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Monday, January 9, 2017

Determining the validity of supposed Spanish Carvings on Trees

Determining the validity of supposed Spanish Carvings on 
Old Aspen, Pine and other Trees.

Part One

Since the 1500’s up until even as late as the early 1900’s Spanish explorers have been visiting the mountains of Utah. As a result of these many expeditions in the lust for gold literally hundreds of treasure stories have emerged. The History of Utah according to the teachings of academia would have us believe that the only Spanish explorer that ever came into Utah was Dominguez Escalante in 1776. Little did those who created the historic curriculum for our Utah schools know, but Escalante was merely following some very old trails.

The evidences in the Uinta Mountains and surrounding are many, much of which is kept secret by the finders as they know what they have found but don’t know what to do with it, old newspaper articles and pioneer journals will testify to the many expeditions into the mountains of Utah.

Many of these evidences I have seen for myself and being somewhat skeptical years ago, but thirsty for the truth of the matter, I chose to approach this new hobby with an open mind but each story had to pass my tests of scrutiny.

A Very old and tired Aspen…  my first aspen find
(This symbol simply means, turn around and go one league at 120 degrees)

Many would have us believe that the carvings found on the trees are done by bored sheep herders and are nothing more than doodling and for the most part this may be true. For years I was told and believed the aspen trees will only live to be about 150 years old and therefore cannot bear authentic carvings from a few hundred years ago. One day after finding the tree in the above image, I decided to test that theory by bringing with me a fellow researcher whose job at the time with BLM was land management and in part determining the age of trees with the use of an increment borer.

The above Aspen was barely alive when I first found it in 1999 (Now Dead) This tree dated at just under 500 years of age, not 150 feet from it is another near the same age and bearing a similar carving and as of the summer of 2016 was still alive.

The suspect tree bearing a very unusual and interesting glyph surprised both I and my friend in that the tree dated by core sample as being just short of 500 years old, keep in mind the tree had heart rot and so it became necessary to find a healthy tree near by for comparative sample.  How long the glyph had been on the tree is unknown as there is no way as of yet to date the glyphs on Aspens. The short of this is, don’t believe everything you are told, especially by the so called experts, put it to the test. The following tree is located about 150 feet or more up the old unused but still visible trail.

Note the E.C above the glyph which on other trees was associated with a date in the late 1800’s, it is much more recent than the carving just below it.
(Go one league at 120 degrees)

When I began this new hobby some 17 years ago it molded into and fit nicely with my already love of the mountains and deserts and the 15 years of searching, documentation of and study of the Native American Petroglyphs. I did not know it then, but the study of the Native American petroglyph gave me an edge so to speak in the new hobby.

Since this time I have heard many stories, seen many things and met some very good people and some not so good. I have visited several Old confirmed Spanish mines and many mines thought to be old Spanish mines but historic records tell a different story. How does the finder know and confirm an old Spanish mine to be authentic? If you don’t know by the time you finish the book, this hobby may not be for you.

A few years ago a good friend sent me the following photo, at the time the aspen trees bearing carvings in general had understandably taken quite a pounding by skeptics, and he was a bit hesitant to tell me and I must admit, when he told me he had found some glyphs on some aspens I was skeptical, by this time I had seen many personally and many photos sent to me from those wanting to know if what they had found were indeed authentic unfortunately, all to that point in time I believe were not. At this time I had only seen personally the two above which were found by me, the funny thing is, one of them is right next to a well traveled dirt road and had been traveled many times by many treasure hunters and yet it had never been seen.

Maltese Cross Expedition Symbol with map below it.

This tree using an increment borer dates at 295 years old. Notice how much the tree has expanded horizontally(circumference), the map matches the below drainages found below near perfect.

When I saw the above photo I knew we had a winner, I called my friend immediately and scheduled a trip to the area. What I found most interesting is, according to the “grape vine” here in Utah, Mel Fisher is rumored as to saying that because of “Things” he found on the Spanish Galleon the Atocha, he knew that a majority of what was on the ship when it sank, came from the Uinta mountains, keeping in mind the Atocha sank in 1622. Prior to Mel Fishers passing, it is also rumored by those who sold him supplies that Mel spent two years in Utah looking in certain areas. It is also rumored by the same that his daughter spent two years looking in the same places after his passing. Is it possible the Spaniards have been coming to the area of Utah since the early 1600’s? As far as I am concerned, the answer is yes.

Upon arrival at this site and examining the tree and testing the age of it, it was quite apparent the carving was genuine. We set out covering the area in order to locate what we knew was near by and that is, further instructions. The hardest part was determining which way the trail went as the trail was long lost as the dead fall had long covered it. We knew further instruction waited further up the trail, but which way was up? Common sense says the opposite direction the glyph faced.

Within 100 feet or more we found another tree with a double or split cache glyph, now we knew we had a good direction, another 100 yards we found what we were looking for, a Turtle carved on a tree with other symbols, a heart which would be indication of a Kings mine and further up the non existent trail, a one league symbol.

