Saturday, May 29, 2010

To My Fallen Brothers

chris clearwaters                                                          Chris Clearwaters

joe eubanks                                                                       Joe Eubanks

carter howell                                                                         Carter Howell

rick repole                                                                       Rick Repole

We were classmates for four years. We were friends and brothers. We went to war together. You did not come home. Your sacrifices helped me come home. Even after forty years I still think about you often. You Wore The Ring.

Rest in Peace.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Passport In Time Project

Passport in Time It is shaping up to be a busy summer. I just received word that I have been selected to participate in this PIT project in NW Nebraska in mid June. This will be one week before the Gold Mine and Mill Restoration PIT in SW South Dakota so I’ll be gone from home for two weeks in a row. I’ve also applied for a few more PITs in July, August and September. More on those later.

In the project description dates are listed B.P. That stands for Before Present.

Hudson-Meng Excavation 2010

June 7–13, 15–20, 22–27, 29–July 6, 2010 (including weekends)

Must commit to one full session; may participate in more

Passport In Time volunteers are invited to excavate at the Hudson-Meng site, located in northwestern Nebraska. Research at Hudson-Meng in the 1970s identified a Paleoindian bison kill site associated with the Alberta culture, dated to over 10,000 years ago. Subsequent research (1990s) suggested that more than a single "kill event" may have been responsible for the formation of the initial site, and identified what appeared to be a second cultural component over the main bone bed. Investigations from 2005-2007 identified this second component as Paleoindian and belonging to the Eden culture (ca. 9400-9000 B.P.). Further research suggests there is also a third cultural component above the Eden level. The recognition of two additional Paleoindian levels above the original bison bone bed raises a host of new research questions and opens the door to exciting new discoveries about how ancient people lived in the Hudson-Meng valley.

Volunteers at Hudson-Meng will have opportunities to participate in the excavations, work in the lab, or even be involved in a variety of interpretive programs at the site. Excavation will occur primarily along the southern edge of the bone bed, at a second location to its southeast, and inside the enclosure building. Volunteers interested in lab work will be processing screen samples. The samples contain small fragments of artifacts: bone, snail shells, charcoal, and seeds. All will need to be sorted from the larger matrix of calcium carbonate fragments. The data provided from the project is absolutely crucial to understanding the history of human occupation, site formation, and changes in local environment that occurred at Hudson-Meng. Join us this summer for another exploration of the Hudson-Meng site!

Number of openings: 24 (6 per session)

Special skills: Excavators must be able to kneel for long periods, climb ladders, and work in hot outdoor conditions; Lab technicians must be able to see small details and be able to sit for long periods of time; prior excavation, archaeological interpretation, and/or lab experience helpful, but not required

Minimum age: 18 years old

Facilities: Tent and RV camping on site at developed campground; field kitchen; restroom with showers and flush toilets; drinking water; limited electrical and water hookups available; volunteers responsible for camping equipment, food, and transportation; volunteers may also elect to participate in a communal food budget ($10/person/day) and share in cooking/kitchen-duty rotations

Nearest towns: Crawford, 17 miles; Chadron, 37 miles

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Plover Patrol – Last Part (5/23/2010)

Yesterday (Saturday) was terrifically windy. I’m talking constant wind of 35-40 mph with higher gusts. The wind was only one weather factor. The temperature made it to 94 degrees and that combined with the wind made it a less than ideal day to be outdoors. I did do three or four circuits of the nesting area but I didn’t walk around nearly as much as I had been doing. The water on the lake was so rough that there wasn’t a boat to be seen so I didn’t have to worry about boaters wanting to picnic on the nesting beach.
After my first circuit early in the morning and before the wind started I took a ride out into the country. This part of Colorado was in the heart of the Dust Bowl in the 20’s and 30’s and the utter desolation of the area was chronicled in Timothy Egan’s book “The Worst Hard Time”.

The countryside looks a lot better than it did during those hard times but there is still plenty of evidence of it left in the form of abandoned homesteads and prairie school houses. A lot of these buildings were built with local stone that was quarried locally. The picture to the left shows the remains of a prairie school that was named Good Intent School.

The wind thankfully calmed down today….for most of the day. As I write this however, it has picked back up to 35-40 mph. I guess I’m not going to be able to grill that steak I was planning on having for dinner tonight!

Anyway, I was able to spend more time doing my “patrol” and watching the birds. After one circuit I sat down and listed all the different birds I had seen this week. The count was over twenty with a number of them being birds that you just don’t see every day including Burrowing Owls, Lark Buntings and Pelicans….yes Pelicans, in Colorado!

On one circuit I also saw this “little fella”. I’m quite sure he has lots of brothers and sisters in the area and I’m really surprised I didn’t see more of them.plov13 I did not however, go looking for them.

