Around and About By: R. N. Novey 600 Words Track Rock Petroglyphs Over 3,000 years ago, a Cherokee Indian, perhaps a young boy on his first hunt, paused beside a boulder in Track Rock Gap. He ran his fingers over symbols carved into the rock by hunters who came before. Although the spring sun warmed his face, the surface of the soapstone remained cool to the touch. His index finger traced a bird, the symbol of a spiritual journey. Beside it, someone had carved the tracks of a bear, above that, a circle with a cross pointing in the directions of the four winds. The Indian recognized the symbols as the history of his tribe, the first carvings etched long before his birth, up to the most recent carvings, still fresh and jagged to touch. The symbols depict actual events as well as hopes and dreams for fertility, bountiful hunts, and clement weather. From his pouch, he pulled a sharp stone that he usually used for skinning small game. Tapping it with a larger rock, he chipped his first contribution to the symbolic history of his tribe. Maybe he carved a tribute to their successful hunt, or perhaps a plea for future bounty. When the elders arrived, they paused and one by one looked over his shoulder. Some smiled, some patted his back. All were pleased to see the young man continuing their traditions. The Indian was surprised how easily his skinning stone dug into the surface of the soft soapstone. He continued carving until the elders were rested and ready to move on. He stood, then ran his fingers over the lines he had carved into the stone. He wondered if someday he would look over his future son’s shoulder and watch him tap a symbol into the same rock. Maybe even his son’s son would someday come through the gap and seeing the carving, remember his grandfather fondly. He smiled to himself, pleased that some aspect of his life would live on long after he was gone. Today, over 3,000 years later, you too can climb the short stub of a trail leading to the same soapstone boulder. Five other boulders beside it are also covered with symbols. The best estimates date the petroglyphs to the Archaic Period (8,000 to 1,000 B.C.). Archeologists are uncertain about the exact purpose or meaning of the carvings. They may have been the playful graffiti of Indians out on a hunt, or possibly part of a vision quest or fertility ritual. The carvings have been smoothed by time into barely discernable dents and dips, but like radio signals beamed out through space to unknown life on other planets, these simple marks have traveled through time, linking two civilizations. Their exact message is lost and perhaps no longer important except to remind us that life did exist before sandwich shops and grocery stores. People hunted these mountains to feed their wives and children. They braved bitter winters without benefit of propane heaters, or even houses. The Cherokee Indians lived in harmony with the mountains, their bare feet leaving no more noticeable tracks than the animals they hunted. The Track Rock Petroglyphs are located between Blairsville and Young Harris off U.S. 76. Turn south onto Track Rock Road. A couple miles down, the steel cages protecting the stones will be visible on your right. Just beyond the stones is a small grass parking area. Follow the path back to the stones. The next time you find yourself sitting on the couch, trying to get motivated to clean the garage, head to Track Rock Gap instead. Stand beside boulders that have measured time in stoic silence. Wonder about the Indians who carved messages that traveled thousands of years through time.