Snow is beautiful…and so is this…from June, 2010, Little Cottonwood Canyon trail…maybe you’ll enjoy a glimpse of Summer while you’re still in your Winter, wherever you are….
My older son and I noticed these ice climbers last Sunday as we were heading up the Little Cottonwood Canyon trail from the Mormon Temple Quarry near the mouth of the canyon. While I have never participated in the sport, I have found myself up near their location on the side of the mountain when I was collecting images for the posts Life on a Rock, Scale or perspective… and Little Cottonwood Canyon Vistas.
If you are having difficulty finding the three climbers, they are just to the right and below of the center of the above photograph…three climbers, two at the top, and one in blue toward the bottom of the icy cascade that is near the horizontal middle of the image.
You might remember the post from December, 2011, when I shared my first encounter/discovery of ice climbers in the Little Cottonwood Canyon. The location from I Found a Frozen Waterfall is probably another mile up into the canyon and on the same side of the mountain, or canyon wall.
The first four images were from the beginning of our hike, shortly after 9:00 a.m. …and before the sun had made its way over the canyon walls…and the last two photos were taken at the end of the hike, close to four hours later. While it was still an overcast day, the light had changed the appearance of the snow and canyon from the blue hues to the more gray and subdued colors that are not uncommon for our winter mountains.
My son, with his more-than-slightly younger ears, could hear the climbers’ picks smacking into the icy walls, just a “tick…tick……tick” from across the hundreds of yards that separated us, the sound traveling easily in the quiet mountain air, from however many feet above us.
I borrowed the title from my friend Melanie at Lemony Shots…a compelling photographer who has a discerning eye, one that finds the extraordinary in decrepit buildings and spiders’ webs and transporting images of dandelion seeds and gray mornings of peaceful solitude in empty fields…you’ll want to visit with her if you haven’t done so already….
This is something of a follow-up or companion piece to my recent post, Toward White Pine Lake. These are some of my favorite photos from this particular visit. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too….
And the last one with a human stuck in there for perspective’s sake…don’t know who you are, but thanks for being there….
The trail-head for White Pine Lake is located about 5.5 miles up into Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. This is the same trail-head used to access the Red Pine Lakes, both Lower and Upper. The drainage, or tributary canyon/fork that leads to White Pine Lake is just east of the one leading to the Red Pine Lakes. You might remember my three earlier posts on Upper Red Pine Lake. You can refresh your memory by clicking here, here, and here to revisit those posts. The trail to White Pine Lake is just over four miles in length and has an elevation gain of a little more than 2,300 ft…the lake is situated at around 10,000 ft.
In his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, Charles L. Keller tells us that lumber operations were conducted in this area from the mid-1860′s until about 1881…the area was referred to as the White Pine Fork of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
I haven’t found precise dates for it, but mining operations were also conducted in the area, with work possibly continuing into the early to mid 1900′s. I offer the date of the early 1900′s because I have found a bit of narrow-gauge rail along the shore of White Pine Lake that was similar to other rail that I found at a different location in Big Cottonwood Canyon that had a production city and date on it…but I’m really guessing here….
Can you find the two people in the below photograph? They’re about one-third of the way up and just to the right of the large rock in the center of the bottom edge of the photo.
Keller references mining operations in Little Cottonwood Canyon proper, mostly around the area of Alta, but does note several times that miners referred to their claims in the White Pine Fork. I have found an article by David A. John which details the reported amounts of precious metals taken from the ground in the Central Wasatch Mountain area, but again, nothing specifically noting what was taken out of White Pine Fork and over what period. It also notes that mining operations were conducted in the Wasatch area for over 100 years, beginning in 1862, a date that Keller has also used for the advent of mining activities in the region. The highlighted article above also details exploration and drilling activities for molybdenum in White Pine Fork during the 1960′s and 1970′s, but again, doesn’t mention anything about specific mining operations for the metal.
There is a solitary figure of a man in the below photograph…about one-third of the way up from the bottom, toward the right of center….
This mass of snow-covered hill (on the left) in the photo below is called “Red Baldy,” if I’m not mistaken…and most of the snow was melted on this front surface by the time I was leaving the lake.
Another shot to help with scale, there are two people in the below photograph, right at the juncture where the trail curves slightly back to the left near the bottom edge….
The water-level appears to be somewhere between 20 and 25 feet below the water-mark on the side of the basin. I haven’t included it in this post, but I have a photograph of a man standing on the shore and the line of the water- mark seems to be about four times higher than he is tall.
Even though the water is much lower, it still provides a beautiful reflection….
I spent a couple of hours searching for anything that could shed some light on the history of the dam, but could only find one very brief reference to it being built in 1920…and then nothing else. The topic isn’t covered in Keller’s book, as it intentionally details the history of the three-canyon area only up to the first decade or so of the 1900′s. Where he does step further into the next century, it appears to be auxiliary information related to the culmination or end-points of topics that have been covered extensively.
