Down the Nankoweap Trail…

A week ago I hiked up, and out, the Nankoweap Trail to my truck, parked at the Saddle Mountain Trailhead. After 5 fantastic days below the rim, the semi-frozen Gatorade I had left in my cooler was the best thing I had tasted in months!

This trip had been on my radar for years and, after a couple failed attempts — excessive heat the first time, and impassible roads the second — I finally made that drive down Forest Road 8910. I chose this access, rather than the slightly shorter approach via FR 610, because it actually has a 1000’ ascent to the official beginning of the Nankoweap Trail, rather than a 1000’ descent.

Yes, I know, “Why would you want to go uphill??” Two reasons: A) Going uphill with a loaded pack is not as hard on my knees/quads as going downhill; B) After climbing up and out to the trailhead, I would rather look forward to a 1000’ descent with my empty pack, than another long climb. So, I chose the House Rock Valley route. It’s also less popular than the alternative, and there is a nice “car camping” campsite just before the Saddle Mountain trailhead, that wasn’t part of the old burn.

It begins
“Base Camp”

Day One began, after coffee and breakfast, with a sunny/breezy morning hike. After signing the trail register — I noticed there was a group of 6, one day ahead of me — I begin walking up, through the old burn. After about 30 minutes, the trail descended into the dry creek bed and wound along for about 45 minutes, before climbing back up into the Ponderosa. It was nice and cool, and the fall colors were starting to really pop, so the hike was quite pleasant, despite the hill climb. Don’t worry, it’s not THAT steep, just take one step at a time and don’t rush. I got to the rim, and the official Nankoweap Trailhead, about two hours after leaving my truck. The National Park Service (NPS) describes this segment of trail as being “3.5 miles.” It is closer to 4 miles, if you’re serious about tracking exact distance.

Hiking to the Trailhead

At the rim, the two Forest Service access trails come together at the NPS trailhead. There are actually a couple of small campsites here, and it makes a pretty nice spot for lunch, before continuing on, into the Canyon. Here I met a group of 4 ladies on their way out. They were tired and happy, which made me happy.

The “Actual” trailhead, 4 miles from the truck…

Once I’d rested from my hike up to the actual trailhead, I gathered my reserve and began descending the last of the Esplanade to the long Supai traverse. This is where the trail could become problematic if you have issues with heights, vertigo, balance, exposure, etc. The trail was very well defined, so no real route-finding skill needed, but there is a lot of exposure. Ie., the trail follows along a ledge system, at times very narrow, with a cliff wall to your left and the void to your right. In places, the trail narrows to less than 16 inches wide. It takes you along, for about 2 miles, to Marion Point. Here, there is a small, dry campsite that will accomodate a few tents if you don’t mind being close together. There are small campsites along the trail, past the point as well. Here, I stashed a couple of liters of water for my hike out, ate a snack, and continued on for another 3.5 miles to Tilted Mesa — my destination for the night. NOTE: The “seasonal” seep that is described by the NPS, has diminished to a patch of damp lichen. It is NOT a water source. More on this later.

The traverse/trail heading over to Tilted Mesa was essentially a continuation of the same trail type leading across to Marion Point. There are a couple of spots where the path takes you around large, protruding boulders (they push you towards the edge of the drop-off). I just kept my eyes focused on the path directly in front of my feet, and made myself blur out the void. One foot in front of the other… Bearing in mind that I had dry conditions for my hike, I could see these narrow spots being quite scary if muddy.

After a seemingly long, mostly unshaded walk, I came to the point where the path descends down through the last of the Supai. Here it does require a little bit of down-climbing, in a couple of spots. With the help of two handy trees, the climbs weren’t that bad, maybe 7-8’ of Class 4 scrambling. I kept my pack on, but if you are more comfortable lowering your pack, definitely do so. It shouldn’t require more than 5’ of cord, or a belt and long arms.

