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Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119

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avatar The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 09, 2015 02:37PM
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th there were a number of issues related to lands in and around Yosemite National Park, with the competing interests of conservation, tourism, mining, forestry and stock management all having input. In response to this, revised boundaries were established by an Act of Congress on June 11, 1906, and there is a very interesting map that shows the then old and new boundaries, as well as suggestions for new roads and rangers stations. A copy of this map can be seen here.

A number of recent (past year or 2) posts in the trip report section have referenced success (or lack thereof in certain cases) in finding one or more of the hundred plus boundary markers that were placed during the survey of 1905-1906. This survey was likely done as a companion to the legislation that was in process. Chick-on in particular has been visiting likely boundary marker sites over the years, having, I believe, first simply stumbling upon them in his journeys, taking mental notes about where he tends to find them, and generally using his gained knowledge, wits and experience to find others.

One of the easiest Boundary Markers to find is at the Crane Flat Gas Station. Taking the loop driveway into the gas station from the Highway 120 side, and you will see a pipe sticking up about 18” above the ground, likely marked with some surveyor flagging, on your left hand side about 20 or 30 yards before you reach the buildings and pumps. There is a disc on top of the pipe that indicates the marker # etc. This was the boundary of the park in 1905, before later 20th century additions extended the park further west.

Several of us have joined Chick-on on some of his boundary marker journeys, and it can be quite fun when you find a marker, like an Easter egg hunt, and frustrating when you can’t find one where you think that there ought to be one. The frustration is heightened when you happen to be in a far corner of the park, maybe 2 or 3 days hike in, and you know that it might be a long time, if ever, before you might be back to that area again.

Having experienced that frustration more than once, I endeavored to find additional information that could help in the search. My search took me through, variously, the visitor’s center, the valley research library above the museum, and the park archives in El Portal, with more than a few Park Service employees being very helpful in the search. In the end, a realty specialist in the Superintendent’s Office made a call and discovered the records at, I believe, the BLM offices in Sacramento, and he graciously provided me with an electric copy of the survey notes as well as the map. It was quite a find, and Chick-on’s enthusiasm when I shared it with him was, well, overwhelming.

It has been about 6 months or so since Chick-on, Basilbop, JustKeepWalking, AndrewF, and, I am sure, others, have used the notes and map to help find some of these historical relics in their travels around the park. And so when I was up in the northern reaches of the park last weekend (TR here ) with Chick-on, JustKeepWalking (and by the way she does just that), and AndrewF. On Sunday, AndrewF and I took a “short cut” back to the car at Twin Lakes, leaving the upper reaches of Matterhorn Canyon, crossing over Matterhorn Pass into the upper reaches of Spiller Canyon, then traversing quickly over to Horse Creek Pass and down the Horse Creek “trail”.

As we reached the top of Matterhorn Pass, we stopped to rest and AndrewF scouted for the best route down the east side into Spiller. As he passed the low point, he shouted up to me…”hey, here’s the boundary marker, #119!”. And sure enough, there it was, an aluminum disc glued to the rock near the low point of the saddle, #119, placed in 1906.

And I was confused, as I was pretty certain that this part of the Park’s boundaries were defined by the drainage boundaries that define the Great Basin and the Pacific Ocean limits…and this marker was about a half a mile away from that. It seemed to me that the boundary marker should have been placed at Horse Creek Pass, between the Horse Creek and Spiller Canyon drainages. So perhaps, I thought, there was some mining or other interest that had chewed a small corner of the park out at this location way back when. Certainly it couldn’t simply be a surveyor’s mistake, could it?
Research was called for, and I have had just a small bit of time to check the survey notes and maps. And it appears to me that this Boundary Marker is, in fact, off by more than half a mile…the surveyor glued it down in the wrong saddle, putting it at Matterhorn Pass rather than Horse Creek Pass. So if I am correct, how could this have happened?

One clue comes from the survey notes themselves, particularly the following passage:

So while the rest of the boundary had been done by a true field survey by a large party of men, supported by mules, hauling their equipment over mountains and through forests, and reconciling their locations with astronomical observations, the east side of the park was, apparently, too difficult given the terrain, the snow and other considerations. What other considerations? I have to think that the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906 must have played a part of the decision.

The terrain at the location is slightly tricky, and perhaps it was a cloudy, rainy day when the surveyor laid down the aluminum tablet. Maybe some other human issue came into play. Or maybe he just screwed up, who knows? Whatever the case, this spot is remote enough that I am sure that few people have noticed the error in the last hundred plus years.
Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 09, 2015 04:37PM
What is odd is that there is a man-made pile of rocks at the Horse Creek Pass saddle that is similar to those that were stacked next to (for tablets) or around (for iron posts) most boundary markers. We were looking for a post so didn't dig around for a tablet near the pile of rocks. The survey notes clearly have 119 located between Twin Peaks at Matterhorn Peak.

What is interesting is it seems they surveyed everything from Conness ("Secret Lake"?) Pass to near Mule Pass on a single day: September 25. Markers were set at Summit Lake (121), Virginia Pass (120), Horse (supposedly)/Matterhorn (actually) (119), and Little Slide (118). This is an impressive ridge walk for a team carrying heavy survey stuff (or using mules)--esp. the Sawtooth Ridge section.

