DIFFERENCE 465 MILES
As I have
never been over the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail in winter, (but was over the
summer trail in 1904, Valdez to Clear Creek near Upper Tanana Crossing),
I am unable to describe the route by comparison, but Rainy Pass, while some
675 feet higher in altitude than Thompson Pass, has 118 mile water grade to
gain an altitude of 3,175 feet and a descent on the west side 1,735 feet in
9 miles down to the mouth of Dalzell River. Other than this, the route is
very much like the Copper River Route and would be in timber practically all
the way, with the exception of 12 miles over Rainy Pass. However, a
great deal of work must be done on the route to make it practicable for winter
mail service as it would be impractical to follow the broad open river flood
plains and valleys as was done by this expedition, on account of overflows
and open water which would render the trail impracticable except at the season
of the winter when this expedition came through.
Rainy Pass is so easy of ascent that there is no question in my mind
of its feasibility. Here I might say we were in timber the entire way
to Kaltag except for 7 miles approaching and 5 miles leaving Rainy Pass.
Timber line was found to be at altitude 2,250 feet on each side of
the pass but much brush and willows extended right up to the summit.
To more minutely describe the route followed: We had some difficulty
in getting our heavy loads over the many narrow bridges on the Alaska Central
Railway as they were covered with 4 to 7 feet of soft, heavy snow and a narrow
trail that had been kept broken through the center of the bridges down to
the ties. The snow, on account of the width between the ties, had been stamped
through by the mail carrier and occasional travelers and the accumulating
snow had become mushroomed over and built up perpendicular walls 4 to 7
feet high until it lopped over or hung out beyond the ends of the ties from
1 to 3 feet.
We could not keep to the narrow trail in the center as it was nearly
or completely covered over on top, so we had to resort to going on top of
the snow to one side and out over the ends of the ties in many instances,
but fortunately the weather was cold enough to congeal the snow and keep
it from shearing, else we could not have hauled the heavy loads over the
bridges. This condition will result each winter until the bridges
are fully tied or the road operated, as the space between the ties will not
allow the snow to pack solid. Also, these bridges cannot well be avoided.
Through the half dozen tunnels we found, the mouth of them almost completely
blockaded with snow slides and we had to shovel our way into and out of
them, bodily lift the heavily loaded sleds over the slides into them and
"snub" down into them. With no snow through the several tunnels it would
be impracticable to haul heavy loads through them, but I could not well
see how they can be avoided as the river beneath is too rough and open to
be traversed and this is in a bad snow slide country. Much ice hung from
the roofs of the tunnels like stalactites and with the heavy rails, rocks
and occasional ice on the floor, made treacherous traveling in the darkness.
Between two of the tunnels we found an unfinished bridge, so we improvised
a floor on which to cross and between two other tunnels for some 500 feet,
we had to cut a trail along the sheer mountainside, through glaciered ice
and snow and move the sleds and loads by hand.
We left the track at mile 54 and made down the open flood plain of Glacier
River to Turnagain Arm at mile 61. From mile 63 to 75 we found much difficulty
from the extremely high tides, rough hummocky floe ice and uncompleted
roadbed. At mile 65 to 67 the railway company has a trestle, some
two miles long and out some 200 to 500 feet from the cliffs and shore to
avoid glaciers and snow slides, and even when the roadbed is completed and
being operated I doubt the ability to handle slides along here, but at the
limited time at hand to examine conditions, I was unable to form an opinion
of the solution, as the tide water and rough ice must always be dangerous
or not traversable. At mile 69 we had to leave sleds and loads out
on the ice one night and from mile 67 to 74 it was succession of climbing
over the hills and along the tide lands along the cleared right of way and
but slow time could be made.
Up Glacier Creek from mile 75 to 85, we had no difficulty as a sled road
was being operated to Girdwood at mile 82, but over Crow Creek Pass it
would be out of the question to handle Nome mail with an ascent of 45°
for the last 1,500 feet and to an altitude of 3,550 and then down nearly
as steep, some places, to Raven Creek and on down to Eagle River 9 miles
An alternative route should be examined from the mouth of Glacier Creek
and continuing along the right of way of the railway to Indian Pass where
it is said a good grade and Pass can be gotten and all the way in timber.