Once you get down through the Supai, the path eases up and descends down to the top of the Redwall formation, and a handful of nice, small campsites. I chose one, next to an odd structure, built by hikers. It’s up against a big, gnarled Juniper tree and, I suppose, it would help shelter you from the wind. It reminded me of a Tolkienien troll house, so I set up my shelter outside, and kept an eye on the structure. This was a dry camp, and I had carried just enough water across to take care of my basic camp needs for that night, and the hike down to the creek in the morning. No bird bath, or extra cup of hot tea tonight!

Day Two found me waking up at 6am to raindrops on my shelter. That made me sad, because I hate packing up wet gear, and I was not looking forward to the Redwall and Tapeats in the rain. Luckily, the rain didn’t last, and the trail was mostly dry. The Redwall descent wasn’t bad, for a RW descent. The worst sections have been built up/cribbed, to prevent any major slides. The loose gravels on the trail surface were big enough to be mostly stable. I usually have a foot slip at least once every Canyon hike, and it didn’t happen this trip. That said, because of all the warnings I had read about or heard about this trail, I was making a very serious effort to control my momentum, and only take one step at a time. This is NOT a trail to loose focus on. If you need to look at the scenery from time to time, stop, get your feet planted and then look around. This amount of attention is tiring, and after 2.5 hours of descending, while evaluating every foot placement, I was mentally worn out.

Getting to the creek was a relief! I scoped out my future campsite (Night 4), filtered a couple liters of water (I drank my bottles dry 30 minutes earlier) and headed on downstream. The hike to the river from where the trail hits the creek is mostly along the stream bed. There are a couple of places where you can leave the bed and hike along the ledges. It was beautiful —- fall colors in full-swing, gurgling creek. After a couple of hours, the river came into view!

I followed the main trail (very well defined) up and detoured onto the narrow ridge, overlooking the delta and lunch beach. Here you can see the remains of a small pueblo — a few room outlines, and a couple of poorly “reconstructed” wall segments. Sadly, any ceramic fragments or other small finds, left by the former occupants, have been carted off.

The Group of 6 had staked out the usual backpackers campsite I had been hoping for, so I walked around the top of the lunch beach, and found a nice spot in the old dunes, off of the Granary Trail. I got my damp gear out to dry, went to the beach and cleaned up, and was very surprised to find the water to be a COMFORTABLE temperature?!? I actually found myself getting back into the water to warm up, after standing up in the breeze. The water is so low in Powell Reservoir, that it is leaving the dam at surface temperature, which is almost warm. A commercial guide I spoke with said that by the time it reaches Nankoweap, the water is almost 25 degrees warmer than last year at this time. Good for the native fish, bad for the invasive trout. The water was also running clear — I was there between up-canyon storms.

After lounging around for a while, I noticed a private river trip heading into the eddy. Really cool group of folks, mostly from Wyoming and Idaho — My old stomping grounds! They invited me up to their camp for a beer. I decided to take them up on their offer, and they had appetizers, which they generously shared with me. While that was happening, the clouds rolled in and the skies opened up. We got a big, wing shelter set up over their kitchen and they told me I would be staying for dinner. They had not one, but TWO fire pans! When I’m not hiking I’m paddling. I am a river-rat, and for a couple of hours, they let me join their trip. They’re still on the river, heading for Diamond. Y’all, if any of you happen to read this, Thank you, again!!!

Day Three, I got up early the next morning, to hike up to the granaries. I actually had them to myself! The last time I saw them I was on a river trip with 15 other people. It was a bit crowded up there. A bonus: The NPS trail crew was just putting the finishing touches on a trail reconstruction project, the day before, so I got “first tracks.” They did a fantastic job, and the trail is now very stable and solid. The views down the river, from the granaries, is spectacular — well worth the effort to get up there!

I wandered back down to the river trip’s camp and said farewell. Then, it was back to my site to pack up and work my back up the creek. I found the little site I’d scoped out on the way down, and set up. I had the creek to myself for a couple of hours, before the Group of 6 came in. We kept to ourselves, and I was up and out the next morning, before they were.

