Chimney Rock Interpretive Association schedules potluck

By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) invites community members to attend its monthly potluck at the Ross Aragon Community Center on Thursday, March 14, at 6 p.m.

A presentation will be made by local researcher Peggy Bergon about the arborglyphs she has been documenting in the San Juan National Forest for the past 30 years.

Arborglyphs are a unique mixture of folk art and historical documentation, irreplaceable records of who was on the land and when, a record that may not exist anywhere else. Peggy’s collection consists of over 4,000 photographs of these carvings.

During the later part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, large numbers of sheep were raised in Colorado. The sheep herder, away from loved ones for months at a time, expressed his loneliness and boredom on the vast canvas around him, the soft white bark of the aspen tree. These carvings are known as “arborglyphs,” a term which literally means “tree writing.”

Shepherds would carve into the delicate aspen bark using a fine penny nail or the tip of a knife blade. The most skillful carvers used a light hand, creating the most graceful and long lasting of the carvings. Only a slight incision was made on the outer layer of the bark, not damaging the tree. Frequently, the designs were not visible for years as the tree healed with a blackish scar.

Visions of home, hearth and missed loved ones adorn thousands of trees all through the forest. Those remaining are dated from the early teens to the 1950s. Due to the relatively short life span of the aspen (80-120 years), a significant number of carvings are being lost to age, disease, blow downs and fire.

CRIA will provide coffee, water and soft drinks. Anyone who wants to help with set up should arrive around 5:30 p.m. If anyone can stay and help clean and put away the tables, it is much appreciated.

CRIA operates in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. View the CRIA website at, or call 731-7133.

This story was posted on February 28, 2013.