22-Aug-2005 -- For awhile today, I was a Pony Express rider, retracing the routes of the Pony Express Trail over 150 years ago. Although, the 350 horses under my hood may have been more than the total number of mustangs used on these dirt roads in an effort to speed up mail service from the east coast to the west coast, I still felt a strong connection, imagining their adventures over this same historic ground a long time ago.
As I sped along at speeds they could not imagine – even faster than the trains that would eventually put them out of business – I was kicking up a large dust trail behind me. What once took days would take me only hours in my Tahoe – and only minutes in my airplane through or over this area of absolute desolation.
Indeed, this was another confluence adventure – along a route seldom traveled by the vast majority of our population! This would be my seventh out of thirteen successful visits throughout Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana. Coming from 40N-114W I was traveling eastbound, following the old Pony Express Trail and stopping to read many of the monuments along the way.
I turned north on the first road east of Dugway Pass. I was looking for a jeep trail leading east to the confluence that, apparently no longer existed. It was late in the day and I did not have enough daylight left to hike 4.25 miles one way to the confluence. I could see the general area off in the distance but there was no way to get there today. Rats!
I used my satellite phone to call my wife to see how the previous visitors had reached this point. It was hard to tell from their narratives. I determined that if I was going to have to hike in the morning, approaching from the east would be shorter. I drove to a point 2.25 east of the confluence along another road after backtracking and then turning northwest on the second road east of Dugway Pass and set up camp in the dark.
The next morning promised to be a beautiful day. As I began my hike, I captured a picture of a rainbow in the direction of the confluence. It was a relatively easy hike over mostly flat ground interspersed with overgrown sand dunes.
Dead reckoning and careful pace counting had gotten me to within 250 meters short and slightly south of the confluence when I checked my GPS to see where I really was after I thought I was there – not bad for simply tracking towards a distant peak!
I found the confluence on top of the home of a small rodent in area of small sand dunes. The general area had grasslands on top of dunes, and lots of scrub sagebrush. I could not find a cairn – and there were no rocks nearby to make one either.
Picture #1 looks west towards the Dugway Range. Picture #2 looks north. Picture #3 looks east towards the Simpson Mountains. Picture #4 looks south. Picture #5 shows the general confluence area and rodent home. Picture #6 shows my GPS position. Picture #7 shows an abandoned tractor by where I parked to begin my hike 2.25 miles from the confluence. Picture #8 shows the confluence at the end of the rainbow at the beginning of my hike. Picture #9 shows a sign along the Pony Express Trail. Picture #10 is a close up of one of the Pony Express stations.
On my way back, I tried to find the trails that were displayed on my topo map. They had been overgrown and reclaimed by the desert. Parking at the closest point to the east and walking directly to the point is probably the easiest way to go – although an ATV with low pressure tires would make reaching this confluence trivial. Looking westward from the tractor, parts of the overgrown trail can be observed by finding the linear growth of green sage and scrub between the dead grass at this time of year. The lakebed was dried, cracked mud covered with very dry grass.
When I got back to my Tahoe, I took a quick shower, downloaded my GPS trail data to my computer and then started out for my next point.
It took me right at 2 hours to hike 5.27 miles roundtrip from the tractor and 1:03 to drive 6.6 miles back to the Simpson Springs-Callao Road.
Next stop: 41N-113W.