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As It Was: Redwood Plank Road Replaces Trail to Crescent City

What is now known as the Elk Camp Ridge Trail, a steep, rocky 8-mile hike out of Gasquet, began as an indigenous trade route to the coast called the Cold Spring Mountain Trail.  After gold was discovered at Sailor’s Diggings in the Illinois Valley west of Grants Pass, the trail became a supply route to Paragon Bay, present-day Crescent City.

By 1852, pack animals were using the trail.  Way stations sprouted up with names like Cedar Trough Camp and Robin’s Nest, nicknamed “robbers’ nest” by the packers, who warned other travelers most stations were “worse than doggeries.” 

A pack-train leaving Paragon Bay with a load of tools, clothing, food and liquor had to cross Elk Valley, go up the north bank of the Smith River, and climb over the Cold Spring and Oregon mountains before dropping into the Illinois Valley.  The 52-mile trip took about seven or eight days. 

During summer, some 500 mules a week left the port carrying merchandise at seven-cents a pound.  The split-redwood Crescent City Plank Road replaced the trail in 1858, allowing stagecoaches and ox-drawn wagons to haul supplies to the Illinois Valley. 

Sources:  Rohde, Justin. "Crescent City and the Cold Spring Mountain Trail." Historic Pack Trails of the Siskiyous, Apr. 2012. Klamath Siskiyou Trailfinder, siskiyou.npsoregon.org/2012annualmeeting/ftoldstage/happycamptrail.pdf. Accessed 3 Dec. 2018; Twain (as Cincinnatus), Mark. "Interesting Letter from Umpqua." Daily Alta California, Apr. 2012 [San Francisco CA] , p. 1. California Digital Newspaper Collection, cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DAC18540913&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1. Accessed 3 Dec. 2018.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.