My guess: the survey team operated separately from the team actually setting the tablets/posts. This would work because the survey in this section was done only approximately, so no need to measure from marker-to-marker precisely. The benefit would be that the team carrying the tablets, posts, cement, etc. could stick to the lower, gentler canyons, ascending to the passes as needed to set markers, then drop back to the gentle valleys. The survey team would mark (perhaps with a pile of rocks and a flag?) where the marker team should later place the markers--and they did so for 119 at the top of Horse Creek. However, the marker team got confused (wrong saddle? didn't find the pile/flag at the top of Horse?--it's not actually at the low point) and continued on towards Slide Canyon, eventually setting 119 in the wrong place.

But, who knows... I just have to eat my words for kidding chick-on that the boundary markers are straightforward to find because they are always on the boundary. Clearly, they are not...

Edit: Okay, after re-re-reading the snippet above, it's entirely possible that the survey notes were based on previous surveys and/or extrapolated from maps, so the entire boundary may not have even been walked Sept 25, 1906. I don't think this fully explains the mis-location of 119 (I would think that it's clear from this saddle that it's not the boundary--both sides clearly drain to the south), or the rock pile at Horse Creek (although that could be a cairn/duck set by mountaineers, hikers, or Jack Kerouac...)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/09/2015 07:26PM by basilbop.
avatar Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 12, 2015 12:18PM
I agree that the entire boundary was not walked on September 25th. The biggest clue being the last note from Sept 24th, where Marker # 122 was set in "Conness Pass", which I believe is now know as McCabe Pass. The notes say "Corner set during a hard snowstorm".

So its the end of September, you have a hard snowstorm on the 24th, and then you walk from McCabe Pass counterclockwise to either Ice Lake Pass (the location of the last monument they set, #118) or Mule Pass, where they tied into the previously set #93. Its probably 15 miles along the border to Ice Lake Pass from their starting point, and 17 or so to Mule Pass. Those guys were studs for sure, but at the end of September after a hard snow? I don't think so.

I can imagine the party looking at the topo maps that they must have had and deciding to divide the work by splitting up. One group heads out to Bridgeport via Virginia Pass, setting #121 and #120 as they go. The other group heading west along what is now the PCT and then up Matterhorn Canyon and over Burro Pass and then out Mule Pass or, more likely, Ice Lake Pass (Little Slide). As that second group was heading up Matterhorn Canyon I could understand somebody confusing Matterhorn Pass for Horse Creek Pass, especially if they hadn't been there before and with clouds or snow swirling around.

Or maybe they sent the new guy up there to place #119, you know, the old "You go thataway and we will go thisaway and we will meet at the top of Burro Pass". And the new guy gets to Matterhorn Pass and thinks..."screw this...nobody will ever know" Confused He was probably tired and hungry and thinking about Jolly Cone burgers in Bridgeport.

Or maybe it was an honest mistake...he sets the aluminum tablet in the epoxy onto the rock, and just afterwards the clouds clear and he realizes he is in the wrong spot. And its the only disk he has. Woops!

I think that the metes and bounds survey notes that we for this section were based on some rough field notes as to where the monuments were placed, and then constructed at a desk sometime afterwards based on the then existing USGS top of the area. And using those metes and bounds, and following from Twin Peaks counterclockwise to the top of Matterhorn Peak, I agree that #119 should be located at Horse Creek Pass. But it isn't.

I think that cairn up at Horse Creek Pass might have been set by Chick-on in his early days.
Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 12, 2015 02:28PM
Congrats! Have you guys completed the entire set now? Can you solve the mystery of Eagle Peak? tongue sticking out smiley
avatar Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 12, 2015 07:36PM
Congrats! Have you guys completed the entire set now? Can you solve the mystery of Eagle Peak? tongue sticking out smiley

Have all the boundary markers for the original Yosemite Grant been located too?

avatar Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 13, 2015 07:29AM
Oh I am sure that there are a bunch more boundary markers to go. And as for the Yosemite Grant, I came across the one near Gentry ' s a while back. I think Chick-on has found almost all of those.

The Eagle Peak mystery? Help me out on that one....
avatar Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 15, 2015 07:13AM
Congrats! Have you guys completed the entire set now? Can you solve the mystery of Eagle Peak? tongue sticking out smiley

Have all the boundary markers for the original Yosemite Grant been located too?


Garsh no. Not even close. I mean, cmon, look at who is looking for them?
For far too many it has taken 2 or 3 trips looking for one... to find it...
and for some it has taken a water bottle... and others a bunch of
xmass lights... neon sights... and other dingleberries...

Of course all I ever hear are that they are very simple to find...


It's all good fun though and a great way to explore parts of the park...
and have a little goofy goal. It was really a bit of a solve it before
Bearpoof found the survey notes... but it's still anything but trivial for
many of them. Have found a measly 79 of them out of a possible 177.
Doesn't seem like much... but please go look for #4 at the 140 entrance...
and let me know how it goes... tongue sticking out smiley

As for the Yosemite Grant... Gentry has the Blister Rust Control/Camp
sign and a metal post... Inspiration Ridge has a Blister Rust sign and
maybe a cairn... all the other corners... cept CR... I have found nothing.
Have looked at a couple of the corners multiple trips...
O well... it was fun...

Anywho... have fun out there... and thanks so much to Stick N Fedders
and Poof for joining me on these goofy adventures...
And Old Guy... "Don't even look for 50... It's long gone... Just get back
here... What the heck too so long? You guys at Fallen Goliath yet?
I'm gonna eat all these cupcakes if you don't get here by nightfall"


Chick-on is looking at you!

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: The 1905-06 Boundary Survey and the Mystery of #119
July 13, 2015 09:10PM
An amazing mystery you guys discovered. Fascinating reading!
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