This is some 20 miles west of Crow Creek Pass, but we did not go that
way on account of no trail, lack of time and uncertainty of getting through.
The location of the Alaska Central Railway however follows around the
entire north shore of the Turnagain Arm and the east shore of the Knik Arm,
and when this road shall have been completed, would, very likely, be the route
if mail for Nome ever goes via the Kuskokwim, but there would always be trouble
and danger from slow slides and the roadway and cuts be blown full of snow
and much rough and sidling trail result.
Also some difficulty was encountered all the way down Raven Creek and
Eagle River and across to Old Knik on account of no trail and very deep,
soft snow and open creeks. From Eagle River, we caught on to an Alaska Central
Ry. pack trail across lakes and hills to Knik Arm and arrived at Old Knik
at 9 PM long after dark. From here to New Knik we had no difficulty as the
snow was now but about a foot deep and the Indian's had a trail.
At New Knik, Mr. Pulham, in charge of transportation, decided to leave
one of the basket sleds and all the double harness, as he deemed the snow
too deep and soft to pull the wide sleds through and with dogs harnessed
two abreast, so a day was spent in making long tugged harness, arranging
four Yukon sleds, buying provisions and remodeling the outfit. In my
mind it was a mistake to discard the sleds and double harness as we had already
passed over all the worst of the trail and were now just where we could
use the rig to advantage and fair time had been made up to here with no
accident or breakage and from information I had been able to get, as to
the conditions ahead, we were now beginning to get into fair going and the
entire trip could have been made as successfully or to more advantage with
the original outfit.
From New Knik to Shusitna Station, we passed through rolling hills and
Tamarack swamps and arrived at the Station on February 15th. Here,
a three-quarter Cree Indian was hired to go through as far as McGrath's and
then return, and we took on flour, sugar, bacon and other supplies as had
been arranged for previously and the real trip began as this was our last
base of supplies.
From here, I began the reconnaissance "pacing" the distance clear through
to Kaltag. This was done by counting 'fours' as is done by the Geological
Survey, in determining (roughly) distances and consists of counting only
one foot or four times and calling it ONE. I occasionally measured the sum
of these 8 ___ in determining the distance traveled.
Also latitude observations were taken as will be seen on map and the
magnetic variation determined, but these could not always be gotten at
or near to the fifty mile station owing to the stormy or hazy weather. By
closely watching the U.S.G.S. Reconnaissance map of Mount McKinely region
1904: Spurr and Post's exploration of 1896 and 1898: and Lieut. Herron's
exploration in 1899, I was able to estimate and check their distances, topography
and delineation clear through to Farewell Mountain on the Kuskokwim, but
will say from there to Kaltag the maps are entirely in error and it would
be impossible to map the country except by more extended surveys than it
was possible for me to make on such an expedition.
From Shusitna Station we of course followed up the broad flood plane
of the rivers, taking angles with prismatic compass and going from point
to point of the river bends and I found the maps to be very accurate in
the main, but of such small scale that certain small canons, islands, sloughs
and topography do not show and of these I will tell later.
In my opinion it would be impracticable to follow the broad open flood
plain all winter on account of overflows, and the opening of a trail by
this route virtually means the cutting of 553 miles, more or less, of trail
through the timber and brush, and certain necessary crossings of the rivers.
At intervals, all up the Yentna and Skwentna, we passed through sloughs
or up the main river as the case may be and had very deep soft snow to contend
with and had to snow shoe all the way. A cut off route from Shusitna Station
about north 45° west, and arriving at the Skwentna at about the mouth
of the Talushulitna River, should be exploited. This is said to be
traveled by Indians but I could get no information on it.
Upon arriving at the mouth of the Happy River, in a strong wind, on the
afternoon of February 26th, a halt was made, but from the topography of the
country, (we were on the south side of the Skwentna) it did not seem that
the Happy, with so large a drainage area, could come out of the mountains
through so small a canon, so while the river was anticipated at the exact
distance traveled, I concluded from the topography of the hills that it must
come in 2 miles or more above, so we soon camped 4 miles above the Happy,
and with the low hills on the right leading me to believe that we must come
to it at any turn. On the next morning, February 27th, after traveling
3 miles, we arrived at the mouth of Portage Creek (I had seen a picture
of this place in one of the Geological reports) so we turned back the 7
miles and entered Happy river, having lost a days travel.
