17 June 1997

Day 4 - Elliston, MT to Fort Harrison, MT

Distance travelled: 24 miles
Winds: back
Grades: Up and down
Weather: Rain and snow
Condition of roads: bad
Delays: Bicycles – 0/ Tires – 0/ Lunch –0/ Other – 30m
Actual travel time: 5h 50m
Rate per hour: 4.1 mph
- Lt. J.A. Moss Report to the Adjutant Synopsis of the Trip

Places & times mentioned: Elliston MT 10am; Mullan Stage Road; McDonald’s Pass summit 12 noon; Broadwater natatorium; Fort Harrison MT 4:30 PM

“Bright and early the fourth day we started out to cross the main divide of the Rocky Mountains, although the rain had not entirely subsided. We plodded along, pushing our wheels for about three miles where our ascent began. We crossed what is known as McDonald’s pass, pushing our wheels up the steep mountain sides for nearly an hour over the washed out roads, when a gentle rain commenced to fall, but which increased as we progressed. Our line of march extended straight up for a mile—we were getting along as well as possible when a gale sprang up and a terrific snow storm set in. The snow was so thick that we could not see 20 feet in front of us, and the air very cold and icy. Our ears and finger tips were numb, but there was no alternative. We had to go on, and on we went. After a hard struggle, our wheels being almost a mass of slush, we reached the summit and commenced our descent on the east side of the main divide. The ascent was a great test for the machines and for physical endurance, but it was easy compared with the descent. It took about 10 miles to ascent and only three to descend, so the reader may have an idea of the pitch we had to travel. We walked all the way, the same rain and snow continuing, but going off faster. All the ravines were rushing torrents, and it took a long time and hard work to get down the worse part and we were not sorry when we saw the narrow valley before us leading out of the mountains. We had a chance to ride now and made good time. The soldiers had several runaways, some falls, the wheels many bad knocks, several slight accidents, but no breaks of importance. We walked a long distance through mud up to our shoe tops in places, carrying our wheels now, and pushing them. The familiar domes of the Broadwater natatorium finally came in sight and our hearts were made glad to know that we were near the end of our day’s journey.
The corps gathered itself together and marched into Fort Harrison, having covered 25 miles. A wetter, chilled or more fatigued body never stopped to rest.”
- E.H. Boos Daily Missoulian Wheeling South [Missoula, MT] July 3, 1897

“Our rations being about to give out, the command started out again at 10 o’clock the next morning and in mud and water, for Fort Harrison, the next ration station. Three miles east of Elliston, leaving the N.P.R.R. to the left we took the old Mullan Stage Road, which is now little more than a mere trail full of ruts, stones and dilapidated corduroy bridges. Pushing our wheels up this muddy, slippery grade for several miles, was indeed, hard work. About noon the Corps reached the summit of the Main Divide of the Rocky Mountains, in an awful sleet storm, with two inches of snow on the ground. So cold was it that we would stop every now and then to strike our hands and rub our ears. The descent on the Atlantic slope was as difficult as the up-grade work on the Pacific side, as the slope is very steep and great exertion was necessary to prevent our bicycles from running away. The State [sic? – “Stage”?] Road is now virtually what may be called a “dry creek”, which flows quite freely in rainy weather. The snow and sleet were thawing rapidly, and for several miles we puddled along in water and slush up to our ankles. At 4:30 P.M Fort Harrison was reached.”
- Lt. Moss Report to the Adjutant General (pg. 4-5)

“Here [Elliston] we delayed until 10 o’clock the next morning [June 17], trusting things would brighten up a little. The change, however, came not, but as our supply of rations was almost exhausted, we started out in the mud and water for Fort Harrison, the next ration station. Three miles east of Elliston station, the Northern Pacific Railroad to our left, the corps took the old Mulland stage road, now little more than a mere trail, full of gullies, stones and dilapidated corduroy bridges. We were now nearing the summit, and pushing our bicycles up a muddy, slippery grade was very hard work. About noon the command reached the summit of the Main Divide of the Rocky Mountains, in an awful sleet storm, with three inches of snow on the ground. So cold was it that every now and then the soldiers would stop to beat their hands and rub their ears. The descent on the Atlantic Slope was about as difficult as the ascent on the Pacific side, as the grade is very steep and much exertion was required to prevent our wheels from running away.
The old stage road has ben converted by nature into what may be called a “dry creek,” which flows swiftly as it rains. As we descended on the eastern side, the snow and sleet were thawing very rapidly, and we puddled along in running water and slush up to our ankles. At 4:30 p.m., wet, tired, hungry and cold, Fort Harrison, twenty-four miles from Elliston, was reached. From our experiences of the previous year, we had about come to the conclusion that the soldiers who made the trip through the National Park awheel had served their enlistment in cycling in mud and water, and were entitled to an “honorable discharge.” Consequently, the corps laid over at Fort Harrison until the morning of the 19th, waiting for the weather to settle…..”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel, Nov. 7, 1897

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