Posts Tagged ‘Hell’s Half Mile’

Covered Wagon Journal 3

February 16th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 3

Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments. (Partly on freelance assignment from the Sierra Club)

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 2” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1983, by Philip Hyde. The Yellowstone River, a tributary to the Missouri River, is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch what proved to be the first successful folbot run of Hell’s Half Mile. The victors, Ray Simpson and Dave Allen, were properly feted when we reached camp, and each was presented a special medal of tin-can top with bread-wrapper laurel wreaths.

July 23. We have headed east into the Rocky Mountains from Dinosaur National Monument and are based for a few days at Georgetown, Colorado. Today, we have been up into the alpine country above Georgetown, winding through the Engelmann spruce forest on a dirt road that emerges above timberline onto a meadow whose upper limits are defined by the weathered wood walls of houses and stores. Mixed freely with the fields of blooming wildflowers are the blights of other years: abandoned mine buildings and random spaced mounds of tawny tailings. Beholding such a scene, I cannot help thinking how much of this I’ve seen in the Rockies. And, I cannot help but reflect on the good fortune of Sierrans, that an accident of geography kept our high country clean. A benevolent providence placed our gold-bearing ores on the flanks of the foothills rather than on the crest, so we may enjoy both the color of the old mines and the inspiration of high-country wilderness left intact.

July 25. The air is perfectly still as we watch the sun change the hues of the distant wall of the Wind River Range. Our camp is just north of the celebrated old South Pass by which so many emigrants crossed the Continental Divide in their covered wagons. As we crawl into our bunks in our own rubber-tired covered wagon, we can imagine we see a faint line of dust rising on the horizon.

July 26. Yellowstone-bound, we stop to watch two trumpeter swans with three young in a slough of the marsh in Jackson Hole Wildlife Refuge. Beyond them in the distance, looking at first like sticks, are a pair of sandhill cranes.

July 27. After evading at least a half dozen tourist traps the mother bears have set up along the south-entrance highway. Continuing beyond them, we arrived at Old Faithful, just in time for a playing of the geyser. We had come to Yellowstone National Park almost reluctantly, not expecting to enjoy it much because of the usual summer crowds. But something happened to the mood of the place while we were waiting for Old Faithful to play. It began as we looked around at the eager, expectant faces and built up as we began to hear a naturalist giving his introductory talk: even the public-address system became a benign presence, as we realized that we were hearing the pure gospel of conservation preached to this multitude. By the time the geyser had reached its full height, we were transformed by its sermon. Even in a crowd, its radiance glowed undimmed, and, through some kind of magic, that experience set the tone for the rest of our stay in Yellowstone.

July 29. At the suggestion of a naturalist at Mammoth Hot Springs, we took the old road part of the way to Tower Junction from Mammoth, Wyoming. Traffic had been heavy when we turned off the highway, but we met no cars during the hour and a half we spent driving leisurely down this dirt-road entrance to the Yellowstone wilderness. Even the six pronghorn antelope we came upon seemed a bit surprised to see us.

Though there are so many complaints of overcrowding in Yellowstone National Park, the wilderness is still just beyond the highway, as few visitors go far from the parking lots. The loop highway has become a slow-motion race track, with many visitors making the 160-mile circuit in one day. Many of them refuse to walk even a few yards from their cars to see a geyser or the Terraces.

July 31. A mile away from the parking lot the Black Dragon’s Cauldron bubbles and hisses, and sends its “eruptions” of charcoal-gray mud 30 to 50 feet into the air. It is the more interesting when you learn that it suddenly appeared in the middle of the forest, in 1948. Since then, it has gradually killed the forest around it, encasing living trees in the dark mud until they are suffocated.

August 6. We have been sitting around a fire, quite comfortable, in a tepee of Teton Indian Village, near Jackson, Wyoming. The rain which beats on the canvas slopes of the tepee forced cancellation of the Indian dance tonight. Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Laubin, well-known interpreters of Indian dance, and long-time students of Indian life and culture, are sitting opposite us, telling us about some of the authentic Indian objects with which the tepee is furnished. They have introduced us to some of their Indian friends who dance with them. Red Robin, a Zuni artist now living in New York, is seated next to Mr. Old Man, a large man, whose twinkling eyes betray his good nature. Next to him is his wife; then Mr. Good Friday and his wife. The Old Mans and the Good Fridays are Arapaho Indians. There is continuing good-natured banter as we begin to play the old Indian hand game. We are divided into two groups, each group appointing a “guesser” and a “hider.” One side takes the ring, and the “hider” will conceal it in one of his hands. The other side’s “guesser” will try to determine which hand has the ring, and Mr. Old Man beats accompaniment with a small hand drum. In the lulls after a guess, the Indians tell jokes, usually making the white man the butt of them. When we leave, after Mr. Old an has sung us several songs in Arapaho, we remember that we didn’t get to see the dances.

