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' higher in altitude than Thompson Pass, has 118 mile water grade
to gain an altitude of 3,175' and a descent on the west side 1,735' 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' 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' 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' high until it lopped over or hung out beyond the ends of
the ties from 1' to 3'.
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
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',
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' 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' 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 below.
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
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 harnesses, 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 harnesses
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 canyon, 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
about 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' 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
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
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'
in altitude, which is very steep for the last 1,000' in distance or 400'
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 him.
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 Ganes 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 Ganes 110 miles
to Ophir 99 miles
From McGrath's 15¢ and 18¢ per pound
to Ganes 35 miles to
Ophir 46 miles
From Anvik 40¢ per pound
to Ganes 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 point.
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 4 weeks.
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
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 I'm told.
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
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
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)
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
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
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 hills.
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 TO 4/5/1908
SEWARD - KALTAG
SEWARD - NOME
Days consumed to Kaltag 49
Days consumed to Nome
Days lost account weather 6
Days lost account weather
Days actual travel 43
Days actual travel
Miles traveled 563
08 Miles traveled
Average miles per day 13 09
Average miles per day