Here we blazed trees and put up a sign giving name of the river, party
and distances back to the mouth of Skwentna and Yentna, to Shusitna Station
and Seward. In fact, on the entire trip, at our camping places, I blazed
trees giving date, distances, etc.
In the Happy River, we found much open water and very deep soft snow
which had been blown down into the valley, but fair time was made each
day. This is a very narrow river between steep sloping side hills from
plateaus above, almost a canon for 16 miles, where it broadens out somewhat
at mile 282, but always going up on rather stiff grades. A trail through
here must lie spruce and cottonwood. It is a veritable paradise for moose
and on the 28th of February, while some distance ahead of the party, I killed
a big bull moose.
For the success of the trip we figured on a moose or plenty of ptarmigan.
From this time on we were heavily loaded as the moose dressed probably
650 lbs. and but for it we must have been on short rations toward the end
of the trip.
Also we saw three different outfits of prospectors camped along the Happy
and who had two to four moose each hanging up. We saw, however, but bout
80 ptarmigan on the entire trip and only had four of them, these were all
near timber line.
On up the Happy I saw the country as mapped and by closely following
the maps we went over the summit of Rainy Pass on March 2nd at noon, a
perfectly clear, calm day and dropped down Dalzell into the timber.
However, when one arrived at timber line on Pass Creek, there might be
a question as to the proper route ahead as the Ptarmigan Valley route looks
much more likely pass through the mountains while the Pass Creek route
turns into a high mountain and around toward the north in such a way that
from a distance it seems to terminate too soon, but by very closely watching
the map one can readily decide.
We went up the long smooth ridge between Pass Creek and the main Happy,
as the creek bottom was filled with very deep soft snow among the brush and
this ridge would be the ideal location for a trail, but must be permanently
staked. In fact, the 12 miles between timber must be staked when a winter
trail is established.
Down the head waters of the Dalzell I saw how one could easily get lost
(at least temporarily) if coming upstream, as the canons are so deceptive
and the country so big. While here I will say that Rainy Pass is so easy
of ascent and descent and is so near on a direct line of the route that I
did not stop to examine any of the other passes i.e. Simpson Pass some 10
miles northeast and Ptarmigan Valley some 20 miles southwest, as either of
the other routes would be much longer and not to be considered unless some
serious obstructions should be found before reaching the Kuskokwim.
However, there is a very bad stretch of country from mile 302 to 306 down
the Dalzell, where the creek is narrow and confined in a succession of deep
narrow canons, glaciers and land slides and the creek has a very rapid descent
at places. This, however, can be overcome by laying a trail well up
on the mesas to the north, overlooking the creek and through the timber but
much study will be required to pick out the best route for several miles
of this creek. Other than this the Dalzell is easy.
Arriving at Rohn River we find a broad flood plain of from 1,500 to 2,800
feet wide and this must be a long large river. Down stream it abruptly turns
several bluffs and from the open country at its mouth it was difficult, its
exact confluence with the Kuskokwim to determine. Here on March 3rd we met
two men, names Powell and Ramar bound for Seward for medical treatment for
Powell's thumb, so we gave them antiseptic tablets and they were very glad
to see us, as it meant they would have our trail to follow clear back to
Shusitna Station. They had left McGrath's on February 21st and had unfortunately
followed a trappers trail and only came out on the Kuskokwim at Farewell Mountain,
having been practically lost for 12 days, though one of them had been out
to Seward before.
On Rohn River we ran onto glare ice which continued for 49 miles or down
to about the mouth of the Dilinger River. Over this stretch I had to abandon
the "pacing" for the time being, as the sleds ran so fast before the wind.
Without creepers it was impossible to even stand up on the ice with a 60
mile an hour wind down stream, so we all rode and I timed and estimated the
distance. Indeed this was a dangerous part of the trip as the ice was so smooth
and the wind so strong that the sleds were broadside on or ahead of the dogs
much of the time and the many snags sticking through the ice caused us many
"tip overs" but no serious accident or breakage. At night we improvised brakes
for the sleds and creepers for ourselves and next day made great time until
we ran off the glare ice into snow and overflows.
