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!



Note:  Further along where I mention the matter of “life and death”  I’ll insert a link our friend Dean Michell from the Division of Wildlife Resources sent to give us more information on this important subject of “Rattlesnakes”

In my last post I suggested you get a friend or your kids and go on a hike in the foothills of the Wasatch and observe with awe the evolution of Spring.  Let me add ONE WORD OF CAUTION!
 All of us should remember that with the warming of Spring snakes awaken and come out of their winter hibernation–including RATTLESNAKES.  This is a time when they also begin shedding their old skin and it is a time when they are basically blind, and their rattlers are ineffective.  They are covered by their shedding skin, and are soft and don’t produce the usual rattle or buzz.  Yet they know when there is danger and sense the presence of YOU, or ONE OF YOUR KIDS and will blindly strike assuming they are in danger.

It is perhaps rare to have such an encounter, and I haven’t experienced it this year, but I did once and have been cautious over all these years.  Let me tell you that story.

It was back in the 80’s on May 15th when I decided to climb Little Squaw Peak (north of Squaw Peak and Rock Canyon east of Provo, Utah).  Just as I approached the peak I stepped between two bushes and luckily saw just in time a rattler that awkwardly tried to strike at me–“awkwardly” as his shedding skin slowed him down.  I took another couple of steps towards the peak, covered with leafing out brush and there was another rattler–so I actually can’t say I climbed Little Squaw Peak.  I headed down with a lot of care and twice more  jumped just in time, once as a rattler on each side of me tried unsuccessfully to get me.  Enough said that I went down the mountain a lot more carefully than I had gone up, and I’ve been careful since.  Five rattle snakes in a matter of just a few minutes will have you watch out from then on.  None of them were capable of producing the warning buzz.
Only one other time in our foothills have I encountered a rattle snake and that was on the Y Trail. It was later in the season and he used his rattle.  I actually captured him and had him in a cage for a while, as I had also done when working on a Wildlife Project in the West Utah Desert where many times rattle snakes were encountered.

So be careful, and tell your kids about the danger.  It’s not likely kids will pay attention, but it is also a good idea in the Spring to wear long pants, like Levis thick enough to give you some protection.

DON’T LET MY WORD OF CAUTION SCARE YOU INTO STAYING HOME AND WATCHING TV.  JUST BE CAREFUL!  It is also a great idea for you and your kids to learn about rattle snakes, and what to do if you do have an encounter.  Remember Google is a great tool.

Dean Mitchell from the DWR sent the following:
Hi Cordell,

Glad to hear that you’re healing nicely and getting in shape for the High Uintas.  I really enjoy reading your posts!
Your last post contained a great reminder for hikers and backpackers about rattlesnakes.  Thanks for reminding people about being aware while enjoying Utah’s landscapes.

Here’s a link to some information about living with rattlesnakes and other snakes in Utah: http://www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/snakes/

This information, as well as a lot of other information about wildlife awareness and safety, has been compiled by a program called Wild Aware Utah.  Check out the website at: wildawareutah.org

The website contains information about living with cougars, bears, moose and many other species.  More information is being added regularly.
Hope to see you on the trail this summer!


Dean Mitchell 
Conservation Outreach Section Chief

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
1594 West North Temple
Suite 2110, Box 146301
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6301
Office: (801) 538-4816
Fax: (801) 538-4709


NOTE:  For the first time in a long time I’m actually jogging every day, then hiking in the afternoons.  THIS IS ALL AN INCREDIBLE MIRACLE FOR WHICH I’M VERY GRATEFUL TO THE DR. AND TO THE LORD!
Another parking spot along the foothills for my tiny “CABIN” with interesting neighbors who must wonder about this eccentric old guy, on this hike heading for Little Rock Canyon and the Crags of the Wasatch.  I won’t say much, but just show you some of the beauties I was blessed with seeing.
 ONE SUGGESTION:  Get your kids a little point-and-shoot camera and help them make a collection of the flowers, the rocks and minerals, and more.  When you purposely look for the beauties of nature you will be amazed at how our world is full of wonder and awe and strong testimonies for many of us of our Creator and how He has blessed us.
 I stopped to take  better photos of this shrub.  Note:  I have stopped using my Bose headphones in the outdoors as they block out the sounds of nature.
Meadow Salsify began blossoming just after my last post.  
Now heading up the Little Rock Canyon trail where I got stimmied last Fall.
 Heading for what I have called “The CRAGS OF THE WASATCH”
It’s all steeper than these photos show.  The wide-angle lens flattens some the image.
The first SEGO LILY of Spring.  This is the Utah State Flower.
 Game trails crisscrossing everywhere.
 Keep a close eye on this one as it develops into an incredible blossom.
 …..and what grows on them.
The powder blue one is new for us.  What are they?
LICHENS.  Do you remember what two life forms partner up for each other’s survival?
It is FUNGUS and ALGAE that have a symbiotic relationship, each helping the other to survive.
Back to the “CABIN” to put on the computer the photrographs, enhance them, discard some, and get them ready to share.  Then compose a newsletter for the Guatemalan Foundation and send via email to our list, and then print for those we don’t have emails for and have it ready to send tomorrow.  The Foundation’s projects among needy Mayans are managed by native volunteers who do a tremendous amount of good, but need our support.  I have done this volunteer work for 50 years and now do it from my Cabin and from Pulbic Libraries where we get free internet access.  Check it out at:  www.guatemalanfoundation.org     
A handful of our “High Uintas Friends” make important contributions and repeat them several times each year.
 Parked at Walmarts in Springville, using the Honda generator to run the printer.  Our first electricity on our plantation in a remote area of Guatemala in 1968 was also provided by a small Honda generator.  Looks like we have come FULL CIRCLE!


My last post was:


Previous to that:

SURPRISE…A NEW GLITCH! A New Surgery Monday–April 


WOW–Spring and MY NEW LIFE!
For the first time in years I’m hiking and working at getting back in shape with NO PAIN!  I can now put my socks on without going through a stretching routine and getting down on the floor, and a few days ago I was even able to properly and painlessly cut my toenails!  

A million thanks to Drs. RICHEY, JACKSON, and COLLEDGE and all the medical personnel that helped make this miracle happen.

I am supposed to wait until June 1 to shoulder a backpack, but I’m going into the hills with my 15 lbs. of camera equipment, plus .45 Colt Defender, water and lunch–adding up to around 20 pounds.   

Following is my first set of photographs from my Springville camp site near the Crags of the Wasatch in Little Rock Canyon.  
ENJOY SPRING IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE WASATCH — and take your kids on hikes to learn of the great awakening in the outdoors.

 MY “CABIN” IN THE FOOTHILLS–soon to be in the High Uintas


 Brilliant green creeping up the mountains–GRAB YOUR KIDS AND GO HIKING.

 Seemingly a bit scarce and drab still–but all of a sudden a stunningly green tree appears.

 Then look down amidst the developing green at our feet and look for the miniscule.  
You’re wrong!  There are flowers there, I promise you.  See below.

 Take along a magnifying glass for the tiny but beautiful little flowers an 1/8th of an inch small. 

 Help your kids focus on the small incredible beauty most never see. I do my best to zoom in for you.

 Many plants are just sprouting.  Look for them and their beautiful textures and keep them in mind for your next hike to see how they develop.

 Help your kids look down into the heart of the plants and see what it is sprouting, and what it might become by the next time you go hiking.

 What will this become?  You will likely be surprised how incredibly beautiful it will  be.  Have them notice the spines–have them be careful with some.

 What will this one develop into?  Will it have a flower?  Make sure and folllow the same trail in a week or so, and later through the summer.

