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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Santiago Peak Survey Marks

Before heading out on a hike these days, I make a quick check for registered survey markers using the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) Data Explorer. It has a database of more than 1.5 million survey marks that have a Permanent ID number assigned. The screenshot above shows survey marks at the summit of Santiago Peak.

This legend (left) gives you an idea of what type of Controls have been set. When you click on one of the control icons on the map, you'll get a popup similar to the one on the right, clicking on the link to the datasheet will take you to the file that has all the recorded information about that particular mark. Click here to see the full datasheet for USFS RP 1.

This database isn't perfect, and many of the marks shown may no longer exist, but it's a good starting point to recovering them. As you can see in the photo above, there are at least six different marks that are (were) placed on this summit over the years, often the station marks are traditional 3" bronze discs stamped with information about the station, but they can also be nails, bolts or physical locations like a tower, parking lot.

The Horizontal Control Mark labeled SANTIAGO 1899 RM 8 1975 was an easy recovery as it sits right next to the summit sign, I had found this one last year on my first summit of Santiago Peak. Due to the fact that I knew nothing about survey markers back then (and the weather was REALLY bad), I didn't look for additional marks.

The arrow chiseled into the disc points in a direct line to the original Station mark. In this case, the Station mark SANTIAGO (PID: DX1779) was described as a "copper bolt leaded into a large stone projecting about 3 inches above the top of a cement pier and depressed about 3 inches below the remains of the concrete platform of the old lookout tower. An opening about 4 inches by 8 inches in the old tower platform allows access to the mark. The mark bears no stamping."

The last station recovery noted for the Station mark (copper bolt) was recorded in 1986. The same record also described Reference Mark 6, RM 8 (shown above), and RP 1 (below) as being found in good condition. On today's trip my plan was to locate the Station mark, Reference Mark 6, Reference Mark 7 (last found in 1973), and the US Forest Service marker RP1.

As it turned out the only other one I was able to find was RP 1. The weather was definitely a factor in cutting my search short, but I believe some of these marks may now be located inside fencing (with a locked gate) that surrounds an existing tower.

RP 1 was a "no-brainer" to find once I knew to look for it. It's about two feet away from RM 8 and is a US Forest Service Reference Point, stamped USFS RP 1, it consists of a brass tab with a small nail head in the center, cemented in the top of a two-inch iron pipe that's about 10" above the surface of the gound. At first, the top of the pipe was covered with snow, so it really didn't stand out much, but since I knew what to look for, I brushed the snow off, washed off some dirt that accumulated then dried it off.

As is the case with many of these old brass marks, the tarnish and wear over the years can make the stamping on them hard to read. I have to remember to put a white liquid chalk marker in my pack to run over the top of the mark and temporarily fill in the stamping so it's easier to read. The liquid chalk dissolves in water and can be easily washed off so as not to leave any lasting mark. I may return to Santiago during the summer when I can drive up and spend some time looking around for the other marks when I'm not under the gun with stormy weather or the time constraints of finishing a long hike.

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