What had we learned so far? Well we knew it was related to a documented expedition, but which one? We knew now that we had a cache site as well, due to “Other things” found accustom to a cache site and necessary for navigation to find said cache generally found at “certain types” of cache locations. We also knew we had a mine site at least one league away, and it was a Kings Mine.

In looking at this site and seeing where it was located, I knew we had possibly found one of the things Mel Fisher was looking for. A well known map by certain groups which surfaced many years ago is dated around 1770 and covers this particular area, Could it be related? Although it is at this time thought to be impossible to date the actual carving in an aspen we know by the age of the trees they are found on that the symbols or glyphs could be no more than 250 years as the trees would have to be at least 40 to 50 years or more to be desirable enough to use for a carving. These trees were near 300 years of age.

However, was there anything on the map that verifies what we were looking at? Quite possibly but it is not yet confirmed and we are not certain that it can be, but it comes down to “perspective” what exactly did the map maker intend? What was his perception of things? On the map is what I call a cache symbol and in this case a “Split Cache” or two caches. And we have a tree with the same glyph, however from my perception; I had suspected an area a few miles further west when I first received the map a few years before.

Split Cache, or Two Caches

A split cache occurs when one expedition enters an area for mining and for what ever reason is unable to take all their spoils and they are forced to leave a portion and some times all of it behind, I can think of several reasons as to why this happens. If a surplus is left behind and it is a first time cache you might expect to find the following symbol, one found on an aspen and another example found on a pine.

This symbol meaning “cache” and “180 degrees” faces the cache site some 20 feet away which appears to be a collapsed concealed mine tunnel and with a trickle of water coming out from it...

Although I have never made an attempt to prove the above cache, a friend of mine took me serious and made a fair attempt, he says they dug back into the hill where it was evidenced of a collapsed tunnel, it was quite clear we were following a slowly declining tunnel.

Notice the writing at the right of the above cache symbol? Notice the width of expansion of the vertical lines? Now look at the expansion of the vertical lines in the cache symbol, this will give at least an idea of age. By the way, these were made with a single knife blade incision. The date associated with the writing to the right of the symbol is in the 1920’s made by a finder of the tree and likely never knew what it meant.

Cache Symbol on a pine, this tree, now lying dead on the ground and was alive and well when I found it in about 1998. Pine carvings can be dated but I have not dated this one and should before it is impossible to do.

If another expedition follows the next year or even years later by another expedition leader, I am sure he is approached by the previous expedition leader who has interest in the previous cache left behind and swings some sort of deal should he have room to bring it back. However if the following expedition is successful as well having a surplus, or maybe the Indians killed some of their mules and or men both of which are necessary, it will be cached along with the first and stamped with the leaders expedition mark and you now have a split cache.

Apparently the leader of the 1770 expedition knew there was a split cache ahead OR, was the map drawn by him after the expedition as documentation of the charted course? It would likely be the later but we cannot be sure. If the map was his guide into the mountains, was he successful? Was he able to retrieve the two caches?

Here are a few photos of aspens thought to be authentic by some still to this day despite the core samples evidencing the contrary. Some are even regarded as such by a few self proclaimed “experts.”

Gold? Maybe, if carved by someone who found gold after 1950 as the tree was only 50 to 80 years old.

Some times a carving is jumbled just enough where at first glance it would appear to be of a Spanish origin, the following is one found by a self proclaimed expert but no matter what I tried to tell him he would not believe. He is convinced it is an authentic Spanish carving although he had no idea what it said and believed the date to be 1734, he is so convinced that his photo I took using his camera, is proudly displayed on his living room wall. A simple internet search showed that MARVA ATWOOD was alive and well living in the Basin in 1934. Ignorance can be a dangerous thing, be leery of those who beat their own chest.


When trying to make the determination as to whether an aspen carving fits the time frame or any tree with a mark for that matter, Try using an increment borer, you can get them at any forestry supply for $150 to $200. The Aspen does not react to a carving the same as a pine carving. The Spanish usually carved their message in an aspen with a simple splitting of the bark; they did not gouge out wide letters and such. Each aspen will also react to the carving a little different than others however of the majority, the vertical line will simply broaden with time but make sure it was created with a simple incision; if you look close you can see the scar of the original cut.  Look at this example and note how each has resulted differently in its growth.

Now it is presumed each tree just feet from each other was carved near the same time yet look at the differences, Both say BLACK HAWK and it is debated among many as to whether Black Hawk himself carved these some time during the Black Hawk wars. There is no doubt they could easily be from the time frame but did Black Hawk know how to write? It is more likely an indication of the Black Hawk mine being near by. Look closely and you can see the single incision.
Another Aspen with a questionable carving on it is found high on the mountain next to an old trail going up the mountain, it says, IW DP Oct 1736. If this carving is authentic, the tree would have to be no less than 300 years old. Notice the branch that has grown up from the side since the carving was done, it is assumed as such as it would seem almost impossible to carve with the branch present.

