I love the Iron Horse weekend as much as the next local, but what’s with all the orange trail-marker arrows all over town? I don’t mind painting on streets, but a beautiful trail along the Animas River has orange arrows painted on more than 20 rocks. Isn’t this eco-vandalism? Hardly a good look. Sign me, Markey Mark
Time is the key with painted rocks.
Say the adornments were applied 927 years ago.
Instead of being annoying athletic graffiti, the markings would be an astonishing treasure of immense cultural and scientific importance.
Durango’s famed River Trail of the Ancient Arrows would be declared a UN World Heritage Site, drawing millions of visitors to ponder the meaning of the puzzling pointed pictographs.
Archaeologists would have a field day, so to speak, and their scholarly dissertations would interpret the glyphs.
One expert theory could be that the arrows mark a major battle between warring tribal factions: Those Who Float With Much Noise and Those Who Live Quietly Along The Bluff.
This conflict continues to this day, proving that history repeats itself.
Another thesis could postulate that the orange arrows commemorate the start of The Great Multi-Modal Period.
That was when the Ancient Ones went on a massive trail-building spree paid for by a dedicated sales tax on corn, beans, squash and turkey feathers.
And if you believe that, you’re the person who asks the ranger why ancestral Puebloans built Mesa Verde so far from the highway.
In any case, the orange arrows are temporary course markings from the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile Run, a classic event that’s been a part of Durango’s Memorial Weekend athleticism since 1978.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Action Line was the event’s ineffective director in 1988. That was 30 years and 40 pounds ago.
Back in the day, race organizers used regular spray paint.
That way, you could freshen up the markings next year without remeasuring the course.
Paint wasn’t a big deal, the field of runners numbered in the dozens, and if you missed a turn and got lost, it was your own stupid fault.
It’s a much different world today.
That was confirmed by Shaun Burke, a board member of the Durango Running Club and director of the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile Race and concurrent 4 Mile Race.
Action Line and Shaun enjoyed an amusing email exchange about how the race has evolved over the years.
“Back in the day, we had two Main Avenue crossings and a dash across Florida Road,” Action Line admitted, fessing up to a lousy one-time tenure. “It’s a miracle no one was killed!”
Today’s Memorial weekend races attract hundreds of recreationists and competitors.
“Quite frankly, the racing scene and what racers want has changed,” Shaun pointed out.
“Course markings and making sure everyone stays on course and safe is the most important goal,” he wrote.
Thus, the abundance of arrows.
The good news is that the orange stuff is not paint but temporary spray-on chalk that’s “no different how the roads get marked up for other events,” he said.
“The mark will naturally disappear with water, traffic or other abrasions but will remain visible for up to three weeks, depending on weather and traffic conditions,” he wrote.
Even so, trail users today are rubbing the arrows to help in the traffic and abrasion department.
Hopefully, it will also ensure that future archaeologists won’t run wild interpreting run-of-the-mill run markings.
Email questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if you have already made your mark in the community.