Posts tagged “The Lady in the Ore Bucket

Toward White Pine Lake….

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….

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What are the ruins in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah?

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.  I was introduced to the book by Knick Knickerbocker of the Wasatch Mountain Club.   He shared the information about the book during a conversation that we had on a rainy Sunday afternoon while hiking down the Days Fork trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon.


Sister Lakes – Lake Blanche

The Sister Lakes are situated near the end of a drainage or tributary canyon that is referred to as “Mill B South” in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.  The canyon is one of three prominent canyons in the Wasatch Mountains that provide the eastern boundary of the Salt Lake Valley…and all of the canyons are part of the Wasatch National Forest.

On a technical note, all of the photographs in the post were taken between about 10:00 and 12:30 on two bright, sunny days that were about two weeks apart.  I don’t have any filters for my camera, so you’ll notice that most of the clouds are a bit over-exposed.  I had thought that there was an adjustment to +/- the exposures, but…I was mistaken.  At any rate, I processed each of the photos with Picasa in an attempt to lessen the effect of the harsh light, sharpen the images, and to bring the colors back to what they were when I saw them that morning…and as you’ll see, also gave one or two of them a different finish.  I hope you enjoy them.

The below image is of Sundial Peak over Lake Blanche….

The drainage has had this name since 1855 when construction of the saw mill was undertaken.  It is my understanding that this mill, and other mills so named with letters of the alphabet, was initially owned by the Big Cottonwood Lumber Company…which was owned by one of Brigham Young’s sons and a few other people.  As each mill was built in the canyon, it was given the next letter in the alphabet…but that doesn’t mean that they proceeded in alphabetical order as they progressed upwards in the canyon.  The image in the below photo is from just left of Sundial Peak…I suppose that would be to the east.

If anyone is interested enough to search for Big Cottonwood Canyon on Google Earth, you will be able to find Mill B South on the right-hand side of the very distinct “S” in the road that is about 4-5 miles up into the canyon.

If you find that “S” in the road, just to the right of it will be a parking lot…on the upper (east)  side of the parking lot, you will find the trailhead for Lake Blanche.  On the lower (west) side, you will find the trailhead for Broads Fork…which you might remember from two posts back in July.  The area in the below photo is to the right, or west, of Sundial Peak…and that little hump you can see near the middle is actually Dromedary Peak.

If you’re not familiar with the settling of the Salt Lake City area, I’ll provide very briefly that Brigham Young and his Mormon followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in roughly July, 1847.  I say roughly, because some folks arrived shortly before he did and many others continued to arrive for years afterward…from all parts of the country…and many parts of the globe.

The below photo shows the area a little more to the right of Dromedary Peak, and from a different perspective than the above shot.  And yes, that wall is a dam that was breached after several years of the lake(s) being used as reservoirs for the Salt Lake Valley’s water supply.  More on that subject in a bit….

After the pioneers and other settlers ravaged the forests in Millcreek Canyon, which is much closer to the early city center, they moved south and into Big Cottonwood Canyon to harvest what they might of the ancient forest that lived there, untouched by anything other than Nature’s hand.  Some of the journals and notes from those loggers and saw-mill operators document pine and fir trees with diameters of three and four, and up to six feet across…huge trees.

If you’d like some perspective with the below photo, there are two people close to that igloo-shaped rock that is about 1/3 of the way up from the lower left corner…and again, this is the area to the left of Sundial Peak.

So…the area at the end of the Mill B South drainage has been called Hidden Valley…and in that valley are three lakes (referred to as the Three Sisters), Lake Blanche, Lake Florence, and Lake Lillian.  The first lake that you come to at the end of approximately three miles of hiking is L. Blanche…and a few more minutes of hiking will take you to the other two lakes that I will feature in the next two posts in this series.  The Hidden Valley has been a favored recreational hiking area since at least the 1880s.  Two artist friends who frequented the area named L. Blanche after a mutual friend and the other two lakes after their daughters.

By the way, all of the historical information provided in this and the next two posts can be found in Charles L. Keller’s book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket.

The above and below photos were taken from the far side of the lake, from the shoreline just inside of the wall by the dam.

You have no doubt noticed the wall/dam in the fifth and ninth photos…and will see additional dams in photos for the other lakes that will be featured in this series.  In 1905, the Brown and Sanford Irrigation Company applied to the US Forest Service to appropriate a certain amount of water from the drainage stream in Mill B South Fork.  It took three years for the approval to be granted and another two years for the dam to be completed.  Two years later, the company applied to raise the wall and double the storage capacity of the reservoir….  Evidently, this was quite an undertaking and the company had to apply to the forest service officials repeatedly to grant more and more time to complete the project.  When the irrigation company had exhausted the time that the official could legally grant, they had to bring the issue to federal court…twice, each time being granted another four years’ time to complete the project.  Finally, in 1934, the dam was finished.

