The La Vereda del Norte Chapter, which represents the Southern/Southeastern Branches, is one of the more active chapters in the organizations. Contact info:
“Old trails and wagon roads are pulsating landmarks, travel-dramas that speak of men and their most daring dreams, their schemes, their driving purposes for good or evil. They carry stories of exploration, trade, war, escapes, rescue, and, during the last 150 years [now 180 years], the flow of men, women, children, sheep, goats, and cows as they came to make the first permanent homes in what had been a valley of Nomads. Trails and wagon roads of the Valley are the foothills, mountain passes, and rivers…When they are walked, in a wondrous way they become Then and Now, sunshine and cloud, shadow flowing, and a tremendous cast of characters coming alive.” – – Mt. Lookout, Where You Can See for Two Days, by Ruth Marie Colville.
Two ancient routes ran the length of the San Luis Valley. One, designated today as the East Fork of the National Historic Old Spanish Trail’s North Branch, coursed the open sage country along the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The other, the West Fork, traversed the San Luis Valley along the base of the San Juan mountains. For thousands of years these trails were well used by ancestral natives, and later by Spanish colonists, fur trappers, explorers, herdsmen, prospectors, invaders, military (expeditions), slave traders, and settlers. In following river courses and the lay of the land, the trails say with courteous proof, “this was the way, the ancient way.” Early photos show traces of the trail, and early survey maps show the commonly used wagon roads prior to their becoming official roads. An early map, based on the 1874-76 Hayden survey, shows the trail—not a road—from the Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve northward.
Finding present day traces from the Old Spanish Trail period today is difficult. Mule caravans did not follow the narrow type of trail we are familiar with today. Instead, they wandered all about, looking for the best way that day. Modern highways often follow or parallel the trail routes, a testament to the skills of early scouts and explorers. The West Fork Trail brochure (La Vereda del Norte, The Trail of the North, published by the La Vereda del Norte Chapter of the Old Spanish Trail Association), includes a trail map, historical information, and a Time Event Chart from 10,000 BP to 1876, the year Colorado became a state.