Friday, August 8

12 Days Of Vacation

Day 19: Indian Grinding Rocks, CA

Indian Grinding Rocks, or Chaw'se, is a small state park in the heart of California's gold country. It is a quiet place of meadows and valley oaks. One of my favorite campgrounds is located here, as is a small museum dedicated to the native Miwok, easy nature trails, and outdoor recreations of various dwellings. The park showcases several large rock outcroppings pocked with a thousand or so holes. It's a strange sight. If you were blindfolded and led here, you might not guess what they were. As the name of the park suggests, they are mortars carved by the prehistoric people for food processing. The region's oaks provided an abundance of acorns which were ground into a coarse flour. Over generations, the mortars we now see were pounded into the rocks. There are also a few strange curving and geometric petroglyphs, a rare occurrence at this type of site, which probably predate Christianity.

Many times I have strolled or sat among the oaks and imagined what it was like hundreds of years ago. The women would have brought baskets of acorns or pine nuts and spent the day gossiping or singing to the pounding of the rocks. Perhaps the men hunted for rabbit or deer, or practiced other skills. Children must have been like children have always been, underfoot, chasing each other in the grass, inventing games with natural objects or toys fashioned for them by their extended families. In my head I hear the laughter and conversations in a language I don't understand, and I feel a sense of detached communion. I am certain it was not an easy existence, but I believe the Miwok must have derived more satisfaction from their lives than we do now, with the frenetic pace and information overload that enslaves us.

When I was in my early teens, you could walk over the grinding rocks for close up views and enter the roundhouse. To preserve the site and respect the native culture, these are now viewable only behind log barriers. It really doesn't detract from the experience. If you are lucky, your visit might coincide with one the modern day Native American gatherings, which are conducted several times a year and preserve ancient skills, arts, and ceremonial traditions. Be respectful of the land and its people.

Teasers on this trip: Volcano, Apple Hill, Sutter's Mill, Lake Tahoe

1 comment:

rennratt said...

It looks like an incredible place to visit. Very peaceful.