Monday, 23 January 2017

To Ruby Valley

Saturday 1st October.  The Maverick Range lit up by the morning sun as we set out along the Pony Express Trail from our camp spot in Long Valley Wash.....
....and not a sign of human presence in any direction.
A hazy view looking back down Murry Canyon along the trail as we climb over the Mavericks with the ranges we have crossed  in the distance....
Soon after I took this photo I met a couple of hunters scrambling down the track on an ATV.  They were after elk, not with much success I gather. 

There was a Pony Express station at Mountain Springs on the way over the Mavericks, though the exact site is unknown.  I had been unable to find out if there was still an accessible water source here, which was why it had been so important to make sure I had some back-up for the section from Egan Canyon to Ruby Valley.  Burton mentioned a 'sinking creek' where they stopped for lunch.  Today I carried my Ortlieb foldable bucket, and water bottles for Lady in my saddle bags.  However, on arriving at Mountain Springs I discovered a muddy pool and a couple of spring fed cattle troughs of clean water, so I would have been OK ....

They were on private land owned by the Blue Jay Ranch, but owners Ray and Sandy Rosenlund turned up in their pick-up just as I was walking down and were happy to let me water Lady there.
On the gravel road leading down the western flank of the Maverick Range to the wide Ruby Valley.... the distance are the Ruby Mountains.

The Pony Express station site is off to the right of this junction behind a fence....
...but the sign shows the current trail leading off to the left.  You may remember that the original log cabin is now outside the museum in Elko - quite a change from this lonely site!  The Pony Express trail continues west through the wide gap in the Ruby Mountains ahead.

Ruby Valley was fertile spot capable of supporting agriculture, and as such was an ideal location for a Pony Express home station. A Government model farm was established here, superintended by local Indian agent Colonel Rogers, better known as 'Uncle Billy'. As Burton relates, he "had served in the troublous days of California as a marshal, and has many a hairbreadth escape to relate".  He had left his wife and children behind in California to live in a stone hut at the station, apparently side by side with a small band of Indians consisting of an old chief, nicknamed Chokop by the whites, his wives and a few followers. Chokop had in fact killed five emigrants, but in a tale typical of the era, it was in revenge for "wantonly" shooting his sister.
Dining with the Colonel turned out to be quite an experience - "after us Chokop and five followers sat down with knife and fork before a huge tureen full of soft pie, amongst which they did terrible execution, champing and chewing with the noisiness of wild beasts, eating each enough for three able-bodied sailors".
Ruby Valley station was never attacked during the Indian wars, perhaps due to this relationship with the local tribe but more likely because as a home station it was an established centre with a small community of mail riders and other employees, and between May to October 1860 a military company from Camp Floyd was based here.

Nick Wilson's first job with the Pony Express was on the dangerous stretch between here and Egan Canyon, as with another renowned rider, Billy Fisher, who was born in Woolwich (England)...
On one occasion during the Indian troubles when several of the stations had been burnt down, Fisher rode the whole 300 miles from Ruby Valley to Salt Lake City, using eight horses.  He was accompanying Lieutenant Weed's company when it came to the rescue at Egan Canyon.
He was later moved to ride between Rush Valley and Salt Lake City. A curious story has been passed down through his family of how he nearly fell asleep and perished while resting in a blizzard on this route, but was woken by a rabbit licking his face!
Another interesting snippet is that he is the second person connected with the Pony Express to have a descendant who became an astronaut - in his case his great grandson Dr William Fisher who was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. The pioneering spirit obviously lives on through the generations!

This mustang made a lovely sight galloping across the valley in the hoofsteps of the Pony Express ponies....
...Lucy was waiting on the county road having taken the long way round, and told me a small band of them had come right up to the rig as she was sitting outside reading.
She produced a delicious stew that evening, but I would like to think that we dined in a more ladylike fashion than Chokop and his muckers.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, horse riding is one thing which I need to do regularly but it is very expensive to have horse of your own here. Seems like it was good and you had great time. Thank you for sharing this post