Sunday, April 4, 2010

Go-Devil Route Search Continues in April 2010

Salt Tram history is rapidly disappearing, and we are striving to rediscover the efforts of our forefathers in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories. We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1940's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

QUESTION 1: Find the missing Salt Tram lumber pile, measure its contents, and determine if it was a load that might have fallen off of a load of material being hauled by the Go-Devil. Determine if this pile is somewhere along the route of the Go-Devil that supplied materials for the building of Control Station 2.

Fred contacted us via this website with news that he had once found a pile of Salt Tram lumber along the possible site of the Go-Devil route. This was in the area that was used to supply construction material to Control Station II. Though he wasn't sure exactly where they found this pile, he thought it was approx. 1 mile down along the trail, and 1/4 mile to the South (exact quote: "we were about one mile down and a quarter mile SOUTH of the trail when we discovered a neatly stacked, never been used, new at the time of stacking, pile of very large timbers say 4ft tall 20 ft long and 6 ft wide on a sort of outcropping, sort of level spot. The GO-DEVIL trail , right!"). Based on these directions, I put the approximate location of the piles as follows:

Update from Brian and Alan in April 2010:
Alan and Brian did a crazy one day thrash to the Inyo Summit via the Swansea Grade Road, and hit snow drifts and didn't make it all the way up to the Burgess Mine (the 1st part of the summit attained on the 4x4 road). However, they did the 5 mile (1 way) hike from their car to the Salt Tram Summit, then did a dash along the South Ridge above the Salt Tram route on the East side of the Inyos (got that?). They did have some success smashing through the snow drifts to find some Salt Tram lumber beams. Where these the ones that Fred found before? Alan and Brian don't think so, because they aren't far enough down the hill. They also tried to match up the existing terrain to some Go-Devil photos, but without luck, mostly because of the snow drifts. Lets take a look at what they did find (click to enlarge):

Note that they only found 2 6x10 beams that are about 20 feet long. This contrasts with Fred's vague recollections about the woodpile consisting of similar sized pieces of dimensional lumber, but many more than just the 2 beams that Brian and Alan found. Fred describes seeing a "wood pile" consisting of 20 foot beams from 8 to 20 in number, in a 3 to 7 foot high stack. Note however that the individual pieces of lumber are consist between Brian and Alan's pile, and the one observed by Fred. To me, this indicate that both wood piles are on the same "Go-Devil" track.

Brian and Alan were also trying to match terrain to this Go-Devil photo. Notice how similar Brian's photo in the background is similar to the trees in this historical photo (historical photo courtesy Eastern California Museum, Independence, Calif.), though they are clearly NOT the same EXACT location. Our experience has been that you can still match Pinion Pine trees from 100 years ago to the exact same trees today, so we are still optimistic about finding the site of the historical photo. Brian indicated that the snow drifts were a major impediment to matching the historical photo to a site on the ground.

 Alan and Brian found sections near the top of the ridge that appeared that they could have been part of the Go-Devil route, such as the one shown below (click to enlarge). These cleared areas only contained small pine trees that are likely to have been less than 100 years old, and thus NOT an impediment to the Go-Devil at the time of Salt Tram construction.

Brian and Alan also found numerous Pinion Pine stumps (see below), but in no discernable pattern to indicate a Go-Devil route. It appears that they were cut down either for Salt Tram firewood, or were stumps from the earlier days of the "Old Charcoal Road" and the quest for charcoal to feed the silver smelters at Cerro Gordo, just 7 miles down the summit road from the Salt Tram. Note all the snow in the background, still clinging to the north-facing slopes.


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