Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Ancient Footsteps

Through my involvement with the Montana Wilderness Association I recently got to visit a wonder of history and nature, hidden out in the open in our eastern wildlands.
A short climb up to a butte which offers sweeping panoramic views of the prairie all around.  Endless blue skies and expanses of grasses, sage, wildflowers, and cactus rolling away as far as the eye can see.
But, that's not all.  There  are also dozens of well preserved petroglyphs etched into the stone walls of the butte.  I'm told it was a favored site by a number of different native tribes because of the advantage of such a expansive view of the surrounding area, especially for hunting and defense.
Horse and rider with rifle and second human figure with spear.
The BLM ranger I was hiking with said most "aren't that old," probably mid-1700's at the earliest.  Some show the natives with rifles which helps to date the carvings.  That seems plenty old to me, but I know what he means.  In the scale of my lifetime they are old.  In the scale of the plains it is still quite new.
Horse and rider with spear and shield.
Same three figures as above, but show in a group as they were carved.
Horse and rider with spear and probable bison.
Closer view of same horse and rider.

Same horse and rider with bison (left) within the larger panel of carvings including a teepee (center bottom) and coup stick (right).
Even still, the whole place gave me the feeling of walking in the footsteps of the ancients.  The stone is weathered smooth in many places by the winds and rains.  The water run off from the walls of the bluff results in fascinating little divots at the base of the wall--each perfectly cone-shaped.  The stone also offers fabulous peeks into the geologic actions of long gone seas and violent uplifts that have shaped the place into what I found in this present day.  Particularly when one of your hiking companions is a geology buff, as was the case when I went.
It was truly extraordinary.  I felt so honored to be there.  To see it.  To be a part of it, in my own small way. I was quite awestruck by the experience.

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