The date 1736 is off to the right between the branch and tree.
Notice how wide the W has spread and the growth splits in it, also note the letters stick out from the tree near 1 and ½ inches.

This tree is still in question as I have never cored it, I just can’t see the tree being 300 plus years old, and perhaps I am wrong... When dealing with Aspens the likelihood of it bearing an authentic carving from the Spanish era is slim but, as you can see it is not impossible. Each year that passes this likelihood grows smaller and smaller. When in doubt, core sample the tree and don’t be surprised if the tree has heart rot, if it does, estimate the diameter of the rotted portion, then find a healthier tree near the same diameter as the rotted part and core sample it, add that to the good portion from the suspect tree and this will serve as a good representative example.

UPDATE: This tree died about 10 years ago, I recently went back to try to authenticate it unfortunately all I have to go on is a representative examples, based on this and general appearance, I believe the carving to be authentic, the bark of this tree bearing the carving is now in my possession.

Another trail symbol or glyph is the turtle, many would equate this glyph with a cache and it is in part true, but to be honest it is more used as a trail marker to a mine or cache. There is also what we have come to call a Cache Turtle, found very near the cache, however in order to have a cache turtle, other symbols and things must be present used in navigating the turtle in order to pin point the cache. I wish I could say more.

It has been said that the turtles head points to the cache, this is only true when you find a simple trail marker turtle indicating direction however, if you were to find a cache turtle, I can promise you the head does not point to the cache, again I wish I could say more.

The Turtle

Now the other symbols associated with this particular site have been left out of the photo however notice how the Aspen tree has expanded and distorted the head, if you were not in the right perspective mind, you might just walk right past this one. The trail marker turtle will look very much like this one.

There is more to the use of the turtle than meets the eye, the use of the Turtle used by the Spaniards was adopted from the Aztec, the Aztec used the same symbol to guide their way back to one of their most ancient homes the area of Aztlan, (The Place of the Heron), or Turtle Island, and there is only one place where all of these things are found but you will not know this place unless you really do your research. The Spaniard  equated the symbol in part with wealth likely having been told by the Aztec it was used to lead to Turtle Island or their ancient home. But what the Spaniard heard was that it lead to Gold!

Very seldom if ever will you find an Aztec Turtle, if so it is going to be in the form of a petroglyph, the ancients did not carve on trees by the simple fact that it would be like carving up a part of their mother. Interestingly enough, the highest concentration of Turtle Carvings and monuments made by the Spanish found, is on and around none other than what use to be Turtle Island. If you understand the people who occupied this land before the Spanish arrived by study, you understand the Spanish in ways not thought of.

The trail marks you may find along the old trails are many and it would be impossible to list them all which is not my intent in this work, however my goal is to just open the mind a bit so as to help the reader be ready for what ever circumstance may come and whatever carving they may find so that they can make an intelligent decision instead of relying on a proclaimed expert of which I do not profess, how ever I do like to think I am a good observer and good student. I would suggest getting a copy of Waybill to Lost Spanish Mines and Treasures by Gale Rhoades. The book had become so rare at one point I saw a copy sell for $1100, not long after I paid 300 for mine, recently I saw two unused copies sell for $10. I also have heard the book has now been reprinted. Should you get a copy of the book although I feel it is fairly accurate, question all it says and put it to the test and it would be fair to tell you, the contents of this book comes from an earlier book.

This tree carving was thought to be impossible to find, in fact, when I first saw it, I did not know it was a tree carving because the first I ever seen it was on a map. In going through some of the old maps I had been given to study, this carving was on one that I had taken interest in, however the mark on the map as interesting as it was, (Swastika with a large dot) I did not for a minute think it had anything to do with what my interest was in the map. I called a friend of mine to ask questions about the origins of the map, if anyone would know, he would. None to my surprise he was very helpful in understanding some things about the area and the map.

   Photo courtesy of Stephen B. Shaffer                      as it appears on the map

Surprised by his statements he then told me he had a picture of it and that it was found on an old Aspen 25 years prior. If he had not taken pictures at that time and knew where it was found and which way it was facing, the meaning of it would no doubt be lost for good. Today I cannot express the importance of taking pictures and getting a GPS coordinate and mark it on a physical map. Although there are a few plausible theories as to what this means, Because of where it was found, the direction it faces and other things nearby, It is believed by myself to mean, you are approaching a junction of 4 trails coming together, take the fork to the right to go to a cache, cave or mine, This particular trail without a doubt leads to an old mine but, because this fit beautifully with the part of the map I was interested in, it is my estimate the large dot represents not only the hypothesis of representing a large cave, but also a large cache. In the original photo sent to me, I count 22 bullet holes, of all the things that could possibly happen to destroy something of historical significance, man is the worst enemy history has.

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