Following the Trail of History along an Emigrant Wagon Road
Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, 2003
by Kathy Livingston, PIT Volunteer
What a time was had on the Lockhart (Military Pass) Emigrant Wagon Road survey project! We gathered at the McCloud Ranger Station on the morning of June 9, and after our briefing by Julie Cassidy, Richard and Orsola Silva, and Gerald Hoertling, we were off to the forest for our first day of survey. I’m not sure, but I think Richard tried to scare us off by giving us the hard part on the first day. I’m proud to say it didn’t work, and everyone showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning, ready to work.
We started from Algoma and worked west on the first day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone get so excited as I did when the first artifacts started appearing. Even those who were old hands got excited over the first hand-hewn, square-cut nails and ox shoes found. As we worked, Richard Silva filled us in on the historical aspects and value of the trail we were working on. His knowledge and understanding of the subject seemed like a well that would never run dry; it was fantastic!
Richard was constantly on the move from one group to another, identifying and explaining the pieces that we found, then on he went to blaze our trail with more flags so we wouldn’t get lost. Those of us who had never spent much time in the forest environment really appreciated the effort spent by our leaders to keep us safe. Orsola really had her work cut out for her trying to keep up with Richard, marking artifacts, recording GPS locations, and answering questions. It was a good thing Julie Cassidy was such a good manager. She organized everything, helped with the marking and GPS recording, followed a meandering trail of flags, and kept her eye on everyone. We couldn’t have gotten lost if we tried!
The two young adults on the trail with us, Madeline Smith-Gibb and Steven Comfort-Livingston, were fascinated with the history they were learning and proud to be treated as the valued members of the team they proved themselves to be. Their exuberance reminded us of the joys of being young and learning new things. It was very satisfying to see the older adults take time to explain things and teach the younger ones about the history they were helping to preserve. The entire team kept their eyes on the younger ones and made sure they were safe. It is experiences like this that these kids will remember, and hopefully get the opportunity to repeat.
After five days of metal detecting and digging, jumping and crawling over fallen trees, wading through creeks that overflowed their banks, getting hot and sweaty, and then cold and really dirty, you would have thought everyone would be ready to go home. But on Friday we were all reluctant to leave the trail. Richard said “just 5 minutes!” and took off over a creek with most of us right behind him and Orsola shaking her head; she knows Richard’s 5 minutes! After we checked out the other side of the creek for just over 14 minutes, we headed back to the ranger station, and everyone enjoyed trying to categorize and identify pieces they had found.
No one seemed to be in much of a hurry to leave that day, and we took our group picture with the help of McCloud Ranger District Archaeologist Bill Banek, who was kind enough to take pictures with all of our cameras. We parted with the intent of staying in touch and seeing each other at future PIT projects, and who knows . . . maybe back at the Lockhart Emigrant Wagon Road next year!