Grand Canyon is grand

Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

May 7th, 2018, 4:44 am #1

I've been on an airplane-wreck-finding kick recently, and this trip started out as another crash-site search. In 1947 an AT-6 trainer crashed somewhere below the site of the Alpine Tavern. There isn't a lot of information on the internet more detailed than that. A few trip reports ARE available, which suggest that at least some debris is present in the main channel of Grand Canyon. I've never been in Grand Canyon at all, so this sounded generally appealing. So the plan was to bike up to the Alpine Tavern site, look around for some unrelated stuff in that general area, then drop down into Grand Canyon until we hopefully would find some debris. Then from that point we'd follow the breadcrumbs into whatever side drainage contained the airplane.

TFitz and I started riding up Sunset Ridge at 7:30AM on Sunday, when the little parking lot at the gate was already full. The ride up was uneventful, and we were at Alpine Tavern shortly. Before we left I made a half-assed attempt to locate the crash site via historical aerials. This didn't work, but I did notice some sort of cabin just west of the main Alpine Tavern site that was still standing in 1960. This was at the tip of a minor ridge. The first order of business was to go find the ruins to see if there's anything still there. We bushwhacked to the site, only to find a perfectly-maintained trail coming in from a different direction when we got to the spot. Oh well. There's no cabin here anymore, but instead there's a memorial to James T. Spencer who apparently led a train-maintenance crew in this area:





The site also has supports for guy wires, and some downed power poles that presumably were held up by these guy wires at some point



Does anybody know the history here? The train was electrified; does this mean that all the buildings had power lines running to them as well? And the power lines for the train: were those running overhead? If so, was this thing I found below, in Grand Canyon, a power tower for the train?



In any case, an information panel at the Alpine Tavern site says that the hotel was abandoned in 1936 (I think; might be a bit off), and was dynamited by the forest service in 1959 to facilitate construction of the campground. This is quite puzzling since this campground doesn't really have any facilities. And I wish the original buildings were still around; even in ruined form. But that's not up to me, so the drainage below the tavern (Grand Canyon) is FULL of old detritus. In addition to old junk, there's an extensive pipe system for transporting water in and around the canyon for a LONG way below Alpine Tavern. There's a lot of piping and lots of valves, junctions and things. Anybody know what this was for? Presumably the water supply for the Alpine Tavern itself came from above. What would be the purpose of the piping below?

We dropped into the channel and started our descent. Initially the channel is dry, but quickly gets a little bit of water, which comes and goes. The flow would be better during a wetter year. The channel is generally wide, brush-free and easy to traverse, except for a small number of obstacles. Soon after we left Alpine Tavern, we encountered a number of small waterfalls that could be bypassed on our left without a lot of fuss.



These were straightforward, but we then hit a more serious obstacle: the canyon narrowed into a tight slot with vertical walls, and the ground immediately dropped off into a waterfall.



There was some accumulated deadfall between us and the lip of the slot, so it wasn't clear how tall the waterfall was, or how many tiers it had. It DID look unwise to try to descend it directly, so we found a bypass on the left. This was a good use trail that contours in a wide arc around this waterfall (that turned out to be quite large), and deposits you into the streambed below. In the process it passes near the edge of the very dramatic bowl in front of the slot, and presents a fantastic view of the falls at the mouth of Alpine Canyon (which are also here, and are BIG):



On this day it was too dry for these to work well, but mid-winter this place should be spectacular. During this bypass we noticed a flat area further up. We scrambled up expecting to see foundations and/or a chimney of an old house, but found none. There was only an old water pipe, an old valve and an odd mildly excavated area with some bricks strewn around



Weird. There were a few of these flat areas around, so we went over to the next one. There were some odd holes in the ground here. Clearly they were meant to look like this:



But they're old, and most looked like this



or even like this



This latter one had a sufficiently-broken roof so that you could descend into it:



I don't get it. Somebody did a LOT of work here, but for what purpose? Each of these grottos has an earthen floor, and walls made of stacked rocks. Some of the walls are round and some are square, but all have walls that go all the way around, with no openings. I.e. each of these is a single room. The biggest one is high enough to comfortably stand in, maybe is 6ft wide, and maybe 25ft long. The roof is salvaged rail interspersed with salvaged brick:



These are REALLY cool, and there're a number of them. But what in the world are they for? These aren't mines. Nor are they houses. Maybe they're storage for something, but what? The intact ones only have a single tiny opening in the ceiling. Water storage is the only thing that makes sense, but I can't imagine these are watertight. And what would they be storing the water for? These aren't near anything! Alpine Tavern is a ways above, along the creek bed. And the railroad was a ways above, straight up? Somebody please explain.

So anyway. While looking around, we saw an area with what looked like it could be black tubing. Above were bright-green plants, and there was what looked sorta like a campfire near it. The first thought that this was an active grow, but that didn't make much sense up here. I carefully walked up. The "black tubing" turned out to be this very snazzy and not-very-old ladder:



The plants were ferns or poison oak, that were lit up just right to look very abundant and very green. And the campfire was this:



also looking very shiny in the sun. So yeah; that was exciting. This place raised more questions than answers, so we kept going, dropped back down into the streambed, and backtracked to see the waterfall slot from the bottom:



It actually looked climbable, but the rock is terrible, and it wasn't worth the risk. The terrible-ness of the rock was evidenced by the massive exposed roots of the local trees:



We then walked to the base of the Alpine Canyon falls. The photos don't do these justice. They're awesome.