Tomorrow morning I’ll pack up and head for home. I have two weeks at home and then I’m off for two Passport In Time projects back to back so I’ll be out for two weeks. More on that later.

Thanks for visiting.

Plover Patrol - Part II (5/21/2010)

plov5 The last few days have been relaxed and interesting. The weather has settled down a bit and we’re on a warming trend. The forecast calls for mid 80’s today and mid 90’s tomorrow with just a small chance of rain or severe weather.

My days are a semi-regular and relaxed routine of driving to the nesting site every couple of hours and checking to make sure that nothing unusual or threatening is going on at the site. While there I watch for the birds and walk around the perimeter of the site. As a volunteer I’m not allowed to go into the site itself but stay at the perimeter. I normally spend an hour to an hour and a half watching and walking around. Then it’s back to the trailer for a cup of coffee, lunch or whatever.

Yesterday I was with the area biologist for a while and he took me into the nesting area a little ways so that I could get a better view of the Plovers. I really feel fortunate that I was able to get that “up close and personal” with such a rare bird. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me so I didn’t get a good picture. I did get some pictures late in the day yesterday but they were shot at several hundred yards and the camera was hand held. I tried to do some computer magic on the pictures but there’s only so much you can do. The picture to the left is of a nesting pair. Keep in mind that last year there were only 12 individual birds in Colorado and this year only 10 are accounted for so the picture represents one fifth of the entire population of these birds in Colorado!

You will note that the sign at the top of the post also mentions the “Least Tern” this is another rare species. This species is on the Federal and State “Endangered” list which is a more critical designation than “Threatened”. I’m not sure I understand how the classification works because there are many more Least Terns in Colorado and the US than there are Piping Plovers?? I’m sure the government has an explanation though. I was able to see a number of Terns today but all were in flight and I couldn’t get a picture of them.plov9

Yet another unusual bird I have encountered is the Scaled Quail. These birds are not listed as “Threatened” or  “Endangered” but the Sibley Guide calls them “uncommon”. I was told that a severe winter several years ago almost wiped them out completely and they are just now beginning to re-establish themselves.

This area is really a mecca for birds. In addition to the rarer ones I’ve mentioned here I’ve seen dove, catbirds, fly catchers, oriels, swallows, sanderlings, ravens, turkey buzzards, grackles, robins, ducks, pelicans and a host of others.

There is a group of about 20-30 turkey buzzards that hang around the lake next to my campground. They appear to be very social and a couple of days ago I saw about 15 of them roosted in the same tree. In the afternoons when the wind starts to blow they climb into the wind and glide around in a group of 20-25. This afternoon while watching them I thought they looked like a flight of bombers just looking for a place to release their “loads”.

Two more days for this project and I’m headed home. These next two day could prove to be busy as the campground is filling up with campers and boats for fishing on the weekend. I also received a call today accepting me for another Forest Service, Passport In Time Project. This one is in June, in Nebraska and will make the second project I have accepted for June. More on that after I get home.

Thanks for visiting.

John Martin State Park & Plover Patrol (5/19/2010)

I left the Denver metro area Tuesday morning and headed for southeast Colorado. John Martin State Park to be exact. The park is about 20 miles east of Las Animas, CO and what that means is that I don’t have a whole lot further to drive to get to Kansas, if I want to.

plov1I arrived in early afternoon and was told that I could take the Camp Host site which is nice because it’s the only site with both electric and water in the entire campground. The Host has not taken up residence yet for the summer season. The campground sits right below the dam for the reservoir and it’s an eerie feeling to look up from a camping spot and realize that there is almost 100 feet of water just on the other side of that wall…over your head.

More eerie things happened as the evening approached. First the wind started absolutely ripping through the campground. My trailer was really rockin & rollin! At about 6:30 pm one of the park rangers came by and said that there was a storm 20 miles to the west with a potential tornado in it and everyone in the campground needed to go to the restroom/shower building for safety. For the next two hours the few campers in the campground stood around the restrooms looking at the sky and listening to the park ranger’s radio. Luck was with us as we got wind but nothing else. We could see that about a half mile north of the campground they were getting rain/hail/lightning but fortunately the tornado did not appear. The wind continued until after 9 pm before it finally quieted down for the evening.

At about 5 am this morning the wind started again and it rained…..poured, for about four hours. My Plover Patrol was not starting out very well! At about 10 am the local Division of Wildlife biologist showed up at my trailer and without much ado we headed out to survey the Plover Nesting sites.

Before I go any further I need to clarify exactly which Plover I’ll be patrolling this week. In previous posts I have called it the Mountain Plover…Wrong. On arriving here I was informed that the bird of interest is the Piping Plover. This bird is classified in The Sibley Field Guide to Birds as “rare” and listed by both the Federal Government and Colorado as “Threatened”.

