Petroglyphs: Making Your Mark & Sending a Message

Ancient Washo Petroglyphs: Donner Summit, California

Up on the top of Donner Summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California, you can see some ancient Native American petroglyphs. They're along a winding road called Old Highway 40 and were made by the ancestors of the Washo People.

Ancient Petroglyph: Donner Summit, California

Created by chipping away at bedrock with a hammer, these petroglyphs are estimated to be 1500 to 4000 years old. They're faint and hard to see, and so I've enhanced the spiral above. Still considering how much snow falls up on top of the summit and the erosion that must occur, it seems pretty amazing to me that we are able to see any traces.

Pacific Railroad Tunnels: Donner Summit, California

Hiking a little farther up the ridge, I discovered the abandoned tunnels from the Pacific Railroad and some examples modern-day petroglyphs.

Graffiti in Pacific Railroad Tunnels: Donner Summit, California

It's so fascinating to see how we leave our marks. As human beings one of our essential needs is to communicate and for centuries we have making these kinds of lasting marks by creating pictures on stone.

Graffiti in Pacific Railroad Tunnels: Donner Summit, California

Whether chipping away stone or taking spray paint to cement, there is something entirely satisfying about sending a personal and perhaps sacred message into the future.

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