Before the original wall/dam was built, when the snow-melt waters overwhelmed the natural holding capacity of the lake’s basin, the water spilled from its edges and eventually found its way into the stream that leads down the drainage and into the larger Big Cottonwood Canyon Stream.  When the dam was being built, the engineers provided a spillway course that led from L. Blanche to L. Florence, and then to L. Lillian…that caused each lake/reservoir to be filled before the excess was directed into the drainage that led down the canyon.  Over the years, Salt Lake City purchased the water rights from the federal government…and eventually the reservoirs were no longer needed to store surplus waters…and the dams were breached…that was in 1972.

My son actually made this next photo (below) with his cell-phone….

And just for fun, the next two photos are from July of 2011…they show a water level that is much higher than this year, due to record snow-fall in the mountains during the winter of 2010-2011.

Next in the series is Lake Florence…maybe you’ve seen enough of Sundial Peak by now….


Days Fork – II

This photo picks-up exactly where we left of in the earlier post, Days Fork I…the image is only slightly different, providing just a touch of another perspective…anyway, here we are, heading toward the mine near the end of the road/trail…and we are enjoying the journey…because that’s what it’s all about….

I think I turned around and looked behind me more on this hike than I have on most others.  This is the only trail that I’ve been on in the Wasatch Mountain canyons that border Salt Lake City where I’ve seen a sign warning that this was BEAR COUNTRY.  The sign was posted in the Spruce’s Campground area where the Days Fork trail actually starts.  So it was a little freaky for a bit of the hike, especially walking on the trail that skirted the woods…and then went into the meadow…and then skirted the woods again.  I was trying to imagine where I would be more likely to see one…would it be in the open meadow, on the mostly clear hillside, similar to where I saw the moose in Cardiff Fork…or would it be in the thicker pine woods…?  I mentioned all of that to say that this is a shot of my back-trail.  The tree in the immediate right foreground is the same smaller tree that you saw in the above photo, just to the left of center.

And the beautifully textured bark in this photo is from the tree that you can see to the left of the trail in the above picture….

This almost looks like some of the red rocks that one can see in Kanab, Utah…or in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Forest in the southern part of our state.  If you’d like to see some beautiful photographs of those last two areas, stop-by for a visit with Kerry Liebowitz at his Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog.  He just completed a series of his twelve-day photo-excursion to southern Utah and northern Nevada…stunning photography.  The below photo is my version of a red-rock canyon wall…but from the inside of a decaying tree stump….

Indian Paintbrush flowers come in at least two varieties here in our Utah mountains…this wide-petalled version and another with more spikey petals.  I’ve noticed the spikey version at higher altitudes than the other….  Wikipedia says that there are around 200 species of the flower, ranging from Alaska down to the Andes Mountains in South America, as well as in northern Asia and Siberia….

I want to say that this is a White Pine laying in a bed of Lupine, but I could be wrong on both counts….  Whatever they are, they struck me as beautiful…and notice the “baby” pine tree tucked against the side of the downed tree…more of that fascinating circle-of-life stuff.

I would say that this was essentially the first sign of the mine after I rounded a bend and came up the hill a bit….  You can see the pile of tailings there in the middle of the photo.  It’s my understanding that all of that dirt and rock came out of the mountain, shovel-full piled upon shovel-full and after a bit, it became a platform upon which the men worked as they dug their mine…or in this case, dug a shaft a couple of hundred feet down to a tunnel that had already been dug into the area from the other side of the ridge.

Remains of something…maybe just a retaining wall to prevent the earth from spilling back down onto the now almost non-existent road.

In his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, author Charles L. Keller tells us that mining activities were conducted in Days Fork for many years.  He also mentions that the “best-known remnant from those days is the remains of the Eclipse Mine” (p. 205)…the rusted contraptions of what-not that we can see in the following photos.  While there was something about all of this that I found (and still find) incredibly fascinating and interesting, I still had the thoughts going through my head about why it was all still out there….  It struck me as being analogous to “space junk,” all of our left-over pioneer, trail-blazing garbage that we just didn’t want to drag back home with us.  But then I kept taking pictures, and kept walking around, kept getting eye-ball-close to the tangible remains of a history that helped make the place what it is today.  Keller said that the mine operated from late 1877 until early 1888 when it was reported to have burned to the ground…nothing remained but what you see in the photos of this and the next post, along with some huge timbers and cord-wood that managed to return to the earth in one fashion or another.

