Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Search Of The Old Spanish Trail – Again

Back in May I participated in a Passport In Time project down in Tres Piedras, NM. The purpose of the project was to look for artifacts associated with the West Fork of the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail. We didn’t find a whole lot in the area we searched but the local Forest Service archaeologist told me that if I ever wanted to come back and do some searching on my own, I was welcome. That invitation has been simmering in the back of my mind ever since.

Now that the regular season of PIT projects is over, I’ve been looking for an adventure that would allow me to enjoy the fall weather and the simmering in the back of my mind became a boil. A few weeks ago I pulled out my reference material related to the trail and started re-reading some of the historical diaries that pertain to the section of the trail around Tres Piedras. These diaries include that of Don Diego de Vargas who came through the area in 1694 and Juan Bautista de Anza who traveled the same route in 1779. Both diaries clearly describe passing through an area north of Tres Piedras, between San Antonio Mountain and the San Antonio River at a place de Vargas called “the narrows” and this place is clearly visible on Google Earth. The picture below shows why de Vargas called it that. Anyone traveling north or south is funneled between the slopes of San Antonio Mountain and the canyon that the San Antonio River flows through.narrows

Several weeks ago I contacted the Forest Service Archaeologist to see if I might be able to metal detect on Forest Service land in the area circled on the picture above and continue the search we started in May. After a few days of back and forth with the Forest Service I was told that I couldn’t unless the archaeologist was with me and he obviously already has a full time job. Rats! What started out as a pretty cool adventure went to you know where in a hand basket.

I’m desperate for an adventure however and started working on another angle. In the picture above you will see and arrow on the top side of the area I wanted to search. The arrow points to a bit of private land in the midst of all the Forest Service land. The land, about 80 acres belongs to a land trust and is part of an old patented claim that ranchers used to stop off cattle for the night on a cattle drive further south. This section of land may very well be the July 13 noon camp for Don Diego de Vargas and his expedition in 1694. The de Vargas diary describes watering the animals on the river and this is the only area for miles where the canyon walls allow access to the river.

To make a long story short, after a lot of research I was able to locate the land trust that manages the land and asked permission to search for artifacts. They were quite nice about it and graciously gave me permission. Adventure on!

To add to the adventure, I’ve been wanting to go to Canyon de Chelly for a long while now and since I’ll be over half way there on this trip I decided to add this stop to the adventure. I’ve also talked Guitar into meeting me there.

So here’s the scoop. I’ll leave the Denver area on Monday and spend about 3 days boondocking and metal detecting in search of the Old Spanish Trail. On Thursday or Friday I’ll head to Farmington, NM to reprovision the trailer and will then head to Canyon de Chelly and meet up with Guitar on Saturday. I’m not sure what I’ll do on the return trip. A lot will depend on the weather. If it’s nice maybe I’ll continue the adventure to Utah and Bryce Canyon or Capitol Reef National Parks???

This is gonna be good so stay tuned!

Thanks for visiting.

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