Monday, August 1, 2011

We Explore the Battalion Route on Public Lands, Then I Help the US Give it back to the Santo Domingos

If you look closely at that map from the last posting, the route pretty much follows modern roadways with the glaring exception of that 24-mile, near marathon day from October 20-21, 1846. And if you look even closer, there is one very interesting geometrical configuration, a triangle, the apex of which points sideways, sharply at San Felipe Pueblo close to the number 21, and the narrow base of which is State Road 22 that intersects with the dark, thick line of the route right at another intersection of a broken line that forms the southern boundary of Santo Domingo Pueblo. I thought that might be a point on a map that I could find in real life.

The first time out there with my boys, and there were a few more to follow so I get the trips a little mixed up, I found the spot right on because the diagonal line at the top that intersects with SR 22 is the fence line of the Santo Domingo boundary. Just east and south of that intersection, I pulled over off of 22 and noted that yes, just to the east looked like ruts that went onto Santo Domingo. I did not go that way respecting the Pueblo's land. So I turned to the west on the BLM public lands portion and looked for something on the other side. It was a large, flat space, empty of vegetation other than course grass. I wandered a bit and got over to the edge where it dropped off into some piñon/juniper, and there it was! The old Camino Real that comes all the way up from Chihuahua City to Santa Fe and beyond to the first Spanish Settlements at San Juan, now, Ohkay Owingeh in its original Tewa name.

Mormon Battalion Route south of Santo Domingo, Photo No. 1
The ruts are always easier to see where they dug into some ridge line or bank of an arroyo. Sometimes, on a slope, water will erode the trail deeper making the route more obvious, but also marking the trail by something other than wagon wheels, livestock, and marching feet.

Water erosion on trail, Photo No. 3
With the explorations on the ground, we were able to mark up a fairly modern topographical map with an overlay of the Mormon Battalion route on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The numbered circles with arrows indicate where all our photos were taken. (I have a few more, if anyone is interested.) 

The main problem with this San Felipe Pueblo NE, N. Mex. Quadrangle is that is a 1978 photorevised version of a 1954 map. It shows the Battalion Monument in the wrong place and doesn't even have the Budaghers Exit off the interstate.

And you may wonder, while I was able to explore the trail by foot southwest of Santo Domingo lands, how was I able to mark out the route northwest of that lane without traversing it? Well, even in 2001 there was a little magical thing called satellite imagery on internet maps. I printed out a whole series of those images that clearly indicate the route matching up with what I saw on the ground and the Utah Historical Society map. Nowadays, anyone can do this much more simply with Google Maps. And there's a wonderful site in part sponsored by BLM that gives all kinds of land status information in an interactive form:

Oh, and then I had a couple of flyovers with pilot friends with access to airplanes to confirm the route by air.
Mormon Battalion Route between SR 22 and Galisteo River.
Trail visible roughly parallel with wing strut to the right then veering off farther to the right at top.
One of my best Fourth of July's ever!!! Thanks, Major!!!
You'd think this would be enough. But it kept getting better. I got my hands on that report from BLM, El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro: An Archeological Investigation: The 1990 New Mexico Historic Preservation Division Survey, Michael P. Marshall (BLM 1990) (La Bajada Segments). It confirmed everything we had been doing (only we ended up a little more detailed!)

Then it got oddly ironic. At work I had been engaged in a complex land exchange among the Santo Domingo Pueblo, the State of New Mexico, the Trust for Public Lands and the BLM. We successfully accomplished a transfer of land to the Pueblo of Santo Domingo that included the portion of the trail that we had been exploring. I wrote to the Governor of the Pueblo without revealing any of my federal work involvement to request access to those lands for a Scout commemorative hike. There was no response. I had to find some other way to have another adventure.

So I ran the Galisteo River.

To be continued . . . .

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