Retracing the steps of long-dead explorers has much to recommend it, both for those who take on the physical challenge of doing so in person and for those who choose the less exhausting route of reading such accounts: familiar territory can be seen with fresh eyes, and comparisons of past and present vistas can help us to better understand the phenomena of change and continuity.
One such retracing was recently undertaken by skilled photographers Greg MacGregor, professor of photography at California State University, and Siegfried Halus, chair of the fine arts department at Santa Fe Community College, who followed the journal of Franciscan friar Silvestro Velez de Escalante along a route covering 1800 miles of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. In 1776, Escalante co-led an expedition that searched for an overland route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California; though the expedition failed, its documentation of the lands and native peoples of the area has given it great historical significance. MacGregor and Halus’s photographs of the route and essays on the expedition have been collected in a book (In Search of Dominguez & Escalante) being published in May by the Museum of New Mexico Press. Though samples from the book itself are not available, Greg MacGregor’s website gives an idea of the kind of beautiful photography it likely contains: