Our Huff Wagon Train Diary
Sunday, January 16, 2005

East Castle Gap - the 49er Camp

Excerpt from Huff's diary, Saturday, June 23, 1849: The pass through the Quie Pah mountain is about two miles in length and by no means bad to go through. The water is good and stands in pools under the shelving rock in several places. The grazing for animals is very poor in the pass but at either end it is good....On the morning of the 24th I found fossil Mollusca sticking in the side of the solid, stratified rock reaching up to the top of the mountain. The top of the mountain was almost covered with fossil Mollusca shells and to my great surprise here and there were patches and beds of oyster shells in a fine state of preservation by petrification....Here at a single glance the geologist can turn back to that time when this region of country was an immense salt basin or inland sea, and covered to a great depth with salt water.

From Aidee, Jacob, Jenni, Katy, Sheyenne

We woke up at 7:30 to find our stuff outside frozen! Anything on the table froze. We couldn't even get the water out of the big tank! It was 22 degrees!!! It was warm inside the tent, though. For breakfast we had oatmeal and hot chocolate. It was warm and tasted good today! (unless you left it out for a few seconds...!)

After breakfast we met in the girls' tent to have class. Here we debated about when the diary was written and some anachronisms in the diary. For example, we discussed why there were blank pages; where and when the diary was written; what clues there might be about the authenticity of the diary. Aidee wondered if there were watermarks on the pages of the diary to let us know what year the paper was made. We talked for about 2 hours -- and we're still undecided about some of the details, yet we generally feel good about the authenticity of the diary.

Today's trip taught us a lot of clues about the details in William P Huff's diary. We traveled in the bumpy wagons for a short time up to Castle Gap. Castle Gap is a gap in between two mesas. We saw a monument that briefly described the Castle Gap history and the Butterfield Stage Route.

The landscape was dotted with craggy rocks, overhangs and desert plants. This area is part of the Chihuahua Desert. We saw the remains of the Butterfield relay station. Mr. Joe Allen, Patrick Dearen and Mr Anderson guided us about the history and geology of Castle Gap.

We found fossils that indicate a prehistoric sea was here. The fossils were mentioned by Huff. From up on the hill, far off on the horizon we saw Soda Lake. Again, this was described by Huff.

Next we walked to where the water hole supposedly was. They don't know for certain if we saw the exact spot of where William P Huff stated there was a water hole. We climbed over the hillside by foot to find the exact trail Huff traveled on. We also saw where an Indian war party camped. Mr. Allen showed us where the paint marks still remain.

We walked to our new campsite -- the road was too rough for us to ride in the wagons. It was worth it because we got a lot of information about Castle Gap and were allowed to collect some of the fossils to take home.

We had an excellent meatloaf dinner and an even better dessert of chocolate pudding with crushed Oreo and topped with whipped cream and nuts! YUM!

Aidee: "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home. Swing low, sweet chariot."

Jacob: I miss my big brother. The fossils were cool but dessert topped it all.

Jenni: Walking through the gap was exciting and I've never done it before.

Katy: I'm going home tomorrow and I'll take good memories with me. I'm going to miss torturing my friend.

Sheyenne: I'm not looking forward to going home tomorrow -- I am going to miss all the people I met!


The following is a photo gallery from the trip. If you have questions, please contact us at education@tpwd.state.tx.us

photo by KV Murphy aerial photo by KV Murphy Photo by Joe Allen Photo by Joe Allen Photo by Joe Allen Photo by Joe Allen Photo by Joe Allen Photo by Joe Allen


Credits

This educational project is a partnership venture of Madera Unified School District, Madera, California; the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the Texas Historical Commission; and the many generous and gracious communities along the route.

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