Old Pine Trees with Spanish Carvings
Juniper, Mountain Mahogany
Trail Glyphs and Symbols
Pine trees with carvings would seem pretty self evident but as you will see there is a trick or two you might want to be aware of in your search. Pine tree carvings in many ways are easy to spot but sometimes not so easy to determine not only what it is, but as to whether it is a natural scar on the tree or an intentional carving. Dating these trees to determine the age of the tree is as easy as any tree, but with pine trees you can actually date the carving itself, often times down to within a few years, occasionally this holds true with Aspens as well depending on how it reacted to the carving.
If the area you are searching is covered with pines, if there is in fact an old trail from the past winding its way through the forest and the Spaniard was indeed in the area, you will no doubt find the marking of the expedition on the pines leading to an old forgotten mine or even cache.
The most common glyph found along the trail is the simple trail marker it is a vertical line with a dot above it or below it depending on which way the mine is, however you need to understand that the forest service adopted this same glyph as well as the Spaniard but I doubt those of the forest service knew what it meant and their older carvings identifying forest service trails, can be deceiving.
The reason I have said “as well as the Spaniard” in the adoption of this glyph is, that the Native American Indian glyph is identical in general meaning and it is my belief the Spaniard knew this and adopted it for their own purposes. Earlier I mentioned another glyph that was likely adopted by the Spaniard from the Native Indian or Aztec, that being the Turtle.
In the above image you can see the meaning is near identical, the Spaniard had a definite meaning for the dot being “Mine” however the Native American meaning for the dot was general, it completely depended upon the subject of the panel it was found on, above it is shown as meaning “here”, but this is just one of the many base meanings as it could mean One, Day, or any object. The fact that the dot is disconnected in the Indian Glyph the meaning of “To” comes into play, and the glyph in general says go to here being towards the dot or object intended. If the dot were connected it would be interpreted as from here go with the dot being the point of origin, and in this case the direction would be down or opposite the dot.
The Spanish glyph is much the same, if the dot were on the bottom and you approached this glyph, the mine is in the opposite direction you are traveling. Not often but at times you may find a dot at both ends, if so there is a mine in both directions. If you find the same glyph on both sides of the tree, be suspicious as it is likely a forest service mark and likely a recent carving. Here is an example of a trail glyph in which when you come upon it, you can see the mine is down or back where you came from.
This is the glyph which indicates “Mine is down”, or as you face the tree it is behind you, this particular glyph points at the main shaft of a silver mine that Thomas Rhoades documented in 1863, his pick and shovel is cached nearby.
Now, how do we know this isn’t a natural scar on the tree possibly created by another tree falling and hitting it, or even from a large rock rolling off the mountain and striking it? Well, you don’t always know… Sometimes you just have to weight the evidence because the scar is completely grown over, is the scar facing up hill? No? Well then a rock coming down the hill could not be the culprit. Is there evidence of a fallen tree? No? Then that might not be the cause either. Is the glyph facing you and about eye to chest height as you approached it and is it right next to a trail or suspect trail? Yes? Then it might be what you suspect, however in this case the evidence is clear, look into the scar if possible and look for ax marks such as this one, the marks are clear.
This trail symbol was cut in about 1770, the ax marks are obvious.
Always try to verify the trail glyph with ax marks, never second guess as it can cause you a lot of unnecessary hiking and waste a lot of time, unless of course you enjoy that. Sometimes misinformation and unnecessary hiking has helped me find things I might not have found otherwise.
Now don’t feel bad if you can’t make out the faded one above, it isn’t much easier in person. Here are some examples of trail glyphs on Juniper and Mountain Mahogany.
A very old Juniper Trail Glyph (Well Over 300 Years)
Notice the obvious ax marks.
Mountain Mahogany Trail Glyph, also very old, notice the recent attempt to carve over the original, likely by a
Forest employee. These two glyphs are found on a very old
trail and is now a designated Forest Trail. Where was the trail heading?
Other Symbols, Marks, Glyphs and types of Trees
Like all tree carvings you have to use common sense in determining whether or not they are in fact what you think they are, if it is expedient to know the age of the tree and the age of the carving then take the time to core sample the tree. Here is word of caution, If coring the tree can be avoided, then do so and only core as deep as you suspect the thickness of the overgrowth, ALWAYS find a fresh stick from the same tree slightly larger than the hole your increment borer makes and when you have obtained your sample, placed it into a fountain drink straw for transport and hammer at least 2 inches of the fresh stick into the hole, if you don’t do this the consequences for the tree could be fatal. Rule of thumb, if you don’t know what you are doing, then don’t do it.
There are other types of Glyphs or Symbols you might also find along the trail, but before I go on let me explain the difference between a glyph and a symbol. A glyph is a combination of symbols, a symbol is a single intended mark as in the trail glyphs previously shown with the dot representing Mine and the line representing Trail or Go. The dot is a symbol as well as the line, the two together constitutes a glyph. I am often caught using the terms synonymously but in this work I am trying very hard not to and to refer to them for what they are.
A symbol that you might find at or near a mine or cache is what I call a site mark.
You may mistake it for a trail glyph if you are the Kenworthy types, meaning those who could put horns on a beer can at deer hunting season, and it may be nothing but a natural scar. No disrespect or offense intended to Charles Kenworthy but face the facts, one of his books has created the many types who can read anything they can imagine into what ever it is they are looking at, like seeing shapes in the clouds.
This site “Mark” in the following picture, as it would be properly called because it is not really a symbol, if it is a site mark it will ALWAYS be on both sides of the tree, they are found at or near a location and are used for defining where the intended target is located, they are subtle and perfect for the job.
My good friend and Author of “Following the Legends” Dale Bascom standing next to a site mark. There is a mark just like it on the other side of the tree and another tree just like this one about 100 yards up the hill. The target is between them. Each tree is right next to the almost forgotten and diminished trail.
You will also note that the site mark does not work well by itself and is usually accompanied by a second tree with the same purpose; it is not a new concept that something is more easily pin pointed when two or more perspectives are given and this is the purpose.
The easiest way to navigate and use these marks is to place your finger tips into each side mark and have someone lay a straight sick or pole across your arms parallel to the two marks and the pole should be roughly pointing at the intended target. It works just as if you had a hole clear though the tree and were looking through it. Again don’t forget to look for ax marks whenever possible to validate whether it is man made.
When sampling a tree with the use of an increment borer, the object is to use a borer and bore just a bit more than the overgrowth. If successful and the tree is not suffering from heart rot often found, you will be able to count the rings and determine the age of the tree, one ring per year.
Several core samples were taken of this tree because of the suspect symbol, often this variety of pine after the glyph is made by simply removing the bark, they will sometimes try to repair themselves by growing over from the sides, this one we knew what it was, but had to take several samples for the purpose of defining the original outside boundaries of the symbol now severely over grown. When dating the symbol itself this is an ideal situation as you go to the other side of the tree away from the symbol and determining the total age of the tree, now take a core sample in the symbol itself and compare, this does not work with aspens. By doing this you can get near exactly when the symbol was carved. This one was carved again, near 1770. If this is from the previous mention Expedition which is likely, and because of the distance it is from the former mentioned tree, it begins to tell you just how busy and how far these Spanish expeditions traveled.
Another type of trail marker you might find which is considered as a symbol and not a glyph is the one league mark, (A Diamond). When you find one of these you are one league away from an intended target, one league as you follow the trail, NOT as a crow flies, from your target. Remember, the Spaniards did not have Google Earth. Now at least you know you are on the right track or trail in this case. Here are two examples, one found in a pine and the other is in an
One League Ahead, Follow the Trail.(Pine)
When the above symbol was found we were working a particular site and my friend and best researcher mentioned he had found the one league mark indicated on the map we were working, he took me to it and I failed to see it, apparently I shrugged it off and walked away. 2 years later he mentioned it again, this time it sunk in and I asked, what one league tree? He said the one I showed you 2 years ago; this time when we returned to it I could see it plain as day. The point being, what you don’t see one day, you may see clearly another day, don’t be to quick to shrug things off, I hope I have learned to listen more intently to this friend as he seems to see things the first time, things which most don’t.
One League Ahead, Follow the Trail (