Away from the Grind

A “Treasure Hunt” of the Weird and Wonderful at Pole Mountain, WY

by Roger Ludwig

Veduawoo and Pole Mountain is Cheyenne’s back forty. We love to play up there, all with our different passions: fishing, four-wheeling, camping, hiking, climbing, hunting, skiing, sledding or just messing around on the rocks.

The rocks are monumental sculptures, painted with lichens in green, orange and black. The beavers have crafted jewels to reflect the sky. There are the twisty groves of aspens, forests of ramrod straight pines. It’s rare not to see deer and antelope.

If you’ve wandered around much, enjoying the wonderful, you have probably stumbled across some of the weird.

After all it was a "Target and Maneuver Range" for more than 50 years. The Army, Air Force, ROTC and National Guard guys all had some fun blowing things up and shooting things down. There once was a headquarters with 18 buildings. 

And before that there was the town of Tie City. Telegraph poles were taken even earlier for a telegraph line along the Overland Trail. A highway man lived up on Brown’s Landing, robbing travelers. Uranium mines were blasted from the rock. There was a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The Happy Jack Ski area operated for many years and there was a lodge where the summit rest area is now. 

Frankly, there is a lot of weird stuff to be found.

Here’s a little "treasure" hunt of some odd places I‘ve run across or discovered by searching old records and scouring the ground. Interested? See how many you can find. 

A GPS would get you there the fastest. But the UTM coordinates (NAD27) can be used with a USGS topo quad. Or just follow the directions. You will need a good map. 

By giving you these locations, I’m trusting these sites to you. Let’s leave them be so we can take our kids and grandkids there for years to come. Please don’t kick a stick or chock a rock. Besides, if you disrupt any artifacts, the mummy’s curse will follow you for the rest of your life. 

The Forest Service archeologist asked me to remind you that the use of metal detectors at these sites is illegal. It would also be stupid. One trowel jabbed into a live shell could just blow you up. 

So, whether you go by truck, ATV, mountain bike or by foot, have fun. Let me know what you discover. If you find any other weird and wonderful stuff put a comment at the bottom. 

  1. Merritt Hill concrete observation bunker.

    (Named after Wesley Merritt, a veteran of the Indian Wars, commander of Fort D.A.Russell from 1867 to 1877 and again from 1879 to 1880 and later Commandant at West Point.) Take FS 701 north from Happy Jack. Turn right just before the corral on FS 701G. (UTM 0471282 / 4563977)
    Merritt Hill Bunker

  2. Bisbee Hill concrete observation bunker.

    (Named for Major William H. Bisbee who was also at Fort Russell in the 1800’s.) From Happy Jack take FS 701 north. Turn left on FS 701C. Keep right at each intersection to the end of the road. It’s really not on Bisbee Hill. (UTM 0469031 / 4566467)
    Bisbee Hill Bunker doorway
    Rhino
    Bisbee Hill Observation Bunker

  3. Two collapsed bunkers with log roofs, connected by trench work.

    They face the Bisbee Hill bunker. FS 701 north until it becomes the left fork of FS 712. Then park at the high point, walk to the ridge top to the west. (UTM 0469403 / 4568006)
    Collapsed bukers
    Collapsed bunkers

  4. Military Headquarters.

    A well head, a rock wall, a few foundations and the traces of old roads are all that remains of what once was the military command post. From Happy Jack go south on Blair Road (FS 707). It’s north east of the "Headquarters Trail Parking", across the road. (UTM 0467700 / 4563149)
    Headquarters Foundations

  5. A dozen or so old rifle pits or shelters from a time prior to WWII.

    A few of the tin roofs and walls remain, perhaps the most preserved of any of the old sites. Just north of Happy Jack at the big bridge over South Lodgepole Creek. Park on Happy Jack and walk, going over or under the barbwire fence. (UTM 0467580 / 4566790)
    One of abandoned camp shelters
    The row of shelters plus a foundation

  6. Graves dating from long ago.

    Buried here is the body of a young boy struck by lightning nearby as he rode to Laramie on the Cheyenne Pass Road and the infant daughter of local homesteader, Ben Black. It looks like there is at least one more grave. FS 701 north, Left on 712. Right on 702. Right on 714. Off the road in a copse of trees to the right shortly before 713. The rock cross near the road points to the graves. (UTM 0472410 / 4569464).
    Cross Points to Graves
    Grave

  7. Laycock Spring and aspens carved by Spanish herders in a graceful script.

    North off Happy Jack on FS 703, turning through the Tie City overflow parking area. At junction of 714 stay on 703, a very rocky, high-clearance track. Turn left on 703G, continue for a quarter mile. (UTM 0461772 / 4571674)
    Laycock Spring 1

  8. "Laramie" rock.

