On more than one occasion folks told me I had a gift for telling people where to go. That was the initial catalyst for my writing of travel related books and feature articles.
However, there was more to it than that. There was also a passion for sharing discoveries made on the road less traveled and what encouraged me to take to that road in the first place.
|Old bridge on ?|
On occasion the encouragement is simply derived from having an unseasonably warm day, the accompaniment of my dearest friend, and a tank full of gas in the Jeep That was what led to yesterdays exploration and discoveries.
For more than thirty years I have hiked the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains around Beale Springs, the site of Fort Beale. However, until yesterday I avoided the area around US 93 that cuts through Coyote Pass nearby.
The initial idea was to drive to the site of an old pumping station discovered on our hike along the the three mile Fort Beale loop trail several weeks ago. From there we would walk deeper into the canyon.
The road was rough and rocky but not quite severe enough to require the use of four wheel drive. Shortly before arriving at the pumping station site, almost within spitting distance of the new four lane highway, I noticed a road cut into the hill side that seemed to be far more than a mere ranch road.
I could have negotiated the sand wash that truncated the end but as we were there to walk, chose to park instead. The road was wide and showed no sign of being paved. Remnants of a cable and post guard rail system, and then the discovery of a small concrete bridge, led me to believe this was an early highway alignment, possibly US 466.
As we rounded a bend, near the summit of the pass and directly behind a rocky knoll that hid the new highway, was another, much improved alignment directly to the left. Neither showed signs of ever having been paved.
Then, immediately below the summit, the old road we were walking on, was severed by the newer alignment, and just past that the new highway. But, to the right, traces of an even older road that had been erased by the road we were on was visible.
Here was a very narrow cut and a set of deep ruts worn in the stone. This was a wagon road, perhaps the Beale Wagon Road or a segment of the Hardyville-Prescott Toll Road.
We prefer the quiet of the desert on our outings but this warrants a return visit even though it is close enough to the highway we can feel the heat from the exhaust of passing trucks. Details will be shared.
With this as a lengthy introduction lets talk about books, in particular historic books that provide depth to an exploration as well as incentive for expeditions. An excellent case in point in would be the now classic work by Jack Rittenhouse published in 1946.
His guide to US 66 is being reprinted and is a favorite for fans of the legendary double six. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0826311482&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrIronically, it has sold more in recent years than it did when the highway was the Main Street of America.
Another excellent title that is being reprinted is By Motor to the Golden Gatehttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0786419407&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, written by Emily Post and published in 1916. Years ago a friend gave me an original copy found at a yard sale.
I have had the privilege of using the book to seek out older sections of road in New Mexico and Arizona. The infamous La Bajada Hill section of the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66 north of Albuquerque is given a different perspective when you are navigating in a Jeep and Emily Post notes it was the best section of road yet encountered in New Mexico.
My first practical application of historic books to locate old roads and to provide context for ruts across the desert came when I was working on ranch in the Mimbres River valley of New Mexico near the ruins of the Faywood Hot Springs Resort. I discovered the book written by James McKenna, in the vast library of http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0873801423&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrthe main ranch house and for months a copy of Black Range Tales was kept carefully wrapped in my saddle bags when I spent my days off exploring the ruts of the old Buterfield Stage Line.
Later, when the book was reprinted, I obtained a copy and carried it everywhere. It took me to the ruins of the mining camps in the shadow of Cooks Peak, to lake Valley, and to Kingston.
If you want a good, first person account of life on the western frontier it would tough to find a better book than this. Moreover, if you plan on adventures in the area of Silver City in New Mexico, this book makes for an excellent travel guide.
My personal library has a wide array of original books from the pre 1920 era that chronicle adventures on the frontier, on the road less traveled before they became highways and then forgotten traces, and in the evolution of the American society as it transformed the western wilderness.
Fortunately many of these are now being reprinted. Even so, the titles and subject matter remain somewhat obscure.
Take Tales of a Pathfinder written by A. L. Westgard. Often overlooked, Westgard was the modern equivalent of Kit Carson or Daniel Boone. His automotive adventures and mapping expeditions were epic and laid the ground work for the development of Route 66, the http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B004FTK8XQ&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrNational Old Trails Highway, and countless other early highways and auto trails. Imagine this, more than 10,000 miles, by automobile, mostly in the southwest, in 1909 and 1910!
Expand your horizons. Look for books by the early trail blazers, and plan adventures on the road less traveled.
As I learned Sunday, even on ground that has been covered, there are surprises to be discovered.