From Farewell Mountain the Kuskokwim is, generally speaking, properly
mapped as far as the Tonzona, but while I took compass courses and paced
the distances from point to point, the river flood plain is so broad and
full of so many islands and sloughs that it would be fallacy for me to try
and map and plat the country from such notes and under such conditions as
I could get them in mushing along on snow shoes at about 12 miles a day.
Several rivers were seen to enter from the southwest but which are not
on the maps, and we did not see the Dilinger River at all. We could not find
the Tonzona River but found Chief Nicholi and two women at the point where
the Tonzona should enter, but could not make him understand, although he
was rather an intelligent native. We got him to pilot us across the low, swampy
tamarack and unmarked country, 20 miles to Nicholomas, on the Kuskokwim, opposite
the mouth of Big River and here I got information from a man named Wilson
as to the rest of the distance to McGrath's at the mouth of the Tocotna. At
Nicholomas the Big River enters from the south and is, as its name infers,
a big river, nearly as large as the Kuskokwim. This river has natives up
its several branches and I roughly delineate it on the map. It is said to
emanate some distance south of Farewell Mountain in lakes and sloughs. From
Nicholomas we traveled over the trail just traversed by Wilson on snow shoes,
and were part of the time on the river, through sloughs, lakes, tamarack and
spruce swamps and it was impossible to carry a compass line, but when out
in the open we were at all times going directly away from Mt. McKinley and
directly toward Mount Tacotna (not on any map).
After a day at McGrath's we left Johnson (the 3/4 Cree Indian) who was
sick with pleurisy, and took the sled trail from Kaltag by way of Gane and
Ophir Creeks. Here is the most crooked, up and down hill, round about trail
one could imagine, so crooked that a compass line could not be carried through
the scrub timber and brush, so I confined myself to measuring its length
and taking such bearings to mountains and peaks and such notes as to general
direction and condition, as time would permit. From my observations for latitude
I am able to delineate the trail and location of Gane and Ophir Creeks.
At Portage City there is a block house built many years ago by Russians
and there is said to be a cut off from here to Gane Creek used by the Indians.
At the head of Gane Creek, mile 450, there is a summit 1,780 feet in altitude,
which is very steep for the last 1,000 feet in distance or 400 feet of climb
on the Big Creek side, but as a trail would probably find a better route
into the Innoko District, probably by Portage City, this is not considered
a detriment to the route.
At the Tocotna slough, we found about a dozen men, cabins and many caches.
This is where they land freight by poling boats up the Tocotna River to McGrath's.
At Moore City (Gane Creek) we found fine, well built cabins but all deserted
for the new diggings at Ophir Creek, 12 miles away by trail. We stayed here
overnight with U.S. Commissioner W. A. Vinal and I was given much information
about the country and I include a copy of a sketch of the country made by
Next day we went to Ophir Creek (Gerde), the new diggings discovered about
February 20th 1908, where we stayed overnight and here we found the people
all excited over the new find. All were putting up log cabins and getting
ready to mine, but the camp was completely out of provisions and the few
dog teams were busy hauling flour and sugar from McGrath's and provisions
and clothing from Kaltag and even from St. Michael's. In fact, we met one
outfit of five Indian teams nearing "Gerde" with provisions and clothing
from St. Michael.
There seemed to be about 200 persons in the whole Innoko District and
probably as many more had left the country some few weeks to months before,
more on account of the lack of provisions than anything else.
The Innoko District is said to very much resemble the Dawson Country,
physically at least, with its timber and rolling hills. We were only at
the two headquarters camp overnight, I of course had no opportunity to see
any of their workings, in fact little work had or could be done on account
of the food supply but all were enthusiastic and expected a big rush upon
the opening of navigation.
Here I figured on a cut-off across country directly to Kaltag, estimated
by me to be some 100 miles and said to be 150 by trail, but as out of provisions
and time was getting short, I decided best to follow the beaten path, which
goes in a very round about way via Dishaket.
The distance from McGrath's to Gane is said to be 65 miles, found to be
35, and from Gane to Kaltag 160 miles, found to be 109 miles.
At McGrath's, 46 miles away, damaged flour was selling for $12 per hundred
and sugar at 40¢ per pound, with only two tons of flour and 1,800 lbs.
sugar and no other commodity to be had.