    This rock once was on the stage road between Laramie and the town of Sherman, now only a site. It was moved here in 1970 when the rest area was built, both to protect it from theft and to allow more people to see it. It could still be made out in 1967: “Harry Satlak C.R. Laramie 9 1/2 -> <- Sherman 9 1/7" The rock is in a place of honor by some trash cans at the summit rest area. (UTM 0463540 / 4564951) The site the rock was taken from is marked with a bronze plaque and is off of FS 726. The bed of the stage road is still visible, although overgrown. (UTM 0462008 / 4566443)

  9. Happy Jack Ski area.

    There really was a rope tow pulling skiers up the open run. Two old light baffles high up on pines are all that remains. From Happy Jack turn south at the Happy Jack Recreation Area, then the first right into "Winter Sports Parking". (UTM 0464424 / 4566802). To the east is the bottom of what once was an iced toboggan run (UTM 0464840 / 4566708)

  10. Vedauwoo Glen performance stage steps.

    The University of Wyoming Players gave "historical spectacles" here in this natural amphitheater. Take FS 720 into Vedauwoo either from I-80 or from Happy Jack, going south on FS 700 to FS 720. Park at the end of the "Box Canyon Day Use Area". Walk the paved trail into Box Canyon, continuing on the gravel trail. Cross the foot bridge at the end and look to the left on the hill for rocks placed in a row, marking the old trail. See if you can follow the jack-hammered tread, carefully placed rock steps and stubs of steel posts up the stairs to the stage and then beyond to the lookout. In our tennis shoes there are easier ways but for women in long dresses and leather-soled shoes, this was the genteel approach. (UTM 0468469 / 4556924)
    Beginning of stage path
    Vedauwoo Glen stage steps
    Overlook at end of Steps

Comments

Randy Martin

Aug 24, 2009

You missed one of the more interesting things in the Pole Mountain area. The concrete box that contained a seismograph for monitoring the Russian nuclear bomb tests in the 1950’s. It was one of three locations in SE Wyoming for this purpose. It is the Twin Peaks area and it has been years since I was there. Even the Forest Service personnel I talked to did not know about its existence. The only reason I knew about it was through our neighbor in Laramie who was the Officer in Charge of the three sites. I’ll have to check my maps to get a location for you.

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Roger Ludwig

Aug 24, 2009

Now that is truly weird, and fascinating. Anyone know where this is?

Thanks Randy.

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Mike Hancock

Mar 28, 2010

I didn’t see any mention of the Ames Monument (pyramids) or the Lincoln’s bust memorial. I found those to be quite interesting as a kid growing up in Laramie.

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Roger Ludwig

Mar 28, 2010

They’ll be included in the next installment.

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Erwin

Apr 28, 2010

Someone has asked me about an old bunker that was off the Vedauwoo exit. Does anyone know about a bunker in that area?

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Roger Ludwig

Apr 28, 2010

Hi Erwin – I don’t know of anything like that near Vedauwoo. The military never did any shooting over there because it has been a picnic site and performance stage going way back. I bet they are talking about the Merritt Hill bunker. It’s the one that is well known. You can get there from the Vedauwoo exit but it is a distance. Roger

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Jim Arehart

Jun 13, 2010

Hi
I grew up in Cheyenne and went to school at U of W in Laramie. I’ve been living in Arkansas for the last 14 years now but Pole Mountain and Vedauwoo is my old stomping grounds.
We used to camp out in the area of Reynolds Hill and the old Military Reservation and I remember, back in the early ’70 we ran across the ruins you have photographed.
I wasn’t into taking many pictures then and I lost track of these old ruins as the years went by. I remember, 20 years later in the early ’90s, trying to find those old observation bunkers time and time again but to no avail. (We figured they were machine gun emplacements.) I concluded they were demolished but I see you have re-discovered them for me. Actually I think it is great they are so out-of-the-way.

