Next was a tour of the West Fork Trail of the North Branch of the OST, starting at the landform sculpture just east of Del Norte. Ken and Suzanne Off told the kids about this National Historic Trail, and the two corridors which run the length of the San Luis Valley (SLV), skirting the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the San Juans. Atolè, the corn meal drink of travelers of that time, was served and most of them enjoyed the unusual drink.
The Old Spanish Trail was used from 1829 to 1848, as an official trade route between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California. Woolen textiles, woven in Northern New Mexico, were traded for strong Californian mules and horses. This trail then became the Old Conejos Road which settlers used to conduct business in Conejos County, before Rio Grande County was established in 1874.
A report from the kids noted, “we were startled when we saw the cart tracks [from the Old Conejos road] and how rugged the folks must have been. Standing out on the lonesome land and looking around at a whole lot of nothing made us all realize what great survivalists and problem solvers these early travelers must have been.” The talk then turned to “how easy we have things, running water, wind-proof and warm shelter, cars that go 70 mph, TV and so on.” The kids wondered if they could have “made it on the trail.”
Their teacher, Robin Blankenship of Earth Knack, teaches primitive skills throughout the year and the students have been learning how to start friction fires (rubbing two sticks together-no matches), how to use maps and a compass, and how to navigate by natural landmarks and patterns, the sun, the moon and the stars. They have studied how to make rope from plant fibers and how to identify local plants for medicinal and edible uses. They have also studied Spanish History and the history of the SLV throughout the year. Our thanks to Robin, her assistant Jessica Martinez and the kids for adventuring on the Old Spanish Trail with us.
For information about the local chapter of the OST @ http://www.museumtrail.org/old-spanish-trail.html or contact Ken Frye, President of La Vereda del Norte Chapter, at 719-657-3161, firstname.lastname@example.org or Suzanne Off 719-657-2350, email@example.com or the National Association @ www.oldspanishtrail.org. We have many interesting , educational and exciting events planned for the future. This is more than a Southern Colorado Trail, it is 2700 miles of three braided routes traveling through 6 southwestern states.