At Moore City, prices ranged as follows: flour $35 per hundred, sugar
50¢ per pound, beans 50¢ per pound, dried fruits 55¢ per
pound. All canned goods at $1 per can. However, none of the latter were
to be had and the limited food supply was contained in individual outfits.
The country is devoid of game, although the indians occasionally get caribou
some miles away which sells for 60¢ a pound. Winter freight rates to
Gane and Ophir Creeks were as follows:
From Kaltag 50¢ per pound
to Gane 110 miles
to Ophir 99 miles
From McGrath's 15¢ and 18¢ per pound
to Gane 35 miles to Ophir 46
From Anvik 40¢ per pound
to Gane 130 miles
to Ophir 119 miles
Yukon River natives were being paid $50 and food, per round trip, St.
Michael to Innoko, with basket sled loads of, say 400 pounds, in caravans
of several dog teams, but they made slow time.
Leaving Ophir Creek, the used trail continues very crooked and over rolling
hills down the left limit of the Innoko, crossing many streams, the largest
being the Ditna and with prospectors cabins every few miles. In 40
miles, we arrived at Dishakaket, an Indian Village on Shagaluk Slough (to
the Yukon) and are told that it is 86 miles to Kaltag, but which I find it
to be but 59 miles.
Here are some 100 or more natives and some dozen white people, with two
stores, a saloon and a roadhouse. This was thought to be the head of navigation,
but later boats have been up the Innoko and Ditna to Hanes Ldg., said to
be 40 miles from Gane Creek and the Commission will probably later on receive
a petition for a summer road or trail from Gane or Ophir Creek to this landing.
The Innoko District is so isolated from direct or quick transportation,
on account of the crookedness of the river and sloughs and their great length,
that it is difficult to get supplies in during the navigation under present
conditions and surely if the new diggings prove all that is expected of them,
there will be a demand for a road or trail from some convenient point, either
on the Kuskokwim or Yukon or head of navigation on the Innoko.
However the country is so erroneously mapped, is so cut up by the crooked
rivers and is so rolling, that I am unable to delineate it except in a very
crude way. Mr. Vinal gave me a very crude, penciled map of the country which
I will copy and include with this. among those who could talk intelligently
of the country, none could or would try to map it.
From Dishakaket, we follow the very crooked trail through rolling swampy,
sparsely timbered country to the Kaiyuh Slough where there is a roadhouse.
This place is some 3 miles up the river and up the slough and is said to
be 18 miles from Kaltag. This I found to be about 14.5 miles while the Alaska
map shows it to be, by scale, 24 miles.
We arrived at Kaltag on March 19th, where we had the coldest weather of
the entire trip, it being 43º below zero. Here we waited for telegrams,
rested the dogs and arranged to go with the mail carriers as the weather
was bad and trails obliterated.
Observations were taken on Polaris at western elongation about every 50
miles, as requested, and this data together with magnetic declination
shows on map.
From Seward to Old Knik, the snow was from 3 to 7 feet deep and
soft, depending largely on altitude.
From Old Knik to New Knik, 1.5 to 2 feet
From New Knik to Shusitna Station 2 to 4 feet
From Shusitna to mouth Happy 4 to 6 feet
From Happy(mouth) to summit Rainy Pass 6 to 8 feet caused by snow
being blown down into the
valleys and it was usually hard.
From Rainy Pass to mouth Dalzell River 8 feet gradually diminishing
to 2 feet and usually hard
From mouth Rohn River to Kaltag about 2 to 3 feet and soft
PROSPECTS, NUMBER, LOCATION AND EXTENT:
But little could be learned or seen and evidently the country is not
attracting much attention owing to its remoteness and inaccessibility. At
Shusitna Station we met four men who had just come down the Shusitna from
the new diggings at Valdez Creek, for supplies, and they spoke very favorably
of the district, but reported that there was no good cause for a stampede
as only one really good claim was being worked.
