Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jose Maria Polancio Grave Search

El Capitan from Old Rest Area

A few weeks ago, after learning that I would be moving to New Mexico, I began searching for some areas to explore in the Carlsbad area that I hadn’t been to before. As I was researching a bit about the Butterfield Overland Mail on the internet, I learned of the grave of a Butterfield Trail traveler who was killed in the vicinity of Guadalupe Canyon. I jotted down some information and made mental notes about where I believed the location to be. 

This morning I headed down into Texas to see if I could find the grave of Jose Maria Polancio based on my memory of the information found on that website. I parked at the wide gravel parking area in Guadalupe Canyon along highway 62/180. From there I headed up the old highway into Guadalupe Mountains National Park with my destination being the old highway rest area.
Guadalupe Canyon Entrance

I had been to the old rest area several years previous and figured that from the high vantage point there I would be able to find the grave.

Along the old road I passed a makeshift shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe and crossed into the park boundary via a gate and stile.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine

There was a park sign there that was not there during my last visit. The old road bed here is not holding up well. The cactus and other desert plants are slowly reclaiming the asphalt. Soon I climbed over a fence and back out of the park. Eventually I made my way up to the old rest area.
Old Rest Area

Like the road bed itself, the shade ramadas under which travelers once ate picnic lunches are slowly falling apart.  
El Capitan Framed by Ramada
From the rest area I headed further up the old road until it seemed to vanish completely. I think that the new highway road cut has obliterated the old route. I turned around and decided to explore closer to see if I could find the grave. While I scanned the area below the old highway I didn’t see any trace of Polancio’s final resting place. I did find the rusting remains of an old car that appears to have been driven off the side of the old highway.
Old Car Wreck

Dodge Hubcap

I also saw an interesting set of initials carved into the sandstone.
FM in Sandstone

There actually appear to be traces of several old roads in this area. Is one of the traces perhaps that of the Butterfield Mail itself?
I never did find the old grave but I will be back again to explore this interesting area.  

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