Thickhead Connection – 0.5 miles (maps!)

Part I

We began the day by heading NE on Greenlee Rd from Whipple Dam state park. We stopped where Greenlee Rd crosses Greenlee Run and briefly explored the area with no findings.

We then proceeded out Beidleheimer Rd. Vince made a quick stop at the summit of Bell Ridge, to inspect whether the RoW might depart from the road there, with no findings. I proceeded to the sharp bend of BR at the headwaters of Croyle Run. This is where I had first discovered a scrap of stone ballasted RoW several years ago. Kline’s map shows a sawmill at this approximate location.

Heading a short way downstream, I noticed two apparent grade scraps on the north slope of the ravine, just below the road. I then became distracted by Croyle Run Trail coming down the hillside, because it sure looks a lot like a well preserved log slide. I followed it down and across Croyle Run, where it seems to turn into a road. I found remains of a building on the left side of the road, though scraps of tin, asphalt shingle, a cast iron stove, and chimney block makes it seem too new to be lumbering related.

On the theory that a log slide would enter a log pond, or at least a stream above a log pond, I headed farther down Croyle Run looking for prospective sawmill sites. I did find one level spot on the north side of the stream, but found no visible remains, and no signs of a dam. Damn.

About this time Vince radioed me and we met near the headwaters. He agreed the two grade scraps looked interesting and concurred with my opinion that CRT was a log slide. We evaluated the road across the stream and the camp remains, and concluded they probably are not relevent.

We then evaluated the couple of scraps. While it seems likely they are in fact portions of RoW, they don’t seem to go anywhere much. About that time, Vince noticed some interesting stonework which suggests a foundation just inside the sharp bend in the road. It could be that these are the only remains of the Beidleheimer sawmill on Croyle Run. It would make some sense, as the main track would have passed above the mill on the hillside (to deliver logs), while the one scrap of track closer to the stream might have gone onto a ramp to remove cut lumber from the stream side of the mill.

If this is the mill location–nearly at the headwaters of Croyle Run–then the mill must have been steam powered. I had always figured it to be water powered, but the size of the stream makes it unlikely.

Vince then surveyed the known portions of the wye track on the NE side of the road bend, while I enjoyed the weather.

Croyle Run Wye

Part II

Next we headed for Bear Meadows, with the intention of walking the John Wert Path from BM down to Thickhead Mtn Rd. Vince had a theory that (based on their ownership of the area east of Bear Meadows), Kulp should have entered the Sinking Creek valley, traversing the south side of Little Mountain.

While delivering a return vehicle, we stopped and examined the area around Treaster Kettle Rd and Thickhead Mtn Rd. If the railroad went up the north side of Little Mtn, it should be in this area. While I found one scrap that looked to me like RoW, Vince was skeptical due to its brevity. We searched the area further and found nothing other than a lot of very large toadstools.

We proceeded to the beginning of John Wert Path, where I distracted Vince with the suggestion that we take a quick look at Bechtol Road, which branches off of Thickhead Mtn Rd toward Bechtol Gap. We had never explored it, and it seemed like it could fit with Kline’s illustration of a route from the Little Mtn area (and previously-explored Thickhead Mtn switchbacks) over Triester and Sand Mtns.

Bechtol Rd ends at posted land near the NE end of Treaster Mtn. It seems a bit steep for grade, but possibly workable. Near the end, we decided to head up the Bechtol Gap stream a bit to look for possible stream crossings. Very quickly I found an extremely curious shelf which initially appears like a road, but which quickly degrades into likely RoW nearing the stream. We headed upstream and were baffled by where it could have been going. The ravine gets narrow and steep; it seems to be a route to nowhere. Returning downstream, I looked for a branch further NE, while Vince followed the road/RoW back. I found nothing of interest, but Vince found that the road/RoW seems to develop tie depressions, and merges neatly onto the gravel road. So. Maybe this was a branch to access some timber. Further exploration may be necessary.

Heading back onto Thickhead Mtn Rd proper, we went downhill, looking for other possible switchbacks off the road. Bingo! There it is. Neat as pie, another RoW departing TMR and heading downhill (NE) along the north face of Thickhead Mtn. And how have we previously missed this??? We followed this fairly well ballasted stretch downhill a good ways. Eventually it deteriorates into a road, but that’s good because its deep ruts help mark its path. In places, the rock RoW is still clear enough to know you are still on the right track. Eventually we intersected a “Ferns from Hell” section and decided that was a good place to call it quits. Vince reported a nice neat 0.5 mile track, making the day worthwhile. At least as important, we now know the railroad apparently escaped Thickhead Mtn via Bechtol Gap, not Heckendorn Gap (which always seemed unlikely due to its steepness). That should help us locate RoW further NE on Treaster Kettle Rd, almost to Colyer Lake.

Thickhead Lower Switchback

Not content to call it quits, Vince insisted on a brief (solo) jaunt up John Wert Path from TMR. Sure enough, he came back on the radio to confirm that “they ran trains here”. The day thus yielded another area where we will soon log mileage.

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 0.62 miles
  • running total: 24.14 miles