I met Michele at a Ralph’s in Fallon, NV. She drove from Salt Lake City the day before. We planned to meet at Lake Lahontan but it was further than both of us imagined. She crashed somewhere along the 50, smack in the middle of the Great Basin. At Grimes we cruised past the entrance/picnic area and the designated petroglyph area agreeing to visit them on the way back. We headed along the road past the caves, again agreeing to visit them on the way back. We wanted to look for “precious stones” that some lady at a gas station West of Elko had mentioned to Michele. We pulled off the road and walked out onto the flats and looked on the ground for colored rocks. I found a handful of smooth orange-brown and green stones, which turned out to be chert–according the colorblind geologist I asked at UCLA. Michele filled her pockets like I couldn’t believe. She must have had a couple hundred stones when we finally called it quits and poured out our pockets on the truck floor. Her pile was out of hand! I wish I had taken a photo.
While we were hunting I noticed a caravan of trucks driving up to the cave parking lot. I watched as a group of about 20 people walked along a path, then they disappeared into the hillside. As Michele and I sat at the mouth of the first cave we took a few pictures and caught up on our journeys across the country. I didn’t think much about the disappearing people. But after a while I began to wonder what happened to them. I suggested that we walk along the path they had taken before they disappeared. There were beautiful views to the West, as we looked out across what was once the ancient Lake Lahontan. It was mostly flat land, in different shades of brown but very still and peaceful except for a few military jets.. We followed the trail on the side of the hill and came up to a generator, a bench and a small open door. Michele immediately ducked inside. I was fussing with my camera equipment when she came out of the cave where the people had disappeared. “Don’t go in there!” She said. “It smells like stale piss.” She was right. It smelled pretty acrid!
Inside the rather large cave was the group of Archeologists, standing around an archeological digging site. They said that cave was a “cache cave” where the Indians stored food, and used it for only temporary housing. I wonder if it smelled a bad 4000 years ago? The archeologists were very nice, and had just finished a conference held in Fallon. The cave is called Hidden Cave. You can read more about the archeology site here:
The guide was very nice and let me shoot some video in the cave after all the archeologists had gone. When he finally kicked me out, making sure I didn’t hit my head on the low doorway to the outside, he turned off the generator and locked the door. Michele and I we were both a little tired from our drive, the sun and a hectic morning discerning a meeting point. But we decided to venture up a little ways along the petroglyph trail. After all it was the whole reason I had come out here.
We walked along a trail that meandered along a field of boulders that sat on the southern point of the hills. The basalt boulders overlooked the flattened basin. They almost looked as if they were cast in iron. Many were covered with lichen. The petroglyphs were pecked and scratched onto the darkened surface of the rocks–wavy lines, concentric circles, one beautiful wishbone shape. I took a few photos but felt distracted and a little overwhelmed by everything: seeing my stepmother for the first time in years, the stench of the cave, and windfall of information that the archeologists imparted, taking in Nevada for the first time. It was about 3pm, and the weather started to shift. The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees (we went from tank tops to long sleeve shirts) and clouds started to roll in. The place felt a little eerie suddenly and I didn’t want to be out here when the storm came in, so we hauled back to Fallon to pick up Michele’s car and headed into Reno. I had booked us a room at the Eldorado Hotel and was looking forward to a hot shower and clean sheets.