Starting in Owens Valley
Route is Never Over Eight Percent Grade to Bakersfield, One Terminal
By E. J. Fortman
A million-dollar road running to the "Roof of the United
States," with a lateral to Mt. Whitney, the highest point
in the United States, will be ready for service to motorists
[shortly], according to definite plans which have been drafted
by State, county and city officials.
The new road, which is to run from Lone Pine in the Owens Valley,
up into the high Sierras through Carroll Creek and over Mulky
Pass, going westward to the heart of the Kern River country,
will have three western terminals; Porterville, Visalia and Bakersfield.
The road from Lone Pine to Porterville will be 115 miles long.
It is to be a dirt road, twelve feet wide. The highest altitude
of the main artery will be 11,300 feet at Mulky Pass, 1359 feet
higher than Tioga Pass.
This will be the first road to bisect the Sierras in Southern
California, and will be an important link in another transcontinental
highway, connecting with the famous Lincoln Highway and the Sierra-to-the-Sea
lateral. It will open to motorists from both sides of the continent
the Mt. Whitney region, hitherto accessible only by pack train
and trail, and will provide a valuable outlet to both Southern
and Northern California through the Owens Valley and San Joaquin
Today the Sierras proper are locked, except for short roads running
into the sides from the two valleys. To cross from the Owens
Valley to the San Joaquin Valley, the motorists must either go
across from the Midland Trail above Randsburg through Onyx, Weldon
and Bodfish to Bakersfield, or go more than 200 miles northward
and cut across Tioga Pass.
Ever, since man first scaled Mt. Whitney in 1873 and by scientific
calculation determined it to be the highest peak in the Sierra
range, engineers have drawn plan after plan to build a road through
the wonder country that lies below it, so that the scenic beauty
of this vast empire might be made available to the public. But
the cost always was considered prohibitive, and plan after plan
was pigeon-holed. However, three years ago William Skinner, surveyor
of Lone Pine, agreed with Frank Chrysler of the Mt. Whitney Pack Train,
P. W. Smith and G. W. Dow of Lone Pine, to make a preliminary
survey of the entire range, to find the most feasible course
a road might follow. These men, together with other Lone Pine
citizens, subscribed to a fund of thousands of dollars so the
work might be carried on. The report of this survey started the
program which has been finally worked out, and construction work
is to start next spring. Joining in the plan are the Inyo, Kern
and Tulare county supervisors, State Highway Commission engineers,
and department heads of the city of Los Angeles - for the city
owns much property through which the road will pass. The Auto
Club is also helping the project.
With the aid of the city of Los Angeles, Inyo county is expected
to build the road to the county line at Mulky Pass, starting
from Carroll Creek. This unit alone will cost $170,000. Of the
total cost to fall on the three counties involved Kern and Tulare
are each to pay 45 percent and Inyo county 10 percent. Inyo's
percentage is low because it has only about $10,000,000 in taxable
property. In the present plan Inyo county is represented by Supervisor
Amos Hancock; Tulare by F. M. Pfrimmer and Kern by D. McFarland.
|Rolling northward and over the Midland Trail
for 225 miles with the straightened Mojave-Lone Pine unit unfolding
itself like a silver ribbon under the desert stars, a touring
party from the Paul G. Hoffman Company, local Studebaker distributors,
traveled in big-six comfort the other night. This is the road
over which the Mt.
Whitney-Death Valley Transportation Company, using Studebaker big sixes, has just started operating
a daily stage service both ways between Los Angeles and Lone
Pine. This is the first stage line to serve this country.
As the car nosed into Carroll Creek Camp, at 6800 feet, the last
point a car can climb on the way to Mt. Whitney, the party was
cheered by a crowd of deer hunters and vacationists who were
just preparing to "turn in" for the night in tents,
and bed rolls.
Dawn and the party left motor car behind. Led by Ted Cook, famous guide and joint owner of
the Mt. Whitney
Train, the cavalcade of horses and pack mules started up
the long, steep trail.
What the part saw from the backs of sterling, sure-footed ponies
bred for the mountain trail, the motorist is scheduled to see
in the fall when the Lone Pine-Porterville road is an accomplished
fact, and he can nose his car over a mountain road that will
have not more than an 8 percent grade anywhere along its course.
To the northeast and south lies Owens Valley, goal of the pioneers
of '49 who risked the torrid bowl they named Death Valley. Snowy
clouds rode over the Sierras range; a bright blue sky banked
the tips of the Panamints to the east; and the rising sun painted
fantastic pictures in color in the semidry bed of Owens Lake,
lying directly below - colors vivid, and unmatched elsewhere
because of the brilliant mineral deposits.
