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


Oz said...

What a great ride idea! I have never thought of Pony Express stations. Thanks for sharing. Looks interesting.

The Bug Boys said...

Great post! Do you think I can make it in a baja bug or is the trail too rough?

Trobairitz said...

What awesome inspiration for a road trip.

A good excuse to ride the new Strom too, not that you needed one.

Ken said...

Thomas - I'm glad I saw that book, I hadn't thought of it either. Was a fun project.

Bug Boys - I don't think the baja would have any problems...all the dirt I rode to get the stations (other than muddy sometimes) was pretty smooth and nice for dirt.

Trobairitz - Yes it was a good excuse! :) I need one last station and I'll post part II.

KROD said...

Looks like a good reason to add a dual sport to the stable. Thanks, I always enjoy your posts.

Ken said...

KROD - Any excuse to add another bike is a good excuse.. :) I'd be interested to know what you get!

InvictaMoto said...

Superb. Makes me almost want to walk.... Too.

Ken said...

Paul - Yikes! Walk?? Actually that would make a good story also. But, the west desert...whew! That would be a dry, long walk.
Thanks for reading!