Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On Hiatus

I  am sorry to have to put Secret Landscapes on hiatus because I am following my job to another state.  It has been an enjoyable three years of writing posts and reading your comments.  Perhaps next winter I will start posting again,  since propped boulders and other structures seem to be in almost every rocky place.

     May the trail always lead you to something new...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

D.L. Bliss State Park, Lake Tahoe

D.L. Bliss State Park is on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.  This shoreline is very steep and there are few level sandy areas.  The most famous trail is the Rubicon trail, which runs north-south.
      Along the trail  are some balanced rocks, which were probably created by erosion.

However, there are a few features suggesting human alteration.  Here's a pointer indicating north, with a stone jammed underneath it.

 Way, way down the steep slope I spied a propped boulder on bedrock.  The foot is clearly visible.

Maybe it was supposed to be seen from the water.  If only I had had a few weeks to follow Lake Tahoe's 72-mile shoreline by kayak!
     One of the park's other  attractions is a balancing rock, in a rocky area away from the shoreline.

There is a cavity between the two sections, which was probably created by erosion.

There were many other boulders in the site, but the only possible structure was this rock stack.

The location of structures is as interesting as the structures themselves. Unlike Sand Harbor (6/18/2014), this steep area was probably not a Washoe summer camp.  The map at the Washoe tribal website indicates migration through this area in the fall for acorn collection. The natural and human-altered stone structures could have been landmarks for this migration.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Low Water

Here I am back at  South Watuppa Pond, which is certainly not as clear as Lake Tahoe. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I returned to the large turtle effigy I have shown previously (7/31/13).

The back of this turtle has a few deep grinding slicks, which were probably used for acorns. 

The shallow clear water reveals a small collection of  hand tool sized stones in front of the turtle, forming a small circle surrounded by larger rocks.

It is tempting, but I resist the urge to move them. Perhaps this is where the Native women kept their grinding tools, or someone left donations for some forgotten purpose.
     On a rock besides the ring reposes a deceased clan member.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

It is a good bet that anyone reading this blog has seen this view of Sand Harbor, either as travel advertizing or calendar art.

Sand Harbor is part of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the Northeast shore.  This naturally sandy area has wide beaches framed by dramatic groups of massive boulders.  Despite being a state park with lots of parking lots, restrooms, and a restaurant, Sand Harbor shows many signs of previous use by the Washoe tribe.  There is a great deal of information by and about the Washoe, including a downloadable booklet, at their tribal website here . The Washoe spent the summers along the shore until they were displaced by the 49ers in the gold rush.
     One of the attractions of the park is a boardwalk nature trail over the sandy peninsula that points west.

Near the end of the peninsula stands this massive boulder supported by two large stones resting on another boulder.

Not far from this is a large boulder with two or three prominent grinding scrapes.

It is well known that there are many mortars and slicks along Lake Tahoe.  However, there is no mention of propped boulders.
     When I visited the park, I sat on a bench to watch some daredevils jumping from the boulders in the first picture.  I noticed a large pine cone resting in a small depression on top of a boulder near a lifeguard chair.
When I investigated, I found a perfectly round mortar about 8 inches across and 2 inches deep.

Here is the propped boulder I showed last week.  It is along the shoreline south of the boat launch.

The foot has a somewhat concave shape, perhaps from centuries of water erosion.

And here is another possible propped boulder in the center of the photo.

Note that there are three apparent propped boulders at this site.  This is consistent with the "corners" of three propped boulders I have noted in RI.  There are also mortars and grinding scrapes in this site, indicating this was a campsite.Undoubtedly much more was lost when the park was developed.
     There are also a couple of stone rows in a sandy space between the boulders. 

Perhaps it was once the base of some sort of fish weir.  The stains on the boulders indicate the lake is often higher.
     Standing in water at the boat launch are five  monumentally large cairns. 

These show clearly in satellite imagery.  There are three in a row under the Lake Tahoe caption, and two to the left, with a boat pointing towards them. 

