Day Trips – October 2021

Grimes Point

Sometimes it’s difficult to image what Nevada must have looked like thousands of years ago. Ancient Lake Lahontan covered over 8500 square miles of the Great Basin at depths of up to 900 feet in some spots. At Grimes Point, east of Fallon, ancient Petroglyphs offer an insight into what life was like for some of the earliest inhabitants of the region.

This spot off of Highway 50 was once lakefront property. This area was abundant with life. In addition to fish, fowl and larger land mammals, the local populations relied on the cattail reeds as a source of food and as fiber for weaving baskets and rope.

Large basalt boulders cover the landscape, and the native inhabitants left their mark upon these rocks. There are several types of petroglyphs inscribed at this site. Some of the oldest are known as pit and groove. These deeply engraved glyphs are thought to be some of the oldest in the state, dating back between 8000 to 12,000 years.

Little is known about who created these earliest carvings. Other petroglyphs at this site are believed to be more recently created, up to 2000 years ago. All of the stones in the area are covered in a “desert patina”. Researchers are able to estimate the age of the inscriptions by examining the patina formed on the carvings.

In the hills adjacent to Grimes Point are several caves that were formed by the lake waters. The most famous, Hidden Cave, was discovered by children in 1927. When archaeologists found about about the discovery they conducted a series of digs. They found a substantial amount of baskets and tools. The most recent dig in 1979 revealed additional materials. The cave is sealed off, but the BLM offers tours on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.

The petroglyphs at Grimes Point are open 24/7. An interpretive trail guides visitors through the site and offers some insight into their origins

No one is really sure of the purpose of the petroglyphs. Some speculate that they served a ceremonial purpose to ensure good fortune in their hunts. Other believe they served as a way to mark a sacred location. But these theories can’t be proven. Perhaps that’s the greatest part of visiting Grimes Point. You can explore the site and come up with your own theories. It’s nice to gaze over the open landscape and picture what life was like here thousands of years ago. An afternoon spent pondering the past makes for a nice day trip.

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Olmstead Loop – Auburn State Recreation Area

The Rolling Hills of Auburn State Recreation Area

Northern California is full of great recreational opportunities. One spot that’s a little out of the way, but well worth a visit is the Olmstead Loop Trail in Cool, California. This area is part of the larger Auburn State Recreation Area, off Highway 49.

This massive park was once the site of several ranches and orchards. In the 1960’s, the federal government bought up nearly 20,000 acres of private property in preparation for the Auburn Dam Project. The land was used for construction access and equipment storage. When the dam project was put on hold in 1975, the area sat unused. The land is still owned by the US Bureau of Reclamation, but it is administered by the California Parks Department.

Grinding Stones

There are hundreds of miles of interconnecting trails in the recreation area. These popular trails are used by hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The Western States Trail which runs from Utah to California, passes through here.

Although there were many ranches on this land, it is largely undisturbed. There is evidence of Native American activity in the area. The rolling oak laden hills provided an abundant source of acorns, which were a staple of their diet. Grinding stones can be found within the park. The discovery of gold, 10 miles away, at Coloma had a profound effect on the native populations.

Wild turkeys crossing the road

All of this area was scoured extensively by those early 49er’s. Some evidence of their activity can be found in various locations. But agriculture soon proved to be an important commodity produced here. There are still some walnut and other fruit trees growing.

There is an abundance of wildlife to be seen as well. Coyotes and bobcats are common. Wild turkeys are abundant as well. Bears and mountain lions have also been spotted.

A view of the Sacramento Valley

The area is popular in the Spring and the Fall, when the temperatures are mild. During the Winter, the trails tend to get muddy, but if you don’t mind getting a little dirty, this can be the best time of year to visit. The foothills are above the fog line. In the Winter, when the Sacramento Valley is socked in with tule fog, the Olmstead Loop provides a nice escape, and a bit of sunshine. If you hike out to the edge of the canyon, you’ll be treated to a view of the valley, blanketed in fog. Mount Diablo in the Bay Area is clearly visible, poking through the fog.

If you prefer not to get your clothes dirty on a trek, a 2.6 mile paved road leads from the parking lot, across the rolling hills and down the side of the American River Canyon. This route becomes a dirt trail that switchbacks down to the river, but it is well graveled and easily passable.

The main loop in this park is over 8 miles long, but there are dozens of smaller trails leading in all directions. It is an easy and fun way to spend a day getting some exercise in the beautiful Sierra Foothills of northern California.

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Article by Jeremy Dunn, Select Group Videographer

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