Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chilly In Santa Fe


It’s Wednesday and I’m in Santa Fe. While it’s chilly here is way warmer than I’ve had it the last few days. I left home on Monday morning just ahead of heavy rain and wind in the Denver area. I travelled south to Walsenburg, CO and then across La Veta pass and into Alamosa, CO. Just before getting to Alamosa I saw an ugly looking cloud bank ahead of me and by the time I pulled into the Safeway gas station in Alamosa it was snowing  pretty hard. My destination was about 50 miles south of Alamosa but out in the boondocks on a primitive Forest Service road and I thought long and hard about continuing…..but I did.nm2

By the time I had gotten that 50 miles south the snow had disappeared but the primitive dirt road I needed to traverse was very wet and slippery/muddy. My original plan was to go about six miles on this road but I chickened out and after about a mile I pulled off on a flat spot right next to the road. They say that “discretion is the better part of valor” and in this case it saved my butt. On Tuesday morning when I drove the rest of the way to the area I was going to search I realized that if I had gone much further I would have gotten stuck big time. I dodged that bullet but there was no way to dodge the cold and wind. For two days the wind blew at a steady 15-20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. Last night the temperature got down to 19 degrees and the high yesterday was about 40.

The wind and temperature made my metal detecting search for remnants of the west fork of the north branch of the Old Spanish Trail somewhat challenging. Besides the wind and cold, digging artifacts was difficult because the ground was frozen until about noon. In spite of the conditions, I had a great time. I only saw two other vehicles in two days. The area I searched is private land and has been used as a cattle stop over until very recent times. That meant that the area was loaded with modern trash. I spent a lot of time digging up tin cans, barbed wire, fence staples and all manner of modern stuff. I didn’t find anything that would date to the 1830-1860 time period but I did find artifacts from the 1880ish time period. The picture below shows a piece of a wood stove with a patent date of 1879. I also found a hand forged  carriage bolt which probably would date to the late 1800’s. On the other end of the spectrum, I found a 1960 penny. nm4So I didn’t find anything in the era I was looking for but in searching for that stuff I found something a lot older.

While on the north side of the property I saw a few prehistoric basalt lithic flakes and thought it was interesting that with all the modern activity in the area there was still evidence of prehistoric natives to be seen. In the afternoon I went to the south side of the property much to my surprise I stumbled on a large prehistoric quarry.

A prehistoric quarry is an area where the ancient natives came and collected rocks that they could shape into tools. In the southwest those rocks can be chert, quartzite, obsidian, jasper or a number of other minerals including basalt. This quarry was a deposit of basalt and covered a very large area. The ground was littered with rocks that had obviously been broken or knapped by man. The ancients didn’t make tools at this site but they obtained the raw material to take with them and at some later point when they needed a tool they would flake off a piece from a “core” and make whatever they needed. From the size of the lithic scatter this site was probably used for thousands of years.

What a great surprise! I spent most of the afternoon wandering around looking at all the scatter and marveling at the fact that some of the stones I picked up were last held by a human being maybe 10,000 years ago!nm6

When I got back to the trailer I tuned in the weather forecast and found out that the temperature was going to get even colder in the next few days…..a low of 9 degrees on Wednesday night.

Long story short, I decided to head south to a lower elevation and warmer temps so this morning I packed up and drove to Santa Fe. I’m staying at the Trailer Ranch RV Resort until Friday morning when I’ll head out to meet up with Guitar somewhere between here and Canyon de Chelly.

Tomorrow I’ll go into old Santa Fe and do some exploring. Tomorrow evening I’m thinking of going to the old La Fonda Hotel because a famous local Western singer is performing in the bar.

Bill Hearne is famous throughout the Southwest and has influenced many country and western performers like Lyle Lovett and Chuck Pyle. I saw him perform once in the Denver area and always wanted to see him perform on his “home ground”. His performance starts at 7:30 and I think I can stretch my normal bed time a bit and see him perform a couple of sets.

There’s still lots of adventure left so check back in a few days.

Thanks for visiting.

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