Day Four, the climb out was, well, the hike down in reverse. I am one of those people that would rather climb up a steep, loose route than work my way down one. Gravity does most of the work keeping my feet under me, and I don’t worry about slipping as much. It was strenuous, but not nearly as mentally exhausting as the trip down. There are a few good spots to stop and catch your breath, and I did take advantage of those. I try to stop once an hour, when I’m on the trail, to take off my pack and boots, just to prevent pack soreness and blisters.

I got up to my first night’s campsite, on Tilted Mesa, in 4 hours. There I met a young German couple, heading down. They were stopped in the shade. She was looking at a large blister on her heel, and he was fiddling with his small pack. They were wearing light running shorts & tops, and running shoes, carrying 30 liter backpacks. As soon as they saw me come up, they both started asking me if there was water in the creek. They asked four times if there was water. He seemed a bit panicked about whether or not there was water in the creek. I asked if they had camped here, or at Marion Point, and they said they had hiked in from the National Park access that morning. It was about 11:30am, and was getting quite warm. I then asked if they were camping at the creek, and they replied that they were heading over to Kwagunt that evening. I noticed only one, 1 liter bottle in each of their packs. They may have been carrying more, but those packs were small and they were clearly out of water. Subsequent events would convince me further, that they were only carrying limited water/carrying capacity…

I said “Good Luck” to the two, Kwagunt-bound” adventurers, and made my way up, onto the traverse trail. By now it was getting pretty warm. I’d packed an extra liter of water that morning, knowing the hike across the traverse would be in front of a tall, heat reflecting sandstone cliff. I made it around to Marion point around 2:30 and collected my water. I noticed the Group of 6’s water cache, tucked into the rocks above the trail. I decided to press on and get to the rim, before sunset. I didn’t want to cram into the small camping area with a large group. I got across to the rim by 5pm and set up camp. The traverse back over was no less exposed/narrow than it had been on Day 1, I just had the void to my left this time. I had dinner during a perfect, Canyon sunset, then collapsed when it got dark.

I got up after the sun hit my tent (it was a cold night) and was just getting around to heading out, when the Group of 6 came up the short scramble to the trailhead. It was there that I learned that the young couple I’d encountered on Tilted Mesa had helped themselves to 6’s water cache. They only took 1 liter — one half liter from two different containers — but pilfering any water from someone’s cache could be potentially life threatening for the person/people that cached the water. That said, the Group got to the trailhead with enough water to be okay. If it had been hotter, it might have been a different story.

What do I think happened? The couple had started their hike without enough water. Based on the size of their packs, their condition when I encountered them, and only one visible bottle each, they’d headed out with limited carrying capacity. They got to Marion Point, looking for the seep that is still listed on the NPS trailhead sign as a possible water source, to find it dry. They saw the unmarked cache (no note) and assumed it was ok to help themselves. At least they only took the bare minimum. That half liter each probably didn’t get them all the way to Tilted Mesa, but got them through the hottest part of the trail, and there was definitely, positively water waiting for them at Nankoweap Creek. My hope is that they realized how unprepared they were, and stopped there. Pushing on to Kwagunt from Tilted Mesa, on a warm day, leaving at 11:30 was not going to end well. At least, that’s what I imagine happened.

Anyway… I hiked down to the Saddle Mountain trailhead, my truck and my semi-frozen Gatorade. The Group of 6 caught up with me. We hung out for a bit and then went on our way. One of them gave me a sweet bumper sticker for my truck. In all, my trip was amazing. The weather, despite the little bit of rain, was perfect for this trail. It’s not one I would do in the warmer seasons, or if I knew that conditions would be snowy or muddy. I met some amazing folks, saw some new scenery and got to revisit some old sites. This route is described by the NPS as “The Most Difficult” trail in the canyon. It is a long, steep, exposed hike. It would have been the most difficult route I’ve done, if I had tried to do it in a day, do it in late spring, summer or early fall. The exposure isn’t any worse than some I’ve seen on the Escalante, or Beemer, there is just a LOT more of it. The steep, loose sections aren’t any more so than what I’ve seen descending the Boucher or dropping off of Horseshoe Mesa, they are just longer. I broke the trail into sections, and had a great time. One misplaced step could’ve resulted in a different outcome. Will I do it again? Probably.