 Likely the most common plant of the foothills is what we call “scrub oak,” the real name being “Gambles Oak.”  The leaves are beginning to sprout.  Notice the orange growths on the rough bark.  What is that? 
It is one of the most prolific and fascinating life forms in the outdoors, what we call Lichens–at the end of our hike I’ll show them on all the rocks and tell you a bit about them.  Hey, you parents, Google the word and tell your kids about this incredible life form.  I’ll mention just a bit at the end.

Is the wood good for anything except firewood?  After I show the beautiful leaves, I’ll show you a thing or two I do with it.

 Did you ever imagine scrub oak leaves could be so beautiful?  How will they look in the Fall?  Make sure and go on another hike or two then. Now to one beautiful creation I make with Gambles Oak.

  Have you ever seen a more beautiful natural, rustic frame?  Yes, it’s made from humble scrub oak.  A secret:  The corners are the tricky part.  They don’t have to be square or rectangular as you can see below framing a beautiful Native cutthroat trout from East Red Castle lake . 

 Now to something beautiful, but very controversial as seen below.
It’s called:
 Donkey-tail or Myrtle Spurge, usually just SPURGE.

SPURGE is considered a noxious weed that is spreading along the Wasatch Front.  Among many it causes a very serious allergic reaction, so DON’T TOUCH IT!  Google it to learn more.

But, there’s no denying that it is beautiful and get’s even better on zooming in.

Probably the most common seen from the outskirts of town.

Brilliant orange catches our eye.  What’s it’s name?  Maybe a good project would be to take along the Audubon Wildflower Fieldbook and learn the names.

We haven’t got very far up the hill and already seen so much.  I confess that I stop so often, especially on my first hike in an area, that I don’t really cover very much distance.

This beautiful flower is everywhere in the early season.

It gets more beautiful the closer you get.  How long will it last?

Small, but with beautiful color.

Here’s the same flower in a different, and earlier stage of development.

This is another early season flower that doesn’t last very long.

As is the case with many of these flowers, they can also be seen all around the cities.  I’ve seen one home lot with this flower as thick as dandelions.  I’ll get a shot of it and insert tomorrow.

This plant doesn’t seem to have what we can call a flower, but just wait…..

Keep an eye on it as the season progresses, and you will see bursting out of each bud a profusion of what is likely the smallest of the wildflowers. 

This is one of the Utah varieties of vetch.  Next you will see it in another color.

Sorry about the sun-spot.  Look past that and see this shrub’s beautiful blossoms.

Get closer–zoom in.

Now to what might be the most fascinating life form of our hills and mountains:
LICHENS.  Of course you should have also been helping your kids notice the incredible rocks and minerals of the Wasatch.  For more on that see my COMEBACK YouTube Video #15, and use the 70 rocks and minerals shown there to also help your kids appreciate the wonders of our hills and mountains.

The splotches on these rocks, everywhere from dull unattractive ones to brilliant orange and yellows are LICHENS.

Very slowly these living organisms help break down our rocks–don’t stand around and try and notice the changes, unless you plan on being a few million years old!

There are many thousands of varieties of lichens from  our deserts, foothills and right up to Kings Peak.

It is a partnership form of life in which a fungus combines or cooperates with an algae, or visa versa, to make life possible for both.  Scientists call it a “symbiotic relationship.”  Google it and learn a few details so you can make this fascinating life form literally come alive for your kids.

Ones, like this brilliant orange, and yellow below, were used by the Indians, or to be politically correct, Native Americans, as dyes and paints.

We got a bit of exercise and a big dose of inspiration from the beauties of the great outdoors.

Now back to our little camp and get all of these shots on the computer, and internet to share with all our friends.


Next up we begin getting stronger going up the mountain a bit, and even up the Little Rock Canyon trail–that last Fall I couldn’t manipulate when I was trying “to fake not being a cripple”– to see what unique shots we can get literally surrounded by the Crags of the Wasatch you see below in the Fall.