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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.

1 comment:

  1. I've been there myself, though didn't hike the tram route the way Jim did in his excellent photo-narrative. It's worth the trip, the scenery is spectacular and the road less traveled is always an excellent way to spend your life in my opinion.