Took advantage of the good weather, last weekend, to get the siding up. I didn’t have time to put the trim pieces on, so I taped the corners up with Tyvek Tape. It’s not a permanent seal, but will work until we get back up, on Sunday, to finish the job. We’ll also be installing the door. Which reminds me, I need to buy a door knob and deadbolt set…

The next step will be to get the soffits in, and sealed up and I think we’ll be good for the winter. Probably won’t get the actual shower up and running, but it will be a secure, dry place to put stuff until spring. THEN, we’re going to get a propane shower set up, with a real shower pan and grey water drain; a basic RV toilet — there is an existing septic drain in place, installed by the previous owners. All of this will be made easier with the water pipe stand that we’ll have put in, after having a solar pump dropped into the well-head. Yeah, it’s a bit of a to-do list.

And, while that is all happening, I’m going to build the ”Roman” cooking platform I’ve been daydreaming about. It’s going to be out, on the back edge of our patio, next to the giant horno, that I rarely use. It will consist of two square base/columns topped with a concrete slab. At one end, I’ll have a firebrick surface for wood fired cooking, under a grate, and the other end will be a surface for the small wood fired pizza oven. Between the bases/columns will be a dry, sheltered alcove for firewood, tools, etc.

For now, I use a hot water heater pan in lieu of a fire pan.
I’ll ditch the metal base, and we’ll set the oven on top of the concrete slab.

Summer Winding Down

September is my favorite month of the year, I think. It’s still hot enough during the day to work up a sweat, but cools off in the evening for sleeping. It doesn’t get so cold though, that sweaters are needed. The light takes on that warmer, deeper quality. The cottonwood trees start to get little spots of gold in their canopy. In 2-3 weeks the aspens will start in with their display. The elk will start bugling and it will be cool enough for campfires. It is also the time of year when my outdoor projects tend to gain momentum. Probably because it’s not hot enough to bake my brain, when I’m working outside.

Late Summer sunflowers
The local “Residents”

We’ve been working on our property, up in Northern New Mexico. During the Great Covid Shutdown of 2020 we built our little cabin. This summer, I’m adding a small “shower house” next to the camper. It will be a nice spot for guests that want to come up and hang out with us. The camper will have satellite internet access, and power, so Lyn will have a ”remote” office there.

We started work on it before I left for Italy, then tarped everything while I was gone. Since I’ve been back, I’ve framed up and sheathed the walls, put the roof on and installed the window. Next we’ll install the door and put the exterior siding up. Depending on how the weather behaves over the next few weeks, we will finish out the interior, run the grey water drain out and get the RV toilet installed. This all needs to be done before I head off to the Grand Canyon in the middle of October. We’ll see.

The shower house itself is simple: 8’x7’ floor plan with a single-pitch roof. 2×6 floor joists on 16” centers, 2×4 stud walls on 16” centers and 2×6 roof joists, covered with corrugated metal. I’ll insulate it, and instal soffit vents between the joists. Camp Chef makes a propane shower that I love, and use in the cabin. We’ll put one in here, as well.

The “to-do” list sounds worse than it is. The project is moving along pretty quickly, and should be ready before winter arrives!

I miss Italy

I’ve been home for 17 days. It took one day for Lyn’s suitcase to catch up with us, seven days for the jet-lag to wear off, and eight days for me to beeline up north, to our little cabin. I think I have finally accepted that this season in Pompeii is now in the past, and I know I need to start looking forward.

