Grimes Point Archaeological Area
See also my photo album from this hike.
(Saturday, July 19, 2003 near Fallon, NV)
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Sarah and I parked at the nearly empty parking lot at Grimes Point
Archaelogical Preserve. It was soon completely empty except for us, as the
other two cars had just stopped to use the facilities. It was 103°F -
what better weather for a hike in the Nevada desert? I'd never contemplate
doing any real hiking in these conditions, but the trails I had in mind were
short, and we had plenty of water. We started out on the Petroglyph Trail, a
well-signed and -maintained trail through the sagebrush.
There were a good many petroglyphs and plentiful signs that detailed the
history of the region and speculated as to what these carvings might have
meant thousands of years ago when they were made (nobody knows for sure). It
was difficult to believe, but way back when, this entire area was under water,
covered by the gargantuan Lake Lahontan. We saw several fighters take off
from the nearby Fallon Naval Air Station (current home of the "Top Gun"
fighter pilot school) - they looked like they might've been the Blue Angels,
but we were too far away to get a good look. They sure were loud, though!
After 40 minutes or so, we were back at the car. I suggested taking the trail
to Grimes Point itself, but Sarah wasn't too keen on doing any elevation gain
in this weather. Can't say as I blame her!
Although the sign at the parking lot said that Hidden Cave is only viewable
via a guided tour to prevent vandalism, we decided to drive down the road
anyways to see if there was anything to see. I'd read conflicting reports on
the requirement of tours, so it seemed possible that there'd be something to
see on our own. It turned out that all of my sources were correct - a guide is
indeed required to visit Hidden Cave and its cave paintings. However, folks
are welcome to do a self-guided walk in the general area whenever they wish.
We picked up the self-guided walk brochure, grabbed some water, as this was a
little longer of a hike than the sub-mile Petroglyph Trail, and hit the trail.
After passing some more excellent
petroglyphs and lichen-covered rocks, I
got our Nevada-desert-in-a-heatwave hike off to a brilliant start by getting
us lost a few hundred yards in, and we wound up walking for a good ways out of
our way. Naturally, upon returning to the last trail marker, the true trail
was readily visible to the left - oh well, we didn't wind up as dessicated
skeletons, so no harm done! We hiked up to Picnic Cave, a shallow grotto set
into a hillside. Its ceiling was covered in tufa formations (the same stuff
that Mono Lake is famous for), a remnant from when it was under Lake Lahontan
and calcium carbonate deposits grew downwards as a stalactite from the "cave"
roof. It was interesting, although Sarah and I agreed that it was stretching
things a bit to call this a "cave."
As it was so hot, we decided not to do the complete loop (not much point in
going by Hidden Cave when its closed), and instead went across the scrubby
desert towards Burned Cave. We passed a sharply overhung cliff that the
brochure said was a favorite nest of raptors. None were to be seen (probably
enjoying their shady shelter), but there was ample evidence of predatory bird
presence on the ground below the cliff. We hiked up a few stairs and arrived
at Burned Cave. This cave featured some ancient cave paintings and some
modern spray-paintings partially obscuring them (sigh - no wonder Hidden Cave
requires a guide). We had to look around a bit before we could make out the
cave paintings, but once we did, several were obvious. Its a shame that many
of them had been vandalized. After taking in our fill, we headed back to the
car and enjoyed its air conditioning!
This was an enjoyable, if rather warm, hike - definitely don't miss it next
time you're passing through Fallon, NV on U.S. Alt. 50 ;-)