Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life. -Rachel Carson
According to the Wilderness Act,
A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
The signing of the Wilderness Act in 1964 gave the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service cause to review their lands in order to propose some of their holdings for wilderness. Later, in 1976 when the Federal Land Policy and Management Act became law, the Bureau of Land Management was required to do the same. Originally at nine million acres the size of our designated wilderness has grown tremendously. Now throughout the United States of America, thanks to Zahniser et al, the Wilderness Act, and its National Wilderness Preservation System, we can enjoy nearly 110 million acres of wilderness.
“…within which we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment – areas of wild nature in which we sense ourselves to be, what in fact I believe we are, dependent members of an interdependent community of living creatures that together derive their existence from the Sun.” – Howard Clinton Zahniser, The Need for Wilderness Areas.
Remember, wilderness must stay wild, and some regulations exist. We will guide you through your adventure and make sure we do things right. Basically, you leave the machines and pets behind. Don’t deface or remove artifacts from archaeological sites because you can be fined and jailed. Campfires are generally not allowed. Peaks and Canyons Wilderness Trekking will keep group sizes small to minimize impact. Leave No Trace principles and Ethical Backcountry Archaeology guidelines will be followed.
Ethical Backcountry Archaeology Guidelines
When in archaeological sites one must remember that other people visit these wonderful places as well. Those who come after you want to see things as natural as possible, which means you should leave things alone, and you probably want to see them in as natural a state as well. Hopefully those who came before you thought of you in the same way.
Here are some guidelines from the land administrators to keep in mind for everyone’s happiness.
- Advance reservations are recommended for overnight use.
- Visitor count per day is limited, and depends on the area.
- Don’t walk on middens, as erosion and damage will occur.
- Do not cook or camp in alcoves containing ruins.
- Minimize impact. Stay off walls and rock art. Leave artifacts in place. Keep pets out.
- You are trusted to be a site steward so future hikers will have access and enjoyment.
- Follow Leave No Trace principles.
Leave No Trace Principles
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, aka Leave No Trace, founded in 1994, is a non-profit organization that educates people on proper outdoor behavior. Essentially, you should minimize your impact as much as possible. If you think you probably shouldn’t do something, don’t do it. If you think your actions would be approved by all the nature around you, go for it.
Here is some sage advice to follow from LNT.
It is believed that the initial Paleo-Indians to occupy the Four Corners region were of the Clovis and Folsom cultures dating to approximately 10,000 years Before Common Era (BCE). Having crossed over to North America from Beringia at the end of the last ice age proof of their existence was first found in the form of projectile points in Clovis, NM and Folsom, NM. Further proof of their existence has been uncovered in east central Utah around the San Rafael Swell and along the Green River. There are several suggestions that the North American Paleo-Indian came from various world regions including the Iberian Peninsula, Monte Verde, and Pedra Furada with possible Solutrean culture ties to distinct ancestral roots. Nevertheless, the Archaic Indian would undoubtedly follow circa 7,000 BCE.
The Archaic period brings us into a time when we see the recession of a cold climate coupled with greater vegetation growth. This was important as the environment drove a behavioral change in acquiring subsistence dictated by floral and faunal adaptation. Basketmaker I (BMI), part of the archaic, had an extremely long run from 7,000 BCE to 100 BCE replete with familial bands migrating into and within the southwest almost as a cosmic swirl. Hunting and gathering methods changed as the population grew drawing a greater circle of extended family into communal activities. Developments in woven domestic wares, home building, and the beginnings of agriculture define the transition to BMII.
At about 100 BCE the BMII culture became prominent and the end of the archaic period was defined. Simultaneous to this period the Hisatsinom creation myth begins at roughly year zero. The Hisatsinom (Hopi for Ancient People) spoke of a time when they emerged from underground coming out of ever-lessening degrees of darkness. During this time they started to settle down and develop plots of land in good quality soil for agricultural purposes mainly consisting of maize and some squash. Various pithouses all around the Four Corners region including Chaco Canyon were constructed from deep to shallow, foundations from log to rock, walls from mud to jacal to log, and central fire pits with subterranean storage cists. These people continued with gradual improvements over approximately 700 years when around 600 Common Era (CE) they earnestly began making pottery of durable quality and taking steps toward a more refined lifestyle.
BMIII emerged around 550 CE and lasted until about 750 CE. Cradleboard cranial deformities are still nonexistent dating from BMII times. Intellectually there was a great surge forward in social integration and personal expression. Artistically, more elaborate weavings were created. Socially, more interconnectedness was expressed through the development of larger pit structures as antecedence to kivas. A key location where we see the emergence of these people is in Mesa Verde. Worthy of note is the introduction of the bow and arrow that lent greatly to game capture and territorial defense. Further, nitrogen fixation through cultivation of legumes such as the bean contributed greatly to crop yield and protein supplementation. This was truly the dawn of an emergence.
Figuratively this emergence into Ancestral Puebloan I (PI) was a coming up as if through a sipapu from approximately 700 – 900 CE. The construction of granaries, above ground storage and dedicated activity rooms, and the materials of which they were comprised improved in quality from jacal to masonry. More people were living communally, and this is shown through larger villages made of jointed masonry rooms on the periphery of kivas. Weaving and pottery took on individual identities. Pottery matured, and we see this in the black-on-white and black-on-red painted styles with a more utilitarian approach to artistic texture being used at the necks of pots. Interestingly enough, however, through the usage of a new cradleboard design infant head shape was again manipulated. It raises the question, why did they feel the need to tightly secure their babies long ago, become relaxed with cradling practices, and then return to constrictive carrying methods? Hopi myth, as with all myth, does not have an empirical start date. But they, Hopi (Hopituh Shi-nu-mu meaning “The Peaceful People” in their tongue), say coming out of the 1st through 3rd worlds was a transition of increasingly less darkness earned by overcoming spiritual and physical hardships while leaving the bewitched life behind and looking to the environment for guidance until they climbed into the light here in the 4th world.
From our current perspective and frame of mind it seems we aren’t able to fully grasp the “Why” of what happened so many years ago, but myth helps us to mold the vessels of the past. New polychrome pottery was brought forth as well as new architecture in field houses with many implications for usage. People believe that the Four Corners ancestors came together inter and intra-clannishly forming communities during times of prosperity. If this is so then why, during PII 900 – 1150 CE when most villages were small and widely dispersed as in the west towards Kayenta, was downtown Chaco being built up to multistory heights with Great Houses, Great Kivas, developed road systems, and a myriad material wealth that required thousands of people thousands of hours each to accomplish? Perhaps in this one locale agrarian runoff capture fed construction of such a scale. Other locales also experienced ingenuity like they never had before. One such place is the Aztec Ruin. At the end of PII these inhabitants moved down from the foothills and at the beginning of 1100 began the intelligent, well-engineered construction of a magnificent site. There was some variation between clans across the regional topography as evidenced through their creations around Chaco and lack thereof around Kayenta. Would this imply anything about clan scruples and mores? Whatever the factors were, be they progressive or passive, an absolutely crucial piece of history must be acknowledged: Oraibi, AZ was settled in 1050 CE by the Hisatsinom – Hopi making this place the oldest consistently occupied community in North America.
By the time PIII, 1100 CE, rolled around everyone was getting on board with the idea that clans should come together, build bigger architecturally, grow more agriculturally, and foster social intricacy. Polychrome pottery gained advances in decoration sporting black, white, red, and orange coloration. More aesthetic goods were flowing in and out of Chaco. Although there was a great deal of continued improvement, it seems as though there was an underlying current of ebb and flow. Migration and relocation was a constant theme in the Hisatsinom – Hopi culture, and at approximately 1150 the people abandoned massive Chaco Canyon. They fanned out widely northwest towards Chuska, north to Salmon, Aztec, Mesa Verde, northeast towards Chimney Rock, east towards Bandelier, and south to Paquimé. Then, almost as soon as they had settled they picked up and disbursed abandoning Mesa Verde, Kayenta, and Flagstaff by 1300 probably as a reaction to the Great Drought of 1276 – 1299.
