Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

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Limey
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Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Limey » March 14th, 2014, 1:30 pm

Prompted by Sean & JoJo's recent tr on Mitchell Point we went to see if we could find traces of the old wagon road. The log rafts are growing in Drano Lake.
Mitchell Point 001 (1024x575).jpg
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. We went off trail between Mitchell Point and Mitchell Spur. We found a few sections that appeared to have been some kind of roads but couldn't say definitively that they were parts of the old wagon road. We did however come across these metal pieces. They don't really seem to be any kind of automotive parts.
Mitchell Point 003 (1024x575).jpg
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Can't find any old maps that show the actual route of the wagon road, just know it zig zagged up between Mitchell Point and Mitchell spur and then zig zagged down the other side. Would like to go back and explore more, but would like to have a better idea on where to look. On a side note, the ticks are out in force. Took three off me on the drive back home, they didn't seem to like hubby though.

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Splintercat
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Splintercat » March 15th, 2014, 9:02 am

I don't know how much you can really follow, Marilyn. I've tried that, too. The switchbacks near the old water supply (where a spur goes to the little creek) follow the old road for a couple of switchbacks, but then the bootpath to Mitchell Spur doesn't seem like a road bed at all. I've also poked around the saddle, and while it's definitely the obvious route that a road would take, there's not much obvious grade left (that I could find... in the poison oak... and ticks...) :lol: There's also a rocky outcrop that divides the saddle -- didn't get into that area, but it looks like it would have forced a substantial amount of road cutting to get past, so maybe a spot where you could find a trace?

I scouted along the lower west edge of the saddle to see if the road might have been below the current path to Mitchell Spur, and didn't see much there, either, plus there's a rock rib that continues from the spur trail all the way down to the MP trailhead, so that might explain why the road remains seem to climb so high in switchback to get through the saddle. That area is so loose and crumbling that it's possible it has just come apart in sections over the years -- about a century now! I also don't know how logged over Mitchell Point was at that time, and if it was skinned off at the time the new highway was built, it could have suffered a lot of erosion before the forest was re-established.

BTW, in very old Oregonian accounts, the road is described as going "up and over Mitchell Point", and though I've never read that to mean literally over the upper saddle (where the powerlines are), it's possible short of a map showing the actual location.

Good mystery! I'll bet Scott Cook knows the answer..!

Tom :)

Limey
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Limey » March 15th, 2014, 9:48 am

Thanks for the reply Tom. We found several short sections that were obviously wide enough for wagons but couldn't find any way to tie them together. I know that the area from the saddle down to the parking lot has changed a lot with erosion and I remember back in 1970 or '71 there was a small sign at the base of the saddle that indicated that this was where the wagons crossed. I stood looking up at the saddle thinking how the heck did they do that. I don't recall any obvious signs of road. I think Scott mentioned that the road zig zagged up and through the saddle zig zagging down the other side. It would make more sense if it zig zagged up to where the powerlines are, seems a lot more feasible to me. Boy do we need that time machine. Maybe I'll go explore from the old road on the east side and see if there are any signs of anything from that side. Love a mystery but it sure can be frustrating.

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CuriousGorgeGuide
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by CuriousGorgeGuide » March 15th, 2014, 3:18 pm

Hey...cheers from New Zealand! Cyclone Lusi is upon me, and the rest of the North Island...so I'm "killing time" as wind rocks my camper back and forth.
Splinter, thanks for the confidence!!! Yes, the wagon road which became the early-automobile road is still about 90% intact grade-wise on the slope either side of the Lil Mitchell saddle. I small landslide took out a bit on the western side ...and thus a bootpath now heads from the proper trail to the saddle. At the saddle the switchbacking grade heads down and east, fairly easy to follow, at least a year ago in summer. Easier now before the leaves are out I reckon.
I have Oregonian articles describing how a Mr Mitchell drove his Mitchell OVER the wagon rd before the tunnel was completed so he could be the first to drive thru the not-yet-opened tunnel. Thus, the wagon road was car-passable in 1915. Very amazing to ponder when you walk the inhospitable grade!! I'll say no more---go look!!! (And oh yeah, look for the masonry bits of the wagon rd just a lil bit west of Mitchell Creek (my pix on GoogEarth)).
See ya soon, as summer is ending :-)....scott

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Splintercat
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Splintercat » March 22nd, 2014, 6:45 am

You DO have my complete and total confidence, Scott! And well-deserved, I might add! :D

BTW, do the splash pools at the base of waterfalls down under rotate in the opposite direction...? ;)

Tom :)

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AFLitt
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by AFLitt » April 15th, 2014, 6:56 am

I hiked the old road yesterday and it is still mostly intact, except for the slide area that Scott mentioned. It is probably easier before things get too bushy out there later in the Spring.

I will say, crossing the slide is pretty risky business. If you are a semi-OCD completest like I am, probably the best strategy is to follow the road out to the slide, back track to the main trail and take the nice, safe path over the top of the slide that exits the main trail not too far past the Wagon Road at the turn of the next switchback, and then walk out on the wagon road to the east side of the slide. Really, in the time it takes to "safely" (because it ain't all that safe) traverse the slide, taking the trail detour does not really add any time to the trip.

I recorded a ton of GPS data, and I'll post a map and some photos up soon.

It is hard to imagine wagon teams on this thing, let alone old cars from the early teens. Just to get a sense of what that would have been like, this is a fun hike for the history buffs out there.

Once again... Crossing the slide? I've done a lot of traverses like this in places where the choice is cross or turn back, but here, with a better option, it just isn't worth it. The boulders out there are loose and nowhere near as stable as they look, and there is a nasty chute dropping down to the parking lot at the bottom of the boulder field waiting to finish the job if the tumble down to that point doesn't take care of business first...

Finally, for another great story about driving over the old Wagon Road at Mitchell, check out Peg Willis' new book Building the Columbia River Highway.
Recreating The Historic Columbia River Highway:http://www.recreatingthehcrh.org/

Limey
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Limey » April 15th, 2014, 9:36 am

Looking forward to seeing your photos and GPS track to see if we went where you went. Did you have any tick issues? I had three attached ticks after our little trek. Rotten little creatures.

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AFLitt
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by AFLitt » April 16th, 2014, 11:16 am

From the pictures, you were on the right track. Those old metal pieces were right at the "summit."

I was worried about ticks, my son and I picked up a few on Saturday on Shellrock, but I got lucky on Monday and didn't pick up any. I sprayed up pretty well, though, before heading out, though last spring the spray didn't seem to help much while I was out bushwhacking old HCRH segments...
Recreating The Historic Columbia River Highway:http://www.recreatingthehcrh.org/

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AFLitt
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by AFLitt » April 19th, 2014, 5:18 pm

Approximate Route of Wagon Road Over Mitchell Point.

My GPS data was all over the place, so this is the best I can get right now looking at that data combined with the Google Earth Imagery.
Attachments
Approximate Route of Wagon Road over Mitchell Point.jpg
Recreating The Historic Columbia River Highway:http://www.recreatingthehcrh.org/

Limey
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Re: Mitchell Point in Search of Wagon Road

Post by Limey » April 20th, 2014, 7:54 am

Thanks AFLitt, we backtracked from the slide just a little bit and went up a gap in the trees which put us on a wide trail which we followed to the road. Looks like we followed your purple track over the top and down the other side. Where we differ is when you made the jag NE and then NW, we went straight and ended up at the steep hillside. I had started to go your way when hubby said no, it goes this way. Did you see the section of old telephone wire hanging in the trees just by the slide? At least I think that's what it was. Looked just like other telephone wire we've come across in other areas.

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