I understand that these are the remains of the hoist motor that lowered lumber and supplies down into the tunnels that connected with those of the Flagstaff Mine that was being operated on the other side of the ridge that you can see in the background.  Within a couple of years of this mine’s discovery and subsequent addition to the other mine’s tunnel complex, about 10 tons of ore were being extracted from this mine per day…none of it came up this shaft and out through Days Fork, but it was extracted from this mine.

Below is another view of the hoist motor (probably/maybe?), one of the three remaining boilers, and some miscellaneous pipe.

More to follow….


Days Fork – I

Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the three major canyons in the Wasatch Mountain range that creates a beautiful and natural eastern boundary for the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area.  The early years of pioneer settlement saw the canyons being ravaged for their lumber…stands of pristine forest with pine and fir trees that had diameters between three and four feet across were taken down to build houses, supply wood for stoves and furnaces, and for developing industry.

As the years passed, and as the political climate of the Salt Lake area changed, exploitation of the canyon’s natural resources continued in the form of mining for precious metals.  The early 1860s saw numerous individuals and companies filing claims with the local courts so they could dig into the mountainsides and remove what they might…often packing the ore down their constructed roadways with wagons and mule-carts, and later with narrow-gauge railcars, depending on their location.  The pretty flower shown below is a Sticky Geranium.

If you looked at a map of the area’s canyons today, you would be able to identify gulches, tributary canyons, and various forks in the mountains by the names of people who had filed either mining or lumber claims in the particular areas…or had built a road into the woods and charged a toll for each wagon load of lumber…or who had been the “first” (Anglo?) to explore particular peaks or ridges…or had been a mine superintendant…or….  Albion Basin, near Alta, at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon, received its name from the Albion Mining Company; Alexander Basin in Millcreek Canyon was named after a man and his sons who harvested trees from a particular slope…and Days Fork was likely named after one of the Mormon settlers who filed a mining claim in the area.  Day was a common name among the pioneers, but it is not known which particular one filed the claim in this tributary canyon of Big Cottonwood Canyon proper.

Those blurred and brownish cone-looking things in the below photo are Western Coneflowers…they’re part of the Sunflower family.

The eventual goal of this and the next two posts is to share my hike up the three-plus mountain miles that lead to the Days Fork mine near the canyon’s terminus; I could just share the pictures of the abandoned mine site, but as with many other pursuits in life, it’s not so much the destination that counts, as it is the journey that takes us there….  I’m told that the brownish, chewed-off branches or sticks that you can see in the photo below are actually young willow trees…a favorite snack/meal of the moose who wander the area.

For those of you who are interested, the trail is reported to be three and a half miles in length and gains 2,000 feet in elevation from start to finish, ending at 9,400 feet.  I had hoped to capture interesting images of the rocks that you can see in the above trail…but ended-up with the below image of one part blurred rock, one part not-blurred rock, and one part beautiful water-droplets-on-grass-blades from the previous evening’s rain.

The historical information I mentioned above can be found in The Lady in the Ore Bucket, by Charles L. Keller…a retired engineer and an avocational historian who still leads hiking excursions into the local canyons…at more than 80 years of age….

I am still struck by the beautiful examples of the circle-of-life that I find on my canyon and mountainside hikes…like the sapling that is growing next to the broken trunk of an ancient tree that is slowly returning to the earth…its minerals nourishing the new tree that will take his place in the forest landscape, providing food and shelter for the small animal life and recycling life-sustaining elements that will be used again and again by his forest neighbors.

The above flower is a Colorado Columbine…a weighty name that evokes memories of a horrible event in our modern history of America….  I often find the flower standing alone, or with only a couple of blossoms on a single plant…making me wonder how it got there and why there are no others around it.  I understand seed dispersal through winds and bird/animal droppings, but it still strikes me as strange that there aren’t more together, or at least nearby, when I find one or two of these alluring and beautiful flowers.

I believe the flowers below are Mountain Daisies…although, some of the pictures I’ve found of flowers with that name show varieties with wider and fewer petals…and others with white and yellow petals…so I’m not absolutely certain…but they do look like daisies, and I did find them on a mountain…so they’re Mountain Daisies anyway….  🙂

You can see the large white patches of Cow Parsnip in the mountain meadow shown below…beautiful umbellifers that can grow to several feet in height after particularly wet winters and springs.  Can you imagine standing there on the trail with me…absolutely nobody else around for at least a couple of miles…or more…?  A slight breeze stirs the pine branches overhead…causes a ripple in the wild grass and flowers in the meadow…and brings the scent of wet forest mulch, like a natural perfume rising from the earth itself….

More to follow….