1300 marked the beginning of PIV, and it is basically defined to have existed until Spanish contact in 1540. During this time migrations headed south and east towards the Rio Grande. Pottery was exquisite with orange and yellow wares and mineral-based glazing. The Kachinas, practically innumerable spiritual figures integral to Hopi life, were depicted in pottery as well. Great plazas were constructed for elaborate ceremonies and large social gatherings. As people coalesced in their migrations the size of the villages grew into towns of multiple clans located close to springs and streams. They intensified their agricultural practices via strategic diversions, waffle gardens, terraces, canyon floor and check dam gardens. According to Hopi oral stories there was much turmoil within clans due to relative prosperity in agriculture that made life less rigorous. Chiefs would recount that their people no longer wished to practice their ceremonies, work their fields diligently, or stay faithful to their partners. This led to a type of self-inflicted destruction of villages aided by neighbors. Subsequent relocation was inevitable as these places of decadence were no longer worthy of residence. As time moved on the clans settled largely in a few places resembling a crescent across the southwest comprised of Hopi Mesa to the west, Zuni to the southeast, Acoma still further southeast, and from there to the northeast on the Puebloan Rio Grande where Spanish contact was made.
Of course there were environmental factors that drove migration, but what about external tribal influences as well? The Najavo (Diné or Naabeehó in their tongue) would sometimes threaten the wellbeing of the Hopi. The tribe pushed from the north filling the topographical void while Hopi were looking for their next good plot of land moving south and east toward the Rio Grande. It is interesting to note, however, that Anasazi is a Navajo word for the Hisatsinom which means Ancient Enemy, Navajo is a Tewa morph meaning Takers of the Planted Fields, Se’da is Tewa for Ancient Ones, Apache is the Spanish morph of the Zuni word for Enemies, and the Navajo and Apaches are related as Southwestern Athapaskans having been the last to migrate south from the Bering Strait and arrived in the Four Corners region in the late 14th century from different angles. Conflict was present during this time more than ever before, and it wasn’t about to stop. In fact, it really hasn’t since the Anglos arrived.
The Spanish came in 1540, and with the introduction of Christianity by force, the objectification label, “Pueblo,” and the attempted destruction of their spiritual practices, Hopi culture growth was greatly hindered. Natives from the east came west as refugees looking for safe harbor in Hopi villages from the imposing Spanish who brought churches, baptisms, and required labor as penance for savage sin. In 1680, however, the Pueblo Rebellion sent a message loud and clear that the Hopi way was not to be destroyed. This act of self-appreciation has stood the test of time. They adapted as they always had while integrating foreign systems that worked and maintaining those essential to cultural preservation. The Hisatsinom – Hopi were a devoted and disciplined people who, with the ever-spiritual mind, would remember to ask oneself along the journey, “Why are we here?” May the Peaceful People way live on.
Between 1870 and 1880 San Juan County had 7 formal mining districts created: Las Animas, Bear Creek, Eureka and its sub-district Cement Creek, Ice Lake, Mineral Creek, Mineral Point, and Poughkeepsie. There is a rich legacy that floats above the peaks and fills the valley floors seeping from the box canyons of these mighty mountains, and from 1860 to now generations have witnessed the rush, settlement, boom, bust, revival and reclamation of the inimitable San Juans.
Charles Baker, in the summer of 1860, led his party on an expedition funded by S.B. Kellogg to the San Juan Mountains from Boulder, CO. They came over Cinnamon Pass from the northeast following the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and down to the Animas River where they discovered placer gold at the mouths of Cunningham and Mason gulches. Not much in the way of material wealth was discovered in this entrance to the San Juans at the time, and with the commencement of the American Civil War in 1861 a return to mining in the region would not be seen until 1867.
In the summer of 1870 prospectors French, Reese, and Johnson began the first hardrock exploration at their Little Giant claim through drilling and blasting. In 1871 Mulholland, Blair, and Cook joined with the aforementioned prospectors. With their construction of an arrastra and through the process of amalgamation they produced the first pure gold from hardrock mining in Arrastra Gulch. By 1872 there was great interest in tapping the San Juan riches, and with the addition of the Dunn and McNutt parties the Animas River valley grew in population to about 150. This population growth, however, did not please the natives.
The Hunt Treaty of 1868, which outlawed permanent settlement in the area, was inept at quelling the disputes between the several Ute bands and eager prospectors. 1873 was revolutionary, because Otto Mears mediated the Brunot Treaty with Ute Chief Ouray. The Utes were promised annual interest on a $500,000 trust and that the land surrounding the San Juan Peaks would remain Ute. Political peace was reached and both sides were able to coexist in relative harmony into the future.
