2013 FIRST TRIP–Mirror Lake Scenic Byway and Piedmont Ghost Town

Click below to see previous post:

“Opps…I forgot a matter of life or death”…More of Spring…and KSL podcasts, plus links to Comeback photo/essays and videos 

Note:  I have added to the above post an important letter with links from our friend Dean Mitchell at the DWR.  Go back to check it out.



May 25-27th

NOTE:  A correction can be found at the end, along with a comment about my sanity!

For a number of years I attempted to always be one of the first to drive the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway but apparently for the 2012 Season, due to back surgery on May 24th and the attempt to avoid becoming a cripple I got slowed down,  but I did make the trip on May 19th with my daughter, Mahana. Following is a photo of the Provo River Falls, and then one on Bald Pass on that day, May 19th, 2012. 
Provo River Falls (above ) — May 19, 2012– Bald Mt. and Pass (below)

Provo River Falls (above) —  June 28, 2011 — Bald Mt. and Pass (below)

Bald Mt. and Pass on June 5, 2010


The trip with my compact “Cabin A” trailer began at the Western “Gateway to the Uintas” in Kamas, UTAH where also begins the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway which opened on May 25th.
 No attempt will be made in this brief photo/essay to identify the sprinkling included of the first wildflowers of the season.

 The increased elevation had my bag of potatoe chips inflated to the bursting point.

 You can back up and compare the snow depth with other years, 2013 with much more snow than the 2012 season, but less than 2010 and 2011.
 Mt. Hayden is seen directly down the highway as we begin the descent to  the snowed-in Mirror Lake junction.
 Of course the road in to the famous Highline Trailhead is still snowed in, and will be for another couple of weeks–depending on the weather.
 From the snowbound High Uintas we descend north towards Wyoming and Evanston and then take I-80 East about 20 miles to Exit 24 that has us on a gravel road that leads to the Piedmont ghost town.

 We will travel 7.5 miles south on this well maintained road.

 We parallel Muddy Creek which as will see is well known in the pioneer history of the West.
 Most of this 7.5 miles has us passing through lands of the Guild Ranch.  As we will see the Guild family was the second to settle in Piedmont in around 1865, and continue in our day.

 Here we see a panorama of MUDDY CREEK.  Read below how historic an area we are seeing.

 We are heading south and see in the distance the snow covered peaks of the High Uinta Mountains.
 Ruins of the area’s pioneer past can be seen all along the road.
 Soon we see the prominent “beehive” charcoal kilns of Piedmont, Wyoming 140 years ago a historically important town of around 200 for a short time with the Transcontinental Railroad running down its main and only street.
 The historic site has been fixed up since I first visited the area 4 years ago.  Very interesting explanations about the importance of the area are now available to the visitors.  I’ll insert them below and encourage you all to read and learn about this important era of our country’s development.

 I’ll zoom in on some of the important explanations, like THE FIRST RESIDENTS, and BUTCH CASSIDY, the most famous Mormon train and bank robber, and CALAMITY JANE!

 Moses Byrne, the founder in 1857, along with his wives (Catherine who lived in Piedmont, and Anne, who lived in Ogden) were all converts to Mormonism from Europe (England and Italy) who migrated to Utah in 1854.  I’ll relate more of the interesting history in the upcoming book.
 The Guild family joined the Byrnes  in Piedmont in 1864.  Marie Guild and Catherine Byrnes were sisters from Piedmont, Italy.  The Guild family focused on ranching and to this day are the owners of the area ranch land that includes the ghost town.  Their ranch is centered a couple of miles southwest on the road that connects to the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway at the Sulphur Reservoir.
 With the Union Pacific Railroad station there where needed water was abundant, as well as wood and charcoal, the community grew to around 200 with  a General Store, two story hotel, school, post office, livery stable, newspaper and four saloons.  The tie hacks in the Uintas provided wood for the kilns, other wood products, and used Piedmont as an entertainment and supply center.  Soldiers from Fort Bridger also used it for rest and recreation on the weekends.

