Sunday, October 21, 2012

columbus power plant

We keep hoping that it'll warm up enough to go MTBing one more time before the season ends, but this weekend was not that weekend.  So on Saturday we did a new hike up Little Cottonwood Canyon - well, not really a hike but more like walking and exploring someplace we hadn't been before.  H had printed off Charles Keller's "Faint Trails in the Wasatch" article from the October Rambler (online magazine put out by the Wasatch Mountain Club) about the ruins of a power plant along the LCC creek which gave the town of Alta its first electric lights in 1904.

Little Cottonwood Creek

Although the walk in to the Columbus power plant is really quite short, between walking up and down the Little Cottonwood Canyon Trail and rock-hopping along the creek (a skill I'd forgotten I had; I get it from my dad who's really good at it) we managed to put in about 5 miles.  To get to the trailhead you go up the LCC road, following the mile markers to around 6.5 miles.  There's a small marking area on the south side of the highway and an old road leads down to the LCC Trail. Turn left at the trail and walk up no more than half a mile.

Nearly all that's left of Hogum Fork

As I said, though, we did quite a bit of walking first since the LCC is so pretty this time of year.  There were some other folks out walking and quite a lot of MTBers - although I would not care to try that trail since it's steady climbing with long stretches of loose rocks.  We were amazed at how many other trails were down in there too; what a lot of the MTBers seemed to be doing was biking up the LCC Trail and then descending on these other trails ... which I absolutely would never do on a bike, what with the roots and rocks and drops over stumps and banked turns.  They all looked like they were having fun tho'.

The wall along the south bank

Before we made it up to the power plant ruins, we found the old town of Hogum Fork on White's Flat.  Back in its heyday, this town of nearly 60 folk had a store, a stable, two saloons, a smithy and a boarding house.  Now there are only scattered stones, old nails and bits of rusted metal and hundreds of shards of pottery to show that anyone ever lived there.

Western wall of the Columbus power plant

The Columbus Power Plant, on the south bank of the creek, must have been a beautiful building but very little is left now.  The western wall is the most intact, with a doorway and two windows still standing, and half a circular window rising above.  They had built a massive stone wall along the south bank of the creek to shore up the plant.  One of two stone and concrete pipes, large enough for me to easily have crawled through, still runs from the creek up into the plant building; the other one has collapsed about ten feet in.  Judging from the remnants of the abutments, it looks as though there had been at least two bridges across the stream.  The water runs so high and so fast in the spring, however, that the bridges must have been difficult to maintain and, once the power plant was abandoned, probably washed away in short order.

The other end comes up inside the power plant

Anyone who is interested in the history of the area should go check out the Columbus ruins.  It's a pretty place and just a short walk for us now, and it's humbling to think how difficult it must have been for the miners and loggers and millworkers who used live up there not so long ago.  [Note:  All history in this post was learned from Charles Keller's "Faint Trails" article and his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket.  Any errors are mine.]

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