B. Travis Wright, MPS is published as the primary author or co-author of academic research, including documenting archaeological discoveries he has made or contributed to on Rollins Pass, in addition to the titles published and available on Amazon. Travis’ Rollins Pass writing samples include published chapter introductions, image captions supported by historical research and fieldwork, and academic/field research:
Horse and Wagon: 1862–1880
In the decade where Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization and Alfred Nobel created dynamite, the first recorded crossing of a wagon train on Rollins Pass was accomplished in 1862. There are relatively few photographs from this era—and judging from the photographs that do exist, traversing Rollins Pass must have been a staggering and formidable task. The travels and travails are well documented by Samuel Bowles, who speaks bluntly of the summer storms that interfered, “Hell was pleasanter and safer than a thunderstorm on [that] range.” He talks of mules and horses in the storm that “winced under the blast” and of “difficulties [being] frightful”—Bowles goes on to explain that very few wagon wheels “remain[ed] whole” after encountering the mud, rocks, and rivers on Rollins Pass.
Despite the difficulties encountered on these wagon journeys, the sensory feast casts a permanent spell on its visitors. Bowles captures, in writing, the first impressions of the beauty of which Rollins Pass has always been known: “Everywhere about us, where the snow and the rocks left space, were the greenest of grass, the bluest of harebells, the reddest of painter’s brush, the yellowest of sunflowers and buttercups. All, with the brightest of sun and the bluest of sky . . . that we were in raptures with the various beauties of the scene, and feel still that no spot in all our travel is more sacred to beauty than this.”
Colorado pioneer John Quincy Adams Rollins began his exploration of what would become Rollins Pass, and he wrote the editor at a Denver newspaper of his findings. Rollins speaks of “beautiful, quiet pools, fringed by overhanging willows, where speckled trout ‘most do congregate,’ alternated by rushing cascades and by wide-spread, pebble-bottomed shallow stretches, where the waters glimmer in the sun.” Ironically, Rollins claims that he is “neither a ‘literary’ [n]or ‘scientific gent’ ” yet his reports of the lands beyond Rollinsville are filled with euphony and literary genius; it is no wonder the place would soon be named after him: Rollins Pass.
“A rotary snowplow projects a magnificent white arc of snow while the coal needed to power this high-altitude enterprise is burned, providing quite a show. Ironically, the rotary snowplow was first invented by a dentist, confirming the fears of many regarding the ambitions of those in the dental profession! In short, the rotary snowplow works similarly to regular residential snowplows used by many on their sidewalks and driveways. A large circular blade assembly in the front rotates at a high degree of speed, the blades cut through snow and ice, and once behind the blades, the processed snow is forced through a chute where it is tossed aside. Below, workers pause for a photograph as their equipment is topped off with water.“
“Days turned to weeks when Rollins Pass was blocked by snow, despite the use of rotary equipment. Period newspapers regularly note blockades lasting weeks; these frozen impediments required the railroad to stock extra provisions aboard trains. There was also frustration with first- and second-class mail held up in the blockades. ‘Why not then after 48 hours block of . . . Corona Pass send [mail]. . . by sleds?’ a 1918 post in the Routt County Republican asked publicly. That same year, the Oak Creek Times had a front-page bulletin, ‘Only Four Pages This Issue: The Times this week consists of but four pages, due to the blockade on [Rollins Pass], which prevented the arrival of the ready-print from the Western Newspaper Union. We hope to issue a paper of regular size next Friday.“
“Few know of the thousand-year-old Native American hunting structures scattered across Rollins Pass. C.A. Deane, a government surveyor, first interpreted the Rollins Pass game drive complex in 1869, and his interpretation was rounded out by ‘Commodore’ Decatur, a trader familiar with Native American traditions. John Rollins himself described the walls in 1873. Archaeologists Byron Olson and James Benedict worked on Rollins Pass through the 1960s and 1970s, and in 2009, professional archaeologist Dr. Jason LaBelle, assessed the Rollins Pass region for archaeological reinvestigation. Since then, Dr. LaBelle has documented miles of rock walls and hundreds of hunting blinds, pictured above and below, strategically placed by the indigenous peoples to prey upon migrating animals. He stated these game drives are ‘one of the greatest concentrations of ancient hunting structures documented in North America.‘”
“Despite the removal of the rails more than eight decades ago, coal slag between railroad ties can clearly be seen on the road today in an alternating pattern of light and dark bands. Many foreign objects can be found in the road prism, including railroad spikes, nuts, bolts, washers, cotter pins, sun-colored amethyst glass, wagon-road era horseshoes, and more. As a reminder, please take only photographs, leave only footprints.“
“…Both the measurable depth of the railcar (3.313 feet) as well as the four-rung iron ladder on the corner of the car helped to immediately center on the type of build for the railcar: a wooden gondola*—a sort of half-height open boxcar. Additionally, one of the maker’s marks on an unknown part of the railcar “C1826, T (in an upside down triangle)” also proved helpful to determine the type and purpose: ‘the inverted triangle could indicate removable or ‘Drop Ends’. That is, the ends may be rigidly attached or may be dropped down to load long cargo’ (Feather River Rail Society/Western Pacific Railroad Historical Society 1999). This wreckage was of a drop-end wooden gondola. It is assumed that the gondola was either empty at the time of the crash, carrying materials easily camouflaged with the crash site (granite), decomposable or temperature-sensitive**, or the cargo is beneath the upturned car…”
* Important to note here is that period gondolas generally have a depth of 4’1” (Bollinger 1979; Griswold 1995; Gurdak 2013). It is reasonable conjecture that the remaining 9.24 inches have decayed, broken off, or are buried under rubble.
** As an advertising scheme for the Moffat Road in the summer, Moffat would typically bring rail cars full of snow and distribute it in downtown Denver to emphasize their slogan, “From Summer’s Glow to Winter’s Snow” (Bollinger 1979, 125).
—excerpt from Reconstructing the Wreckage: An Inside-Braced Drop-End Wooden Gondola (2013) by B. Travis Wright, MPS, page 2