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)
One collapsed earth and rock bunker overlooking Eagle Rock.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.