I was wet and cold, but I was not yet ready to leave. I was walking through a boulder field along the Rio Grande River, in search of a petroglyph of a warrior. At the beginning of our expedition, I saw an image of a petroglyph in a guide book. I remember thinking that it looked like a Native American warrior protecting the river. The general location was mentioned in the caption. About one month later, we were camping in this section of the Rio Grande Gorge. Some locals had told me of petroglyphs (ancient images etched on rocks) in the area, but I could not remember the name of the trail where they had seen them.
I struck out one afternoon to search for this warrior on a rock. This was a daunting task as the Rio Grande Gorge is filled with millions of rocks this size! It was just like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack, so I studied the image for every little detail. There were elements in the background that I began to recognize and some geological features that I should be able to line up. By studying the photo carefully, I figured out what side of the river and approximately how far from the river the petroglyph warrior stood. I just had to line up the boulder with another larger one behind it. I felt like Indiana Jones in the "Search for the Warrior on the Rock”.
The trail went along the river’s edge, poison ivy everywhere, then up through the rock fall, full of stinging cactus. An afternoon monsoon thunderstorm blew in hard with gale-force winds. Through the storm, I kept looking, focusing on each rock face, looking for the two boulders I'd seen lining up in the image.
My heart sank when I lined up two boulders, but the one where the warrior should stand had been cracked, as if someone had taken a chunk home. I felt sadness and anger. I was sure someone had found the petroglyph and looted the sacred warrior. I cursed them! I wished bad things to happen to them!
I figured I should look around a little more, since I was already out here. I climbed higher through the boulder field. I thought maybe I’d get lucky and find another petroglyph. Then, coming over a ridge, there he was! The Warrior was still there! I was stunned, frozen in place. Then a flood of emotion washed over me and I started to cry. The cold rain and wind pelted me as tears rolled down my face. I thought the Warrior had been destroyed. I did not expect to find him and the emotion and relief of this discovery was simply overwhelming. Minutes before, I had been sure he was gone, obliterated, stolen. But there he was, just like I had seen in the book.
I have decided to share this image with the hopes that someone else has the same thrill of discovery that I had. I also fear that someone will deface or steal the Warrior, so I have changed the background of the photo just enough to make the Warrior much harder to locate. If you find the original image in the book, you can figure out its location just like I did. Hopefully, he will still be there, protecting the river for ages to come.
Note: Erich and Colin took a rest day at Cochiti Lake. Check out this quick video on their Facebook page to see why it was an excellent day to be off the water.
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