Around the Mountains |

Around the Mountains

Allen Best

TRUCKEE, Calif. ” Archaeologists have returned again this summer to the crest of the Sierra Nevada in an effort to get a better picture of the tragic tale of the Donner Party.

The Sierra Sun reports there is little to see and little new to report at the site where the 181-member party, having been overtaken by early and deep snows, was forced to spend four months during the winter of 1846-47.

Eleven members of the expedition died of starvation and cold. Whether the starved members resorted to cannibalism to survive is still a matter of speculation, the newspaper says.

“We are dealing with just crumbs of artifacts,” said Julie Schablitsky, a University of Oregon archaeologist.

It would seem that the only thing new established by this year’s research is where the center of the camp was. “We are very excited to find what we think is ground zero for the campground,” said Schablitsky.

Archaeologists can determine where melting snow ran off the tent of the travelers and hit the ground, leading them to the conclusion of where the center of the camp was.

TELLURIDE ” Another land tempest is brewing near Telluride. There, a trailhead for those hiking up Wilson Peak and two other 14,000-foot mountains is being blocked by land owner, Rusty Nichols.

Nichols has said that if he can’t get the U.S. Forest Service to give him 2,200 acres of land elsewhere in the region in exchange for his 160 acres along the trail, he will try to mine his land.

The area is already heavily pocked by mining activity. Nichols told The Telluride Watch that he believes his land has $300 million to $400 million in minerals.

Nichols, who lives in Texas, said he has tried to talk to land conservation organizations and the Forest Service and others for up to 20 years without interest. But a Forest Service land specialist told The Telluride Watch that Nichols’ proposed land exchange was rejected “because the values are incredibly off.”

The Forest Service has previously cowed to the bluffs of landowners who threatened development if land exchanges were not engineered. After much criticism in those cases, however, the agency has been more hard-nosed.

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