Wednesday, February 19, 2014

El Morro, part 1

As promised (threatened?), the photos from El Morro National Monument:

El Morro is a cuesta, a long formation gently sloping upward and dropping off abruptly at one end.

It lies on an ancient trade route between Albuquerque and Zuni, a journey of 150 miles that could take nine or ten days. It had one big attraction for travelers: a sizable pool of fresh water filled by rain runoff and snowmelt.

Sandwiched between the upward pressure from underground forces and the weight of newer rock above, since eroded, the sandstone has developed cracks that gradually weathered into long vertical joints like these. The rock is called Zuni Sandstone, about 170 million years old, and held together by clay between the sand grains  It was never buried so deeply that the sand grains were squeezed tightly, fusing them.

This magnificent Ponderosa Pine was a sentinel at the beginning of the trail to Inscription Rock.

The soft Zuni Sandstone proved to be the perfect medium for carving names and messages. Because the clay is the only thing holding the stone together, scratching easily dislodges the grains from the rock.

 There are more than 2000 inscriptions and petroglyphs here.

This elegant inscription was carved by E. Penn. Long of Baltimore,  Maryland, a member of a US Army expedition led by Lt. Edward F. Beale to find a wagon route from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the Colorado River. The group first passed this way in 1857 but they made their inscriptions in 1859.

Engle, below, was Beale's second-in-command. While the mission was exploring a new route, they were also testing the usefulness of camels, of all things, in crossing the deserts of the Southwest. I learned about the Camel Corps when I was in the area last year. The camels proved to be extremely well suited. They could carry 700-1000 pounds, go days without water, were even-tempered, and would eat anything, even cacti. They were much preferred over the mules that also made the trip, and Beale wrote highly of them. They may have been used instead of mules in further explorations, but the Civil War intruded into Western exploration and the project was abandoned. It's an interesting story.

P. (Peachy) Breckenridge was in charge of the 25 camels in Beale's 1857 expedition. He returned home to Virginia to fight in the Civil War and was killed in a skirmish in 1863.

Many Spaniards wrote pasó por aquí or passed through here. The inscription is translated as On the 25th of the month of June, of this year of 1709, Ramón García Jurado passed through here on the way to Zuni. From the time he moved to New Mexico as a colonist in 1693 until his death at the age of 80 in 1760, he was witness and participant in the Spanish settlement of New Mexico.

This one reads Pedro Romero passed though here on the 2nd of August, year of 1751. The darkening you see here is a misguided attempt at preservation work by early park managers. They darkened the inscriptions with graphite (#2 pencils) so they would be more legible and last longer. The practice continued into the 1930s.

Here are petroglyphs of bighorn sheep. The jagged line to the left makes me think of a river.

Not many women left their mark but here is one exception. Miss America Frances Baley and her sister Amelia were part of a wagon party headed from Missouri to California in 1858. The group followed the route newly surveyed by the US Army, at the time known as Beale's Wagon Road. Just east of the Colorado River, 800 Mojave Indians attacked the 60 Anglo travelers. The Mojave killed nine and injured 17 while suffering 87 casualties themselves. The caravan retreated to New Mexico to wait out the winter in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. The Baley sisters eventually made it to Fresno County, California.

R.H. Horton became adjutant-general of California after the Civil War. In the early years of the war, the California Column, as it was known, was sent to New Mexico to reinforce Federal troops expecting Confederate hostilities. He may have made his inscription as he returned to California.

These inscriptions were made by a crew sent to work on the Santa Fe rail line. Looks like a bunch of engineers, doesn't it?

There was no descriptive label for this carving and I can't make out what's carved inside what looks like a basket handle. Someone went to a lot of work. Were they interrupted, or did they just run out of steam partway through?

Lt. J.H. Simpson, an engineer for the army, and R.H. Kern, a Philadelphia artist employed by the Army as a topographer, were the first English-speaking people to make a record of Inscription Rock. They spent two days copying the inscriptions and petroglyphs and their report shows that not a single English inscription could be found on the rock. Despite their careful duplications of others' inscriptions, note they misspelled their own carving with the word "insciption."

After El Morro was designated a National Monument in 1906, early managers tried to preserve and protect the records in a variety of ways. One planted yuccas that still grow along the trail to keep visitors at a distance. In the 1920s the first Superintendent decided to erease any carvings that were added after 1906 because they were graffiti and illegal. Large smooth areas are visible where they were erased. This is one, close-up example.

I was nearing the end of the inscriptions as I approached this cliff. The photo looks like a painting to me, but that's really how it looked.

A short way on was this view of one of the vertical splits in the rock common at El Morro, and where I stop for today. Next time, a hike over the mesa.

Thought of the day:

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. (Shannon L. Adler)