Shusitna Station is the tidewater outfitting point for this large area
as supplies are landed from Cook Inlet points in open season and cannot,
with justification, be hauled from Seward. The mining and prospecting is
very meager and probably not more than 100 men make Shusitna Station the outfitting
At Kahiltna some six men are prospecting at Lake Creek and five miles
upstream a like number. We saw probably 20 men, all told, freighting their
outfits to Kahiltna, Lake Creek, Yentna, Canon Creek and other points and
3 different parties composed of 9 men bound for over the range to the headwaters
of the Kuskokwim, but all were camping, killing moose and waiting for more
favorable travel conditions, and had been camping in one place from 2 to
We saw but 2 families of Indians after leaving Shusitna Station and they
were at Nicholis and Nicholomas.
Some prospecting is being done up Big River and one party is "swamping"
a trail from about 10 miles east of McGrath's up to his quartz prospects
on Big River.
At McGrath's, probably a dozen men rendezvous, but most all devote their
time to trapping and hunting. This is a trading post and is headquarters
of the U.S. Commissioner for this District.
At Tacotna Slough quartz prospects were reported and probably 15 men stay
here, but nothing of moment has been struck as yet.
Many Caches and here men brought provisions and outfits by poling boats
from McGrath's bound for Gane Creek. At Gane Creek all had stampeded
a few days before for Ophir Creek.
Except the U.S. commissioner and his wife, and many fine cabins along the
creek were deserted, at least temporarily. Gane Creek had some 450 men on
it during the last season, but about 250 quit the country from lack of provisions
or favorable prospects and the balance went to Ophir Creek. The output has
been very small for the amount of work done, holes sunk and money spent
but I could get no figures or estimates as to what has been taken out.
Ophir Creek is yet in its infancy, none can say what it will be, but reports
since I came through there are none to encouraging, and while some 40 men
have recently left nome for the new diggings, many of them have turned back
THE WORK DONE IN DETAIL:
I will say that the route is entirely
feasible from Knik to Kaltag, but depending on the completion of the Alaska
Central Railway to or near Old Knik. It is not feasible to traverse their
bridges, tunnels, nor along Turnagain Arm in the present state nor over Crow
Creek Pass, but if they extend along Turnagain Arm and a route can be gotten
over Indian Pass, or some other pass near at hand, it is entirely feasible
to put in a mail route over the rest of the distance traversed. From Seward,
well up to the Skwentna River, the snow conditions are very bad for travel,
the snow being wet, heavy and deep caused by proximity to tide water.
Knik to New Knik the timber is largely birch of large size and medium spruce
with some cottonwood.
From New Knik to Shusitna Station it is tamarack, spruce and hemlock.
From Shusitna Station to Happy River is scattering birch, medium sized
spruce and hemlock and cottonwood or willows, solid.
From mouth of Happy River to timber line is spruce and hemlock with willows
and cottonwood on the river bars.
From timber line down Dalzell River to Rohn River is solid spruce of medium
From mouth of Rohn River to Nichilis is solid spruce, but with cottonwood
and willow along the river banks and islands.
From Farewell Mountain to McGrath's is 70 miles unknown, but is undoubtedly
solid spruce and tamarack.
From McGrath's to Kaltag is small spruce and tamarack (scattering) and
KALTAG - UNALAKLIK TRAIL:
On the 22nd
of March we parted company with Pulham and Jackson at Kaltag and went along
with the mail carrier and made to the 22nd mile cabin. This part of
the trail is quite crooked and through small timber and brush, over rolling
hills and across many small creeks. As the weather was snowy and bad
but little could be seen of the surrounding country, but the trail should
be materially straightened and more thoroughly cut through the timber and
brush and the open places permanently staked, as any but the mail carrier
would have difficulty in following the trail in bad weather.
On the 23rd we made 28 miles to Old Woman Mountain Telegraph Station. This
also is over rolling hills, sparsely timbered country and the trail quite
difficult to follow. The open stretches should be permanently staked and the
trail straightened out as there is much wind swept country.
