Riding a horse 130 years back in time
It was a beautiful day for a horseback trip to a part of the forest I’d never been to before.We were riding into the lowlands of piñon and juniper, not the deep dark woods of spruce and fir in the high country.It was a trek that almost didn’t happen.At first the local rancher guiding us into this secret spot was apprehensive about our intentions. After all he had protected this place for years and didn’t want its location revealed.Going through a third-party intermediary, he found out we could be trusted to help protect the site and not disclose its location.To help assure him of our good intentions, I didn’t even bring a camera. There would be nothing written down or filed away until we consulted with the Ute Indians we work with. It was their site, and they would help us decide what to do.The forest supervisor was with us, and soon her light-hearted conversation put us all at ease. The trail ride was slow, and we began to enjoy the unhurried time together.In a couple of hours we arrived at the remote site far from any road or evidence of modern civilization.The condition of the site amazed me. It looked as if the Utes had left recently, expecting to return any day. Such pristine remains are rare. Most have been destroyed or disturbed over the last 130 years since the Ute People were driven from this land to their present Utah reservation.Obviously I can’t breach the trust placed in me by giving further details about this special site.The few known places like this left on the 2.5 million acres of local national forest are few in number, a handful of wickiups, a couple of eagle traps, a number of vision quests and that’s about it.The only two rock art panels of painted pictographs I know of are on private and Bureau of Land Management administered land.When we returned from our ride, we thanked the rancher for his concern and care for our public lands. His stewardship is not unique, it’s a way of life for the ranchers I know.Later during hunting season, I patrolled the area near the site with a law enforcement officer.We came across a web of ATV tracks pushing motorized access closer and closer to the fragile site we had visited earlier. The rancher’s greatest concern was also ours. Each year hunters on ATVs encroach into more remote areas. Instead of staying on designated roads and trails, they make their own illegal routes.Someone asked me about the last column I wrote and what my reasons were for not going hunting this year. My reasons are personal, but one big factor is the quality of the hunting experience.Over time I have witnessed more hunters who are not outdoorsmen. They are shooters, willing to drive anywhere and do anything to make their kill.I’d rather quit hunting than be associated with them.Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and concerns with readers every other week.
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