Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grizzlies and Train Robberies!

August 8: I woke up in a hotel, but my feet and ankles were still hurting from those horrid shoes, so I lounged around playing FarmVille. Amanda wouldn't have any of that, however. No, she insisted that I had to hike. It was the Hike-a-Thon, darn it, and I'd only contributed 145.0 miles so far for the month. That just was not good enough!

"But... but...."

"No," she'd cut me off, "you have miles to hike!"


So that's how I found myself, being dropped off near Interstate 5, and Amanda driving off into the proverbial sunset. It would be a short day, though. Just 16.6 miles to the next major road crossing. A short stroll.

The trail passed one significant landmark along the way: Pilot Rock. I was familiar with this landmark having read about it in William Sullivan's Hiking Oregon's History. It included a few interesting tidbits such as the rock marking the easiest pass across the Siskiyous from California to Oreogn--presumably how it got its name in the first place. I actually used it for much the same purpose while driving up I-5 from California to Oregon, thinking to myself, "Yep, there's Pilot Rock. That's Oregon Country over there!" Not that I'd get lost off of I-5 had the rock not been there, but seeing it ahead was still always somewhat comforting.

And once again, passing by it was somewhat comforting. Even as history fades into the distance, this rock still remains, looking the same today as it did a hundred years ago.

Oregon's last grizzly bear (Old Reelfoot) was killed near the base of Pilot Rock in 1890. Reelfoot seems to have been the Houdini of the grizzly world, having been caught in bear traps and shot but still managing to escape and live for 20 years, killing cattle anytime he wanted a meal.
There's Pilot Rock, dominating the horizon!

The west's last great train robbery occurred nearby as well. The D'Autremont brothers--Ryan, Roy, and Hugh--planned to rob a train carrying a payroll shipment. They hijacked the train, at which point things started to go very wrong for them. They brought dynamite to blow open the door of the mail car but used way too much blowing up the entire car and killing the clerk inside. With all the smoke and debris, they didn't get any money before another train, already on its way, would arrive soon. They shot and killed three witnesses, dipped their shoes in creosote, and covered their tracks with pepper to throw bloodhounds off their scent and fled into the woods. In their enthusiasm, they left behind an extra pair of overalls and a knapsack that they planned to haul their loot with. It would prove to be their undoing....

In the meantime, however, news of the murders outraged the nation, and police from California and Oregon searched the woods for the gunmen, but the D'Autremonts had concealed themselves under a fallen old-growth log in a gully below Pilot Rock that searches walked right by.

The other side of Pilot Rock.
Ten days later, Ray jumped a freight train into Ashland to buy supplies and must have been surprised to see his name in the headlines. Investigators had found a crumpled money order receipt in the discarded overalls and traced it to the brothers. Millions of wanted posters in seven languages had already been distributed from Canada to Latin America and from Europe to the Orient. Oops!

The brothers split up and assumed new identities, settling down in their new lives. Ray and Roy became steelworkers in Ohio, and Ray got himself married to a "pretty young wife." They weren't suspected as murderers until four years later when their younger brother Hugh was discovered as an Army private. Sullivan says he was discovered during a "routine fingerprint check," but the online sources I've been reading say that someone recognized him from a wanted poster and turned him in for the reward. Regardless, Hugh was caught, which eventually led to Ray and Roy in Ohio.

They were all brought to justice in Oregon, sentenced to life in prison. Hugh won parole in 1959 but died a year later from cancer. Ray was released in 1961, and Roy died in the Oregon State Mental Hospital in 1985, hopelessly insane.

Mount Shasta was still quite visible, although the air
was still hazy from smoke in the air.
So while hiking by Pilot Rock, thoughts of early pioneers, grizzly bears, and the great (albeit failed) train robbery dominated my thoughts. I didn't take the side trail to the top of Pilot Rock--I'd done that several years before and saw no sense in repeating the effort. I had other fish to fry!

I caught up with Schroomer, Smiles, Little Engine and Plain Slice along the way. I'd never met Smiles before, but the other three I hadn't seen since near Lake Tahoe. It was nice bumping into so many familiar faces. The last couple of weeks on the trail have been remarkably empty of other hikers.

Upon reaching Highway 66, I found Amanda trail angeling Hurricane with cold drinks, cupcakes, fruit, and other food options. Amanda had also written in chalk on the road at the trailhead, pointing up to the parking lot, about trail magic at the green Subaru. I thought it would be pretty darned funny if there was a different green Subaru parked there the next day, or the day after, and the driver being jumped by hungry thru-hikers. "It says trail magic!" they would say. "Where is the trail magic?!" (I'd learn a couple of days later, there was a green Subaru parked there, and while the driver wasn't around to jump, it did cause a lot of confusion among thru-hikers.)

Several minutes later, Motor and Max Chill caught up. I didn't pass them on the trail so they must have started off after I did, and Schroomer, Smiles, Little Engine, and Plain Slice caught up in time to enjoy some of the trail magic before Amanda and I drove back to Ashland for the night.

This is a creepy little snake. No idea what it is, though.

Schroomer is taking a photo of me. =)
That's Max Chill in the background.
Smiles and  Motor do some stretching exercises.


Anonymous said...

Rubber Boa. Very cool snake. Completely harmless.

Anonymous said...

Pilot rock looks a lot like Pilot Mountain NC from a distance.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Very unusual snake indigenous to the PNW:

Northern Rubber Boa
They are supposed to be very docile and gentle for anyone to handle and are not known to strike or bite humans.
How lucky for you to have seen it.

So why didn't Amanda and you just rub out the Trail Angel chalk information so noone would get confused?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers