Friday, February 20, 2015

Pony Express Trail stations across Utah - part I

The Pony Express stations across Utah - part I
(east to west)

From April 1860 to October 1861 the fastest way to communicate across the American continent was via the Pony Express.
(There is some talk that 'smo-xting' or smoxt messaging, a kind of Native American hy-bred of smoke signals and  texting, was faster, but no actual documentation can be found to prove that theory.(LOL))


One of the first rides I took on my new strom DL650 in early February was on a quiet road past the tiny town of Vernon. I stopped in at the only store/grill in town for a cup of hot chocolate and to warm up. Well, at least warm up as the brew was watered down, but it was hot and while holding the cup to warm my hands I spied this book behind the counter and on a whim bought it. Then as I perused it later I became intrigued with the idea of a blog post about the Pony Express stations across Utah. Thank you to author, Patrick Hearty and photographer Dr. Joseph Hatch for an excellent book!
The Pony Express stations are where the rider would exchange ponies in order to keep up the quick pace required to cross the country so quickly. Horses tire in about 10 miles of running approximately 8 miles an hour. The riders were told to not turn back for anything or anyone. A typical "shift" was a ride of 100 miles, on ten different horses that would last about 8 to 10 hours. Then return the same way to their original station the next day. Riders had a 30 second window to be ready to start their next ride/shift.
There were about 200 riders hired at the start of the PET.
 When the station keeper would hear the gallop of the rider and horse, he would ready the replacement horse for the rider, who would then leap from the tired horse to the fresh animal and gallop away to the next station. A piece of mail could be transported from St Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, Cal in just TEN DAYS!
There were 25 regular PET stops across Utah along with 2 more emergency stops. Most of the stations were about 10 miles apart, as the crow flies...or as the pony gallops I suppose. Some of the modern day miles between the stations are on or nearly on original PET routes, for other stations a more round about route was required to reach them. My motorcycle never complained.

I was able to find all but two stations thanks to the coordinates in the book. I didn't 'bag' them in order, but they are listed here in directional order from east to west.
I've divided up the stations into 3 posts.

Since I don't know how to mark coordinates on google maps I had to guess-ti-mate where to put the red arrows, but I think they are reasonably close to being correct.
The I-80 freeway west bound from Evanston, Wyoming follows Echo Canyon into Utah; the first 7 stations can be accessed off of the freeway's frontage road, with the exception of the first station, Needles, which requires a little more travel, as seen below.

So I'm a few miles west of Evanston, Wyoming and 3 miles or so south of I-80 on my way to the first station....The Needles.
From I-80 I ride about 5 miles of dirt (snowy mud) road to the Yellowcreek road in Wyoming, the road then dips briefly into Utah which is where I find The Needles.

In that 5 miles I realize that the otherwise excellent little strom engine doesn't like to lug much, I also find that it is possible to 'rock' a motorcycle back and forth to get unstuck in mud and snow.....additionally I discover that 'rocking' a motorcycle gives one an amazing quadriceps workout...

I could find no actual marker, but I believe the station would have been in this photograph to the right of the sign post and near the foot of the hill.
*Needles station*
 The next station the rider would come to is this one. It is now on private property, and I couldn't find anyone  there to ask permission to get a closer photo, so I did the best I could from the fence. You can see a round Pony Express sign by the door and another rectangle sign on the side of the building. 
(Check out the old gas pumps.)
*Head of Echo station*

Some of the stations had very little in the way of photo the next two.
Riding east on the frontage road I come to
*Hanging Rock or Halfway station*

What the pony rider might have seen as he rode...except the yellow dividing lines, I don't think those were invented yet..
Near the I-80, I-84 junction is the next station.
*The Weber station*
Not a station, or even on the route, but I passed it as I was finding the next station and took the pic.
Another one where guess work comes into play. This is along SR 65, "East Canyon Road" I think the station was in the clearing to the right of the two larger trees.
*Dixie Hollow station*
I take a side trip for a comfort stop..
Back on track I ride to the next station.
This station was both a Pony Express station and a stagecoach stop. It also is now on private property, the 7th Heaven Ranch. I asked and received permission to access and photograph.
*Bauchmann's station*
Another of the buildings on 7th Heaven Ranch.
Flag by the Bauchmann cabin.
I leave Bauchmann station and turn 'er into overdrive to reach the next station..

This one is not on my map above because it was not normally a Pony Express Station, Snyder's Mill in Parleys canyon, was used when the mountain passes were blocked by high snow.
(Thank you to the extremely hot women in tight jogging attire for taking this picture...thanks again! Thank you...ummm, thanks!) 
((Also, thank you to the coldness of the day...))
*Snyder's Mill station*
(you have to look close to see the nearly invisible me)

Snyder's Mill was also a stage coach stop.

Next is Mountain Dell station.
The picture below is not the Mountain Dell station location.... the location of that station is only generally known, and I think I'm about 3/4 of a mile away from that area. To reach the spot where that vague area is thought to be I would have to walk....yes I said "walk" the remaining distance. I'm willing to suffer only so much for the one person that reads this blog, so for the purposes of this blog entry the muddy gated road you see is the
*Mountain Dell station*
Lastly and appropriately  in the first group of Utah Pony Express stations is this one found on Main Street in Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake House, was a 'Home station" meaning the riders and ponies would have lodged here between runs.
*The Salt Lake House Home station*
Sir Richard Burton, who toured the PET during the period, described the Salt Lake house;
"Nearly opposite the Post-office, in a block on the eastern side, with a long verandah, supported by trimmed and painted posts, was a two-storied, pent-roofed building, whose sign-board, swinging to a tall, gibbet-like flagstaff, dressed for the occasion, announced it to be the Salt Lake House, the principal, if not the only establishment of the kind in New Zion....I had not seen aught so grand for many a day. Its depth is greater than its frontage, and behind it, secured by a porte cochere, is a large yard, for corralling cattle....upstairs we found a Gentile ballroom, a tolerably furnished sitting-room, and bed chambers..." 

That's it for this post six more stations will be in part II

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pony Express Trail stations across Utah - part II

Part II
The middle 7 stations. 
These 7 are easily accessible. By 'easily accessible' I mean the 30 or so miles of dirt road to access the last three is a good dirt road, graded and drama free. The next group of stations in part III will be a much higher number of miles on dirt.

I ride out to Sandy to get the "Traders Rest" station. This marker is at about 7200 south on Salt Lake area's State Street, a 17.3 mile arrow straight, mostly 6 lane road that is the 'main' street running through the towns of Salt Lake City, Murray, Midvale, Sandy, and 
 Draper...and probably a couple others I'm forgetting.
*Traders, or sometimes known as Travelers, Rest station*

Moving on to,
*Rockwells station*
A new building is currently under construction where Rockwell station was originally located.
Directly to the west of this marker is the state prison.
The picture below is looking north and a little east from the Rockwell station marker, the pass through the  snow covered mountain above the bike is where the westbound Pony Express rider would have entered the valley.
Run by the colorful Orrin Porter Rockwell, the station was also home to the Porter Rockwell's Hot Springs Brewery Hotel.
Porter Rockwell is a legend in Mormon lore. Defender of the Church and its leaders, lawman, and body guard to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, he was promised by Joseph Smith that if he never cut his hair, a bullet would not take his life. He died of heart failure in 1878 at 65 years old.

Satch and Cameron join me to bag a  few stations.
We are in Eagle Mt, on the Pony Express Trail road... there is no marker for this station, however, using our finely honed guess-ti-mating skills we decide the station was just above where Cameron is pointing.
 *Joes Dugout station*
Joes Dugout got its name when the owner, Joseph Dorton built a small log roofed dugout as lodging for an Indian boy he hired to care for the horses.

Next station is at Camp Floyd.

We take a seldom used shortcut from Eagle Mt across dirt roads to Camp Floyd.... why is it a seldom used shortcut? Because it takes longer than the other way. But that's alright, we are not in a hurry and had a good time riding the dirt roads.

Camp Floyd was established at a time when the religious freedom we take for granted in these days was not in effect for the Mormon pioneers. In 1857 the Federal government sent 3000 troops to quell what the POTUS (Buchanan) called the Mormon problem. The endeavor was termed the  "Mormon war" or "Buchanan's Blunder" depending on who's propaganda you believe.. The 'war' was resolved without a battle, and the army subsequently  built Camp Floyd to house the soldiers. 
 *Camp Floyd station*

I wonder what this ancient tree thought of all the pony express riders racing around..
Satch leaves our little expedition after Camp Floyd, Cameron and I ride to the next station via a 12 miles dirt road.
Other than the location,very little is known  about this station,
 *East Rush Valley station*

Back to pavement for about 2 miles we go past the tiny town of Faust, named after Henry Jacob "Doc" Faust. Doc Faust dropped out of Med school when he caught the gold rush fever... but he continued to practice medicine anyway. We continue on to the..
 *Faust station*

And back to dirt roads to get the rest of the stations.
 Reconnoiter stop.
 Lookout pass is the next station...if you look to the right of the right sign post you can see the road where the rock cairn denotes the location of the station.