August 7. After dinner and preparations at the roadhead for the High Trip that begins tomorrow we drive back to the Indian Village to see the dances we missed last night…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 4“)

Covered Wagon Journal 2

February 10th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 2

Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Near Water’s Edge, Mile 25, Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1964, by Philip Hyde. First published in “Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon” by Francois Leydet, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The book that helped save the Grand Canyon from being flooded by two dams. Some recent writers have said that the book came out of a 1964 river trip led by riverguide and Sierra Club Board member Martin Litton and Executive Director David Brower, with passengers who included the who’s who of nature photography and natural science at the time, this is partially true. Others have credited Philip Hyde with being the sole photographer of the book. For all time, let’s set the record straight: The photographers for “Time and The River Flowing” with the number of their photographs are as follows: Philip Hyde–31 photographs, Clyde Childress–18, David Brower–10, Martin Litton (using the name Clyde Thomas)–9, Joseph C. Hall–9, Richard Norgaard–6, Ansel Adams–5 (all color), P. T. Reilly–4, Daniel B. Luten–3, Eliot Porter–2, Joseph Wood Krutch–2, and Katie Lee–1.

June 14. We were thoroughly awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a crescendo in the chorus of rain that had been constant for most of the night. A short time after it began, it was coming into the tent in wholesale quantities. A large rock falling off the ledge above us tore a huge gap in the tent and we were forced to leave. Fortunately, it hit to one side, missing us. As we ran toward shelter under some large boulders, we heard an ominous roaring, and looked up to see a full-blown waterfall cascading down into what had been the camp kitchen. But for the quick thinking of some of those who had been sleeping close to the kitchen, much of our equipment and supplies might have been carried into the Colorado River. What a demonstration of the power of a flash flood. When the excitement subsided, we looked around in the sunrise light to see the canyon walls draped with hundreds of waterfalls coming down off the rims.

June 19. A little while ago we emerged onto the crowded South Rim of the Grand Canyon, after two days in the lower regions. The first half of the climb was easy, in the cool pre-dawn hours. Once past the half-way point at Indian Springs and the last water, the trail climbs as steeply as a jet plane. And by this time the sun was up, ready to greet us on the shadeless upper bench. With considerable effort, we managed to push ourselves up the trail to the rim, and paused to rest. Then we turned and looked back. As in Yosemite, where the sheer height of El Capitan, or the great depth of Yosemite Valley never quite make a full impression until one has climbed on foot to Glacier Point, or to the top of Yosemite Falls, so it is with the Grand Canyon—the vast abyss seemed grown a hundredfold after climbing on our own legs from the river.

June 24. We have spent the day and much of the night looking at the exhibits of the Museum of Southern Utah, in Kenab, and talking to the Johnstons, who operate it. The museum’s collection of ancient and recent Indian artifacts is exceptionally interesting. Yesterday, we spent part of the day in a canyon in the Arizona Strip to the south, looking at ancient Indian paintings. We were also directed to a “dig” which the museum’s archeologist is developing across Kenab Creek. A burial which he excavated is now on display in the museum.

June 30. We are now on the fabled Yampa River. Our boatman, Dave Rasmussen, turns over his oars to another member of the crew, and picks his guitar for an hour or more of wonderful music that floats out over the lazily moving river and echoes softly from the yellow sandstone walls, sheer cliffs, and rounded domes. We slip around the great curving river bends with no sound but the melody of guitar and soft singing.

July 1. We have seen three golden eagles soaring high over us as we threaded through the climax of Yampa River scenery—the run through the magnificently formed series of bends in the river that begins just below Castle Park. The walls have heightened, and grown more nearly perpendicular, and, at intervals, the river straightens out long enough to provide a vista down the canyon, sweeping from a foreground of river and concentrically curved sandbars, to a prominent feature carved out of the rim, standing at the far turn of the wall. There are so many of these impressive views on the Yampa, that one loses himself trying to recall the exact location of each. We can only hope, after the recent difficult struggle to preserve this unique canyon in its natural integrity, that it will stay this way, so that we can return, and so that future generations can come and be thrilled and inspired as we have been. This day of days is capped with the rising of the near-full moon, flooding its light over the great cliffs that surround us here in our Box Elder camp.

July 14. The bus brought us to the Gates of Lodore, in Brown’s Park, on the northern boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, where a short afternoon run has brought us just a few miles inside the Gates of Lodore. I wonder if John Wesley Powell and the other early river travelers who came to this place received any premonitions of disaster when they looked upon this impressive mountain gate. Here the Green River meanders for some miles through the tranquil bottomlands of Brown’s Park, resting from its exertion in Flaming Gorge upstream. Then, for no apparent reason, it turns abruptly and plunges into this high plateau’s escarpment. The introduction to Lodore is sudden. Once within the Gates, you are committed, and you know this is a formidable canyon. Even the rapids are anxious to start; there are several short but vigorous ones just a short distance inside the Gates of Lodore. The canyon quickly reaches its full height, the brick-colored walls rising in coves and steps whose treads are often carpeted with tall evergreens.

July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 3“)