.


In very general terms naturalists will say that the Indian Hill area has served as the longest most singly occupied area in the park.  Early pre-historic Indians worked the area but were then followed by the Kumeyaay who remained for several thousand years, and it was members of this tribe that apparently created some of the park’s most dramatic rock art.

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L TO R:  Chuck, right, detailing long occupancy of the Kumeyaay in area.

Though they will provide general information to the site, they certainly will not provide maps or GPS readings to the site.  Though laws now protect these sensitive areas with large fines for defacing and touching the rock art, there remain some who either out of ignorance or out of spite care not for the concept of historic preservation.  In other words, there is no poetry in their lives.

Several days ago Don, Nancy, Janie and I accompanied Chuck, a man who has been visiting Anza Borrego for over 20 years.  In the course of his wanderings he found the site I have also searched for, but which has always ended unfulfilled.  Chuck was also hesitant to share the site’s location, but when he realized I wanted to celebrate the rock art and not herald their location, his enthusiasm for spending the day hiking with us increased.  “Yes,” he would show us the site – and now, after having been there I understand both his reticence but also his enthusiasm.


In very general terms our adventure took us up Mortero Wash, then along a 4-wheel drive to a parking lot, then on a roundtrip hike of about 7 miles.  Our adventure took us into one of the most remarkable boulder fields I have ever seen, and it was here, among the fields of huge granite boulders that the Kumeyaay dwelled for such a long period of time.

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Pictographs created in caves of Indian Hill made of pigments, as opposed to petroglyphs, which have been chipped into rock.

The evidence is there, for we found a few morteros (grinding pads) and an abundance of agave, the plant from which they made their bread. Then, finally, and after some casting around, Chuck finally re-found the several caves in which this group of Native Americans created their rock art.


Though no one can say for sure what the symbols represent or which members of the tribe created them, from other sites I know many experts believe the sun was a common motif and that a “Shaman,” or spiritual leader, might have created them.  Likely some of the pictographs here represented the sun.


Rock Art Panel

What, however, I can say with certainty, is that as we sat in this cave used by the ancients, allowing as we did the huge granite boulders to create a frame of the world, we felt an immense separation from all that was secular and mundane.  Here, the sun would shine forever, and all would remain bright and good.




*Death Valley, Where an Entire River Disappears





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