Sunday, May 9, 2010

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……

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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.

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