Skidoo Pipeline


By: Robert O. Greenawalt


It was a wonderful day as our group met at Mahogany Flat in anticipation of first climbing Telescope Peak. But from the looks of the heavily-packed snow on the north face of nearby Rogers Peak, we could tell we would be in for some trouble upon sighting the first glimpse of Telescope. The night before two snowshoe hikers had given us reports that Telescope had too much white on it for comfort. So our group of 21 began the trek and within the first hundred yards we had cutouts due to one boy complaining of chest pains. We also had a dog along. In the first fifteen minutes we encountered snow patches on Rogers' east flank and once around the bend we were in for a delightful Telescope view which right then and there told us there would be no climb that day. Arcane Meadows was fully snowed over and beautiful. But ahead of us in another party which included our DPS's John Robinson and his daughter leading a Youth Section activity, we found some resters and they told us the party did attempt the peak so it couldn't have been all that bad. But with our knapsacks we were ready to get on dry land again. About a mile from the summit lies Eagle Spring, thought by this leader to be the source of Skidoo water. But such is not the case, even though small pipes do apparently lead from Eagle. We could not reach Eagle as it was completely covered with snow, and lying on Telescope's north face it would be a long while before the mantle would be lifted. So we descended to lower climes in Jail Canyon-a mighty one with lots of side canyons leading to its trough. The let down off the Telescope Trail is strictly cross-country with lots of shale to traverse and many pinyons to view. Once into Jail Canyon one must sidestep a bit to the north to find Birch Spring, the true source. Above Birch is Jail Spring.-not yet visited by our crowd but a four inch line is intermittently in view to the traveler, making us imagine it contributed to the welfare of Skidoo. The Birch Spring complex is exciting. There are a number of birch trees around the area, but debate was on as to whether they are true birches or not. How many miner's inches of flow is anyone's guess as a novice but the flow is quite staggering for a desert spring. The old wooden intake structure still stands in disrepair but quite astounding for its longevity against the elements. Signs of old camps abound with tin cans, but there is no concrete of any kind. The 8" line was supposed to have been yanked in WW I days for scrap but here and for about five miles on, it still remains-evidence of the hardship in extracting the steel pipe. It was made of spirally-riveted 16 ga. strip and was brought to the site in eight foot lengths-convenient for both man and beast. Anchors of wire rope are still in place, attached to either pinyons or junipers. It is a sight to behold and the old maintenance trail is still discernible and makes for easier hiking. The route from the origin is muy sinuoso since each flank of Jail's lateral canyons must be traversed. Once over the Jail ridge the line drops into spectacular Tuber Canyon, which must be of easier access to autos, since the pipeline in Tuber has been extracted. Steel pipe was favored up until Tuber, when cast iron pipe took over. The cast iron fittings were hacked off with sledge hammers and the pieces can still be seen along the route. The most entertaining part to some hikers was the Tuber Canyon ascent up the steep north face where some of the few sections of pipe remaining served as our walkway. From its hump, one can clearly look across Wildrose Valley, as it was formerly called. All has vanished except the big scar on most of the Wildrose crossing, yet in the southern heights a good bit of pipeline lies partially buried, and neglected by the salvagers back when. The remarkable part of the pipeline is that there was no pumping plant required-we kept looking for one. The source is at elev 7,220' while Skidoo's 4,700' level made for a favorable flow. One would swear along the highs of the right of way that it flowed uphill. One hydraulic engineer in the group was consistently searching out the old valves at the high and low points along with the leader. Old brass Crane valves still allow the user to turn them off and on. Should be a Crane testimonial commercial! Once down in Wildrose at the paved road, interest ceased for a complete run into Skidoo, as the best part had been visited. However, the third day was spent in exploring sites along the way by car and the end of the line still has a few sections of pipe left at the old Skidoo mill, which still stands with its 15 or so stamps exposed to the wind. It is in a side canyon so not many visitors know its whereabouts. Also the old bunkhouse has been burned, a place of comfort in a 1964 DPS climb of Tucki Mtn, when a snowstorm passed through the area. Only nails are left-not even blackened charcoal. This writer surmises the winds hauled off the ashes and left only the heavies-not gold dust but rusty nails. The 20-mile project is one to be revered, as the terrain is so rough and mostly inaccessible.

So for the seven persons that made the whole hike, we say we would like to do it again. It was an adventuresome trip! The dog didn't whimper about conditions either.

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