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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Ride On the Pony Express Trail

I love to take a drive on a road that might be best described as “off the beaten path”. Such a road might be paved, it might be dirt or it might be gravel but its intrigue to me is that it traverses through interesting terrain and does not go through populated areas. In December 2004, the Lovely Sharon had some type of ladies event on a Saturday afternoon. We were in Utah and although it was December, there was no snow on the ground. As the Lovely Sharon was planning to attend her ladies event, I tried to figure something interesting to do on my own. I recalled that my friend and law partner Vern had told me about a road, a dirt and gravel road the meandered from south of Tooele, Utah to the Nevada border. Vern had taken this road several times before and has taken the road several more times since that time. He told me that you needed to take at least two vehicles because there was a great chance for flat tires many miles from a gas station. On the Friday night before Sharon’s Saturday ladies event, I decided to take Vern’s gravel road and I decided to go on my own.

I woke up early that day, the first Saturday in December, and started my journey around 8:30. I drove south  on I-15 and got off of I-15 in Lehi, Utah at the Lehi Roller Mills exit. I drove west on Highway 73 past Cedar Fort and Camp Floyd. Highway 73 turns to the northwest at Fivemile pass but at that point I left Highway 73 for Faust Road for the 10 mile paved road drive to the hamlet of Faust. A mile or so past Faust, the pavement ended and my gravel road journey started.

The road I was to take over the next several hours followed the Pony Express Trail and parts of it were on the Old Lincoln Highway. If you ever have a chance read about the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway spanned coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. In 1915, the "Colorado Loop" was removed, and in 1928, a realignment relocated the Lincoln Highway through the northern tip of West Virginia. Thus, there are a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages through which the highway passed at some time in its history. The first officially recorded length of the entire Lincoln Highway in 1913 was 3,389 miles. 

A few miles down the gravel road I came to the Faust Pony Express site. There is no longer a building here, only a marker. The station was a two-story stone structure. A change of riders took place and the mail stage stopped for rest breaks at this station. My first stop was at Lookout Pass. The pass is in the hills on the west side of Rush Valley. There was also a pony express station here but like the Faust Station it is long gone. I got out of my car here and took a photo looking west to the desolate Skull Valley.

Sixteen miles from Lookout Pass was the Simpson Springs pony express station. This station was named after explorer Captain J.H. Simpson who stopped here in 1858 while searching for an overland mail route between Salt Lake City and California. It is one of the most dependable watering points in this desert region. George Chorpenning established a mail station at this site in 1858, which was later used by the Pony Express and Overland Express. A number of structures have been built and destroyed in the vicinity of Simpson Springs over the years. The restored structure is located on a building site which dates to the period (1860) and closely resembles the original. I got out of my car here and walked into the old stone station. I took a photo and I watered a sage brush. As I looked around at endless miles of still unpopulated territory I wondered what kind of man would choose to live out here by himself or with a family to service pony express riders and stage coaches.

Over the next twenty miles or so, I passed two or three more markers memorializing several more pony express stations that had long ago disappeared as though they had never been here.  As I drove to the southwest, the road curved around the Black Rock Hills. It was here that the Old Lincoln Highway joined the pony express trail.

A couple of miles past the Black Rock Hills, I came upon the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge. I must say I was surprised to say the least. Having no map and never having gone this way before, I had never heard of Fish Springs. Here in the absolute middle of the desert was a gigantic system of springs. Fish Springs is some 60 miles from Faust where I started my journey. The following description is from the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge website:

“The area that now comprises the refuge was once enveloped by an enormous inland lake know today as Lake Bonneville. This great body of water rose and fell several times during its 16,000 year existence. The prominent shorelines where water levels stabilized for extended periods are visible on the mountains in the area. When Lake Bonneville was at its peak level, the water in the area that is now marsh would have been nearly 850 feet deep. The lake declined to a level below the present marsh level around 14,000 years go. Fish Springs national Wildlife Refuge was established in 1959. It is named after the native fish the Utah chub. The refuge covers 17,992 acres with a 10,000 acre marsh system. Water is supplied by 5 major springs and several lesser springs and seeps. Fish Springs provides vital habitat for migrating wetland birds. Many of those species remain to nest and raise their young. Generally, mid-April and late September coincide with the peak of the annual spring and fall migrations. The refuge has a very rich cultural history. The area's first inhabitants were Paleo Archaic natives about 11,500 years ago. Modern inhabitation dates back to 1861. The historic Pony Express Trail runs along the edge of the refuge, and a Pony Express station was established here. The marshes of Fish Springs NWR are truly an oasis in the desert. Several springs, fed by underground water that fell as precipitation thousands of years ago, provide important breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for a diverse array of birds and other wildlife.”

Leaving the Fish Springs area I headed west to the hamlet of Callao, Utah. Callao is west of Fish Springs and north of Trout Creek, on the old Overland and Pony Express route south of the Gold Hill Mining area. In 1860, the Pony Express established a station known as Willow Springs at a time when gold was discovered in nearby Gold Hill. In 1870, E. W. Tripp, his wife, and small son established a ranch there. In 1895 the name was changed to Callao because there were several places named Willow Springs that were previously established in the territory. An old prospector who had been to Peru imagined a resemblance to Callao, Peru and suggested the name. For a while the old Lincoln Highway passed through Callao. Today about twenty seven residents live in Callao and it is the last town in Utah to use a one-room schoolhouse. I took a picture of a gas pump in Callao. I imagine there has not been much change to the the hamlet in the last 100 years. It was an interesting feeling being in Callao. I saw a few dogs, some chickens, cows and a couple of horses but I never saw a person. There was no store here and I saw no commercial buildings.

After Callao the road turned north to Gold Hill Utah. I found the following description about Gold Hill on the internet:

“ Located deep in Utah’s west desert near the Nevada border is the famous mining camp of Gold Hill. The town established in 1892 was named after a gold bearing mountain just east of the town. Gold Hill became famous for its location of many minerals including silver, gold, copper, lead, tungsten, and arsenic. The town boomed and died several times in its existence. The first boom lasted for a decade until its richest mines were worked out and the town was nearly abandoned. During World War I arsenic was badly needed and Gold Hill was just the location to find the mineral. The mines were reopened and new mills built, and in 1917 the Deep Creek Railroad was built into Gold Hill. When WWI ended arsenic was no longer needed and the town once again died. WWII reawakened the town due to the high demand of tungsten used in steel and electric filaments. Tons of the mineral was shipped out until the need slowed and Gold Hill dwindled once again. In 1940 the last train rails were tore up and sold for scrap. During the 1940’s several mines were reopened and were mined for arsenic. This was only temporary and in 1946 the schoolhouse was locked for the last time and the post office was finally closed in 1949, adding Gold Hill to the list of Utah’s ghost towns. In its history the town boasted a population of up to 3000 people.  The town had salons, stores, pool halls, a post office and even a newspaper (The Gold Hill News). Today many structures still stand allowing you the opportunity to view into the towns past. If you visit this area please respect private property and come prepared. This town is in a very desolate location far from any services and help. Take plenty of water, food, gas, spare tire, cell phone etc.”

After Gold Hill and another ten miles or so of a gravel road, I finally was back on a paved road, the Ibapath Road. I felt a little more secure after reaching the pavement. I had just spent 4 or 5 hours on gravel in a desert wilderness where I had never been. Every turn of the road brought a new sight. I was still in Utah but after a few miles the Ibapath Road crossed the border into Nevada. I headed north and reached Wendover. Here I got Interstate 80 and drove east to Salt Lake City.

The gravel road journey that I had just taken was truly memorable. It was a geographical area of solitude and appropriately, I took the drive by myself. I never saw another human. I saw birds and antelope but no people until I reach Gold Hill. It made me think about the pioneers and pony express riders of 140 years ago. How difficult life must have been. Our life would be unbelievable to these hardy folks. Planes, telephones, cars, television and internet. I am happy to  live in the time that I do, but it was nice to take a drive through the past..

Get Off the Beaten Path sometime and contemplate times past.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I am Banned from Talking Politics by the Lovely Sharon

The Lovely Sharon has banned me from talking politics in a social setting. She has informed me that I am becoming a pariah to our friends and am ruining social evenings. Most of my friends are right center or just completely right wing. I have a few left wing friends. I am definitely left center but would not consider myself left wing. I am a proponent of capital punishment in proper and egregious circumstances. I am a proponent of profiling at airport security points and I am opposed to high estate taxes believing that the decedent has by and large already paid taxes on the estate assets. I am opposed to availability of assault weapons for the general population and I think those disadvantaged among us should, in a reasonable manner, be provided with opportunities to overcome their disadvantages. I think we should be out of Afghanistan and Iraq immediately and believe that for the US to continue to spend billions if not trillions on these unwinnable wars while we suffer financial and job crisis at home is just plain crazy. So with that said, I will do my best to not discuss political and socially relevant matters in social settings. I will however discuss such matters on this blog from time to time.

Here are some thoughts and observations on a few issues.

Newly elected US Senator from Utah, Republican Michael Lee, who described himself as a constitutional scholar, has in the last week opined that the US Constitution does not permit the enactment of child labor laws or the use of federal funds in disaster relief situations, such as Hurricane Katrina, massive fires, devastating floods, oil spills, etc. His view is that it is unconstituional for the US Congress to adopt laws prohibiting children from working 60 hour weeks at a $1.00 per hour. Maybe the states in which natural disasters occur could reject federal funds and use children to work around the clock to clean up the mess. Yesterday, Senator Lee defended Utah’s request for federal emergency aid for flooding in St. George, Utah. He indicated that he sees no hypocrisy in his support for Utah federal disaster relief funds and his position that it is unconstitutional or the federal government to provide such funds. I will let you decide for yourself whether this guy is a nut, a liar or an opportunist.

Another Utah Congressman said he wants to carry a gun on the floor of the House of Representatives. I assume he would want to carry a glock with a 30 bullet magazine. Maybe if all of the Congressmen and Congresswomen carried weapons they would be nicer to each other. If John Boehner had a glock and Nancy Pelosi had a glock, maybe there would in fact be reasons to compromise.
A Democratic Congressman from Tennessee came out strong on being more civil in political debate. An admirable goal that I support. Within a few days, he referred to a large group of Republicans as Nazi’s. Doesn’t sound very civil does it.

Have you notice that people who are anti- abortion by and large are pro capital punishment and people who are pro- abortion are by and large to be anti- capital punishment. I know there are exceptions but I think the observation is generally correct.
I am constantly intrigued by upper middle class and wealthy people who are opposed to government healthcare reforms while contently accepting their social security checks and Medicare reimbursement.

I think Glenn Beck is deranged. I think Keith Obermann’s left wing hostility did more harm than good to help constructive dialogue. I acknowledge that both of them have first amendment rights to say the things they say, but I believe both of them are destructive to meaningful dialogue

Many people who want no restrictions of any kind on gun issues, citing their second amendment rights, are ok with restrictions on first amendment rights (some things should not be allowed such as burning the American flag as a political statement or pornography) or fourth amendment rights (it was ok for the Bush administration not to get search warrants for wiretaps and opening mail of potential or suspected terrorists and others). So restrictions on the second amendment are bad but restrictions on the first and fourth amendment are good? Why the difference? I think reasonable restrictions that evolve as society evolves do not violate these amendments. There should be reasonable restrictions on pornography and other items of speech or symbolic speech. There should be reasonable restrictions on fourth amendment protections and there should be reasonable restrictions on guns.

Ok that is enough for now. I had my daily fix of saying something about politics. In the future in social sessions I will try not to talk about politics. I will talk about how nice your shirt is or about golf or restaurants. Hopefully, this will be ok with the Lovely Sharon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Women Golfers

The Lovely Sharon, as those who know her are aware, is a good golfer; no she is a very good golfer. I am someone who plays golf but she is a golfer. I play golfer often with her. I enjoy playing golf with my men friends but I must admit that the Lovely Sharon is my favorite golfing partner. She takes it seriously, talks very little during a round of golf and is a study in concentration on the course. I am a talker and I relax by talking, just the opposite of Sharon. She is self taught and hits the ball a long way. She has a powerful and repeating golf swing. I am always asking her what she is thinking when takes the club away or when she starts the down swing. I often have men ask me if it makes me feel bad that my wife beats me every time we play golf. I lose to her every time we play. She beats me even when we play the same tees. I am very proud of her golfing skill. I would rather that I play bad than her play bad. I am her biggest fan.

I have been fortunate enough to play Cypress Point Golf Club seven times. This great course is always rated the second or third best course in the United States. The Lovely Sharon has played with me 3 or 4 times at Cypress Point. The first time she played with me at Cypress Point it was a three day golf trip with me, two of my buddies and the Lovely Sharon. We played five rounds of golf on five different courses in three days in the Carmel-Monterey area. We played Cypress Point, Spyglass, Pasa Tiempo and two other courses. It was golf, more golf and still more golf. She was one of the boys. At Cypress Point when her caddie realized he was going to be carry the bag of a “woman” he was obviously not very excited. She was sorting her balls before the round and it looked like she had about 75 balls. Her caddie sarcastically said “Lady I don’t think you need that many balls” and so she sorted most of them out. She birdied the first hole, had one or two more birdies, and played the same ball the entire round. After the first hole, her caddy was definitely a fan and was fist pumping when she hit good shots. She had the lowest score of all us. On the same trip she had an eagle two on a par four at Laguna Seca Golf Course. She and I played a two ball game against my two buddies in all five rounds and we beat them. My buddies were both low handicap golfers and they had a very difficult time in accepting that a mere woman was kicking their manly asses.

One of the things that the Lovely Sharon has brought to me is the opportunity to play with a number of very fine golfers who happen to be women. These women golfers are in Salt Lake City and in Palm Desert. In Utah they include Annette, Jean, Mary, Nanette, Martha, Robyn and many others. In Palm Desert the number seems to be even greater and number Linda, Lynn, Kathy, Gail, Janet, Carol, Bunny, Eloise, Arlene and others. For those of you I have left off the list I apologize for my forgetfulness. I cannot tell you how good these women are. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy watching them play golf. They are so much better than me. I am in awe when I play with them. I study their swings, I look for clues. I look for tips. Some men golfers don’t think much of women golfers and don’t like playing with them. These friends of Sharon are better than most of the men I play with. They are certainly better than I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that women don’t drive me crazy, they certainly do. But I do appreciate and admire those who are top notch golfers just as I do top notch men golfers.