Art in the aspens

Southwest Life

Art in the aspens

40 years of searching for sheepherder carvings
Peggy Bergon of Pagosa Springs has studied aspen art of the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Springs Ranger District for almost four decades. Here, she shows a nude image carved by a lonely Hispanic sheepherder.
Peggy Bergon of Pagosa Springs has studied aspen art of the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Springs Ranger District for almost four decades. Here, she shows a nude image carved by a lonely Hispanic sheepherder.
Peggy Bergon’s popular arborglyph tours are held in the summer and fall and take locals and out-of-town visitors into the San Juan National Forest close to the New Mexican border. David Smiley of Pagosa Springs photographs a “Venus of the Forest.”
The Spanish Catholic priest or padre image was carved by a herder as he drove his flock between Buckles Lake and Harris Lake.
Rare in the forest are dates from the first decades of the 20th century like this 1918 date when vast numbers of sheep grazed public lands because of the need for wool and mutton during World War I.
The area around Buckles Lake became a sheep or stock driveway into the high country to separate sheep from cattle grazing on the national forest. Stock driveways often have concentrations of aspen art or arborglyphs.
Herders carved portraits of each other and also playful facial images like this human profile.
Solomon Trujillo carved distinctive facial profiles of men with elaborate eyelashes and thick curving mustaches.
In the San Juan National Forest and other areas of southern Colorado, herders came from villages in northern New Mexico, but they rarely owned their own sheep. Juan Madrid of Chama carved his name and the date 7/24/34 during the Great Depression when few local jobs existed so Hispanic men “followed the sheeps.”
Merejil Valdez carved 500-year-old Spanish-style crosses on aspen trees near Buckles Lake. Often, Hispanic sheepherders expressed their Catholic faith via arborglyphs or tree carvings.
Benigro Gallegos left his name, a face and a 1931 date on this tree. Peggy Bergon says, “I have combed through these woods many times with a grid system, but I still see things I’ve never seen before.”

Art in the aspens

Peggy Bergon of Pagosa Springs has studied aspen art of the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Springs Ranger District for almost four decades. Here, she shows a nude image carved by a lonely Hispanic sheepherder.
Peggy Bergon of Pagosa Springs has studied aspen art of the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Springs Ranger District for almost four decades. Here, she shows a nude image carved by a lonely Hispanic sheepherder.
Peggy Bergon’s popular arborglyph tours are held in the summer and fall and take locals and out-of-town visitors into the San Juan National Forest close to the New Mexican border. David Smiley of Pagosa Springs photographs a “Venus of the Forest.”
The Spanish Catholic priest or padre image was carved by a herder as he drove his flock between Buckles Lake and Harris Lake.
Rare in the forest are dates from the first decades of the 20th century like this 1918 date when vast numbers of sheep grazed public lands because of the need for wool and mutton during World War I.
The area around Buckles Lake became a sheep or stock driveway into the high country to separate sheep from cattle grazing on the national forest. Stock driveways often have concentrations of aspen art or arborglyphs.
Herders carved portraits of each other and also playful facial images like this human profile.
Solomon Trujillo carved distinctive facial profiles of men with elaborate eyelashes and thick curving mustaches.
In the San Juan National Forest and other areas of southern Colorado, herders came from villages in northern New Mexico, but they rarely owned their own sheep. Juan Madrid of Chama carved his name and the date 7/24/34 during the Great Depression when few local jobs existed so Hispanic men “followed the sheeps.”
Merejil Valdez carved 500-year-old Spanish-style crosses on aspen trees near Buckles Lake. Often, Hispanic sheepherders expressed their Catholic faith via arborglyphs or tree carvings.
Benigro Gallegos left his name, a face and a 1931 date on this tree. Peggy Bergon says, “I have combed through these woods many times with a grid system, but I still see things I’ve never seen before.”
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