Hike May 3, 2007 with Pete, Jane and Steve
Start: 39°25’34”N, 105°33’56”W, 8,291 feet
Gibbs Cabin: 39°25’6”N, 105°33’23”W, 8,680 feet
Gibbs Grave: 39°25’8”N, 105°33’39”W, 8,776 feet
End: 39°25’47”N, 105°34’24”W, 8,289 feet
Hiking Distance: 4.9 miles
Hiking is its own reward. A day out of doors in the fresh air, warm sun, with the wind blowing through the trees and views far and near is great relaxation, and the hike adds great exercise to the mix. For this hike, we had a further goal: Jane was looking for ghosts.
Not ghosts, really, but remnants of the past. The Shawnee area has been inhabited by people of European descent for almost 150 years. Many things the earlier settlers built have been covered over or pushed aside by subsequent generations. In some places, though, you can still find some things left behind by folks who lived off the land. Most Fridays you can visit with Jane at the Park County Local History Archives, in the basement of the Fairplay Library, where she records and preserves what bits of the past she can fi nd. This day she was in the field, doing a little eye-witness research.
At our trailhead, we went through a footpath gate beside the locked vehicle gate, and followed the road up the hill to the east, and then south. We had a warm sun and nearly clear skies. The only clouds lay on the tops of Shawnee Peak, above and in front of us, and on Mount Logan, above and behind. They looked like great white cougars, ready to pounce and cover us in snow and mist. For the time being, though, they were content to watch as we followed the road. At four tenths of a mile from the car, a trail, marked “Brookside AG Trail 719” left the road to the left. We kept right, and soon after found an open gate. We went through the gate, and up Gibbs Gulch. Soon there was another open gate, and around a curve we saw Gibbs’ cabin.
The cabin is big, two-storied, and was built in two sections: Half is hand-hewn log, and half is modern frame construction. The metal roofing on the south side has blown away, and the moisture from the rain and snow has rotted much of the building, making it too dangerous to enter. There are two out buildings, both log, one collapsed. I
In addition to the cabin, Jane wanted to find some charcoal pits, a headgate for an irrigation ditch, and Milton Gibbs himself, or at least his final resting place. The road continued up the hill past the cabin, so we followed it through the meadow. Jane had a copy of a hand-drawn map that showed the relative locations of the cabin, pits and headgate. After not finding the charcoal pits where we thought they might be, we started looking for the headgate.Two roads parallel an irrigation ditch south into the woods. We followed the higher road, and then walked the ditch when the road moved away from it. The ditch went up, but not steeply so, into the forest of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and aspen, with a
sprinkling of spruce.
At almost half a mile from the cabin we found the headgate, an metal channel, hourglass shaped, perhaps six inches wide and a foot deep at its waist. One would push in a board at the waist to stop the creek from fl owing into the ditch, or lift it to let the water fl ow. It’s been a long time since the creek water has been routed to the gate.
We found that both roads converged
near the headgate, and followed the lower road back to the meadow. For a while, we searched the ridge west of the cabin for the grave site, but soon gave up in favor of lunch. There’s no use grave hunting on empty stomachs. While we had wandered, the clouds had slowly lifted from the mountain tops, leaving us with a beautiful, and un-threatening, day.
After our brief repast, we moved west on the upper road out of Gibbs Gulch. It lead us down to an unnamed gulch, where we found the spring marked on our topographic maps. Next we went to the top of the next ridge, where we found a log fence surrounding a tree and a small plot of land. Here lies Milton Gibbs; a metal plate records his birth in 1841, his death in 1909, and his service as
private in the Civil War, in Company F of the 211th Pennsylvania Infantry. Two other graves are there, both unmarked.
From Gibbs cemetery, we continued down into Bill Tyler Gulch. Bill was a brother of Ben Tyler, whose Gulch is the next one west. Both Tylers lay in the small cemetery in Shawnee.
Bill’s gulch soon widened to a meadow, with views across Platte Canyon. Halfway down the meadow, a foundation shows where a house once stood. The valley narrowed, and led us back to US 285, where another Forest Service gate blocks vehicle traffic. A half-mile walk along the highway brought us back to our starting point and the car.
It’s one thing to read about the old timers, and another to go back to see where they lived and made livings for themselves and their families. Building cabins, digging irrigation ditches, and making charcoal were only a few of the things Milton Gibbs and Bill Tyler did to make ends meet. Throwing in a history lesson
made our hiking experience more fun. Thanks, Jane!