Note the sign... The 'Pet" on that sign is not talking about the pony express trail....(see below)
Horace Rockwell (brother of the famous Porter Rockwell) and his wife Libby lived at Lookout Pass station. They did not have children, but Libby had several small dogs that she 'doted' on. This rock wall enclosure was built to protect the graves of her beloved dogs.
A story is recorded of her sending an urgent message to the nearest doctor who lived in Tooele, a town 40 miles away, telling the good Doctor that one of their ranch hands was critically ill (knowing the Doctor would not come to treat one of her dogs..) when the Dr arrived late that night, he was very put out to find that it was her dog that was ill. Libby reportedly handed the Doc a $20.00 gold piece, he was mollified and treated the animal. 
 *Lookout Pass station*
It's getting late, time to call it a day. I'll return tomorrow and get more of the PET stations.
The last of the PET stations are in part III
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pony Express Trail stations across Utah - part III

Part III and the final 10 stations in Utah. 
Except the final station, Deep Creek station, all these stations are easily accessed from the Pony Express Trail road, a 141 mile dirt road that stretches from Faust to the Ibapah road near the Nevada state line. 

The next morning I'm on the PET again, this time my first stop is at,
*Simpson Springs station*
There is beauty every where in our world, and life is what you make of it, but some would say that the scenery in this particular spot of the world area leaves a little bit to be desired.

*Riverbed station*

*Blackrock station*
(Named for the basalt rock outcropping in the rear of the picture.)

Entering Fish Springs bird refuge.
Fish Springs is an 18,000 acre bird refuge established in 1959 administered by the U.S. Fish and Game department. It is an important migration stop for numerous bird species. I have spent some time 'birding' at Fish Springs, and stayed overnight once. It is a neat place, especially if you find fascination in our winged friends.
I've ridden about 62 miles on dirt road to reach Fish Springs, which is just a little farther than the distance on dirt road to reach it from the other direction.
Mark Twain had this to say about this area; "And now we entered upon one of that species of deserts whose concentrated hideousness shames the diffused and diluted horrors of the Sahara - an 'alkai" desert.... Imagine a vast, waveless ocean stricken dead and turned to ashes; imagine this solemn waste tufted with ash-dusted sagebushes; imagine the lifeless silence and solitude through the midst of this shoreless level, and sending up tumbled volumes of dust as if it were a bug that went by steam; imagine this aching monotony of toiling and plowing kept up hour after hour, and the shore still as far away as ever, apparently; imagine team, driver, coach, and passengers so deeply coated with ashes that mustaches and eyebrows like snow accumulation on boughs and bushes. This is the reality of it."
You can see the water in the background that is Fish Springs bird refuge.
*Fish Springs station*
overturned bus...

*Boyd's station*

I reach the tiny town of Callao one of the most remote towns in the U.S. Pronounced kall-ee-oo.
The sign in the picture below is actually a map of the town showing where each resident lives. Callao was first settled in 1857 and called Willow Springs, but changed their name to Callao in 1895 as the residents felt like Willow Springs was too common a name. Callao was suggested by an old prospector who told them the geography was similar to the Callao in Peru. It is unknown why the American pronunciation was used and not the Spanish version. Population numbers are vague, but it appears that there are about 13 families or households living in Callao.
Callao has several old vacant houses and ancient cabins.
The road I'm riding is not only the Pony Express Trail, it is also part of the Lincoln Highway.
On the western side of Callao is the
*Willow Springs station*

And on to the next station,
*Round station*
Note the gun ports in the remaining ruins of Round station. Originally built as a stop for the overland stage route, the remains you see are the third effort at building this station as the first two were burned down by the Indians.

Across this ravine is 
*Canyon station*
I finally found a way across to get a closer pic of the cairn.
And finally, I'm on my way to the last (if you are westbound) station in Utah.

 This is the
*Deep Creek station*

 There is some dispute about the exact location of the Deep Creek station, The above and below pictures are about 2 miles apart. Deep Creek station is believed to have been a home station.
This monument (below) is in the middle of a ranch families yard.
In finding these markers I had the opportunity to talk to three Ibapah residents (including the very nice woman who took this picture). All three were so kind and friendly it just might have been the best part of this project.

I stop to get a picture of the Utah Tree....

So there you have it, the Pony Express Trail stations of Utah.
I really enjoyed this PET project....get it...... "PET" Pony Express Trail.... PET project..... so anyway I really enjoyed doing it,  not only for the riding part, but learning about the history of the Pony Express in Utah, and the numerous fine conversations with the people I met along the way.
Thanks also to those who shared parts of the ride me to some of the stations, your company was appreciated and enjoyed.

I close the same way Patrick Hearty closed his excellent book;

Charles Mabey was Utah's 5th governer in 1920, he penned the following poem;

The Spirit of the Rider

The riders are dead, their ponies dust,
The years have buried the trails they made,
The mouldering posts are strewn with rust
From stockless gun and harmless blade;
Where once the savage lurked in force,
The settler sleeps in his calm abode,
                                     And only the ghost of the rider and horse
                                        Streaks down the path over which he rode.

The riders are gone, their ponies rest;
Nor can the years dim the fame they won.
By glade and pool and on mountain crest
A marker of bronze proclaims anon
How man and steed in the days of old
Carried the mail over plain and hill,
                           And only the shade of the rider bold
                                Can tell the tale with the the rider's skill.

Thanks for reading!