06 February 2011

Chapter 28: "Reassignment to Erie-1924," Pt 2

 As the wagon rounded another bend, the wide rock-strewn area lay before them. 
They began crossing the fan of a flood plain.  All the rocks were a
rusty color. Henry pointed toward a ridge ahead.  Because of its color,
the barracks blended in with the surrounding rock amazingly well.  Then
they saw it.
“That’s it? It looks as if it’s growing out of the side of the mountain,
like it belongs there.  That’s a long way up there, Henry.”

Erie View 2

Looking up the Erie waste-ore slide: A tram tower is in view in
advance of reaching the adit level at approximately 4,200 feet. To this day that tower still stands.
From this vantage point one could only see the snow sheds leading to the mine entrance on the left.

Erie View 3

Shot taken from the Erie tram bucket:  As one approached
the Erie main adit level the barrack finally came into view.


“Doesn’t it? We still have a distance to go to reach it.”
Henry stopped the wagon while a large porcupine worked its way across the
trail.  They heard rocks crashing in the distance.
“The earth around these parts is noisy. Rocks are always falling up there. 
It’s amazing that there are any hills left at all considering all the
erosion going on.” 
They had a clear view up a wide gulch with a rapid incline leading toward the
large rock glacier.  The sound of rocks falling stopped.  Then it
started again.
The ice fall came into view as the wagon left the Amazon flood plain.  This 
was a massive, irregular, white wall reaching thousands of feet upwards
from the head of Root Glacier to a point well above the height of the
northwesterly-running  ridge ending at Erie.
“This is it.  Look at that tram line,”  Henry said.  It was a gas motor-powered
tram serving as the supply line.  Reminiscent of the Green Butte tram,
the men could barely see the covered adit near the head of the waste ore
dump.  A snowshed extended from the adit to a small building near the
barracks.  The waste ore dump was a huge light-colored rubble pile
extending from the tram base nearly to the adit over a thousand feet
above.   Henry jumped off the wagon and grabbed the phone at the tram
terminal.  He spoke a few words into it and then turned to the two

Erie View 5
This is the only
picture I have ever found of the Erie tram base near Root
Glacier.     --Ben Jackson Photo

“We have to sling this wagon load of material up this tram line.”
Henry pulled the tarp back.
“See the black rolls? That’s the tar paper you’ll be working with.  You two
will be applying it to the building exterior and the new part of the
roof.  I also brought the lathe sticks and three buckets of nails.  Help
me unload all this off the wagon.   Then we can begin making up the
slings to send it all off.  Once we have it all up there, I’ll send you
two, and then I’ll be on my way. ”
“I sure hope they have some kind of lunch up there ready for us.  We’ll be
ready for it by the time we unload all this material. Johnny, let’s rush
this us, I want to eat.”
“You’re not the only one, Cap.  Henry, you didn’t tell us we’d be doing
this. When did you have time to load it all?”
“I had the men load it up early this morning.  It didn’t take as long as you’d
think.  There’s more material up there, but Chris wanted to make sure
you didn’t run short of supplies.”
“He could have at least sent lunch.”
“Sorry, guys.  You know how it goes Loading and unloading is my
business.  If you’re around me, expect to work hard.
“We want to send the entire load up first, or else every hundred feet it
will stop and leave you dangling out there while the men above unload
the freight.”
Henry called the tram tender on the head end and the three of them watched as
the load advanced  in stages until all of it was finally clear of the
“Now it’s your turn.”
“What about you?  Don’t you want lunch?”
“Brought my own. I’ll eat on the way back. So who’s going first?”
“I always let Johnny go first,” Cap said. 
Johnny pulled himself into the next empty ore bucket on the seventy-degree
angle line,  then Henry advanced the tram just like a clothesline until
the next bucket was in line for Cap.  He signaled to the top one last
time. The tram began to work its way up.   Cap looked back as Henry
waved them off. 

The two of them were dangling close to the steep cliff, rising steadily to the tram
head.  As they approached the top, Henry and his wagon turned and left.
The ice fall disappeared behind the ridge as the tram continued up into the
gulch advancing toward the Erie main portal level.  Cap’s bucket
stopped, causing it to swing, dangling him a thousand feet above the
ground.  He looked up.  Johnny was out of sight.  He was being helped
off the ore bucket. 

Erie View 5
station at Erie Camp  --NPS photo

The tram head was next to a small transformer station at the head of the
power line.   At the platform were other buildings covered with tarpaper
and lath sticks.  Cap saw the portal to the north, but he was much more
interested in the mess hall to the south, which was in the  unfinished
forty man barracks.  Johnny helped him off at the top and pointed toward
the rear barracks door.
“You don’t need to tell me where the food is, Johnny. I can smell it from
here.  Let’s eat.”
The path to the barrack was an elevated, covered wooden walkway, open except
for a railing on both sides.  The distance to the tram base was about
the same as that at Green Butte, but the angle of the tram was steeper.
The tram motor operator directed the two newcomers inside.
“The lunch room is in the barrack.  You’ll find food set out. We’ve been
expecting you.  Aren’t one of you the boxing champ?  Everyone heard
about that.”
“That’s me.  I’m Cap. I just want to eat.”
“Great to meet you, Cap.  See the boss inside.  He’s waiting.” 
Cap looked across toward Donohoe Peak across the glacier gorge to the
immediate southwest.  Erie was truly an eagle’s nest with a magnificent
“I thought the view at the top of Green Butte was something.  I’ve never
seen anything like this before--not where someone has built a full-sized
camp anyway.”

Erie View 4

The abandoned Erie site in 1979: One barrack designed to house
forty men.   --UAF Archives
“What do you suppose was the meaning of those four ravens, Cap.”
Saghanni ggaay. I’d forgotten about them, Sla’cheen.  Look ! They’re
still out there.”
There they were.  Four ravens were riding the top of a cold mass of air right
in front of Erie.
“They’re not for us, Sla’cheen.  But something bad is going to
happen.  When four of them fly together like that, it always means
something engii.
“As long as they don’t land here, we’re okay.”
The high circular path of the ravens worked its way south toward Kennecott.
“That’s good, Cap. For a moment I thought they’d start landing on the
power lines above us.  Let’s forget them and get some lunch.  It’s too
high up here to start thinking engii.”

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