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Keith

Jun 22, 2010

Possible location of sites Randy was talking about from http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/station_book/P_NAME.html

Pole Mountain
Code: PM-WY
41.2075 -105.3608 2469.0
Network: LRSM
Status: Closed

Pole Mountain
Code: PMW
41.2100 -105.3347 2440.0
Network: BKN
Status: Closed

The lat/long look about right

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Roger Ludwig

Jul 3, 2010

Help! I went out to locate these with a GPS and had no success. One leads to a place just south of Happy Jack. There is one unusual thing nearby, the fence post was painted yellow then repainted white while all other posts are unpainted.

The other is a bit remote, a 1/3 mile walk from the nearest four wheel drive road. Couldn’t find anything.

Any body have any ideas? Roger

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Frank Mellblom

Jun 30, 2010

My brother and I explored Pole Mountain from 1966 to 70’s college days at U.W. One interesting site is shown as “Artillery Spring” on the older maps. I have a photo of it when it was neatly rocked in with a nice outlet pipe. I haven’t been back for years,but hope to again pretty soon! P.S. Hi to Jim Arehart above, I was in East High class of ’69 in Cheyenne.

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Roger Ludwig

Jul 3, 2010

Stay tuned for the next installment. I found this last fall, tromping through the brush. The spring flows nicely.

Roger

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Keith

Jul 6, 2010

Roger,

I wonder if the datum needs to be changed (don’t know how much it would be off if a different datum was used). The website doesn’t state what datum is used. I would guess it would be NAD-27

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Steve

Aug 13, 2010

Very interesting information you have provided. I just moved to the area and discovered the beautiful Pole Mountains today, Hiked for 3 hours over at Curt Gowdy. Noticed trailheads off 210 and want to do some exploring. Can you recommend somewhere to acquire trail maps for the area?

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Roger Ludwig

Aug 16, 2010

Hi Steve – Glad you’re enjoying the area. For maps the place to begin is definitely the Forest Service’s Medicine Bow National Forest Map. It covers the wonderful and bewildering network of roads in Pole Mountain as well as the Snowy Range and Sierra Madres.

You can buy one from the Forest Service in Laramie by calling (307) 745-2300. Ask them to mail you the free pamphlet maps on Turtle Rock, Headquarters Trail and the cross country ski trails (which can also be hiked).

You may want more detail. For that the only choice is the two USGS maps, Sherman Mountains East Quadrangle and Sherman Mountains West Quadrangle. It’s probably easiest to get them from the internet at http://topomaps.usgs.gov/ Hit the finding and ordering USGS maps button. Sadly some of the newer trails on not on these.

Marc Smith has a book trail guide, Hiking Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest, which covers Pole Mountain as well as the rest of the forest. It’s readily available in Cheyenne and Laramie book stores.

For Curt Gowdy State Park, they have a trail map that is downloadable at http://wyoparks.state.wy.us/Site/SiteInfo.asp?siteID=4 Click on “trails brochure”. I think they will also mail you one or they may be available when you pay your entrance fee at the park gate.

Have fun!

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Roger Ludwig

Oct 21, 2012

UPDATE on MAPs. There are two road maps for Pole Mountain that I was not aware of when I answered this in 2010. Both are excellent. The first is “Motor Vehicle Use Map Medicine Bow National Forest Pole Mountain” Published Jan 1, 2010 I think it is free from the forest service. Call (307) 745-2300. The second is “Pole Mountain Travel Map 1983”. It was revised in 1991. I bought one for $2.00 at the Cross Country Connection store in Laramie. It has topo lines and streams on it. The “Motor Vehicle Use….” one does not but it may be easier to read while driving. Roger

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Mike Lewis

Mar 5, 2011

This is a cool site! I like these kinds of things. Im at Wyotech right now (bad connotation), and enjoy driving up in these hills, and taking the motorcycle out for a ride in these remote regions. I was driving around up on HJ road about a week ago, and saw what I assume is the Merritt Hill bunker form HJ road. I braved the snow and wheeled myself up there and was pleasantly surprised to find this bunker. When the snow melts, and for the 1 month of summer here in Laramie, im going to do some more exploring, get a cheap GPS and try to find the rest of these places. Or learn how to use a map.
Thanks for posting these up!

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Aaron

Apr 8, 2011

do you know where the water fall is ? i thought it by the devils playground. thanks

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Christine

Jul 9, 2011

Rodger, Thanks for the site. I’ve been hiking Curt Gowdy all summer (my goal to hike every trail before school starts), but now you have given me so many more reasons to hike Medican Bow NF. I hike for exercise and to be outdoors. When I have things to explore, goals to get to I do so much better at getting out a couple of times every week. Thanks for all the new goals. I look forward to more posts about the area. BTW I live just a short distance from Woodhouse and you’ve given me more reasons to explore the area further! Looks like they will be great falls hikes as there is not much shade.

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Frank Mellblom

Jan 24, 2013

Enjoyed your presentation at the Wyoming State Museum tonight. One of your slides showed a horseback rider with an arrow pointing to a movie camera location. There was a 1936 movie called The Plainsman with some scenes filmed at Pole Mountain,Wyoming. I found this on the movie reference website http://www.imdb.com , and found a copy on DVD.

Look at the “filming locations” link at the bottom of the IMDB movie page.
Frank

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Roger Ludwig

Jan 25, 2013

Astonishing! Just when I think I’ve heard everything about Pole Mountain something else amazing comes up! I looked up the movie. Directed by Cecile B. DeMille staring Gary Cooper! In 1936, at a time when the CCC was there, as well as the army and national guard. I wonder if there is any information in Laramie about it. I’ll see what I can find out. The film is on Netflix. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see it soon. Frank, thanks for bringing this to our attention. Roger

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Roger Ludwig

Jan 25, 2013

Frank, I just found out a little more, from the IMDb site:

“The cavalry sequences were shot with members of the Wyoming National Guard. Two guardsmen were badly hurt during filming of a charge scene.” – That explains why this photo was at the WY National Guard Museum.

“2,000 Indian actors were used as extras for the Custer massacre sequence.”

“An excellent horseman from his youth in Montana, Gary Cooper did most of his own riding stunts, including the shot where he rode “hanging” between two horses.”

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Frank Mellblom

Jan 28, 2013

Roger do you use the UW Library for research on Pole Mountain? Thanks for your efforts to bring attention to the history of the area and encourage respectful exploring.
I did find a little more about movies filmed up there. In 1912 a Edison short film was made using “800 calvary riders from Ft. D.A. Russell” to portray the British and the Russians in the first of many “Charge of the Light Brigade” movies. There is a great Wyoming movie site run by Mr. Wally Farmer, http://www.theastrocowboy.com
where I found reference to the Edison movie.
This 12 minute silent movie is available in a collection on DVD through Amazon,which I will probably purchase for fun.
There is a very brief segment on YouTube,”A History of Cinema” in a compilation starting in 1895, just watch to the 1912 segment. Frank

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Roger Ludwig

Jan 29, 2013

More amazement. Enjoyed watching the youtube snippet. I’d like to see more to figure out just where they did that charge. Just what was it you found the section in? I saw that it was included as an extra in some versions of the 1968 “Charge of the Light Brigade” – Region 2 DVD release but couldn’t find that one for sale.

Roger

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Frank Mellblom

Jan 29, 2013

Roger, if you go to Amazon.com type in Nickelodia #1
If you spell it nickelodian, it won’t get you to the DVD. Interestingly this DVD has a nice package cover, featuring a movie poster of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Hope to get it pretty soon. Lastly Wikipedia has some information on the 1912 movie.

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Paul Ruble

Aug 17, 2013

I think I might have found the artilary spring today. I was hiking up the side of pole mountain and found an old iron pipe line. I followed it to where it ended into what was once some kind of a stone and log building?

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Roger Ludwig

Aug 17, 2013

Sounds like you found the old army reservoir. Was it quite a stone construction with some wooden boards as debris in the bottom? It is not far from the old headquarters, to the north west, with no trails leading to it. Artillery spring is a small concrete box with a pipe protruding from it flowing with fresh spring water deep in the brush. I’ve been planning on writing a list of more treasures to locate with this reservoir being one of the best. Roger

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Frank Mellblom

Sep 5, 2013

I hiked up to the old reservoir and took some photos this week. It is very impressive. If my printer cooperates I will make some copies and send to your office address. Feel free to scan and post them if you wish. Google Earth has been a great help in findind these places.

