Even the most imaginative physicists agree: we can’t travel back in time.*
But we can trace the trails and walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. People have been tromping around on this big ball of dirt for a few million years now as it zooms along in its orbit around the sun. Nowadays hip earth travelers practice “Leave-No-Trace” protocols, but it wasn’t always that way.
On New Years Day my friends Annie and Dee and I, along with our respective furry friends, traced the tracks of some early migrants to El Dorado County. Dee is a historian and has a passion for walking on old wagon train trails, and Annie knows all of the backroads and special places of the Eldorado Forest.
Between the two of them they’ve probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know about California history and landscape! But I’m good at finding my way through the woods. Well Lyssa is good at it, and I’m good at following her. (When in doubt, follow the dog.)
Our destination was a piece of the Carson road between Iron Mountain Road and Union Hill, in the rolling foothills and forest east of Jenkinson Lake. Dee had some old maps and reference material from previous forest archeaologists, but mostly we just had to look around for road-like impressions in the dirt, or perhaps some grooves in a boulder that might have been made by wagon wheels, or an artifact such as a cutoff nail or an old blaze on an old tree.
For me it was a great excuse to be out wandering around the forest on a beautiful day! If we found some object or clue suggesting someone else had wandered the same ridge 160 years ago, perhaps on an equally beautiful day, perhaps with equally wonderful friends and their furry companions, it only added to the magic.
Much of the trail has been chewed up by logging operations and OHV enthusiasts, especially at the beginning near the paved road of our era. Someday I hope the forest will reclaim all of the tracks!
Knowing that the emigrants liked to travel on hilltops and ridges so that they could see where they were going enabled us to find a lot of clues to suggest that we were following pretty much in their footsteps. Sometimes we just followed the dogs.
In the end it was a really beautiful, fun day. Oh, and we did find this: a hand forged nail from the 19th century.
That was cool! I took a picture of it because we had to leave the nail where we found it. Dee dug a little hole and buried it like a seed in the soil to inspire a future generation to remember those who walked here before them, and to honor those who will come later. I hope it grows.
Have a good hike, Shirley
*Unless of course you have a time-turner