Just out of frame at the bottom right-hand corner of the below photo is the grate that covers the exit portal/drain in the wall of the dam. The water-level appears to be just below the bottom edge of the drain…so I don’t know if the water had been released from the lake, or if it was truly that low because of the much lighter snowfall this past winter. I’ve shared photographs of other lakes with greatly diminished water-levels this year, including The Great Salt Lake…so I’d guess that this one is lower for the same reason.
This last photograph is from my post White Pine Lake in September from 2011. You can see by this photo that the water-level was much higher at the time. If you’d like to see more images of the lake from that earlier visit, simply click on the highlighted name to follow the link back to the post. The difference in the lake’s appearance between the two years is incredible.
Please watch for a following post titled, “White Pine Lake Reflections”…coming soon….
Those were the words that I typed into Google when I returned from my first hike to this end of the Little Cottonwood Canyon trail and found these ruins. The below photo is from that first hike and sighting of the ruins…taken in November, 2010 (take note the arch over the window-frame on the far left end of the building). I found an “ok” article on Wikipedia that talked about skiing in the canyon…and some other generic information, but nothing that addressed the ruins specifically. I then went to “images” on Google and did find some images, similar to these, but nothing that provided links to historical information…only suggestions that it was a church, evidently thought to be one because of the nice arches above the tall window frames. I think I must have found a couple/few mentions of the building being a church in some Flickr albums…. I later wrote a little story about it having been one…which you can read by clicking on this highlighted name – Ruins.
But it wasn’t a church…a beautiful building at one time, maybe/yes, full of mystery (explainable), and even charged with electricity (literally), but there wasn’t an altar or communion table, no preacher, priest, or prophet directing the administration of an almighty…the building was an electricity generating station…a power-plant made of white granite blocks that appear to have been hand-carved from boulders that had tumbled from the mountains above it….
The Columbus Consolidated Mining Company started building the generating station in October of 1903 to power the mining operations at Alta, about four to five miles upstream near the end of the canyon. The availability of electric power would allow the company to use compressed-air drilling machines, motor-driven concentrating/smelting machines, and turbine pumps to remove the ever-seeping water from workers’ tunnels so that the mining operations could continue.
Immediately to the left and out of the frame of the above photo, there used to be a bridge that crossed from the other side of the stream to the power station. The bridge was removed at some point, and until recently, hikers/adventurers could only cross the stream when the water level was sufficiently low enough to allow for rock-jumping…or wading. I say “recently” because someone has very recently installed a nice 2×6 single-board “bridge” with a miniature zip-line overhead to allow for careful crossing over one of the narrower parts of the stream.
One of my sons and I managed to cross the stream this past April (see the last two photos) when the stream was very low before the snow-melt began. The inside of the ruin was still covered in deep snow and it was difficult to discern what it might have actually been…even though we had more than a little bit of confidence that it wasn’t a church because of the power poles and apparent water pipe/chute that we could see through the broken floor.
The water pipe/chute that I mentioned above is actually located just out of frame and to the right in the above photo…it didn’t make a very interesting photo…so it’s still in its folder on my computer and not appearing here…maybe that’s a shortcoming of mine as its photographer…but it simply didn’t look very compelling…anyway…. During my explorations, I also found another three places where the underground pipe had been exposed, one on each far end of the building property, and the third on the opposite side and downstream from the ruin.
These autumn-toned images are from my first, non-snow-covered visit into the power station ruins. I had been on the trail earlier in the year and had looked into it from afar, waiting for the water level of the stream to go down again…yearning to sit there for a while so I could process what I had learned of the place and match it to what I could see in front of me…and to listen for echoes of distant voices, the quiet rushing of water beneath my feet…and the fleeting sounds of whirring motors.
About a mile upstream from the ruins, there is currently a camping area that has the name of “Tanners Flat.” This was once a staging/holding area for ore that had been brought down from the various mines that were higher in the canyon. Over the years, there were also lumber mills, hotels, a smelter operation, an aerial tramway station, telegraph station, and even homes built in the area…all gone now, of course. The name of the present-day campground is all that is left of the location that was once known as “Tannersville.”
I provided all of that info above to simply say that there was a dam built on the stream at Tanners Flat. The water was diverted into 22-inch pipes that traveled about 4,500 feet downstream and was shot into the power station to turn the waterwheels, which, in turn, powered the generators that sent their electricity back upstream to the mines, boarding-houses, businesses, residences, etc., in the Alta area. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand that there are also remains of the retaining wall of the breached dam…somewhere along the southwest corner of the campground…which probably won’t be too difficult to locate.
I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but if you’re able to access a map that shows details of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the power station is located approximately halfway between Hogum Fork and Maybird Gulch…on the south side of the stream.
You can see that the arch of the window-frame is missing in the above and below photos (as noted in the very first photograph above, taken in November, 2010)…and you can see that it is also missing in the next to last shot, which I took in November, 2011…so it was either removed or had fallen on its own during the intervening year.