I am, however, finding myself a bit “homesick” for Pompei. I’m even feeling a tiny bit sentimental about Striano — a tiny bit. I knew that would be the case, so I took a few precautions just before I came home: Ordered a 2lb bag of whole bean, Caffè Kimbo, and three bags of the Gran Pavesi crackers that we ate every day, during our snack break; bought a paella pan and Spanish bomba rice; hit Total Wine and brought home a sixer of Peroni Nastro Azzuro. These things all help, but the one thing I can’t find on Amazon or at Sprouts are any of the friends I made there. That diverse, brilliant, sometimes grubby, sometimes grumpy, funny group of people made that experience! If any of you see this, know that I miss you and look forward to running into you someday. We will run into each other, at some point. The world of archaeology is a small one.

My new addiction

Now, I have to really make an effort to re-immerse myself in “the present” and be home. It’s not that I have nothing to do. There are plenty of projects around the house, and a lot of work to do up in Chama. What is Chama? It’s a little town, up on the Colorado state line. We have a piece of property there with a small, off-grid cabin I built during the Great Covid Shutdown of 2020. I needed something to keep myself busy, while I was on furlough from work.

In 2020, I planned and built the cabin. Last year, we added a little screen porch, to have a bug-free zone in the spring. This summer, just before I left for Italy, I started work on a small shower house. Nothing fancy — a propane shower and a composting toilet. It will make the little spot we have set up for guests a bit more comfortable.

Framing up the “Shower House” –
More to come on this little project

I also have to work on getting back into “backpacking shape.” I have a permit to hike the Nankoweap trail in Grand Canyon NP, in October. I’m looking forward to planning for that little trip. I also owe my dog a couple of short backpacking trips. The fires we had in N New Mexico pretty much put any hiking plans on hold this spring. The fires are out (or close to) but many areas are still closed due to fire damage, and/or flooding. It seems that we can’t win, we are either burning up or washing away here.

I also need to decide what I want to do with myself going forward. I know that the schedule/routine of full-time CRM archaeology isn’t something I want anymore. Being gone 8-10 days (or longer) at a time is not for the faint of heart. It wears on your body, your to-do lists don’t get done, your partner is stuck taking care of everything. Your plants die and your pets hold grudges against you. Yeah, I have some reflecting to do. For me, building things is a good time to do that.

Whew! Things got a little busy…

Yes, I had intended to post updates every day, during the project. However, the last several days have proven to be a bit hectic and, now, the field work for this season has wrapped up. We’ve all packed up and gone our separate ways: I’m sitting in an air-conditioned hotel room, in Sorrento. Tomorrow, I’ll take the ferry up to Napoli to pick Lyn up at the airport! Then, vacation begins!!

Our last days on the project were busy with moving a LOT of dirt, discovering three unexpected walls, finding that the burial urns from the small tomb had been removed before the 79 eruption, and bagging 1000’s of ceramic sherds and bone fragments. While the “goal” of this season was to excavate and locate any burials associated with Marcus Vernerius’ tomb, or the small Niche tomb, not finding any was actually very informative. The low walls we found were unusual, and were set down quite a while before Marcus had his tomb built.

In the last week of excavation, we found a second coin (bronze) and some Attic pottery fragments. We found what seemed like an entire mouthful of human teeth, and a few jaw fragments, non of which had been cremated. I was the first person to EVER brush those teeth. Toothbrushes hadn’t been invented in the late Republican period, and based on the 2mm of plaque build-up, you can tell! This guy — I named him Phil, because we found him in the fill-layer — must’ve had serious bad breath.

I also got to work at the ceramics cleaning/sorting table, and spent a day working in the bone lab. Identifying human bones, based on burnt, shattered fragments is a special skill that I never developed. Llorenc Alapont, however, is a wizard. The man can identify a bone fragment based on it’s feel, with his eyes closed. It was something to behold.

I felt much more at home working with the ceramics, having spent a lot of time with potsherds on the Colorado Plateau. Cleaning, sorting, mending, all while working in the shade. We were also set up outside of the Porta Nola Necropolis, so we had quick access to the old city. We were a five minute walk down to the Villa With the Garden, and it’s controversial (to some) charcoal inscription. The House of Orion, just across the street, is also spectacular. I think it might be the best preserved example of Pompeii 1st Style decoration I’ve seen, and the mosaic floor is perfect.

