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My Expedition Vehicle & Trailer

Friday, October 8, 2010

Salt Tram Cabin

The cabin in some of the photos was originally the residence  of the tramkeeper. Here is an old photo that may have been a family that lived there at one time.

After the tram was shut down the cabin was deserted, abandoned to time, the elements and vandals. It was said to have been in decent shape up until the 1960's when high winds tore the roof off. (Dedecker "White Smith's Fabulous Salt Tram")

A group of volunteers working with the BLM put a tremendous amount of effort into restoring much of the cabin. A long distance shot from the south.

This is the rebuilt house's south porch where the "family" photo was taken

On the porch

The western porch area facing the Sierras, a great place for a snooze.

The view after sunset

North side and entrance

Old photo pointing out the existence of the original cabin near the still-covered tramway station

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Inyo Range Salt Tram Expedition, September 2010 - - - Part 5

Sunday was the third and last day for our shared adventure. About half of the group had to start the homeward journey in the late morning. That left the following folks to go on a hike along the westward portion of the tramway: Bill, Linus, Alan and Jim.

Our hike also was to include searching for additional evidence of the early charcoal manufacturing activities wherever the tramway path crossed nearby. All artifacts were left where we found them. The terrain would vary from canyon floors to scree and tree covered hillsides.

As we hiked along we spotted numerous sawn off tree stumps, a number of which may have been cut when snow was there. The height of the stumps above ground level was one of the clues. In one canyon we found what appeared to be part of a sledge for dragging across the canyon floor to create rough road. Just our guess for now. Someone else was interested enough to have dug at the bushes and dirt that had covered over the steel beams.

One other oddity was the large quantities of small chunks of burned wood that were along the slopes and washed into the bottom of the gullies. We really don't know if it was related to the charcoal activities or not.

Remains of a fireplace for a cabin?

Metal artifacts and broken bottles were abundant

High above us the tramway towers  provided landmarks to urge us forward.

Here is Bill with a salt "bucket" that we found at the bottom of the canyon.

Bill noticed some bullet holes in an array on the bottom of the bucket which at first we thought was vandalism. I recently read that this was a deliberate act to help the moisture drain out of the buckets because the early "grips" could not handle the weight of the still wet salt. The original grips would fail and the buckets would plummet out of control on steep grades. One of the legacies of those drain holes are the large swaths of denuded mountainside where the salt fell to the ground and killed vegetation.

Here are Alan and Linus disappearing over the crest of the hill above Bill and I

As we caught up to them we saw the remains of a collapsed tower.

And next a tall still-standing tower

Then we spotted an arched crossover structure

This slightly damaged bottle still had some sort of sludge in it. No one wanted to give it a taste!

Here is a view back to a crossover station between us and the Tramkeeper's Cabin.

And to the west a steady column of towers marching across the arid flanks of the Inyos.

The first one at the bottom of the picture is just above the canyon where the Swansea trail comes up-canyon. It is about 800 feet below where I was standing.

At that point in the day we realized that we were running out of time and had to head back. We took a high route that lead us back to the road, less than one mile NW of the Cabin. All the while as we trudged along we were discussing plans for the next foray into the Inyos.

Closing thoughts:

Some folks will sit in their Lazi-Boys and argue about the use of the word "Expedition" for this trip. They'll sagely pronounce that it "just ain't an Exper-dition" if you aren't in the far Outback or the depths of the Sahara, far from any possible civilization.  I'd counter that if you are taking your mind to new limits, stretching your personal horizons and getting out of that Lazi-Boy to go forth into the world that you can bestow any name you like on your own adventure. Far better than endless hours lurking behind a computer keyboard, finger poised above the "Banned" button.

Thank you for following along on this adventure. Maybe you'll join us on the next one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Inyo Range Salt Tram Expedition, September 2010 - - - Part 4

Saturday was the second day of our "big" adventure. After breaking camp in the morning we zoomed back across the desert towards Manzanar. About half of the group needed more ice (beer was in danger of warming!!) and they stopped in Lone Pine. The other half parked along the highway near the visitor center at the junction of 395 and 136. Soon we were all together again and made the turnoff at Keeler to head up towards Cerro Gordo.

Here is Dave coming up one of the grades. Both he and I felt the extra weight of our trailers on the steeper uphills.

We made a short stop just above Cerro Gordo, partly because I started a wrong turn at the split. Doh! The stop also provided a brief respite for Da Snork's spunky little diesel engine. Yeah, I planned that!

Before long we had completed the traverse of the shelf road. It is always a great road for inspiring first timers to practice clenching their seat with their posteriors and digging their nails into their rig's grab bars. We parked at a nice spot near our first hike which would take us along the old water line that supplied Cerro Gordo.

This hike is maybe a one mile traverse that ambles by a nicely constructed two room mountainside "residence" for the man who probably kept the pump house in order. Some interesting artifacts can be seen there too. Then we hiked on to the remains of the pumphouse and finally a horizontal mine shaft that bores straight in for a quarter mile.

I've made this hike before but as always when traveling with a lively group, I learned that someone else could be more observant and a better thinker than I had been. Sigh. On previous hikes on the trail I had seen some T-shaped metal bars sticking out of the ground and thought that they were supports for the water lines.
Kevin (The Observant One) noticed something else and reached a far more accurate conclusion. He offered that these pieces of pipe jutting out of the slope below each of the T-bars were "connected".

Kevin's conclusion was that the T-bars were attached to valves that would be used to drain the buried water pipeline in preparation for winter's freezing temperatures. This piece of pipe in the picture was the drain pipe.

Way to go Kevin!

Here is a shot of one of the sketchier portions of the trail.

And here are some shots of one of the better preserved and reinforced portions of the pipeline trail

Men with black shirts and tan pants standing at the pumphouse. Very suspicious.....

Thank you to Eric for this photo!
Next we drove our rigs further along the dirt road to get to Mexican Springs. Along the way we came to the steep uphill set of turns that had 10 inches of loose dirt and rock and I found that the weight of my trailer was enough to bog me down. My rear ARB locker is out of order so I came to a standstill, effectively blocking the whole group from further progress. OOPS!  Backing up was a pain as the front wheels just slid without biting and neutralized my steering, letting the trailer start an unwanted turn. The whole gang grabbed a hold of my trailer and manually steered it back down the trail. Bill went ahead with his FJ Cruiser and we hooked up a strap. He toggled his E-Locker on and gave me the tugs that I needed to easily make it up. Everyone else made it up just fine after that, especially Dave made it up with no asisstance while pulling his trailer.

Mexican Springs has long been on my list and I'm glad we took the time as I've driven by it so many times before. The exterior is nothing special but the details are fascinating. This and the previous hike's buildings may have been prefabricated based on some of the markings that we observed on the sheet metal.

The pump really was steam powered and the boiler designs are quite interesting. I don't know why there were so many of them on location, at least 3 so maybe they wore out? This pump house is said to be somehow connected to Mortimer Belshaw who built the "Yellow Grade" toll road from Keeler to Cerro Gordo.

There were interesting and cryptic pencilled notes on the walls.

Also lots of other cool but rusty machinery

Before we made the hike back up to our vehicles Linus seemed to be just absorbing what was left of the pumphouse, maybe imagining the noise and the clatter that surely echoed off of the canyon walls so many years ago.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Da Snork! A rolling time capsule.

On this September 2010 Salt Tram Trip, Linus drove out in his 1965 Land Rover with its 65 (yes, Sixty-Five) horsepower diesel engine, glass turn signal covers, ancient Hi-Lift, vintage winch and other authentic  touches. I wanted to post up all of the pictures that I had as I really enjoyed seeing it on this trip.