If you ever come across a copy of Charles L. Keller’s book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, first printed in 2001, you can see the author’s photograph of the ruins (Figure 35) in which this wall, that is now missing its window arch, is largely intact from one end of the building to the other, from the ground to over the tops of the windows…and the east end of the building, which is the far right end in the above photo, is nearly as complete as the front wall is on the other end of the building. For clarification/orientation, the largest intact portion of the structure is the west end (the “front” with the complete doorway and two complete window frames). The building is essentially parallel to the stream, which runs from east to west, and lies on the southern side of the stream.
I mentioned above that construction of the power station began in October, 1903. As with many other pursuits in life, there were delays in the completion of the project, but it was finally finished, and electricity was finally produced and sent up to Alta on the evening of July 4, 1904. Because of an increasing demand for power up in the mining district, a second generator was installed in late 1905. In 1913, the Columbus Consolidated power station was made a subsidiary of the Wasatch Power Company, which was then merged into the Utah Power and Light Company sometime in 1929.
As the mining endeavors became less fruitful in the Alta area, and as electricity-producing technology advanced, there became less of a need for the plant here in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The precise date that the switch was turned off on the Columbus Consolidated power station has been lost to the passing of time, but it is believed to have occurred sometime in the early 1940s.
Yes, that is a look of wonder on my son’s face in the above photo…can’t help but smile out there….
I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip back into the history of the Little Cottonwood Canyon ruins. If you’re ever in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA and want to take a relatively easy, six-mile hike (round-trip), find the Temple Quarry Nature Trail near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The trail-head for the Little Cottonwood Canyon trail is at the far/east end of the quarry’s parking lot. Have a nice hike!
***Please note that all of the historical information provided above was obtained from Charles L. Keller’s book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket.
You might remember the earlier post, Missing…. from several months ago….
You’ll find something similar if you visit Allen at New Hampshire Garden Solutions…but his has a door…out in the middle of the NH wilderness…scroll down to the bottom photo of his post…makes you wonder.
This hillside bunker might be related to the railroad work that was conducted in Little Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA…you’ll see details of its likely history in the comments on the earlier post. Just click on the blue highlighted word “Missing….” above if you’d care to read a bit more about it.
It was hard to decide…so I didn’t….
I had just crossed the empty stream-bed in Little Cottonwood Canyon and was making my way toward where I knew the trail was located…when I heard the sound of falling water. To the left of this little waterfall is where I found the moss and other tiny plant life that I featured in my post “Life on a Rock.”
I had visited the same area in the past and wasn’t aware of any other streams nearby…but the canyon was/is still full of things that I haven’t seen, little treasures tucked-away beneath wind-blown trees, lying in the shadows of whole and broken boulders of fallen granite, and ever-changing scenes of Nature’s drama of unfolding life and death. In my searching for the falling water, I had to go off-trail and deeper into the wild of the canyon forest. Amid the waking plant life and the blanket of the previous season’s fallen leaves, I found what appeared to be the skeleton of a deer or other medium-sized vertebrate.
A great mind once posited that matter can neither be created nor destroyed…it simply changes form…becomes something other than what it was as the result of some greater force acting upon it. As we find beauty in a decaying building, crumbling walls of barns and castles, trees whithering and rotting back into the forest floors of their cradles and graves, I believe we can find an equal beauty in the physical remains of a once living and breathing being as it returns to its elemental form where it will nourish the tiny creatures and plants that share its environment…for such is the stuff of life and death…regeneration…coming together in a new and other form….
I had seen their sign on the way up the trail, huge hoof-prints, huge droppings, and bits of long, black, coarse hair…but not much else…no sounds, anyway. It was hard to tell how old the marks and droppings were, but I kept looking to the sides of the trail for a bit…and then gradually didn’t think more about them. I have seen their sign on other hikes and have only seen them once before…a solitary cow standing in the middle of the early morning trail…. On my return trip back down the trail, a couple of other hikers were stopped ahead of me, had their cameras out, and were pointing up the slope…all we could see was the female…laying there all large and sleepy in the woods. I crept up the slope a couple of steps as the other hikers tucked their cameras away and started down the trail again. As I kept zooming-in and taking increasingly closer shots, it seemed that I could see another ear flicker in the woods behind the cow. The brush was too dense to see more than an outline of the other moose, so I tried to quietly head down the slope and over to the one side where I could see another access that might give me a better vantage point to see who else was back there. Well…the couple of drops of Native American blood that I have remaining from my ancestors waaaay back did nothing to help me sneak-up on the creature that was hiding back there. The bull moose heard me and slowly got up and started ambling through the brush, once or twice turning to look in my direction. Again, the brush was thick and I only managed two non-blurry pictures that give a good indication as to what he looked like…with his antler buds starting to protrude from his forehead.