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LenSatic

May 19, 2014

Kyle, that’s not it. It’s several miles to the east. Here’s a map listing them: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=213732418950957933334.0004e1e9dedbfbfa2281f&dg=feature

LS

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Roger Ludwig

May 20, 2014

LS, I appreciate your interest in the blog and the sites on Pole Mountain. I checked the map that you referenced. Interesting, as people have posted many beacon sites. But there were far more. Just between Cheyenne and Laramie there were three that I have seen pictures of, two east of Pole Mtn and west of Cheyenne. The Pole Mtn site is the real thing. You should go up and take a look. Roger

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Angela

Oct 24, 2016

We found 4 green metal things just off the first Blair Wallis road. There is cables inside too in the bottom. Bullet holes on outside. They are in the ground. 3 by 5 foot deep. Anyone know what they are?????

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Roger Ludwig

Oct 24, 2016

Hi Angela – Do you have a photo? A more specific location? Roger

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Fred

Jan 22, 2017

Many years ago I used to hike all over in this section of Medicine Bow. Knew the place VERY well.

There is a large cement cistern on a small knob hill located northwest of the military headquarters, on the opposite side of the Blair Wallis road from the headquarters, that supplied water to the headquarters. It used to have a wooden roof over it that has long since collapsed. On the top of one of the four cement walls that make up the cistern, someone wrote the unit’s name in the cement before it dried. The unit’s name is the 10th Mountain and the date, I believe, was sometime during 1910.

Found a fired 75mm projectile on the south side of Happy Jack Rd. It was far off the beaten path near Headquarters Rd. The projectile was intact, minus the fuse assembly.

East of the military headquarters in a small grove of small trees is a large stone / cement “fireplace” which is known as the “National Incinerator” on one of the very old maps (1938 ?) that I have of the area. There is a large trash pit nearby that was bulldozed over but has eroded in places where you can find the old screw top beer cans that resemble brake fluid cans. There are pieces of the traditional white china with blue stripes that the military of the time was famous for having in their mess halls.

If your observant as you wander around in the area, you’ll notice cut off telegraph poles forming straight lines between former emplacements / structures in various areas throughout the former Pole Mountain Military Reservation. Some of these former comm lines lead to other interesting finds.

On the north side of Happy Jack Rd. there is a grave / monument of some sort that could be for a mascot of a military unit. It’s fairly large, I’d say the square of logs that surrounds the small, short cement obelisk is about 10′ x 10′. The obelisk has a small round disk (4″ to 6″ in diameter) that has an embossed pyramid shape on it. Below this disk, there is some glass jewelry that was embedded in cement of the obelisk when it was still wet. I did not see any writing anywhere on this monument.

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Roger Ludwig

Jan 24, 2017

Dear Palerider,

Your comment and observations are very interesting. I’ve been to all of the things you have pointed out except for the obelisk. I’ll be on the look out for it. Any idea where along Happy Jack?

I’m hesitant to post your comment on the site. After I wrote one of the articles someone heavily vandalized the rife pits, stripping off the metal roofing and carting it away. What had been there for probably more than 70 years is now gone. I hope that my writing didn’t have anything to do with it but then again it might have. So now I’m siding with the archeologists who generally recommend keeping things quite until they can be preserved in some way.

Thanks for taking the time to write and now giving me something new to search for.

Roger Ludwig

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Palerirder

May 12, 2017

Roger, that is indeed sad about the vandalism of the rifle pits. I won’t betray the location of the obelisk as it appeared to me to be more of a grave site than a monument.

I also found some remnants of a structure on the south side of Happy Jack that are not listed on your site. There was a wooden structure of some sort that had a shallow rock / cement foundation (no basement) at this site. The structure’s cement steps were still upright but parts of the foundation were broken.

I love to explore these old sites. I was fortunate enough to have gone TDY to Cold Bay, Alaska before the massive WWII base (Ft. Randall) was erased by a environmental clean-up operation (EPA?). Spread out across the tundra were dozens of large Quonset huts. All of the Quonset huts were in pits which sheltered all but the top 1/4 to 1/3 of the hut from the fierce winter winds. It was quite a weird feeling walking into these old WWII Quonset huts and seeing something like, “Thomas Hartwig 11 November 43” written on the arched walls of the hut.

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Lee

Oct 30, 2017

I ran across a large stone lined pit out near the bunker on Bisbee Hill. There is some historic glass fragments in it. Anyone ever seen it before? My thought is that it could’ve been some sort of burn pit for the military.

Thanks!

Reply

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