Last week I’d made some plans with my dad to go out to the Owyhees Sunday and see if I could locate the old stage stop known as The Rocks. That was the original name of the place before it became Rockville. Some of the original names out here make you wonder. Caldwell, for example, used to be known as Bug Town. Anyway….
The Friday before we were to leave, I came across some interesting history about the area. I’d already known there was a boulder, a huge boulder, on the route the freight wagons used going from the Valley (Boise, Cladwell, Nampa, and the other towns in the area) up to Silver City. They’d stop there overnight on the way to Silver City and put the feed and other supplies for the return trip up on top of The Rock where the coyotes and other wildlife couldn’t get to it. On the way back, they’d stop there again, recover their supplies, feed their livestock and the next morning head back to the Valley. Eventually a family settled nearby and after a while they built a place where the freighters could stay, get a hot meal, and get feed for their animals. In time it became an official stage stop and even briefly a post office and precinct census center for the area.
Then Sunday I went up in the Owyhees with my dad, searching for the old stage station at The Rocks. We stopped at the drive-in in Marsing for burgers and milkshakes to go. When we got out where I had the co-ordinates for the old stage stop off my topo maps. Having verified the general location two weekends ago, I pulled over near where I thought the stage would be, about midway between the two dry creek beds. Once there I hooked up my GPS to the laptop and started running Visual GPS. Within a few minutes the Least Squares Average position had stabilized. I was surprised to see that as far as Latitude went, I was dead on where I was parked. Longitude was only off by 0.07 minutes, or about 100 yards, which meant I was within 100 yards due west of the old stage stop! Not bad for a guess, eh?
Unfortunately, this day I was having to re-learn trusting my instruments and think through my natural logic. It seems that every five or six years I encounter something and think it through so much that I don’t rely on my instruments and logic. This day, I knew I was within 100 yards, didn’t have my compass with me, and for the life of me I could not remember which way was North even though I’d been in that area hundreds of time, including doing astrophotography which meant I could easily visualize the night sky and so determine where North was. But no, I just could not think where North was.
Fortunately, there was a guy there that had just come back to his truck on his ATV. We talked to him and he knew where the old stage stop was and pointed it out: a clump of sage across the road hid the foundations! After chatting a bit more, he left and we walked over to the ruins. Once you were there, you could easily see the old foundation of the building, and of the porch. He had also pointed out where the old well should be. That was harder to find, but eventually my dad did find it.
When we were done with that, we drove up to where I usually do my astrophotography and I shot a spherical view of the site so I could get it into Stellarium. My last 360 panorama for this purpose was good, but failed on the ground in close. This time I wanted to use my phone’s capability to shoot a 360 degree spherical panorama.
That done, we headed back out the same way we came in as I’d seen a location on a hill that looked like it might work for astrophotography and was easier to get into. Driving up on that hill, we found the old grave site. The guy we’d talked to had also mentioned these graves were on the east side of the road but I hadn’t expected to find them like that. One of the graves was for Mrs. Ed Holmes, who had been killed by Indians in 1889. One was an unknown man who had been killed in the same attack. I had read about them before and was able to fill my dad in on their history. The third was a Mrs. Shirley Scott, born in 1935 and was a recent burial from 2008. 73 years old when she came home for the last time. All three graves were tended and had plastic flowers. Obviously, someone still remembered them fondly. One of the flower bunches had fallen over, so I stuck it back into the holder so it wouldn’t blow away. If you’ve seen my pictures of the area, you know they deserve a lot of respect just for living there.
Then I took another spherical panorama there to see how the horizon there would compare with the horizon at my usual astrophotography site. Looking at those pictures after I got home, it looks like both provide the same general angle to the horizon. I may just have to go out there and take a look at night to be sure, but I think it will work. There are some minor advantages to the other, usual, site, but I’ll just have to see to know for sure. I’ll go to my regular place next time and on the way back swing by this new possibility to see how it looks.
All in all, it was a fun and productive weekend exploring in southwest Idaho.