Note how the lake bottom around the three cairns is free of rocks. These cairns were  probably created by  channel clearing for the  boat launch. So many details in a small, heavily utilized state park!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stone Structures of Lake Tahoe

     I just returned from vacation at Lake Tahoe and Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Lake Tahoe is a place where  rocky slopes meet water, and is known as the summer campsite of the Washoe tribe. While at Lake Tahoe, I noticed many stone structures resembling those in the Northeast.    It is always amazing to see these structures in the western US.  First I will start with a small site, and show the larger ones in later posts.
     The northeast shore of Lake Tahoe is relatively undeveloped.  On an early morning, I stopped at the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park visitors' center. The shoreline at this part of the lake is a jumble of massive granite boulders with occasional sandy areas.

On the little nature path  between the visitors' center and the shore is this boulder containing at least four mortars.  I dug the sand out of one.  There was nothing mentioned about this in the path guides.

Later in the morning, I rented a kayak at the Sand Harbor boat  launch and followed the shoreline to beyond the visitors' center.  This is what a saw just a few steps north of the boulder with the mortars: a massive boulder propped on two stones.

Here is another view.

Even the oblong shape is similar to that in the northeast. And here it is, partially blocked by another boulder, in a photo taken facing north from near the boulder with the mortars.  I recognized this while reviewing the photos later.


     As I returned to the boat launch, I was thinking it was  coincidence that a mortar was near a boulder resting on two stones in the jumbled pile.  Then I saw this sight that convinced me there were deliberately made stone structures at Lake Tahoe.

 I will show this large site in the next post.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In the Frozen Swamp

Here are two interesting, manitou-like structures in a swamp overshadowed by a rocky slope.  These pictures were taken in winter because the swamp is impassable in warmer weather.  Up on the rocky slope is what looks like a manitou standing on a platform with rocks wedged underneath.

This looks like it was constructed for a purpose.  There's no obvious agricultural use.  Since it's uphill from a stream, perhaps it was a hunter's stand or lookout.
     On the ground in the swamp and further downstream is this structure, which also looks like it was constructed to fill a purpose. Perhaps firewood was stacked against it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rolling Rock

     Rolling Rock in Fall River is always an incongruous sight,  a massive puddingstone boulder surrounded by three-deckers and traffic. The pedestal it stands on was once part of a large outcrop that was quarried away.  There used to be a deep pit in front of it that was the scene of drownings until it was filled in.

     Old maps show it as  a landmark, on the main trail which ran from the falls of the Quequechan up present-day Pleasant Street,  County Street, and then to the Narrows.  An  old campfire story claims Rolling Rock was used by the Wampanoags to crush their prisoners.  While this is possible, I doubt this story.  There are many  gruesome descriptions of torture written during King Philip's War, but  not a single one describes a balanced boulder used this way. Could these rocking stones have been used for some sort of tribal rite of passage?  Perhaps, but no evidence is found.

       Mavor and Dix had their own interpretation of Rolling Rock in Manitou.
     "We imagine that the boulder could have been used as a signalling device, as rocking it in sunlight about its axis, which is oriented ten degrees true, would cause changes in reflective patterns when seen from the east and west."

      Using a large stone as a visual signalling device is most likely ineffective, because someone has always to be watching for changes, and it won't work at night.  Also, from the Quequechan Falls to Rolling Rock is about two miles, as is the distance from Rolling Rock to the east shore of North Watuppa Pond.  Any changes in the rock would be hard to pick out, because it would appear quite tiny at that distance.  Rocking the boulder may have generated loud sounds and vibrations through the ground, which could have been used as signals.  Rolling Rock has been fixed in place since the 1930s, so there is no way to test this.

        Or maybe the significance of this stone is simply that it rocks.

     I have often wondered how Rolling Rock looked originally.  Here we may take a walk past the rock and down to the falls on a warm summer day.