Finding History on the Trail


By: Carey Lang

As we sat around the circle during community meeting after hitch five, scratching our mosquito bites and imagining the weekend that stretched before us, we were advised to try and remain present. Some people seemed to welcome the end of hitch season. It ushered them off to new adventures. To others, the end was harsh. It was a swan dive off a precipice towards an uncertain future, likely far, far away from the bunkhouse. But as excited or frightened as we might be, we were reminded to respect the here and now because we have as much to learn during our final three hitches as we did in the previous five.

Remain present, they said. Put your cell phones down, forget about the rain tomorrow, set a new goal for today. Enjoy the moment and the people you are with. Respect the process.

So it was an interesting dilemma when, while trying to remain in the present, I was thrown 10,000 years into the past. For the past 10 days, my crew and I have been hard at work building a stone staircase in F. Gilbert Hills State Forest in Foxborough. I say building, but in reality we were restoring an old staircase constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. As we were working on digging and shaping a hole to set a step, one of my crewmembers felt his shovel scrape up against something that didn’t sound like regular stone. He picked it up. At first we thought the object was made out of glass. It was smooth and thin and clearly purposefully shaped – as though flakes of the object had been chipped off using a sharp stone. Where the tip should have come to a point, instead it was flat, as if broken.

At the beginning of the hitch, our site contact had told us about some stone structures in the park built by Native American tribes long ago, so we imagined that we might have found some kind of knife, or other tool used by the same people who once inhabited the area. However, after handing the artifact off to our site contact who passed it on to the extremely thrilled state archaeologist, we learned that we had actually found a spearhead that dated back to at least 10,000 years ago. It was the only one of it’s kind to ever have been found in F.G. Hills State Forest, and the archaeologist was able to determine that the material originated from somewhere near New York or Pennsylvania.  She also told us that, after looking at the object under a microscope, she could tell that it was once a spearhead, which, after breaking, was retooled into a knife. To make such a thing was time consuming and technical, and its original owner was probably left distraught after losing it.

For the rest of the hitch, every time I saw an odd looking rock, or struck something with my pick that didn’t sound quite the way it should, I searched through the mineral soil with my hands in case it was another artifact. We didn’t find anything else, but we couldn’t stop talking about our find, and we came up with several theories for how the spearhead had gotten to be in the hole beneath our step. More importantly, we felt a connection to the staircase and the site as a whole that we hadn’t before. In this unique way, I found that an object from a time before anything I could even imagine helped me to enjoy each passing moment on hitch six, and to remain in the present.