The weather shifted today. There is a winter storm circling Reno, and big dark clouds hover over the mountains in the direction of Donner Pass. Michele called in the evening to say they would not let anyone drive on the interstate heading West unless they had chains on their tires, so she spent ½ the day getting chains… It is still sunny in Reno, only a few drops of rain. But the temperature dropped 20 degrees.
I decided to stay in the Eldorado hotel for another day or so to get my bearings while I plan my next move. It’s freezing outside! I spent much of the day driving around Reno and figuring out how to get to Lagomarsino Canyon where the petroglyphs are supposed to resemble textile and basket designs. Getting there seems to be a challenge.
When I called the Bureau of Land Management office in Carson City, they directed me to the Stillwater field office where I spoke to one archeologist who tried to discourage me from looking for petroglyphs all together. She said that they are very difficult to find, and that they are often small and corroded, or returned to the original color of the parent rock. When I brought up Whiskey Flats and the book by Robert Heizer, there was a long pause and she urged me to stick to well-marked locations. Later she said I would get more information from books than actually going on site. The guy at the tourist office in Virgina City told me to ride my mountain bike into the canyon, which sounded like more fun. Only when I finally found the canyon on a map and saw how long it would take I went to for the 4wd option.
I started looking for maps at the BLM office in Reno, which is located in the Reno flats, near the largest Whole Foods Market I have ever seen. There was also Sierra Trading Post, which had a big sale, and I picked up some long underwear and warm socks for the next days trek. The BLM sent me to the Desert Research institute, which is part of the University of Nevada and set on the side of a mountain. It was very windy up there but the sun was shining and I could see most of the breathtaking Reno valley.
Some very nice ladies there helped me to locate the canyon on the series of quadrangle topographic maps. Lagomarsino was in the far bottom right corner of a map printed in the 1960’s and is no longer marked on the new maps. This is common for historically significant archeological sites. They don’t encourage visitors. But one of the women had been to the canyon many years prior. She helped me xerox the maps and figure out the roads I needed to take to get there. They were long and windy and criss-crossed with other unmarked roads. They were patient and helpful but cautioned me that the roads were not maintained and in very bad condition, and insisted that my vehicle have very high clearance. After we had pretty much figured it out, One of the woman agreed to be my “call person”. I was supposed to call her when I got out of the canyon the next evening. This made me feel better about my insane looking plan to 4wd into the middle of nowhere with the storm looming in the mountains.
I drove down the hill to the University to check out a book dedicated to Lagomarsino by Alvin McLane. But by then, it was pretty late in the day and I didn’t have much patience left for more research. I went through a rigamarole in the library stacks anyhow and looked over McLane’s paper and photographs to get a better sense of the landscape. Then I called the rental car place and was lucky to get the last 4×4 truck for the next day. It was freezing, I was exhausted and the sun was beginning to set. I went back to the hotel and caught the tail end of the Obama/Romney debate.
I like Reno. It is an interesting town. The architecture is mostly brick, but eclectic in style, English Baroque and Victorian. Frederick Delongchomp, started out as a mining engineer and designed most of the government buildings int he 1880’s. A minerals town, they have a mining department at the University. Everybody wears car harts and boots, and drives a new truck. They are friendly. There were quite a few hitchhikers walking along the roads—young and old. I saw a few haggard looking veterans-coming down from the mountains to find shelter from the storm. There is something very wild about this place.
It was also becomong obvious to me that our modern roads overlaying the land here, go to different places than the Indian roads. One has to go deep into the hills to see these roads, and I am surprised they are still there, but there are many traces of the Piutes, Shoshone and the Washoe and the Numa and Freemonts before them. The towns: Virginia City, Reno, Dayton, Fallon etc. seem completely out of context to the petroglyph sites. (Note: read Lucy Lippards “Overlay.”)The climate has changed, and a modern way of thinking and doing has changed the speed at which we move across the land. Nor do white people don’t think like Indians, our priorities are different. Lagomarsino was the summer camp for the Washoe people. But it is also Piute land… I am eager to walk off the beaten track, to get a sense of the land. Strong mountains — strong weather, the tension between the clouds and the mountains is palpable, and visible. I feel so alive! The air is unbelievable crisp. This is the storm that shifts the seasons–from hot dry fall to winter.
*Panel recording, (what Archeologists look for):
Aspect, orientation, presence of cracks and other irregularities, condition of the art, condition of the panel generally, (graffiti, mineral build-up), surrounding vegetation (this changes over time but it still seems relevant, especially for dyers) relationship to other glyphs, other proximities…
*Photo: far, middle close, with and w/o scale