We spent our last day back-filling the excavated area, covering it with gardening cloth and what had to be several thousands of pounds of dirt. It will be safe and protected until the team returns next season, to see what the hell those walls mean…

After one last dinner together at Pizza Oscar, we said our goodbyes and that was that. Now, I’m feeling sleep deprived, and worn out — all in a good way. I’ll post photos of the last week, tomorrow.

Photo Dump!

Last night in Italy, for now…

One last day of exploring. Another scorcher — temperatures were pushing 100 again. We had two tours reserved today, both involving going underground: La Citta Dell’acqua, and the remains of the Stadium of Domitian. Both are under modern buildings, about 20’ below street level. The temperatures are much more doable down there.

The first site, La Citta Dell’Acqua, is part of the duct/cistern system from the Acqua Vergine that delivered water into the heart of the ancient city. Today, it feeds the Trevi fountain, and the three fountains in the Piazza Navona.

After cooling off there, we made our way over by the remains of Agrippa’s Baths and found a little restaurant for lunch. The waiter asked if we’d like to see the remains of the baths complex in the basement! They have their wine cellar down there. The conditions are perfect for storing wine, and it makes a nice place to seat guests in the winter. Not a lot remains of the baths, but I love finding little hidden pieces of the ancient city.

After lunch, we walked down to the cat sanctuary at Largo Torre Argentina. We’ve made a point of visiting them every time we are in Rome. They are a non-profit organization, completely run by volunteers, that care for colonies of abandoned, stray, and unhomed cats. They spay, neuter and release thousands of them. They find homes for the ones that want homes, and otherwise see to their care and health. If you love cats, they are an organization I recommend looking into.

From there, we made our way over to Piazza Navona to explore the remains of Domitian’s circus (stadium). I’ve seen parts of it from up on the street, but this was the first time I got to go down inside. We explored the front of the stadium, with the remnants of the main entrance, and then portions of the side structure, across the street. Again, it was nice and cool down there, and not too crowded.

After that, we made one last pilgrimage to Giolitti for gelato, then back to the hotel to pack. It has been a crazy month here, for me. I’m trying to wrap my head around how fast time has flown, how much I’ve learned, how many new friends I’ve made. Central and southern Italy are tough in July and August. It’s very hot, very humid and crowded. But, you learn to deal with it. The ancient Romans managed it, so can I.

Now, I’m looking forward to getting home to my own furry kids, my mountains and my kayak. And, already pondering my next trip to Italia…

What does 38 degrees Celsius feel like?

Yes, it hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit! We felt every degree. We’ve been in Rome since Thursday afternoon, and have managed to get out and explore every day, despite the heat. This is a wonderful city for just walking around, but it has been exceptionally hot this summer. Thankfully, there are water fountains all over the place.

We started out by wandering towards the Trevi Fountain (yes, I throw a coin in every time) and discovered the archaeological zone for the acquaduct. We have a reservation to see that tomorrow. We found gelato, of course, and then pizza.

Yesterday, we took an underground tour of a Roman villa that would was right across from Trajan’s Column. Very cool! After that, we took the Domus Aurea tour!!! I’ve wanted to see that since I first learned about it, almost 20 years ago. It was worth the wait, I’ll leave it at that. From there, we headed to the Campidoglio, and joined a Roma Sotterranea tour of the Insula Ara Coeli: the ancient remains of a 5-story apartment building. That was incredible! Roma Sotterranea is a local group of spelunkers that organizes underground tours all around Rome. I’ve been on their email list for years, but this is the first time I’ve been here to join them. I highly recommend them, if you’re here when they’re going out.

We found pizza in the Suburra, then walked down to look at the Forum at night, and randomly bought tickets for a ”Light and Sound Experience” in the Forum of Augustus. It was great! Kind of campy, but the information was accurate and, it’s The Forum Of Augustus!

