Trail Canyon truly hidden treasure

New book takes readers vicariously to Southwest landmark

Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Harold Poe

If you’ve never visited Trail Canyon near Cortez, it probably just means that you’re a law-abiding citizen. If you’ve never heard of Trail Canyon, there’s a new book to educate you on Four Corners history and whet your appetite for breaking the law.

Trail Canyon: 6 Miles Long and 10,000 Years is a history of the hidden landmark that remains so because it is on private property on the eastern edge of Canyons of the Ancients.

Howard “Bud” Poe is the most recent landowner, and he was the primary author and publisher of the book, though Durango Herald staff writer Ann Butler did the actual writing.

Poe, a retired chief financial officer, and his wife, Jeani, bought their stake in the canyon in 1997. Before them, the land had changed hands and residents many times in the previous few hundred centuries.

For the book, Poe received help from Harold Baxstrom, whose family homesteaded near Cortez in the 1880s and bought land in Trail Canyon in 1913, archaeologist Gary Matlock, and poet and landowner Mary Jane Schott – the “Odd Quad” – which became the “Quirky Quintet” with the addition of Butler.

The contributors retraced the canyon’s history from the American settler families through occupation by the Ute Mountain Ute tribe all the way back to the ancestral Puebloans and earlier nomadic tribes who passed through the area in 8,000 B.C.

Butler’s encyclopedic mind is evident in the book’s structure. It is a comprehensive historical text, but the organization of seven chapters is further broken into smaller subheadings so none of the topics becomes stale by the writers getting too wordy.

Trail Canyon is peppered with personal stories, too, from a 1930s murder in the canyon to a fish tale about a trout that met a tragic end when it literally bit off more than it could chew.

You also can’t turn a page without seeing at least two pictures, usually many more.

The colorful illustrations and photographs make it easier to understand the landscape and the people who have acted as caretakers for it over many generations.

There are plenty of maps, a glossary off all the stakeholders and a convenient timeline of Trail Canyon history.