All of the emigrants had to come around this point. We placed a rail post here, the plaque reads:
"The roads were gravelly round the end of some high rocks. Barren mountains [Silver Island]."
Robert Chalmers, July 27, 1850
2000 Utah Crossroads Chapter - OCTA HU - 21
"Eight miles brought us to the northern end of a short range of mountains" [this is the Silver Island Mountains] "turning the point of which and bending our course to the left we gradually came upon higher ground, composed of compacted volcanic gravel." Bryant was once again, as he describes it, "upon terra firma."If you look to the southeast you might be able to see a gap in the sand dunes that was washed out by meteoric water from Silver Island. This gap allowed the emigrants to have easy access to the point from the flats. Both the main and the Retrieval Trail merged together in this gap, then spread out some to this point. The Retrieval Trail goes in a beeline from the main trail to this wash. If you were an emigrant coming back from the springs to pick up you wagon, you would be able to see the wagons back on the trail because on these flats mirages make them look twice as tall. Measured from the 7.5 minute quadrangle the Retrieval Trail is approximately 8 miles long to where it leaves the main trail. The main trail is 8.1 miles long to the same point.
JAMES W. DENVER wrote in 1850: "Turning a point of the mountain we had been coursing for some time, the road bent short to the left and passed over another rocky ridge also of volcanic origine. It was now sunrise on Sunday the 11th of August, ..."
Continuing west on the well graded road, mark your odometer again and travel ------miles to where the road curves to the left to avoid a wash. You will note that the first road in this area went straight down across this small wash. One must assume that this was where the emigrants first crossed. Years later when sheepherders were bringing their sheep and wagons they probably curved the road slightly to the left and later to where it is now for ease of the faster trucks and vehicles.
From all appearances this road was the original trail. The author and other Crossroads Members walked on both sides of this road in several places but could see no evidence of any other trail traces or depressions. Flying low over this area several different times, I could see no other trails.
Proceed along the road for to where the main road curves to the right and then back to the left around a ledge rock. There appears to be a remnant of the trail on the left side of the road near the rock.
Continue on for 6.2 miles where you will come to a fork in the road. the right hand fork is the main road the left is the original road built through this area. Keep on the left hand fork for to where you will see a white carsonite marker on the left side. This is where the trail went up the wash to avoid the sandstone conglomerate ledges ahead. Continue up the road and give your vehicle more power to climb the steep grade. Once on top you will travel to the left and come back on to the trail. There is a carsonite marker in the trail. Apparently a years ago bulldozer blazed a road up the wash destroying any vestige of the trail.
Continue west until you see the rail post. The road we are traveling curves to the right or north. The rail post is on the side of the trail which is still heading west. This is the Donner/Reed Summit. The plaque on the rail post reads:
"Got to the rock of misery, 65 miles, our water all gone and our horses nearly famished for water. Teams giving out, men lying by the side of the road in the hot sun speechless for the want of water."
Henry S. Bloom, Aug 2, 1850
2000 Utah Crossroads Chapter - OCTA HU- 22
Heinrich Lienhard had an interesting experience while he was going down this slope to the west, he records on August 19, 1846:
"Straight through the seeming expanse of water [a mirage] from the opposite shore, a black monster moved toward us like a frightful, giant snake, in a long, sinuous line. We all stared a long time at this puzzling apparition; it separated into detached parts, and we then supposed it must be a band of Indians. However, as we traveled slowly down the hill to meet them, we realized that what we saw was neither a monstrous snake nor friendly Indians, but a considerable number of men with oxen, a few mules, and horses, who were going back into the barren desert to recover their abandoned wagons."
HASTINGS CUTOFF TRAIL on the last playa. Pilot Peak is the high snow capped mountain in the background at over 10,700 feet high. Donner Springs is the dark line below the peak and on the end of the flats. Bruce Bloomfield, J. Quintin Adair and Dan Miller Jr. are the three men - left to right - in the photograph which was taken on May 1, 1971 by the author.
This is another great opportunity to walk the trail down hill. While doing so think of what Lienhard saw. The first part of the trail from the rail post has been traveled by sheep herders but their road leaves the trail to the left. The rest of the trail to the main road is pristine. Look for scour marks on the limestone rocks. The drivers can drive the vehicles north for 0.3 mile to the main road. Turn left then travel on this road to the west for 0.8 mile to a white carsonite on the right side of the road. Wait here for your riders as they come down the trail.
After everyone is picked up from walking the trail, mark your odometer then drive to a cave around a rock point in front of you. This cave has a drip, drip, drip, amount of water in it. When Historian Charles Kelly was writing his book, Salt Desert Trails, he talked with Eugene Munsee at his homestead two miles south of Donner Springs in 1930. Munsee said that there was some water in a cave on Silver Island near the trail. This is the only cave that I know of with any water in it.