On the 24th we made 40 miles to Unalaklik and this part especially needs
attention. The telegraph line is close at hand and could be followed in case
of a storm, but it is not practicable to follow it with loaded sleds and many
men have suffered hardships and been lost in storms on this portion of the
portage. As to what is needed in the line of bridges and culverts, I was
unable to see as the trail was very good and covered with deep snow at the
time we came over it, but there are many small creeks to cross and the open
stretches should be permanently staked in the fall of the year. On
the Unalaklik river many short portages are made across bends of the river
and to one not acquainted with the trail, much difficulty must be met in
finding the portages as they are not marked and are not visible in traveling
down the river. The mail carriers and their dogs know the trail thoroughly,
but not so with the traveler, and to follow the great bends of the river
means much loss of time with greater distance to travel. The river is finally
left at the Reindeer Station some 6 miles from Unalaklik and from here the
trail should be permanently staked. The open sloughs or lagoons lying along
the foot hill are a constant source of trouble, and it coming in to Unalaklik
we spent some hours and had to go well to the west and towards Egowic and
came out on to the Nome - Unalaklik trail about 4 miles west of unalaklik
and got in well after dark.
The signal corps has a crew of natives out on the telegraph line cutting
two extra guy poles to go at each pole.
The improvement of this trail can best be done in the fall of the year just
before the freeze-up and the line should be picked out in the open season
in company with someone familiar with the route, preferably one of the mail
carriers or Harry Lawrence of Atchison & Lawrence of Kaltag.
Timber for bridges, culverts and trail markers is at ha nd and probably
30 miles of the 90 miles is through sparse timber or brush, the other 60
miles being across open wind swept tundra, or swampy ground.
There are no bad side hills at any place on the route, but several steep
pitches onto and off of the rivers and these should be cut down and the place
of leaving the river plainly marked.
OVERLAND MAIL TRAIL, NOME - UNALAKLIK
Of the overland mail trail which was improved last season, I will say that
portion from Unalaklik to Nome has been well done and is well staked, but
parts of the staking is not followed, as the old used trail, while very crooked,
has all the big hummocks and nigger heads worn down smooth, so the mail carriers
and natives follow the old trail, though the stakes are near at hand on one
side or the other, and could be followed in case of storm.
From Egowic to 12 miles southeast of Skaktolik I did not follow or see the
trail as cut by us high up on the hills and over the cliffs, but I understand
it is good for the use intended, i.e. when the Ocean Route cannot be traveled.
Skaktolik to Bonanza, 18 miles, the trail has been well staked this past winter,
but it should be permanently staked in summer time, as there is about a mile
of timber that should be cut through and thus avoid some overflows.
From Bonanza to Isaac's Point and along Norton Bay to some 8 miles west
of Moses Point, and also Golovin Bay, the trail has been well staked
this season and has come in good stead as I am told by mail carriers that
on every trip across Norton Bay, they have had blizzards this winter.
The work done last summer on the trail from Koyuktalik to Walla Walla I
did not pass over as the trail was good on the ocean, but with the improvements
made on it at Walla Walla the past winter (and which I could see from a distance)
it now answers the purpose for which intended, i.e. for use of the mails and
public at such times as it is impossible to travel on the ocean, and I do
not see how any improvement can be made to it without going very high up
on the ridges or back of Haystack Mountain and down Quick River. No amount
of grading in its present location would help the side hills as the side cutting
would be blown full of snow and rendered useless, so it remains for a survey
of the route to determine just what is best to do on these parts of the Overland
Mail Trail. There are peculiar conditions of topography, ocean and
travel along this part of the route and it seems to me that there must always
be trouble and delays along this stretch until a land trail is cut back of
Haystack Mountain. However, this gets away from the coast and where I doubt
if the trail would be traveled except when it was absolutely impossible to
get along the coast as so much better time can be made on the ocean.
The trail staking from Walla Walla over the hills to Golovin Bay is splendid
and cannot be improved upon. The trail over the hills from Golovin Bay to
Cherokuk, 4 miles, and over Topkok Hill, 3 miles, should be permanently staked
and directly where the trail now goes, the hummocks and nigger heads worn
down, with no view to a perfectly straight trail however.
Also from Bluff to O'Brien's cabin, 8 miles should be staked on top of the
Trusting this is in detail, in keeping with the requirements.
Signed: W. L. Goodwin Engineer in Charge Supt. Nome District,
RESUME TABULATED DATA, WINTER RECONNAISSANCE, SEWARD TO NOME 1/31
SEWARD - KALTAG
SEWARD - NOME
Days consumed to Kaltag 49
Days consumed to Nome
Days lost account weather 6
Days lost account weather 12
Days actual travel 43
Days actual travel
Miles traveled 563 08
Average miles per day 13 09
Average miles per day