Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Summer Along the Abbot Road - July 2011

you'd better believe it

Why Abbot?
  Why here, in the middle of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, neatly bisecting 2 watersheds and crossing countless valleys, ridges, and rivers does this old forgotten road still crumble it's way through the mountains?

In 1855 the American frontier was booming.  Donation Land Claims sent thousands of rugged pioneers from teeming eastern cities and rural Old West farms of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin across the rutted Oregon Trail in search of new beginnings.  Only half a century earlier, Lewis and Clark stumbled their way to the Pacific and paving the way for a continental nation.  
Just a few years before the horrible American Civil War, the railroad was king - a stunning new technology that transformed the face of this new nation faster than any other movement in world history.

  With the settlers came commerce and the need to link a nation with her goods and people.

In 1855, the United States Government sent a young Lt. Abbot across miles of unknown wilderness in this new American West.  His mission was to discover a suitable railroad route to link this new frontier with the teeming East.  Ultimately he failed.  The now famous transcontinental railroad of 1869 was instead constructed much further to the south, from golden California to Utah and beyond.

When Abbot crossed our Oregon Cascades, there was no road.  With the help of Native People, he crossed the Clackamas Watershed on ancient trading routes.  He only spent a handful of days in an area forever emblazoned with his name.
for a very nice, albeit brief study of Lt. Abbot's journey through the Clackamas, please see: Lt. Abbot on Trailadvocates.

1933 Roaring River Drainage

In spite of my disdain for altered ancient landscapes, I like the Abbot Road very much.  Its "modern" incarnation was born in the late 1920s, replacing ancient Native trails still in use by the Forest Service.
  Similar to the road to Linney, a de-armored WWI tank helped create the grade, along with strong backs, sweat, and muscle.  It was the first cross-Cascades "all weather" road through the Clackamas, and a revolution in it's day.  Although built as pure utility, the road possesses a grace of it's own, almost caressing splendid ranges and seeming to reach skyward with stone fingers.

a similar scene in wild Idaho

Time continues it's march.  The Abbot Road still survives, barely.  Supplanted by newer and better roads, it was left to rot along her high ridges.  Washouts have taken out sections as the crumbling mountains erode to the sea.  The remaining sections are steep, narrow, and terrifying to drive - impassible except for high clearance vehicles, and just barely.  There is no maintenance.  One slip and you drop 1000' off sheer walls.  I love it.

Walking is the best way to experience Abbot Road.

brave Adventure Petey contemplates the recent past

columnar basalt

nature takes a foothold

heading west into oblivion

Randy and Jasan float above the Roaring River canyon

 many small mountain springs line the route

sunshine in the sunshine

snags, temple columns reaching up into the blue


 into our own past

Abbot Road neatly bisects the Roaring River and Salmon-Huckleberry Wildernesses, both very wild and "primitive" areas, containing few trails and very little human impact.  In the summer huckleberry season, many mountains of purple bear scat dot the hillsides.
  Due to this fact, the road is unpopular for some.  I consider this short sighted; granted, a road is out of place within a vast expanse of wilderness.  However, it's methods of construction and very location are a testament to a lost time, even though it was built less than 100 years ago.  When the road goes, so does a vital piece of the puzzle of this still-new nation.  It would be a shame.

As elsewhere in the high elevations, the season is short, too short.  Snow returns with a vengeance well before the solstice, locking away these mysteries until summer shines anew.  We sip the sun, aware of the temporal nature but lulled into complacency, hummed into a restful bliss by an air thick with mosquitoes.  
Six days on the Abbot, never enough.


Is love wrong shared between man and beast?

faithful steed

Funny man, or man with funnies?  I never could tell...

Of course, as elsewhere the old trails were everywhere.  In this vicinity however, man's hand is not responsible for the eradication: fires of 100 years ago and the later rapid growth of understory have quickly swallowed up the past.
Sometimes you're lucky
Stephan, Randy, Don, Caspian, Joseph, and Eva


Putting them to work!  Anyone can be a trail advocate.

And sometimes it's almost all lost.
 trail to Linney Creek from the other side

Don captivated by an artifact from another age.

When summer goes, and the ground is frozen, all of my blue sky dreams take place on the Abbot Road.

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