Monday, July 12, 2004

Meadow Lake

Rich Cross sent the following description of a recent exploration to some petroglyph sites in the Nevada County high country. Meadow Lake was the site of a major gold rush and a town grew up there in 1866, at nearly 7000' elevation, with hotels, a newspaper, and claims being filed every which way on the mineralized, gold-bearing quartz veins in the area. Some of the earliest accounts of skiing in the Sierra are from Meadow Lake.

I recelty found an 1866 magazine article describing this same area and hope to transcribe it for y'all sometime soon.

Sometimes when I write about my trips, I feel like my four year old son, telling complete strangers in the grocery store about the waterfall he saw that day. "I saw a cool waterfall today!" he'll tell the clerk. I guess there's still some kid inside of me, thank god, because I still get giddy over my trips to the hills.... Plus, I like the exchange of information. Your descriptions of North Fork trips have given me a huge list of places I need to visit. I had a great trip yesterday. I started out with no firm plans, just wanted to check out the territory between Highway 89 north of Truckee and Bowman Lake. I've done a fair amount of walks south and west of Fordyce Lake, but never been in the Meadow Lake area. I took I80 through Truckee, then worked my way back via dirt, past Webber Lake. Arriving at Meadow Lake after a couple minor stops, I drove up the ridgeline east of the lake, hoping for good views of the Fordyce Creek drainage and beyond. The views were great, as expected, but not spectacular, due to too many trees (ever hear my lecture on why some clear-cuts are good, haha?). I descended back to the north side of Meadow Lake, then headed around to its outlet near Hartley Butte, still trying to get that spectacular view of Fordyce, et. al. I started to descent the "jeep trail" shown on the map just east of the Butte, but the rocks were getting bigger and sharper and I was sick of driving. Time to walk a bit.... As I got out of my truck, a big fat marmot ran over a nearby outcropping and hid. I wasn't aware marmots could be found this far north, I've never seen them outside of the Sequoia area. This sucker was so big and moving so fast that my first (wishful thinking) thought was wolverine. So I start climbing the butte and almost immediately cross a road, not shown on the maps, which ascends almost to the summit. I hate when that happens. I walked up to the top and found the view I was looking for. Words can't describe. Sitting there, watching the world go by, I recalled reference to the "Meadow Lake Petroglyphs." So after looking around some more, the most likely spot for this site appeared to be directly below me. Not on the way back to my truck, but still an interesting looking "granite planet," so what the hell, let's check it out. And I found them! Amazing, a classic Style 7 site and I found it on the first try! So I used up most of the memory on my camera taking pictures. Then an interesting-looking mushroom rock caught my attention, to the south, so I packed up and went to climb it. Cools views, but no ancient rock shelters like I'd been hoping to find. Well, time to return to the truck and head on down the road, but I didn't actually finish exploring the northern side of the petroglyph site. Obsessive compulsive that I am, I backtracked back north through the site again, down towards a small pond; then I found the main petro site! Very extensive, probably larger than the Donner Summit site, with the art inscribe not just in the reddish-pink rock, but also in a black-colored kind of desert varnish. Neat stuff, including a stick figure human that appeared genuine. There was more modern art, too, boneheads. Found some ugly-looking tailings fields with nasty little creeks draining them. Also a number of flooded holes in the ground, don't know if they were just prospect pits or actual shafts. Not a good place to bring my kids, I'm thinking. Certainly not a good place to walk backwards. I eventually found my way back to my truck and continued on down the road northwest, past Tollhouse lake (worst biting flies I've seen in years, mosquitoes as bad as that hike we went on together to the Palisade Creek site), and on down to Bowman. The closer I got to Bowman, the more people I encountered. Towards its dam I got stuck behind a Forest Circus cop and a guy towing a boat, neither of whom would pull over to let me by, even though we're going maybe 10mph. Well, I also recall a site being near the dam, and I know of a big granite outcropping which fits the description, so I might as well pull over and let the slowpokes go on their way. I started checking out the outcropping, and within 5 minutes I found the site. Unbelievable, how lucky I'm getting today. I found three different glyphs, each carved into a natural round inclusion (is that the right word?) on a fairly vertical surface, creating a picture frame effect. Pretty neat, something I haven't seen at the other sites. I spent another hour walking around, but didn't find any more. The trip home from there was uneventful, about 6:30pm, medium traffic, but moving fast. I avoid Sunday hikes because that Sunday night traffic scares the hell out of me. Take it easy, rc

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