Journey to the Center of the Church

By Kristin Miller

Journey to the Center of the Church

It is always really fun to go out in middle of nowhere when you don't really know EXACTLY where you are going. We are doing an environmental assessment for the proposed Indian Wells Baptist Church Mission in the vicinity of Indian Wells Chapter. The project's sponsor told us that the church site would be on the left side of the BIA Route 15 approximately 3.5 miles from the junction of BIA Routes 6 and 15 north of the Indian Wells Chapter House. To give us an idea of where we needed to go, I did a preliminary mapping of a 3.5 mile segment on Google Earth to find our turn-off (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The red line shows approximately 3.5 miles on Rte 15 from the junction of State Route 77/BIA Rte 6 and BIA Rte 15. I noticed two distinct features (yellow circles): a large, white water tank on the right side of the road and a turn-off with a dirt road on the left side of the road. This would give us an idea where to stop.

Of course, that was not much help! The project's sponsor found us and took us to a turn off that was supposedly closer to the site. Once we re-grouped, we began to trudge around in undisturbed Great Basin grasslands in search of rebars. To give you an idea of what kinds of plants grow here, I noticed russian thistle, four-winged saltbrush, prickly pear, globemallow, and greasewood bushes. As my boss Eunice put it, it was like "finding a needle in a haystack." The project sponsor, Justin Barnett, had the Archaeological Inventory Report which had the UTM center coordinates of the parcel of land we were in search of. However, while the coordinates were in UTM, we didn't know which datum it was in. The coordinates could be REALLY off, or just a little bit off. With this in mind, we plugged them into our Garmin Oregon 550t and followed the projected path towards the center UTMs. Eunice had to take off to a meeting in White Cone, leaving Justin and I to find the corner rebars. It took some walking in the blazing sun, but Justin began to feel familiar with the area and lead me towards the first stake in the ground. It was a tall wooden stake with a pink flag tied to the top, so it was a little easier than finding a rebar. Once we found one, it was not long until we found the other three stakes (see Figure 2). I was happy that it wasn't such a painfully long process... while I did put on my hiking shoes, I forgot sunscreen and hat to protect my skin from the sun. After we returned to the car, I got some water and we were off to the White Cone Multi-Purpose Center so I could meet up with my team and Justin could go back home.
Figure 2. Notice the opaque black lines -- that is the path we took. I initially started my GPS when I took waypoint 545. I took a few more (546 and 547) to make sure things were in order. You will see from waypoint 547 to the "Northeast Corner", there was some confusion and uncertainty (and quick bathroom breaks). Once we reached the first stake, it was a pretty painless process and we got back in a timely manner.

Now we know that the church site is approximately 3.11 miles heading northeast on BIA Rte 15. It is located about 350 feet straight from the turn in. The entire parcel of land has an area of about 3.4 acres. The Justin Barnett said that this site will contain a church, a youth center, maybe a volleyball and basketball area (for youth recreation), and a house for he and his family. He plans to tend to the church until he can find a local who will take over that responsibility so he can continue his mission to spread his faith around the Navajo Nation by building churches and helping the local communities he settles in.

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