Millipede Spirals

Rinconado Canyon Petroglyph Trail is in the southern part of Petroglyph National Monument, and is administered by the National Park Service. Last time I visited the Albuquerque city-administered north part of the Monument. During my ninety minute hike I only saw two other people, both jogging. One guy even had that hose contraption for drinks of water that made him look like a scuba diver out of water. I was reminded of stories of Anasazi messengers running through this country to deliver news to other settlements.

I'm not Hawk Eye when it comes to spotting petroglyphs on the escarpment unless they are smack dab in front of me. I could blame this on my bifocals, but it is more often because I get distracted by lizards, birds, wild flowers, cloud formations, and millipedes as I walk along.

The millipedes are everywhere! They are five to six inches long. They make delicate curving tracks in the sand that look like the sketches of sleep-walking highway engineers. Sometimes the millipedes curl themselves into tight spirals. Are they resting? Sick? Dying? Warding off enemies like the wagons in a circle? Clearly, I don't know beans about millipedes. I will have a new challenge when I get home, as this is one of the first trips I've made without a backseat full of field guides and reference materials.

It is fun to look at the spirals pecked into the stone faces as I hike. The spiral is one of mankinds oldest symbols. My $1.50 kiddie pamphlet that I got for teaching art indicates that the spiral can mean the migration of a clan or tribe. What if it just means, "Look at all those bizarre millipedes, ladies and gentlemen!"?

When I was driving in El Malpais yesterday there were signs warning of elk crossings. We've all heard stories of the damage caused to a minivan that hits a deer. Imagine what hitting a big daddy elk could do to my little rent-a-car. Just in case the spiral petroglyph is a millipede crossing sign, I am careful not to step on any.

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