Yeah. What was this trip about, again? Oh yeah. Airplanes. We kept descending in the canyon, looking for plane parts. This required picking them out from Alpine Tavern parts, which were abundant. Eventually we found some:









It's the skeleton of the airplane (made of iron, apparently), some attached bits of aluminum skin, and some sort of wing or fuselage thing. Neat! We walked downstream a bit to see if anything else washed down. Nothing. (Or more likely, we didn't descend far enough). We then came back, and looked around some gullies directly above this area. Again, nothing. I feel like there should have been something, but there wasn't. We probably weren't in the exact right gully, or something. It's a bit odd that there weren't any breadcrumbs at all: just the above-pictured pieces in the channel bottom. Eventually we gave up, and called it a day. At some point this would be a good place to revisit, but I'm not in a hurry.

We took a slightly different route on the way back: between the road and stream. This resulted in more stuff being found. Here're more of what I think could be fallen power towers:



And some sort of collapsing retaining wall:



Apparently the concrete was poured over a bed of rocks:



Almost at the Alpine Tavern site was a drainage pipe crossing the road. Inside was a cool, LONG lizard (click on the images for the full-size originals!):







He didn't want to hang out with me, but he REALLY didn't want to be stuck in the shaded pipe. So he walked to the edge and jumped out.

And that's it. This is a really cool canyon. I now want to go back and traverse the whole thing, even though it's now missing 17 birthday balloons, not counting this festive S, and this kickass giraffe:

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Joined: December 15th, 2016, 9:31 pm

May 7th, 2018, 5:28 am #2

You were in the sewer system from the Alpine Tavern. I was just there with a group of FS volunteers in January or so, doing a bit of that sewer system excavating you saw. Brian Marcroft has tons of documentation on it. The large dramatic falls are Chapman Falls.


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Joined: December 15th, 2016, 9:31 pm

May 7th, 2018, 5:32 am #3

The ladder looks like part of a bow hunter’s blind


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Jeremiah
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

May 7th, 2018, 6:00 am #4

Sewer system??? Explain. How is the stuff supposed to get in? And out? Today there isn't any obvious plumbing connected to the grottos. Were the pipes running across the top before?
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Joined: December 15th, 2016, 9:31 pm

May 7th, 2018, 6:04 am #5

You have photos of some of the pipes and valves. These are the cesspools where the effluent was sent by gravity. That’s why they are downhill.


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Jeremiah
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

May 7th, 2018, 6:22 am #6

Well yeah, but currently the pipes don't connect to any of the tanks. They're just sort of in the area. Were they connected directly previously?
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Joined: December 15th, 2016, 9:31 pm

May 7th, 2018, 6:25 am #7

I think the tanks spilled over one to the next. They were connected to each other. Brian has some of the old engineering drawings. They might show more of the plumbing details.


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Jeremiah
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Joined: November 15th, 2017, 9:18 pm

May 7th, 2018, 3:11 pm #8

Looks like some fun exploration with a little bit of everything! Glad you can check another plane off your list. Great photos and good work on the balloon haul, that's a pretty sweet giraffe!
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Sean
Cucamonga Man
Sean
Cucamonga Man
Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

May 7th, 2018, 4:11 pm #9

The first falls you bypassed are called Grand Canyon Falls. I think you found the known plane wreckage. I haven't heard of another site. There are lots of other things to look for around Grand Canyon, but they are semi-secrets. Here is some info about James Spencer. Oh, and Chapman Falls is also called Alpine Falls. Joseph Chapman logged the area in the early 1800s. Then the Alpine Club moved in later.
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Joined: April 11th, 2018, 1:42 am

May 7th, 2018, 6:39 pm #10

A few of my phone photos that aren't too redundant of Dima's:


Descending into some pointless bushwhacking.


In the sewer that I didn't know was a sewer.




This didn't look terribly old, but I definitely didn't remember that slogan. Looked it up and found this funny commercial from 1982: 




The grandest part of the canyon.








On the way down.
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

May 8th, 2018, 4:47 am #11

stonehillnews wrote: Brian has some of the old engineering drawings. They might show more of the plumbing details.
Does Brian also have a website? I'd love to see some details.

Sean wrote: I think you found the known plane wreckage. I haven't heard of another site.
We found SOME of it, but the wreck-oriented trip reports show a lot more stuff above... Somewhere.

Sean wrote: There are lots of other things to look for around Grand Canyon, but they are semi-secrets.
I don't have other people's secrets, but I can make my own :)
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

May 9th, 2018, 1:40 am #12

stonehillnews wrote: I was just there with a group of FS volunteers in January or so, doing a bit of that sewer system excavating you saw.
Oh, and another thing. You were excavating these tanks? Were they full of sediment before you got to them?
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Joined: December 15th, 2016, 9:31 pm

May 9th, 2018, 1:45 am #13

dima wrote:Oh, and another thing. You were excavating these tanks? Were they full of sediment before you got to them?
No, these were settling tanks. I think there was never very much in the way of solids. They were meant to catch the mainly liquid effluent and let it percolate into the ground.

Brian had just dug up some drawings which showed additional tanks he hadn’t been aware existed, so we were looking for those.

PS I guess you saw the email I sent to try to get him into a thread about the drawings?


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Jeremiah
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