As we drove to the first site, the biologist told me that there are only 12 confirmed Piping Plovers in Colorado. The total US population of this species is only about 2500 birds.  All of the Colorado Piping Plovers are right here in this small area of the state. Of the twelve that are known to be in Colorado, I saw six this morning in between rain showers. I wasn’t able to get a picture of one of them this morning because of the weather but hopefully sometime in the next couple of days I’ll get a good picture to post.

All of the nesting sites have been cordoned off by the biologist but “fun seekers” plying the waters of the reservoir have been disregarding the signs and ropes and have picnicked and camped in these areas. My job over the next few days will be to visit these sites several times a day. If I see any human activity I’m supposed to contact the local DOW enforcement officer by phone and not approach or even speak to the people violating the restricted area. In between my visit times I’m free to do whatever I want and I have a list of some local places I’d like to visit so hopefully there’s more adventure to come.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Keeping House & Ladder Lady

Two weeks ago I posted that I had a long hard week of it while our new countertops were being installed. Readers will remember that a plumbing leak did damage to the wood floors at that time. I had a week to recover and enjoy a Forest Service, Passport In Time project in New Mexico and returned a week ago. This past week was consumed by the flooring contractor sanding and re-finishing the wood floor and then after he was done the carpet cleaner came to do the carpets in the house.

The floor guy took two days to do his stuff and during that time the kitchen was off limits. I managed to put a few food items in the small bar refrigerator in the basement and that took care of breakfast and lunch for me. The Bride and The Emmer picked up eats for breakfast and lunch at their respective work places. Dinner was at the local Ruby Tuesday’s.

The worst part of having the floor re-done was the smell that permeated the entire house after the first, sealer coat was applied to the floor at the end of the first day. It was a heavy solvent smell that gave me a headache even with the windows open. Had I known how bad the smell was going to be I might have made arrangements to sleep in the RV that night. Fortunately, on the second day the water based finish coats were installed and that neutralized the smell. The floor guy finished up late Tuesday and the carpet cleaners weren’t scheduled until Friday so I had two days “off”.

mxt My Forest Service project last week caused me to start thinking about getting a better metal detector. The one I used for the project, I bought about 5 years ago and while it’s an OK machine, it is definitely an entry level model. I was thinking about upgrading to a more sophisticated machine. There happens to be a store that sells metal detectors in Golden, CO, about 30 miles from here so first thing Thursday morning, I headed there to check things out. This store was a real big boy toy store and by the time I left, I had a brand new White’s MXT with me.

Thurdsay afternoon I took it for a spin at a local park that I had detected before with my old detector. I had found a few coins with the old detector but it was tough going and for every coin I found, I dug up 5-6 pop tops or other assorted trash. The new detector was amazing. Within one hour I had dug up 13 coins and very few pieces of trash. Yesterday afternoon I went back to the same park and spent a half hour detecting before the rain chased me away. In that time I found another four coins. I’m looking forward to getting to some older sites now and finding some interesting old stuff!

Thursday was also furniture moving day in preparation for the carpet cleaner. As I was moving the furniture around I thought about how nice it would be to be finished with all of this “house work” and getting back to normal. I think “normal” has been postponed because when the carpet guy did his thing on Friday he told me that the two year old carpet was in need of re-stretching. When we had the carpet installed two years ago they made it a point to point out that their guarantee covered any re-stretching needed during the life of the carpet….I guess they knew they weren’t going to do the job properly to start with. So after my trip next week volunteering for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I guess more “house work” will be on the schedule.

In a few minutes The Bride and I will be leaving to pick up Ladder Lady at the airport. She will stay with us for a few days and then she and The Bride are going to California to visit with our daughter, Cajenn. When they return, The Emmer will accompany Ladder Lady back to North Carolina and visit with here there for a week before returning to the Denver area.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Mother Nature,

snow1 Shouldn’t you be in the Southern Hemisphere by now? I’ll pay your plane fare to get there if you will leave IMMEDIATELY!

Your worn out friend,



Sunday, May 9, 2010

To The Mothers of My Life


Happy Mothers Day! I would not be what I am without you….



Thanks for visiting.

Old Spanish Trail PIT – Part 2


It’s Friday evening and  the Old Spanish Trail project ended at about 3pm this afternoon. For the three days since my last report we have been tramping around sage brush plains and Ponderosa Pine forests searching for any evidence of the Old Spanish Trail. This particular piece of the trail was used between 1694 and the mid 1800’s but it’s exact location is yet unknown. Oh, we have a pretty good idea of the general area but the specific piece of ground that served as the historic “Interstate” remains elusive.pit6

Three days and we probably searched about 4 square miles. We had no problem finding evidence of 100+ year old logging operations and even older railroad crews cutting trees for railroad ties. The area is also littered with prehistoric Native American rock tools, arrowheads and flakes but evidence of human activities in the 1694-1860 time frame were almost non-existent. I say “almost” because today, the last day of the project, we had the find of the week. One of the group located a Spanish spur rowel. The rowel is the round thing at the back of the spur and the design of this piece is relatively easy to place and sometimes date. The rowel that we found today is definitely a Spanish design and it is hand forged so it’s pretty old. How old exactly can’t be determined without some laboratory work.pit7

The other artifact we found that possibly is of the target time period is a piece of a metal arrowhead. Originally the Native Americans made stone arrowheads. After contact with the Europeans, the Native Americans obtained metal and made metal arrowheads. Later still, they acquired firearms but the metal arrowheads were used from the 1700’s to the mid 1800’s. Take a good look at the picture above. Now consider that 20 people searched about 4 square miles and found these two pretty small artifacts buried in the ground…Amazing!

We worked hard but the sheer beauty of the country made the trekking and digging and wind very worth while. Did I say wind? Yesterday the wind blew HARD. Hard enough to knock you off balance if you weren’t paying attention. The weather shamans said that there were gusts of up to 50 mph and this time I believe them. The Ponderosa Pine forest helped dent the wind somewhat and some of the time it was warm enough that I stripped down to a T-shirt. The wind could not dull the smell of the sagebrush. The wind could not lessen the beauty of the blossoming Pasque flower. In short, the wind was a minor inconvenience in an incredibly beautiful place. pit8

Metal detecting is hard work. It’s more intense than just walking and looking at the ground. You swing the detector left and right while walking and listening for the magical beep that means you need to get on your knees and start digging.. Swinging takes energy and muscle power that  I don’t/didn’t have to last the whole day. I kept it up however, and after six hours of swinging I had a pretty sore arm, (note to self: need to exercise arms more!) but the experience of holding an artifact in your hand that a person, a human, held in his or her hands 100 years or more ago in the same exact spot is …is…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s almost religious.

OK, getting too deep here. It was a wonderful week. I had the opportunity to explore an area of the country that I had never seen before. I was able to meet a lot of great people including a teacher from Australia, a retired Naval aviator, a policeman from California and a lot of other retired folks like myself. We didn’t find positive proof of the trail we were searching for, but we helped the Forest Service narrow the search somewhat. I’m hoping that the Forest Service will repeat this project next year because I really think we were close to finding that positive proof. If they do repeat the project you can bet that my name will be on the application list.

Here’s some more pics of the trip……

pit0 pit11

pit9 pit12

pit13 pit14

I’m home for a week then it’s off to John Martin Reservoir to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife but more on that later….

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Old Spanish Trail PIT- Part 1


Tuesday evening and I’m back in the trailer after a great day of trying to find the west fork of the north branch of the Old Spanish Trail, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Sunday morning promptly at 8 am I pulled out of the Denver area, headed for Tres Piedras, NM. The weather forecast was for afternoon rain and/or snow. I was hoping to get to Tres Piedras before any precipitation started…Not! I did make it south to Walsenburg, CO and across the only mountain pass I would have to negotiate (La Veta Pass) before the precipitation started and when it started, it started as snow! Not only was it snow but it was snowing pretty hard. Great, just what I needed!pit1

I pulled into Alamosa, CO and decided that I had better fill up my water tanks before I got to Tres Piedras so I went to the Alamosa KOA and for $5.00 I took on about 90 gallons of water. As it turns out, this was a good decision because although there is a water spigot here, it is almost inaccessible. I also filled up with diesel at the Alamosa Safeway and with my frequent buyer discount saved over 20 cents a gallon from the cost at the other local stations.

From Alamosa I headed south on Hwy 285 for another 53 miles to the desolate town of Tres Piedras. This town truly is a “frontier” town. The only service in Tres Piedras is a US Post Office. There are no restaurants. There are no grocery stores. There are no stores of any description. To get groceries or gasoline you have to drive over 30 miles to Antonito, Co or to Taos, NM.

Of the 20 some people that are participating in this project only three of us are staying here at the historic Adolph Leopold  Ranger House….the others prefer a bit more civilization. It’s quite scenic and because we start from here every morning I get to sleep a bit longer than those that are staying in Taos.pit3

We have spent two days in the field metal detecting large areas of sage brush high plains and Ponderosa Pine covered hills searching for anything that would confirm that these areas were used  between 1649 and 1850. No luck so far. We’ve turned up some artifacts related to logging around the turn of the 20th Century and we’ve seen numerous prehistoric lithic sites but very strangely nothing in between. Our general strategy is to detect along an east/west axis, perpendicular to the historical route of travel. If we can intersect evidence of the trail somewhere then we will try to follow it.

Even though we haven’t found anything of significance, I’m still having a great time. The weather has cleared and it’s warm although windy. The country is absolutely gorgeous and it’s one of those times I can feel that deep down inside smile in my body……More to come.

Thanks for visiting.


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