Eastward the highly mineralized Panamints, mighty in themselves,
look small and squat. And under the canopy of purple haze that
lies still further east, one sights the Funeral Range, and realizes
that between the two is that inferno - Death Valley - which too,
is giving way to a courageous man and his trail-blazing Studebaker big six - H. W. Eichbaum of Catalina.
A few miles further, the pack train stops on the top of a ridge.
Ahead to the west lies the great Cottonwood basin, rimmed in
by the "Roof of the United States" - the highest peaks
in the country. When the road brings the motor car up here, this
basin will prove as fascinating as Yosemite, or any view in our
Down a way is the last outpost of civilization - Golden Trout Camp, operated by Mr. and Mrs.
C. E. Towler. This is the supply post for the vacationist and
the sportsman. Combined with a general store, supplies for which
come up by pack train for eleven miles, the hospitable Towlers
operate a tent city for callers; furnish meals from the camp
store kitchen; supply completely equipped tent houses for living,
sleeping and cooking, with floors and board walls; furnish horses
and have available the last telephone connection with the outside
world over the United States Forest Service wires which tap in
Today there is a rough log cabin. Tomorrow when the road comes
Mr. Towler plans a modern mountain lodge with cabins, on the
banks of Cottonwood Creek, which babbles by the whole year 'round.
For in this sheltered spot, open now only in spring and summer,
will rise a winter city where snow and ice sports may be enjoyed
for practically six months of the year; where the ski runner
will be able to start almost on the "Roof of the United
States," and ski downward into the great Cottonwood basin.
For nature already has created a natural series of runways for
toboggan and ski.
This high country, when the mountain road is finished up from
Lone Pine, will be a winter country for half the year, reached
through the warm Owens Valley by an easy six or seven hours'
drive from Los Angeles.
And in summer this country will still be more popular, because
it will bring vacationists within about twenty-one miles of horseback
travel from Mt. Whitney, 14,501 feet high, now reached only after
thirty-five miles of four-footed transportation. And when the
side lateral toward Mt. Whitney is built, the motorist will have
to travel only about twelve miles to get to the highest peak
in the United States.
In going to Mt. Whitney the pack train passes by the lakes. The
five were named for the first time this summer as Lakes Idabel,
Merl, Towler, Chrysler and Cook, the latter three in honor
of the men who have been pioneers in this country for many years.
The Studebaker next climbed over Army Pass. Army Pass is the
farthest eastern point on the new boundary line of the recently
enlarged Sequoia National Park. The park line has been extended
from west of the district known as the Great Western Divide,
the former eastern boundary, for approximately fifteen miles,
so that the park now takes in Mt. Whitney itself.
The new park boundaries now embrace all the district around the
headwaters of the Kern River, and all of the famous picturesque
country included in the precipitous Kern River Canyon, within
about three miles of Kern Lake.
The new Lone Pine-Porterville road will enter the Sequoia National
Park only at the southeast corner of the old park boundaries,
entering near the rangers' station at Quinn's Horse-camp, and
coming out again at the north fork of the Middle Fork River and
entering Balch Park. this unit of the road will run to Milo,
where the present road goes westward to Exeter and Visalia. The
other road, from Balch Park to Porterville, is already in use.
the third unit of the western connections will bear off the main
road to be built at Deadman's Canyon the Kern River, about at
the halfway point, and will follow the north fork to meet the
present road at Fairview.
Helping preserve the lure of the kingdom of the golden trout
in the Cottonwood Basin, Chrysler and Cook with the aid of Towler
this last spring stocked the Cottonwood lakes and the upper streams
with 150,000 baby golden trout, and with no remuneration
for themselves. And within a few days they will take into the
Rock Creek lakes region 40,000 more baby golden trout.
Volumes of words and pictures could only outline the history,
the glory and the beauty of this high country. Yet the Studebaker
party, riding home again over the desert, with pale stars overhead
and a golden moon hanging above the crown of the Sierras, realized
that from these men who have pioneered they had been given to
understand the spirit that prompted them to stick and fight.
For they are true westerners. And they will help other true westerners,
who are to come with dynamite, shovel and truck to blast a new
trail through the grizzly Sierras for commerce, where these men
blazed winding trails for pony caravans carrying sportsmen, scientists
and engineers. The pony trails will only be widened in this new
Lone Pine-Porterville road, but rubber will crush the twelve-foot
trail where the pony's steel-shod hoof has only covered inches
in helping man go to "The Roof of the United States."