Friday, November 19, 2010

Fort Pearce Wandering

Raiding parties of Ute and Navajo horsemen travelled in and out of the St George basin along the Fort Pearce wash during the Utah Blackhawk-Indian wars. The wash provided excellent cover for men on the sneak and was a source of water, although an unreliable one--especially during the warmer months of the year. The only dependable water along the Fort Pearce Wash upstream from St George is found in a brackish, spring-fed puddle about 15 miles away from the center of town.

During the 5 year war, which wasn't more than a series of raids, Mormon colonists built a stone fort overlooking the spring. Perched in an easily defended position, it gave the settlers a tremendous advantage against raiders during the summer months and other times of the year which saw extended periods without precipitation. Like most typical desert washes, it is dry until rains fall somewhere upstream, and then, it becomes a raging river, taking out everything in its path. Upstream for the Fort Pearce Wash includes a large portion of the Arizona Strip--so the flash floods can be substantial.

We decided to ride the old Ute raiding-trail to the fort today, leaving from home and working our way past the new airport and new highway that has gotten between us and the wilderness. It was 20 round-trip miles of linear contrast...nature verses progress, old pathways next to shiny new ones, and quiet hoof beats plodding against the fresh whine of tires on blacktop mixed with the frantic efforts of heavy equipment... crossing the trail of the ancients.