Friday, 3 March 2017

The Brockliss Bridge

The Brockliss Bridge crossed the South Fork of the American river near Pacific House, just to the west of Pollock Pines.  The original wooden structure was built there by Anthony Richard Brockliss in 1855/6 before a more substantial bridge was constructed in 1958 and used by wagons, stage coaches and pony express riders.  With the discovery of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City, traffic across the bridge increased and a toll was introduced.

The bridge eventually collapsed in 1869 through wear and neglect, but a replacement was built in 1926 to take logging trucks. This bridge (known as the Blair Bridge) also became redundant, particularly as through traffic now used US50 which crossed the river at Riverton. Rather than repair and maintain the bridge, in 1988 the controversial decision was made to destroy it. The sad fact is that the subsequent clear-up operation apparently cost more than it would have cost to repair the bridge for trail use. Subsequent campaigns to build a new footbridge at this point have so far come to nothing although pressure is still being applied.

The removal of the bridge created a gap in the Pony Express Trail  at this point as the American river flows through a steep gorge unfordable by horse here, and the only alternative involves a four mile stretch of Highway 50 between Riverton and Pacific House.  Not only is this strictly too dangerous to negotiate by horse, but although the NPEA re-ride received police permission one year to ride along the highway, in practice they were prevented from doing so by a patrol officer.

The NPEA overcome this during the re-ride by taking the mochila off the incoming horse on one side of the river and sending it across the gorge on a pulley system. On the other side of the river the mochila is then placed on another horse for the next leg of the ride.
As I was not changing horses, the only way I could overcome this obstacle was to ride the three miles down from the nearest road to the bridge site on the eastern side and back again, before being trailered round on Highway 50 to do the same on the other side. I was most grateful that Jim offered to do the honours, and on Thursday 27th October he dropped me off on a wet morning to make my way down to the bridge site, having given me careful directions.
 Lady and I arrive safely on the eastern side of the gorge, which is difficult to see through the trees...
 ...however the metal pole protruding on the right hand side is part of the pulley system for transporting the mochila across the river.
Then back up to the road where Jim soon turned up, and round to Pacific House where it was only about half a mile down a steep track to the river on the western side...
 You may just be able to see part of the concrete support for the bridge behind Lady.

Lady by the Pony Express monument at Pacific House, where there was a Pony Express station.
...before we negotiated a damp tunnel under Highway 50..

I met up with Jim and mount at Fresh Pond so he could guide me through a tricky section to Pollock Pines, then he left me to continue as far as I could along the Pony Express Highway/old Lincoln Highway before dark fell. On the way I passed the site of former Pony Express station of Sportman's Hall built in 1852 by John and James Blair. It was a sizeable and important home station reportedly with stabling for a thousand horses and mules!  But I was past caring by this time and plodded on along the side of the road in the rain with traffic swishing past.  It was a thorough relief to see Jim turn up with the trailer just the other side of Camino. I was wet, cold and tired, but had managed to get another six miles under my belt.

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