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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Care Package From Mr. Barbecue


The Bride returned from a trip to North Carolina, seeing family, with a Care Package for me! There will be good eats on my trip next week! My favorite Carolina Barbecue place! If I ration myself, this will last almost a year.



Thanks for visiting.

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.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

All Hail To The Class Of 1952


During the last week of August I participated in another Passport In Time project. The purpose of this project was to find evidence/artifacts related to the 1849 migration of pioneers from Arkansas to California on the trail that came to be known as the Cherokee Trail. The area we were searching, with metal detectors, was a very remote area in Wyoming along the border with Colorado. The closest town to our search area was Laramie and it was about 35 miles to the east.

On the third day or our search I found the high school class ring pictured above. It was about three inches down in the dirt in a wooded area. In the picture you can plainly see the “G” on the top of the ring, presumably indicating the school’s name started with “G”. On the panels next to the “G” is engraved the class year of 1952 and then on the panels to the outside of the class year are the initials C P which is presumably the initials of the owner. In the same general area we found horse shoes, mule shoes and wagon parts but nothing else modern except a few empty rifle cartridges. How the heck did this ring get there and who is/was the owner?ring5

Artifacts found on these projects are normally recorded and then left in place unless they are historically important. This ring certainly is not historically important but I was intrigued. I’ve heard a lot of stories of metal detectors finding and returning personal property to owners who thought their prized possession was long gone and I wanted to give it a shot. The Forest Service Archaeologist agreed to let me keep the ring for a while and try to find the owner….who, if she were still alive would be about 76 years old.

To make a long story short, I have contacted every public high school in Wyoming and Colorado that starts with the letter G. Amazingly, all were able to check their records and tell me that there was no girl student in the class of 1952 with the initials C P. I also checked but found no private high schools in Wyoming or Colorado that started with the letter G and was active in 1952. Finally I contacted the manufacturer of the ring, Josten and was told that their records do not go back 58 years so that was a dead end as well.

I don’t think I’m prepared to check out every public/private high school in the remaining 48 states so unless I can think of another option I will return the ring to the Forest Service Archaeologist. She will either archive it or perhaps take it back to where I found it and rebury it for posterity.

I thought it was a noble idea and I realized when I started that it was an extreme long shot for me to successfully find the owner but it was a fun project. I was amazed at helpfulness of each high school I contacted after I told them the story of how I found the ring… C P who ever you are, your ring has caused many people to think about who you are and where you are and what your life was like. Where ever you are, I wish you the best!

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Alive and Well

It has been a very long time since my last post. I guess I should have posted an explanation but to tell the truth I’ve been very busy and at the same time a bit burned out on writing for the blog. I’m happy and healthy and have been “adventuring” quite a bit. The adventures have included several more Passport In Time projects, a vacation with The Bride in the Black Hills and several metal detecting expeditions. I can’t explain why but the blog seemed to become more like work than fun and I’ve decided to take a hiatus for a while. Hopefully the “urge” will return as I’ve really got some good stories to tell….In the meantime here’s some random pictures from the past couple of months.

guanella black1

cherokee1 black4

chero2 guanella3


Thanks for visiting


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