BECKWOURTH TRAIL MAPPING GROUP
by Dick Waugh
The hearty Beckwourth Trail Mapping Group (BTG) had strenuous, but rewarding, work days in the Lake Davis, California area, on July 15th and 16th. The plan was to work in the area between Trails West markers B-18 and B-20. The area is along the Grizzly Ridge in the Plumas National Forest. The terrain is steep with pine forest, brush-filled areas and lava/basalt ridges and outcroppings. Although this stretch of the trail is generally well-known there is some discussion if it followed the course as outlined by the Hammonds in the mid 1990s.
The group consisted of John Winner, Dick Waugh, Dan Elliott, Scott Lawson, Sam Lawson, Dee
Owens, Glen Owens, Gail Carbiener, Jerry Carbiener, Ed Bagne, Ann Bagne, and Dave Loera along with three other USFS employees, Archeologist Eric Beaderman and his assistants Mark and Greg. We met at 8:30 a.m. at the Lightening Tree Campground along Lake Davis (by the way, the area is a great place to camp, fish, and hike and drive the back roads). After a safety briefing, the work day was outlined. We were to travel to a spot above TW marker 19 and
work back towards Emigrant Creek and uphill towards the top of Grizzly Ridge.
For us, the trail was new territory and the expectations were high. We also wanted to verify a short section by Emigrant Creek report in another USFS survey, and set some carsonite markers. It was an ambitious plan for the group but with lots of attendees it seemed a good use of our manpower.
As with all good plans as soon as we set out we ran into issues. The section along Emigrant Creek had questionable GPS coordinates, so we sent three USFS employees off to locate and confirm the locations (the reported coordinates were not correct). The Carbineners, David Loera and Scott Lawson were asked to begin from the area of Emigrant Creek and work up towards the lower ridges. They were to meet up with the rest of the group closer to the Trails West marker. We discovered the forest road indicated on the map was blocked and not passable by our vehicles. We decided to hike to the work starting point. The group got to our start point several miles and hours later. We modified the day to work downhill towards Emigrant Creek.
After a long day the group finally returned to the area of Emigrant Creek in small work parties and headed back to the campground and resort to clean up and recover. As we confirmed everyone was moving out of the woods, the FSR radios were very useful and proved their worth.
That evening a weary group of trail trackers had dinner at the Lake Davis cabins. Dee Owens provided the main course of chili. Everyone else contributed something that made the meal and gathering special. The wine and food led to a discussion of what to do the next day. Fortunately while we were stomping in the forest, Chapter President John Winner scouted the unmapped, but well-used, forest roads running in the area. He located a route that was forest service legal and, had we known about it, would have brought us to our work starting point without the two mile walk — now referred to as the trail of tears (definitely no disrespect intended to the original Native American ordeal but we were a little teary-eyed when each curve did not bring our destination into view).
Always positive, Dee pointed out hiking is one of the best forms of mental and physical exercise available. There is no question exercise is conducive to good health. Study after study indicate walking and hiking improve the body and soothe the mind. We should all be happy we got in a great workout!
With John leading us through the woods along the ridges, day two had us back at our work tarting point early on Tuesday morning. We turned west and worked uphill trying to confirm the path of the determined and resolute pioneers. The evidence, in the form of ox shoes, stirrups nails and wagon parts, appeared in a skid path several hundred yards north of the suspected path. We followed the probable path up the ridge a little to the east of the ridge crest (back on the Hammonds’ trail). At a point where the trail turned off the ridge, we located and documented multiple artifacts.
When we stopped for lunch we discussed if this spot was where several diarists noted they had camped or rested before beginning the descent:
“… on this narrow spot we rested two hours. A good portion of this time with telescope in hand taking a general survey of the high and broken range…”.
John Clark 1852 Journal.
“…got part way over the mountain which we found to be a mountain for certain…six miles to the summit and so steep in places that I had to use two staffs to climb and in looking back it made me almost feel dizzy…had to encamp part way over the mountain in a gap without grass or water…”.
Elizabeth Peckinpah 1853 Diary.
After lunch we turned down the ridge. In a short distance, an additional wagon artifact
and a swale indicated we were still on the trail. The terrain was precisely what the diarists had described. Having confirmed the trails trace and due to the time, we started back, reworking the area we had covered earlier. The group made a slight shift in the route we retraced. We uncovered several more items that helped define the likely route of Beckwourth’s trail along the top of Grizzly Ridge.
Upon our return to our vehicles the group bade farewell and several members made plans to meet up at the OCTA National Convention in Oregon City, Oregon the next week. Plans are being made to return to the area and to continue the trek west. ~