 Below is the interesting story of the charcoal kilns, and the production of charcoal used in the smelters in Utah and other areas.  Read on and learn about something I certainly didn’t know before.

 The large building seen above was the school. 
 I had come for another visit focusing on Memorial Day as I had noticed that the cemetery which you see further along was still being used some.  I had noticed dried up flowers that had recently been placed on several of the grave sites, and there were burials in 1996 and 1998.  I had photographed in 2009 all the tombstones and done a study showing that of the 25 legible names 28% had either been still-born or died before reaching the age of 4.  Another 28% died before the age of 15.  Apparently the pioneer life was no easy task!   I wanted to learn more and thought I’d maybe meet someone on Memorial Day.

 The above two photos I had taken in 2009 on my first visit as well as several that follow.
 There are NO TRESPASSING signs which I respected and so took these shots from the road.

 I learned that this home, nearest to the kilns, and with the cemetery in the background was Moses’ Byrnes home.

 Another view of the Moses Byrne’s home.
 The cemetery was my target area.  I parked near a road that led to the cemetery and waited, but dozed off a bit, awakening as a 4 x 4 pickup slipped by me and went up the road.  I got my camera and recorder and hiked as fast as I could towards the cemetery.
 There I met Kelly Crompton Bussio and J.D., her husband and had a fascinating conversation.
 Kelly’s first husband, Brent Crompton, was buried in the cemetery in 1996, after he lost his life in an airplane accident in Montana in which Kelly was left paralyzed from the shoulders down.  Kelly’s mother-in-law is Fae Byrne Crompton a direct descendant of Moses Byrne.  She is still alive, around 87 years old, living in Orem, Utah and Kelly promises me I’ll have an enthusiastic visit with her.  Fae was born in Piedmont and lived there until graduating from high school–which is another fascinating story soon to be told.  I will be calling her in a day or so.
 J.D. is Kelly’s current husband who brings his wife yearly to decorate her deceased husband’s grave you see below.  The Byrne family will have their annual Family Reunion next week in Robertson, a ranching community to the east on the road to Mountain View and Ft. Bridger.  Part of their reunion is making the journey to Piedmont to decorate the grave sites.
 Kelly was kind enough to tell me some crucial stories that I was able to record and will write about, as well as what I learn from Fae.  Below is the tombstone of Moses and Catherine Byrnes.
 In 1998 another of Fae’s sons, Craig, was also buried here, being the most recent.  It is now a family rule that to be buried in the cemetery one has to be a direct descendant of the original settlers.
 I hitched a ride back to the main road with J.D. and Kelly and finally got into one of my photos–look carefully and you an see me.
 Kelly gave me permission to walk in among the remaining buildings and so I made a quick swing checking them out, along with this antelope that went ahead of me.

This was the school with one teacher handling 1st through 8th grades.
 Square nails, as I explain in other photo/essays identify this as a site from the 1800’s as round, wire nails we know today weren’t invented and produced until 1910.
 Square nails were seen everywhere.  There were also round ones, indicating repairs done after 1910 and up to 1940 when the end came for Piedmont.

 I couldn’t  resist a shot with a fish-eye lens.  Sorry for not getting it all in focus.

 At the corner of the above ruin was the plaque you see below.

 This one had a plaque too, still in good condition.

 The 3rd home’s plaque didn’t fare as well as the others, and apparently is lost to history.

 Many more ruins are just piles of rotting logs.
 The cattle have taken over most of the ruins using them for shelter.  The school ruin even has a cattle feeder trough built into one side of it.
 If you have taken the time to read and learn about PIEDMONT I’m sure you will feel well fed in learning just a little more about our pioneer heritage.  I hope to include  more interesting facts into my writings. I’ll do another post in a few days based on the recorded interview with Kelly at the cemetery on Memorial Day (May 27th), and then with Fae and her husband on May 30th getting a host of good historical information.
A few friends and family have wondered about my sanity with this new solitary life, but I talk to a lot of people as mentioned, and am never alone as my son Jesse out of compassion gave me a companion, as seen below–WILSON!  Me and Tom Hanks have a lot in common!

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