Traipsin’, tradin’ and explorin’

We’ve been reviewing the 1776 adventures of an exploration trip led by the Fransciscan fathers Atansio Dominguez and Silvestre Escalante. The purpose of their trip was to establish an overland connection between New Mexico and missions in California. The fathers’ successful endeavor created what became known as The Old Spanish Trail, important to Pagosa Country history because it crossed the Caracas area in southwestern Archuleta County. We closed last week with the group still smacking their lips after satiating hunger pangs with the flesh of an unwary bison.
While traveling northwest in Utah, they next came upon the Green River, which they named el Rio de San Buenaventura, and Split Mountain, which they described as follows: “Here it has meadows abounding in pasturage and good land for raising crops, with facilities for irrigation. It must be somewhat more than a league wide and its length may reach five leagues.
“The river enters this meadow between two high cliffs which, after forming a sort of corral, comes so close together that one can scarcely see through the opening through which the river comes.”
They camped off the Green River near present day Jensen, Utah. At a stand of six cottonwoods, Lain carved his name in one of the trees, with the year 1776 and a large cross and two smaller crosses. Heading southwest from Jensen, the expedition noticed fresh horse tracks which they determined to be Comanche following a Ute bison-hunting party.
After a hard day’s ride, they camped at Horseshoe Bend on the Green River. Later, they headed west to what is now Myton, where they found ruins of a pueblo. Continuing westward, they camped near Duchesne, Fruitland and Soldier Springs. The route from Jensen to Soldier Springs was Highway 40, roughly along current U.S. 40.
Motter: I hope the reader is sensing the excitement I suspect these adventurers felt as they marveled over each new landmark. I personally have followed this route and shared their enthusiasm. I suggest the reader do the same.

This story was posted on April 7, 2019.