Thursday, May 4, 2017

Old Spanish Trail through San Juan County.

While the Hole in the Rock Pioneer Trail is seen as the most famous in Southeastern Utah, another trail paved the way, so to speak, through San Juan County.  The Old Spanish Trail began (1826) as a trading route between Santa Fe, New Mexico to California. In 1829, a second route developed to avoid the Mojave Desert, and travel through Death Valley instead. Either route, travelers had a miserable time of it; bandits loved it though, since California was getting rich. 1931 saw the development of a route through SE Utah to trade with the Ute tribes, and eventually end up in Salt Lake City before continuing to California.  This trail system was recognized as historical by Congress in November 2002 (Bill S. 1946); President George W. Bush signed the bill in December 2002. 

Map from Moab Happenings Article:

There is a lot of attention focused upon the more central to southern ends of San Juan County, mainly Blanding to Monument Valley.  What happened to the northern sections?  Oh yes, there is Canyonlands National Park, but as editor Bill Boyle, of the San Juan Record, pointed out recently, Moab gets most of that attention.  Whether the Bears Ears National Monument continues as is, sized down, or totally rescinded, the world now knows about San Juan County, Utah.  Travelers will be wanting to see what all the hoopla is about; human curiosity will win out and they will come.  So, what does Bears Ears have to do with the Old Spanish Trail?  People are reading up on the area, whether via travel guides, or online, and they are asking about both.  Being in the tourism industry, I talk with people, so can verify this statement from personal experience.  For those who have no idea where the Old Spanish Trail can still be followed in San Juan County, let me give you a few hints.

Peters Wash Road (County Road 108) parallels the Old Spanish Trail; the trail eventually continues across Lisbon Valley Road.  CR 108 is also the route to find beautiful Macomb Arch which was not named after a local rancher.  This arch of Entrada sandstone was named after Captain John N. Macomb of the Corps of Topographical Engineers; sent to Utah in 1859 to create maps of San Juan County, determine the potential for mineral mining and survey the course of the San Juan River.  The area around Macomb Arch offers plentiful hiking, ATV-ing and 4 wheel driving; staying on CR 108 will eventually bring one to White Rock and Lisbon Valley Road.  Lisbon Valley Road has a formation called Big Indian Rock which looks like a brave with his squaw and child; Lisbon Valley is also an anticline similar to San Rafael Swell.

 My dog Jenna and I sitting below Macomb Arch.
White Rock
Big Indian Rock on Lisbon Valley Road

However, following the Old Spanish Trail will keep travelers going north on Highway 191 until they reach Kane Springs Rest Stop, just around the corner from Hole N’ the Rock tourist attraction; and yes, we’re still in San Juan County.  Kane Springs was a major water stop on the Old Spanish Trail; pioneers would fill up on water, while cowboys moving cattle could provide water to the animals and themselves.  While hiking around the area, I found a set of brackets set into the sandstone; could this have been part of a water system from long ago?

Time to be aware of the entire County of San Juan, not just 1.35 million acres; the world knows and it will come.

Since Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and this article is of the Old Spanish Trail beginning in Mexico; how about a simple recipe.  Why is May 5th a huge celebration in Mexico?  It is actually not Independence Day for Mexico; that occurred on September 15, 1810 when Mexico told Spain to go "stick it"; just like the United States told England back in 1776.  France decided it wanted to invade Mexico and were told, "I don't think so!” and that is what Cinco de Mayo is truly about.

Tamale Stuffed Peppers


4 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or green) – tall and wide
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 (8 oz.) package cornbread mix
½ cup whole kernel corn
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 cup salsa
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup water


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut tops off of peppers; remove stems; remove pith and seeds from inside peppers. Either keep tops to place on top of stuffed peppers, or dice up and add to filling.

In a large mixing bowl; combine ground beef, cornbread mix, corn, beans, chili powder, cumin, salsa and milk. Stuff each pepper, leaving ¼” space from top.

Place the stuffed peppers inside a round baking dish; they should be able to stand, and hold each other, upright. Combine salt with water and pour into bottom of dish, but not over the tops of the peppers; cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes; uncover and bake additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour