Away from the Grind

Hidden Secrets of Vedauwoo and Pole Mountain, Part 2

by Roger Ludwig

The Pole Mountain area, now a scene of play and renewal, has a history of struggle and tumult. For decades warriors trained, grunted and groused; “readied, aimed and fired“, detonating explosives that tore the quite high country air. Civilian Conservation Corpsmen sweat and labored, building roads and planting the forest we enjoy today. Miners blasted the rocky knobs of quartz for uranium, trucking it off in growling low gear.

Considering all this activity it is surprising how rare are the remains. Frankly the military and the forest service have done a thorough cleaning up. But they missed a few things.

Last year we published a treasure hunt of the “Weird and Wonderful”. For those who enjoyed it, here’s a new quest for even more subtle relics. 

While discovering these sites please remember to preserve them in every way, leaving every rock and stick in place. I’m trusting you. Most of these are especially fragile. And by all means don’t dig. Unexploded munitions could render you the last casualty of WWII. 

UTM refers to Universal Transverse Meridian, designating a way point to be used with a GPS or a USGS topo map. (1927 Datum.)

Two collapsed earthen observation bunkers far to the northwest.

FS 701 north. Left on 712. Right on 702. Left on 714. Right on 715. Open the gate, continuing on 715. They are at a high point on the grassy hill just off 715 on the left, pointed at Eagle Rock. Image laying in one of these as shells whistle overhead, your field glasses trained on the clouds of dust and smoke that note impact, radioing the results back to the big guns. (UTM 0465300 / 4571836)
Far Bunkers
2nd Far Bunker

One collapsed earth and rock bunker overlooking Eagle Rock.

FS 701 north. Left on 712. Right on 702. Right on 714. On the south side of the road at the high point of the ridge. A limber pine now grows from the south end. (UTM 0470062 / 4569441)
Bunker near Eagle Rock
Bunker near Eagle Rock

Artillery Spring.

Here is a refreshing spigot of cool, clear, ever-flowing water. From Happy Jack, go north on FS 701 parking just before South Lodgepole Creek. Walk west along the south side of the creek until you can follow an old overgrown road cut into the aspens into the second draw. As you enter the trees about a tenth mile from FS 701 listen for the sound of water. Above the pipe is a large concrete collecting tank with lid. (UTM 0469987 / 4567334)
IMG_7565
IMG_7567

Unknown construction and overlook.

High above the old military headquarters is a prominent point. Just behind the top are the remains of some little building or privy. While the archeology is minimal the view is maximal. From here one can overlook the HQ and it’s fading roads, the Snowy Range, Rawah Peaks, the Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park and Twin Mountain and Turtle Rock nearby. From Happy Jack go south on FS 707, parking at the Headquarters Trailhead. Hike up the trail. When you’ve reached the junction with the Browns Landing trail leave the trail and make your way up to the near highpoint on your right. (UTM 0467163 / 4563686)

Military field kitchens.

Steven Whittenberger of Laramie told me about these old iron steam tables and ovens, left behind well off the beaten path. Take Happy Jack to FS 701, then 3.0 miles to 701C. Go south .8 miles to 701CA. Then east .3 miles. As the road turns to the right look for an opening on your left. Park here and follow the very faint remains of an old road to the north on foot. As you walk around the first knoll the kitchens are off to your left. (UTM 0469841 / 4565899)
Field Kitchen
Military Field Kitchens

Seismograph Boxes.

Randy Martin of Cheyenne brought these fascinating relics of the cold war to my attention. They held seismographs for monitoring the Russian nuclear bomb tests of the 1950’s. One was watched by the Long Range Seismic Monitoring Network of Garland, Texas, and the other by the Ministry of Defense, Blacknest, England. From Happy Jack go south 1.4 miles on FS 707A. At the junction of 707AG park and walk toward Twin Peaks. The remains are close to the road. (UTM 0470057 / 4560658)
IMG_9507

Civilian Conservation Corps log craftsmanship.

The great make-work program for restless young men of the 1930’s is known for its fine design, construction and use of native materials. A CCC camp operated throughout the 1930’s at Pole Mountain. Little remains, except for the forest itself! They planted 280,000 trees on the mountain’s denuded acres. Yet three of the finest latrines you’ll ever see in these days of fiberglass and concrete have lasted more than seventy-five years, exquisite examples of log artistry. 

The best preserved is still in use at Wallis Picnic area along FS 705. You can access FS 705 from the Blair-Wallis exit on I-80 or from the Summit rest area, going south. (UTM 0466309 / 4561107) Another is hidden behind the trees at Blair Picnic Ground also on FS 705. (UTM 0467004 / 4559642) The third log potty, now closed, is in the Vedauwoo area along the road to “Beaver Ponds day use”. This one retains it’s original natural varnish. (UTM 0469145 / 4556440)
Log Privy
IMG_7586
CCC Privy

Uranium Mines.

These two knobs have been cored to extract the quartz that holds uranium. Anyone have a Geiger counter? I wouldn’t suggest you take these rocks for souvenirs. From Happy Jack go north on FS 701, then east on 712, north on 714, north on 713, east on 713C, north on 709 to the far northeast corner of the forest. Keep an eye out for the salmon colored scars. The biggest mine is at the end of 709. (UTM 0474103 / 4572059) To reach the other one back track, taking 709A to its end. (UTM 0473800 / 4571838)
IMG_7581
Mine
IMG_7580

Aqueduct Opening.

While it doesn’t look strange at all, this pond and it’s lovely flow of laughing water may be the strangest thing of all. If you look upstream you’ll see that there is no immediate source for the stream. This water comes from the Snowy Range miles away via a pipeline taping Rob Roy reservoir. Completed in 1965, it pours into this small tributary of Middle Crow Creek where it flows into Granite Springs Reservoir, and into your kitchen sink, by way of the city’s water treatment plant. Go into Vedauwoo on FS 720, following signs to “Beaver Ponds day use”. Park and walk to the southeast through the trees. The pond is the end of the aqueduct. It‘s fun to follow the overflow from the culvert through the great rocks. (UTM 0469278 / 4556467)

Ames Monument.

While hardly a secret, this pyramid is just too weird to leave off the list. Union Pacific’s celebration of Oliver and Oakes Ames was built in 1882 but was left isolated nine years later when the railroad moved its tracks to the south. From I-80 take the Vedauwoo exit but go west, under the freeway. Then take Monument Road south to the two-angled, four-sided wonder. Sadly, like most monumental pharaohs, the Ames have suffered the loss of their noses. (UTM 0466647 / 4553131)
Ames Rays
Ames Monument

Sherman Cemetery.

What do you call a cemetery where most of the bodies have been relocated? A motel for the dead? Imagine being dug up. “I had hoped this was the resurrection but now you’re taking me to Cleveland?“ This sad little spot is a reminder of the dangers of building a railroad across the primeval frontier. It is less than a quarter mile northwest of Ames Monument and is all that remains of Sherman, a railroad town whose buildings were also relocated. (UTM 0466435 / 4553655)
Sherman Cemetery Marker

Happy searching! If you come across more weird, man-made relics at Pole Mountain, let me know. There are some things I have never been able to find. 

One is a pulley on the west side of a rock formation on the north side of Happy Jack Road close to the forest boundary. It was used along with a pulley on a pole to hoist derelict aircraft for target practice. 

I also have never found the Buck Sullivan spring which is somewhere west of the first radio towers on FS 703. Several homesteads were located in what is now the forest. I wonder what remains. 

Comments

Frank Mellblom

Oct 25, 2010

Thanks for the nice part II, great photos!
Just for fun, look at the original boundaries of
the military reservation on the old maps.
I always wondered why the almost “square” shape of the military boundary had a long,narrow extension running due East.
I think there was a reason for why the military wanted that extension: Hint, go off Happy Jack road, north on the junction of road 701 E. Look in the green brush fairly close to the old building foundation.

Reply

Ross Priesmeyer

May 3, 2013

Nice write up, I’ve seen most of these artifacts for my self when I was living in Laramie. I was hoping you had stumbled across an old concrete bunker, it’s somewhere along Happy Jack not to far from the hwy, but for the life of me I can’t remember where or seem to find any literature about it. It’s really neat if you ever get a chance to see it, two foot thick concrete walls, a heavy steel door and slit windows looking out over the valley. I know it’s easy to find considering the graffiti all over it, but none the less interesting. Happy trails!

Reply

Randy Martin

Aug 4, 2013

The photos you have of the Seismograph Boxes are a British site from my understanding. These are the sites that the Air Force operated in the 1950’s.

Reply

Dr. Robert A. Zawacki

Oct 27, 2015

I was stationed at F E Warren AFB from Oct, 1954 until Mar, 1959. I always had a fishing and hunting license for Pole Mountain and caught many book trout there and also shot many large mule deer.
When I was a SSgt, I was in charge of the personnel records for an AF detachment at Pole Mountain. I would drive up there once a year and give the airmen heir records check. The detachment commander at that time was a AF Captain. Most of the personnel at the site dressed in blue jeans and maybe a military shirt with their grade on the shirt. Also, at this time their was a sister detachment located downtown Laramie. Both sites were classified at that time. I was transferred from Warren AFB to Det AFROTC 940, on March 10, 1959. I continued to hunt on Pole Moutain through about 1962 and some of the AF people stationed at the classified site in Laramie would bowl in our league. Dr. Robert A. Zawacki, BS 62, MS 66, U of Wyoming, Ph.D. 1973 U of Washington

Reply

Bob Masson

Nov 5, 2015

Dr Zawacki – great story! I’m trying to find information on the seismic monitoring array that was built in the 50’s outside of Encampment, WY. The whole thing was classified – but it’s completely defunct now (now & then you’ll stumble across one of the stations). Might you have any information on it? Like the program name or anyone that might have additional information? Thanks much

Reply

Steve Kaminski

Dec 27, 2015

I was an Army Geodetic Surveyor attached to the Defense Mapping Agency at FE Warren from 85 to 89. Back at the section I had access to all the topo maps that I wanted. I still have the 2 maps that I put together that comprise Pole Mountain. They are 1:24,000 scale and dated 1948. They show most of the man made objects dating back way back. All the military buildings, bunkers etc are on it. I have since scanned it and I have calibrated it and I use it with a mapping program called Oziexplorer. Great fun! Back in the day I spent all my free time up there hunting fishing camping. Most of these items you list I have found but thee were a few surprises that I intend to look for on my next visit. If you are interested in my maps contact me.

PS Another fun hobby was locating all the Survey Benchmarks. Some of them are First Order…meaning Lat and Long are accurate to 1 millimeter. Done the old fashioned way with Astro Observations.

Reply

Sharon Bryant

Apr 17, 2016

Found this site while looking for history of Pole Mountain Nat’l Guard Camp. Have photos of my Dad’s unit and their camp dated July 1932. Theirs was a mounted unit, horses and wagons. It was a tent camp with a few frame buildings. There were also large, round steel watering tanks for the horses. Anyone know any history regarding this period? It seems the camp was used for several decades before abandonment.

Reply

Donna Thall

Jul 29, 2016

I didn’t know this history of Laramie. I have enjoyed learning about it from all of the comments. Thanks for sharing. Gotta love history!!

Reply

Leave a Reply

*

*