Today we wound our way around to the Campo Dei Fiori market, strolled along the Tiber for a while, then found our way back to the Colosseum. We reserved a timed entry ticket and spent the afternoon revisiting the Palatine Hill and Forum. Overall, a very fun day. Very hot, but I didn’t really notice — I was absorbed in history.

Tomorrow, we have our acquaduct tour, then will try to visit the cat sanctuary in the old temple ruins near Torre Argentina. Then, more gelato…

Herculaneum and Valencian Paella (and a little Sangria)

For our Saturday Excursion, we all piled into the vans and drove to Ercolano, then circled around a bit and located the parking lot. Once you get used to the traffic chaos, it’s not half bad riding around Campania in a car. Note that I said “riding” not driving. I would never do that. We spent a couple hours visiting Herculaneum, along with the new antiquarium, as well as the climate controlled museum for the boat. The boat was recovered from the beach, below the town. It was carbonized during the eruption, and subsequently buried under several meters of pyroclastic flow debris. I was very excited to see it. Since the theater is still not open to the public, I was at least able to get close to the boat.

After a quick gelato, overlooking the buried town, we piled back into the vans and headed back to the rental house. There, Llorenc and Ximo built a fire out in the garden, and brought out a huge paella pan that Llorenc brought from Valencia. They then proceeded to add ingredients to it, producing an amazing, bubbly, steamy concoction that we all shared at a long table, with glasses and cups of homemade sangria. I will not be forgetting that meal any time soon…. And, now that I have observed the process, I’m going to clear out an area in my back yard, stoke up a fire and try my hand at it. I will probably leave out the rabbit, and just go with chicken, but it looked like a fun dish to prepare. First, I need to go buy a paella pan.

Today, we slept in a little, and then piled back into the vans for a trip to the Villa Misteri train station. A few of us went into Pompeii: I got to play “Tour Guide” for the day, and the rest took the train back to Sorrento, to play in the water. It was hotter in the Scavi today, than last weekend, but it was still wonderful. I love seeing peoples’ reaction when they first walk up the Main Street and enter the Forum. It’s like watching someone look into the Grand Canyon for the first time — wonder, magic, excitement.

Tomorrow we begin our third and final week of work, for this season. Expectations are high that we’ll find a burial urn. We’ll see…

Carbonized boat
Seeing it for the first time
Il Vesuvio
The fire
The meat
The tomatoes
Add water
Lift and Carry
A little something to wash it down
Dinner with friends
My plate!

We have cash!!

We began this morning by cleaning up the top of the curb wall, adjacent to the paved road that connects to the Via Dell’Abbondanza. This low wall separates the tombs from the actual road, and protected their corners from traffic. Marcus’ tomb is situated less than a meter from the road, and there is a white, tufa bollard protecting it’s corner. Moving to the west, along the curb wall, we began hitting the top of another structure, or wall, attached to the north side of the curb wall. Here, on the top of this feature, I uncovered a big chunk of human long-bone, possible a humerus, and what may be some skull fragments. At the moment, they are speculating that it may be a Samnite burial that is bubbling up to the surface. I’ll have to wait to find out on that one.

We also found our first coin: a Roman “denarius” with the Goddess Roma on the obverse (heads) and Jupiter in a four-horse chariot on the reverse (tails). This coin likely dates to the 2nd century BC, and looks like it was minted last week. The director was very excited, to say the least.

So, why haven’t I been posting photos of the excavation? The Superintendent of Archaeology for Pompeii has forbidden us to take any pictures, on the site, or of any features or artifacts. Looting is on the rise in the area, and they very much want to control what information or images of new excavations get out into the public. We aren’t working inside the old city. This is new ground we’re uncovering, that hasn’t seen the sun since 79AD. It’s very unusual to dig new ground in Pompeii, a rare opportunity. So, when the people in charge review all the official photos, and approve them, I can post some images. Until then, you’ll just have to use your imagination.