What could I discover if I tried to walk the old wagon and stagecoach roads above Worman’s Mill armed with the 1883 Topographic Map to guide me? Many of the roads had changed but I bet if I pay attention, I can spot them. The area above Nipinnawasee was a happening spot back in the 1880s, when logging, homesteading and a little mining was taking place. Today it is more like a ghost town. I am trying to figure out the routes of travel back them, the relationship of the people who lived out here, and of course their stories.
Distance: 13.12 Miles (but you can go shorter or longer)
Elevation Range: 3,417′ to 5,038′
Date: December 24, 2020
CALTOPO: Worman’s Mill to 6S09B
Dog Hike: Maybe
I started my walk across from Worman’s Mill, parking off the road in a wide spot at the intersection of Road 601 and Worman Road, making sure I wasn’t blocking anyone. Every once in a while I see a bike rider heading up the road and I had seen this gentleman before but we had never met or talked but we did this morning. This was a great opportunity to point out how wonderful these roads can be for bikes. Turns out Scott was heading up N-6S24 to Hwy 41 and back for his adventure.
I followed behind Scott but took the first left up 5S16.
I can’t help myself as I walk up this road, trying to catch the views out to the foggy valley between the trees.
I took the road marked 5S12X on the right and there is a reason. Although you can’t drive 5S12X by car, it is shorter if I am walking. Cars would not get too far up that road and if they did venture up, there is no turn around when they would get into trouble. Quads and motorcycles had traveled the road though.
Again, those views!
It surprises me that this is January and the blackberry leaves are such a pretty and vibrant red color.
The ground was half frozen when I headed up this slippery muddy stretch of road and I decided that I wouldn’t be returning this way because by the afternoon it would have thawed and I would be slipping down that mud.
I have been overlaying the old maps over current maps and my tracks from hikes in the O’Neals Meadow/Old Miami Mill/Silver Knob area to see what signs of yesterday I ould find. The roads today are not exactly where the old roads used to be but if I look carefully, I can spot them through the down trees and new forest growth. When I reached the intersection of 5S12, I turned left, skirting O’Neals Meadow, then right on 5S62, then left on 6S09B. This road didn’t show up on the 1883 map but it led down to Miami Creek above the Old Miami Mill site, a possible location for where John Eldridge Jack LaTouche could have had a cabin.
He may have had more than one cabin though and a prior blog has more information about him and his tragic death. Historical mentions describe the location of his cabin by Miami Lodge (Miami Sawmill) in the timber above Miami Mountain Road, other sources saying at Silver Knob, and these could be the same . . . or different cabins. Newspaper articles say that he died at his cabin at Twin Springs (west of Westfall Cemetery). The Madera Flume and Trading Company (which was later purchased by the Madera Sugar Pine Company) owned the property surrounding LaTouche’s place. Loggers were cutting timber around his house and told him to get out because they were going to fall the timber and if he didn’t leave, they might fall a tree though his house. He owned the land and didn’t think that they had a right to cut the timber, so he didn’t leave. The loggers cut a huge tree which did fall through the cabin and killed him.
But could he have had a cabin on Miami Creek above the Old Miami Mill site? This is how I came up with this possibility and why I wanted to check out this area:
June 9, 1888 Mariposa Gazette
Sudden Death. On May 29th, 1888, at Jack LATOUCHE’s Ranch about a mile above CROOK’s sawmill (later called Old Miami Mills), a man named Charles CARR, who was engaged in some labor at that place, was suddenly taken ill while at breakfast and died about two o’clock P.M., of the same day. The death was so sudden, it was thought best by some of the citizens, that a inquest be held. Justice LEITCH of Wawona, who was notified, appeared and a jury empanelled. Upon examination of the case the jury found that deceased came to his death from some cause which they were unable to determine. The deceased leaves a wife and three small children who are in a destitute circumstances. A subscription is in circulation to raise funds for the relief of the widow and children. Anyone feeling charitably disposed towards the widow and orphans who have been so suddenly thrown upon the world, can contribute their mite by sending it to E. L. HOWARD, who lives in that neighborhood.
The road I hiked out on this day was about a half mile above Old Miami Mill, not the one mile described, but it was a possibility. The road had grown over and was only a trail in many sections, motorcycles appearing to be the heaviest use on it these days. As I walked down the road, I could see evidence of logging from many years back. Some of those stumps were very big and it is hard to estimate how far back but I would guess the mid 1900’s.
A small spring or seasonal stream had been dammed up long ago and by the age of the trees that were growing on top of that earthen dam, I would guess that the oldest ones were about 50 years old or so. That age doesn’t mean that this is when this dam was constructed but when its active use seemed to end. It also looked like a road had gone across the dam in the past and continued downstream. Today, this spot also looked like a popular campsite for some people.
I continued down the road, hitting a little snow.
And then I was at the spot I was looking for. An old hot water heater, laying on its side marked the spot so I started exploring.
I guess that the approximate age of the hot water heater and stove were from the 40’s or 50’s, but I located separate stone foundations for something else. Could other structures have predated this old cabin? The forest was slowly taking back whatever civilization once flourished at this location.
Since we are having some dry winter weather to explore the area, I have a plan to do some other searching before storms return and make some of these roads very slick with mud. I want to point out that due to the many standing dead trees along this hike, I would steer clear of this area when the wind is blowing and even if it isn’t blowing, pay attention in case one of those trees decides to come down.
There is so much history on the roads in area, full of interesting people who lived in the area. Native American families, early wagon roads to Yosemite, lumber operations, mining, homesteading and cattle were all part of this history. By walking the old roads, I can better understand the relationship to neighbors, employment and other elements of the lives in this area. Sometimes things look close on a map but “you can’t get there from here.”
There are many roads and trails to explore in this area and many don’t show up on Topographic Maps. CALTOPO or using a download to the Avenza Map APP are the best that I have found. Links are below the Maps and Profile section toward the end. Other than when I was at my car, I didn’t see anyone on this hike but it does get use from motorcycles, 4 wheelers, bikes, horses and hikers. I suggest you be prepared because the motorcycles can fly by in an instant but you can hear them coming. I try and avoid the weekends in this area for that reason.
Dog Hike? Maybe
This could be a good dog hike if your dog is a good fit. The road is lightly traveled by vehicles so you would need to keep an eye open for a vehicle coming around one of the curves. In the summer you could run into a rattlesnake out here also. This is mountain lion country, along with other wildlife that you could encounter. There were a couple of areas with running water on my hike but it can dry up in summer, so you would probably need to pack dog water.
What is a Doarama? It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.
Maps and Profile:
I am trying something a little new on the Blog format, including a link to this track on CALTOPO at the top and under the Maps and Profile Section at the end that you can view or download. Please give me feedback on this change!
A great interactive mapping source for these roads can be found at Sierra National Forest ORV Maps where you can download the Off Road Vehicle Maps to follow the roads and trails. Downloading them to the Avenza Map App from that site, you can even track your adventure to share with others or just save.
CALTOPO has some free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week: CALTOPO Worman’s Mill to 6S09B
Dubel, Zelda Garey, To Yosemite by Stage, Zulu.com, Third Edition, 2011.
Greene, Linda, YOSEMITE: THE PARK AND ITS RESOURCES; A History of the Discovery, Management, and Physical Development of Yosemite National Park, California, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, September 1987
Mariposa Gazette, June 9, 1888
Prior Blogs in this Area: