Hickison Petroglyphs: Strange Glyphs and Stranger Rocks… America’s Backroads

One thing that Peggy and I have noticed over our years of checking out petroglyph sites is that they are often located in very scenic areas or on unusual rock formations. The rocks found at Hickison Petroglyph State Recreation Area definitely qualify.

As we continued our backroads’ journey along Highway 50 through Nevada on America’s Loneliest Road, we passed over Hickison Pass, dropped down into another valley, and arrived at our campground for the night: Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area. Peggy and I had stopped off here on another journey and been fascinated by both the rocks and petroglyphs.

The rocks are composed of volcanic tuff, ash that has been ejected from an erupting volcano and then solidified into rock. It erodes easily in comparison to harder rocks, which is what has created the interesting rock forms at Hickison. It is also easily carved into petroglyphs. Like the Grimes petroglyphs that I featured on last Thursday’s travel blog, these are ancient, dating back thousands of years. But, as you will see from the following photos, they represent a different style.

The campground lacks water and electricity but we found it quite scenic. When we arrived, large, colorful bugs that resembled giant grasshoppers or crickets occupied our campsite. They are common in sagebrush country and go by the name of Mormon crickets. Actually they are shield-backed katydids.

One of dozens of shield-backed katydids or Mormon crickets that occupied our campsite.
Quivera, our small RV, cosily tucked away among the junipers and pinyon pines. Pinyon pine nuts were an important source of food for ancient peoples and Native Americans.
A view from the campground looking out on Monitor Valley.
I found the cloud formation interesting.
Clouds from an evening walk.
As I mentioned above, prominent landmarks were frequently chosen by early peoples and Native Americans to create their rock art.
This is the panel featured on the above rock.
I won’t pretend to have a clue here…
Counting isn’t unusual in petroglyphs. For example, they might relate to the length of a journey. A woman blogger who counted the short and long marks here noted that there were 28 short marks and 6 long marks, possibly representing the menstrual cycle. Numerous vulviforms (representations of female genitalia) located at the site would tend to support this. There is some speculation that the area was used for girls’ puberty rites.
Early pioneers thought these might represent horses hooves. Nope.
Another example. BTW, for those of you who are Tom Robbins fans, he writes in his book, “Wild Ducks Flying Backwards” of a visit he made to another site along Highway 50 that is so full of these petroglyphs that it is known as the Canyon of Vaginas.

But back to the rocks.

I’ll conclude with this handsome fellow.

As you read this, Peggy and I are off celebrating Thanksgiving and our Anniversary at a favorite campsite on the Oregon Coast. We will catch up on comments and blogs when we return next week. In the meantime, we hope you are having/had a great Thanksgiving.

NEXT BLOGS: Tuesday is Blog a Book day where I will introduce you to the cast of characters that decided to hike a hundred miles across the Sierras with me. On Thursday’s Travel Blog we will finish up our trip across Nevada on Highway 50 and on into Utah, where it is also lonely.

18 thoughts on “Hickison Petroglyphs: Strange Glyphs and Stranger Rocks… America’s Backroads

  1. Curt I enjoyed your post and I hope you and Peggy had a splendid holiday camp on the coast. I was out today for a power walk in the misty drizzle, and it’s coastal weather. Your photo of Monitor Valley is gorgeous and I love those clouds. Don’t they look like waves! One of the first lessons we learned in meteorology school is to think of air as a liquid, to help us envision how things are all moving around up there. Really wonderful to hear about a whole valley of vaginas, and to see women’s genitals in ancient rock art. It makes those ancient people seem real. It’s so much more personal for me than seeing their art of incomprehensible alien beings. So thank you. I didn’t even know that existed. Also, having lived in northern Nevada for three years, I recognized the Mormon Cricket immediately. ha ha

    • I’ll certainly recognize Mormon crickets in the future, Crystal. Grin. And I couldn’t resist the clouds. As for the petroglyphs, I have often found petroglyph to be refreshingly natural. None of our hang-ups. And my view of the aliens is what fantastic trips the shaman must have been on. Break out the magic mushrooms. 🙂
      The coast was beautiful. It was raining when we drove over and raining when we came home but the skies were blue and partly cloudy the four days we were there. And the waves were spectacular. We had fun. I even cooked a turkey breast and drumsticks in our Insta-Pot. 🙂 –Curt

  2. The only time I visited a Petroglyph site was few years ago here, in Ontario, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures…
    Hope you’ve had a great Thanksgiving day, and Anniversary getaway🙂

  3. Mention tuff, and the first thought in my mind (before I get to geology) has to do with a different kind of tuff enuff rock.

    Do pinon trees have a scent? I think I remember that the wood is a favorite for burning, and that scent’s the reason, but I’m not sure.

  4. What an interesting place! It seems to me that these petroglyphs require eagle eyes and the ability to contort your body just to see them, but I could be wrong. And that insect — ooooohhhh. Wouldn’t like to encounter that one while stretching to see a drawing!

    • Those petroglyphs were relatively easy to get to, Rusha, in comparison to many sites Peggy and I have visited. The bugs did manage to show up on some of the petroglyph panels, however. I was more concerned with stepping on them. 🙂 –Curt

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