Hey, Spike! tells a trailblazing tale of Zebulon Pike | SummitDaily.com

Hey, Spike! tells a trailblazing tale of Zebulon Pike

Miles F. Porter IV
Special to the Daily

Stretching from Denver to Mexico City, through Frisco, Salida, Alamosa and parts in between, this week's Hey, Spike! provides historical insights from 211 years ago to just the other day.

First stop for the backstory is Salida.

The inaugural issue of DISCOVER The Heart of Colorado magazine has led to a significant donation to the San Luis Valley Museum, Pike National Trail Association and the people of Colorado.

Longtime Colorado attorney Jim Bull, a history buff, book collector and author, said he picked up a copy of DISCOVER while in Salida visiting family and read a feature story about Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike's stay near Poncha Springs in December 1806.

The story prompted Bull to take action. He recently donated his copy of Pike's 1810 original journal printed for Congress, in excellent condition, to the association.

Pike camped at the base of Mount Shavano at 14,232 feet above sea level, near the Arkansas River, while exploring the 1803 United States' $15 million Louisiana Purchase from France, covering 827,000 square miles. President Thomas Jefferson, by way of Gen. James Wilkinson, ordered Pike to lead the expedition.

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Pikes Peak is named for Zeb Pike, who, according to research, first spotted the 14,115 foot peak — he never summited it — from what is now John Martin Dam and Reservoir near Las Animas, in the southeastern corner of Colorado.

The 132-page glossy four-color magazine is a publication of the Arkansas Valley Publishing, owned by Merle Baranczyk in Salida, which also publishes the daily Mountain Mail and three weeklies — the Chaffee County Times in Buena Vista, Herald Democrat in Leadville and Fairplay Flume in Park County.

Pike and his troop trekked these areas.

Spike! is editor of DISCOVERmag and a close friend of Jim Bull.

The Upper Arkansas Valley lifestyle and tourist guide magazine's story, written by John Cameron, then a Salida Mountain Mail reporter and DISCOVERmag contributor, recalled Pike's journey and revealed he has a distant relative still living just outside Salida. Pike's namesake is his great-great nephew now 94, who resides in Pinon Hills.

The former U.S. Army captain is active in the Pike National Historic Trail Association effort to recognize and designate Pike's travels that covered 3,644 miles in what are today the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. (See: tinyurl.com/lm79ajn)

Bull and wife Connie were honored April 9, in Alamosa, at the San Luis Valley Museum when they made the presentation of the bound journal to Dorothy Brandt, chairperson of the museum board, museum director Joyce Gunn, historian Amelia Chavez, board member Dr. Hobart "Hobie" Dixon, and Fred Bunch, head interpreter at the Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Also on hand was Harv Hisgen of Conifer, president of the Pike National Trail Association. He estimates the "bible" is worth about $17,000, considerably more than Bull's purchase price.

"This is very valuable for historians because Pike's original journals (confiscated by the Spanish in Chihuahua and not recovered until 1910) can be compared," Hisgen said. "For the occasion I plan on purchasing software to lift the words from the 1810 version and compare Pike's versions."

Hisgen will have the journal digitally reproduced and available online at ZebulonPike.org.

Others in attendance included Spike! and wife Mary E. Staby, and longtime friend and fellow journalist Sylvia Lobato of Alamosa. Currently editor of the Conejos County Citizen, she was editor of the Ten Mile Times in Frisco for many years.

After living in Denver, Copper Mountain and Frisco for many years, Bull recently moved full-time to his second home in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, near Taos.

Back in the early '70s he acquired a copy of the 1810 Congressional Record, documenting Pike's travels and his expeditionary notes.

"I bought this from Fred Rosenstock in 1973 or '74," recalled Bull. "He was Denver rare book dealer — he's gone now."

Noting that he has other rare books, including a John C. Fremont journal, Bull said, "You can't take them with you at the end. You need to find a new love and home for them."

Bull pointed out the book isn't Pike's actual papers, but an 1810 printing of his report to Jefferson. It was done from memory, since the Spanish confiscated all of Pike's materials and kept them, even after he was released from capture in Mexico City. Recently, they have been released to the public.

Bull decided to donate the book to the San Luis Valley Museum since Pike was discovered by the Spanish in the valley and escorted to Santa Fe.

"They invited them to a fandango," Bull joked.

Pike and his troop built a stockade at McIntire Spring in Conejos County.

Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to milesfporteriv@aol.com