Saturday, December 9, 2017

Stone Age Artifacts in the Colorado Rockies

Remnants of stone walls used by prehistoric hunting groups

Pictograph on stone

Mysterious grooves carved on hillside

One of the great highlights for me while hiking through the Colorado Rockies this past summer was seeing evidence of the Native Americans who once made their livings in the mountains. I'm assuming these were traces of the Ute Mountain Tribe. I felt privileged and humbled to be able to connect in a small way to a group of people who truly must have been some of the toughest and hardy individuals in what we now call the United States. Life in the Rockies must have been difficult. I found it extremely challenging just to travel through it, mentally and physically. Of course, traveling through it is just one component to actually living and thriving in an area. I have a deep respect for these people.

Thru hiking is a lot like everything else in life. The more you do it, practice it so to speak, the better you get at it. I found the longer I was on the trail, the more my eyes were opened. In the beginning of the hike, it was almost hard to believe anyone could make a living in the Rockies. The longer Moosie and I were out there, the more we saw evidence of past peoples. We developed a great respect for the ancient trails we found ourselves walking upon.

The more Moosie and I saw evidence, the more questions we would ask. Why were the people living up here? Were they here out of choice or necessity? What was everyday life like? How did they psychologically deal with the weather extremes? How difficult was the hunt? How many people lived in an area at a time, or how many people could a particular valley or valleys sustain? Were the elk we were seeing descendants of the same herds the Utes once hunted?

Moosie and I both observed a strict leave no trace philosophy with the artifacts we encountered. We left everything in place where we found them for others to hopefully see and enjoy, taking only photographs. There is something so exhilarating about seeing an artifact in it's original location, something that fills the mind and heart with wonder, and frankly a connection with the past, other people, and the mystery of the Creator or God...


  1. Good eye for the artifacts. I'm really good at not seeing the obvious, so it would have been a different photo portfolio if I was there! When I visited Parowan Gap, where there's a collection of dinosaur footprints on blocks of clay, I could only see the ones that were marked by little signs. There must have been more there, but that's all I could see.

  2. My dad started taking me "Indian relic hunting" when I was very small. Five years old or so. We would tramp the woods and fields and road cuts all over rural Georgia hunting for arrowheads, celts, atlatls, pottery, what-have-you. And one day when I was about ten or eleven we were walking a field and there were pottery shards everywhere. You couldn't take a step without tromping on it. And that's when it hit me--how many people had lived in North America before the Europeans arrived. And I thought about ALL of the sites my dad and I had walked, never failing to find signs of past inhabitants, and I realized how long all of those people had been here before us. It was sobering.

  3. SKyhiker, I remember when I first started looking for mushrooms when I was living in Northern California and they seemed practically invisible. Once you started seeing them, they appeared everywhere and were no longer invisible. I guess it's training the eye somewhat.

    I agree James, the people before us seemed to live in every nook and cranny, or at least every nook and cranny that you and I would find desirous as well. It's a pretty neat realization. In Colorado it was startling to see evidence where you might not expect, just due to the extremes of the landscape.