This is especially true when you are dealing with outlaw caches. Outlaws always used maps, either one carved on a rock or bluff somewhere or the kind of map you can carry around with you or both. The maps gave you information on what to look for and how to get there. The clues that you will find in the field that corresponds to the information on the maps may or may not give you added information that is needed to continue on the trail.
A marker along the trail that you find while interpreting a map can point you in a direction so that you can continue to interpret the map or it can simply be telling you “you are here” as in this is a point along the trail, now look at the map and figure out what you are supposed to do from here.
These innocuous markers can be just about anything. I have seen small upright rocks used this way, I have seen rocks with single drill holes in them used this way and I have seen a railroad spike driven into a tree used this way. You can find a pile of rocks, an individual symbol carved on a rock, a symbol made out of rocks, etc. The ways to make these types of markers is almost as many as there are markers out there. It’s all about who made the map and markers and how their mind worked at the time. Heed that last part, how their mind worked at the time. Outlaws seem to have a penchant for changing the types of maps and markers they used quite often. The same outlaw or gang could have several different styles of making maps and leaving markers. You wouldn’t think they would have been that clever but apparently they had a lot of time on their hands!
When hunting outlaw caches you need to keep in mind that finding a pile of rocks or a single carved symbol, an individual drill hole, etc. may not have any additional meaning other than marking a point on the trail. I know a lot of people, including myself, have tried (and some are still trying) to interpret something that has no real interpretation. One of the hardest things you can do is stumble upon a marker in the field with nothing else connected to it and try to interpret it out of context.
This isn’t necessarily so for Spanish markers but when it comes to the outlaws, you almost always need a map to work the entire trail. If you don’t have a map you can always start working the area with a metal detector and hope to get lucky. Unlike the Spanish, the outlaws seemed to keep their buried goodies in a fairly compact area. I know of a couple of outlaw maps that appear to cover areas bigger than a football field but for the most part I would say an outlaw cache will be within 100-150 feet of the starting point of the map. So if you come across a marker you may be within 50-100 feet of where the treasure is.
Knowing your are that close may not be very helpful but treasure has been found with less information and will continue to be found every so often by those super lucky people that seem to just trip over the stuff. Doesn’t hearing stories like that just annoy the crap out of you?