After a thirteen-year run of success in mining gold, silver, and lead, and the creation of a rail line down to Durango for large scale smelting, 1886 saw a downturn in revenue. Prices for silver were dropping, and Thomas Tripp, an assayer, proposed consolidating the concentrates out of tailings and thereby reducing the cost of yielding profit. This tactical move proved beneficial, yet temporary for the county, when the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed reinvigorating silver’s value. This reinvigoration was dashed almost immediately in ’93 when a lack of faith in the new silver system, President Cleveland’s attempt to stave a depression, and Great Brittan’s move to the gold standard caused international upheaval.
After a few years the national economy had regained its footing, and mining companies were able to renew their efforts thanks to the bolstered confidence that investors were feeling. By the turn of the century San Juan’s population had risen by nearly a third in a decade from 2,300 in 1890. Over the next fifteen years certain obstacles such as labor union strikes, costs of production, and valuation of refined product existed, yet all were overcome through determination and ingenuity. A particularly ingenious man by the name of Louis O. Bastian introduced flotation. As WWI continued on his method was employed to extract from ore the elusive remaining metalliferous material that helped companies provide the metals our country needed.
WWI was decided and our economy’s pace was relaxed finding San Juan County well explored without product demand during the 1920s. Prices for metals dropped and many jobless people departed due to industrialized mining and milling processes that left little need for hands in an economy that did not require the fruits of their labor. More than a third of the county’s population relocated leaving fewer than 1,700 when in 1910 3,000 resided within its lines.
As our nation reeled on the turbulent waves of the Great Depression President F.D. Roosevelt brought the Gold Reserve and Silver Purchase acts into law, and so mining around Silverton was brought back to life. Jobs and money flowed again along the Animas River Basin. Solid work and profitability were returned. San Juan was delivered out of The Depression and into WWII during which the Shenandoah-Dives, Highland Mary, and Pride of the West contributed the most from San Juan County running their own concentration mills and processing ore from other companies.
Following the war there was a time of great prosperity and consumerism. Many people no longer wanted to live the hardrock life, and younger generations simply did not show up to replace the dwindling elder miners. The Paley Commission encouraged international mining with other countries in order to avoid their allegiance to the Soviet Union. And, internally with mostly stagnant metal prices, there was little incentive to continue mining in a region that was thought to be tapped-out.
From time to time a mining resurgence occurs in the San Juans, but not like in the days of old. 150 years ago men braved the mountains and their inclement weather while keeping uncertainty at bay all in the hopes of realizing a dream to strike it rich. Fortitude, industriousness, and tenacity: These are the characteristics that defined the mountain mining man. With steadfast hearts as hard as the rocks they milled the miners have provided the wealth of resources we now rely on today.
Wilderness First Responder
A Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is awarded to a person who has demonstrated the ability, through written and practical examinations, to handle emergency situations in the wild. A WFR is focused in providing effective first-line pre-hospital medical treatment and rescue where municipal resources are not available. The course is rigorous, physically and mentally demanding, and serves as a standard by which people in the backcountry can feel confident. We are certified Wilderness First Responders with adult and child CPR credentials trained to handle many backcountry emergency situations.
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know which type of trekking experience you’re looking for. From the canyon floors to the mountain tops of the Four Corners wilderness we have you covered. Give us a call or drop us a line so we can serve you.
American Hiking Society: http://www.americanhiking.org/
Anasazi Heritage Center: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ahc.html
Big Agnes: https://www.bigagnes.com
Canyonlands Natural History Association: http://cnha.org/
Durango Magazine: http://www.durangomagazine.com/
Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum: http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/park/edge-of-the-cedars-state-park-museum
Friends of Cedar Mesa: http://www.friendsofcedarmesa.org/
Great Old Broads for Wilderness: http://www.greatoldbroads.org
History Colorado: http://www.historycolorado.org
Osprey Packs: http://www.ospreypacks.com/
Peaks, Plateaus, and Canyons Association: http://ppcaweb.org/
Public Lands Interpretive Association: http://publiclands.org/
Rocky Mountain Wild: http://rockymountainwild.org
San Juan Basin Archaeology Association: http://www.sjbas.org/
San Juan County Historical Society: http://sanjuancountyhistoricalsociety.org/
San Juan Mountains Association: http://www.sjma.org/
Further Sources on Webpage Writings