Monday, October 02, 2006
Finding Traces of Nevada's First People
Hickison Summit Petroglyphs
Sometimes it can be worthwhile to revisit a place where you’ve been before. That was the case when I recently stopped at the Hickison Summit area off U.S. 50, located about 25 miles east of Austin.
I’d been to Hickison Summit, which is a Bureau of Land Management rest area, on several previous occasions. But on this particular visit, I was able to spend a little more time at the site and discovered that I had only seen a portion of what is found there.
The site is located about a mile off the highway via a graded dirt road. At first glance, it appears to be little more than a couple of picnic tables tucked into a forest of bushy piñon pine trees enclosed in a canyon.
However, if you walk along the marked, interpretive trail, you quickly find that this is a site rich with ancient petroglyphs, which are prehistoric rock carvings.
On my earlier stops, I had seen a handful of the stone etchings along a sandstone cliff directly southwest of the parking lot. This time, I studied the rock walls more closely and discovered dozens more horseshoe-shaped carvings as well as various squiggles, circles and patterns etched into the stone.
While the exact meaning of these carvings isn’t known, many archaeologists believe that the Hickison Summit glyphs represented fertility. Additionally, in some places, the symbols seem to suggest the seasons and elements, particularly the sun.
The trail leads to the opposite side of the canyon, where, if you look closely at the walls, you can find additional rock symbols carved high in the stone (look up).
During my previous visits, I had also not noticed that there are petroglyphs carved into several large stone boulders near the picnic area. These include writing that resembles some kind of multiple-legged creature as well as intricate grid-style patterns.
In addition to the rock art, the Hickison Summit site in the Simpson Park Mountains, also features exceptional scenery (perhaps that's what really attracted those early people who carved the petroglyphs).
A short trail leads to the top of a rise behind the canyon and a scenic overview spot that offers a great view of the surrounding area.
Indeed, the rugged, picturesque cliffs and thick piñon grove, located at about 6,500-feet, make it a cool, shaded place to relax before tackling the rest of Highway 50, the “Loneliest Road in America.”
As a Bureau of Land Management recreational area, the Hickison Summit site also includes restrooms and a half dozen, day use picnic tables.
For those wanting to camp (in the warmer months), check out the Bob Scott Campground, located about 15 miles west of Hickison Summit on Highway 50 (10 miles east of Austin). This Forest Service area includes 15 campsites in piñon trees as well as picnic tables and drinking water. There is a fee for overnight camping.
For more information about the Hickison Summit area and other central Nevada attractions contact the Bureau of Land Management, Battle Mountain District Office, 50 Bastian Rd., Battle Mountain, NV 89820, 775-635-4000.