Today we get a fairly early start because we have some special things to go see and do. Denny hikes while I run catch some photos at Middle Spring and Point of Rocks. These are places the Battalion noted, though not by those names.
We’ve made arrangements to meet with the owner of a place called by various journalists as Cold Spring, Big Cold Spring or Cold Springs. This was a good water source in 1846 and we know the Battalion stopped here for the night. Exactly where on the property we don’t know, but somewhere close at hand.
Another interesting fact about this site is that the water source has eroded out a sandstone wall. Because making graffiti is something ingrained in human nature (from the French cave murals to modern New York subways) we’ve come to see Autograph and Signature Rocks.
The owner is kind enough to spend some time with us as we wander looking at the hundreds of names etched into the sandstone. Water erosion and vandalism has destroyed some, but there are many, many names here – a few famous, but most just normal people on their way somewhere who wanted to leave evidence behind that they came by this place. Some have Christian crosses by the name and speculation is that these are memorials to persons who died on the plains, buried in unknown graves and this wall being a place for friends to write their obituaries.
At Signature Rock, I come up short as I spy the etching “L Dent.” The paymaster for the Battalion was one Lewis Dent. The name is etched eyeball high and is as clear as it can be, like it was begging to be noticed amongst the hundreds of other names. Goosebumps appear on my arms and I scramble for my cell phone to call Max Jamison of the modern Mormon Battalion Association. Max has done quite a bit of work on Dent and we hope to follow up on this potential connection with the 1846 march.
Not bad for a short hiking day and I want to remind our readers that the research is every bit as important as hiking. If we appear to be goofing off, let me assure you we are not.