GET OUT: Ghost homestead in Bryan Flats

By on February 25, 2014
Snow dogs out a moose sculpture that signals the turn off for Bryan Flats Photo: Jake Nichols
Snow dogs out a moose sculpture that signals the turn off for Bryan Flats Photo: Jake Nichols

Snow dogs out a moose sculpture that signals the turn off for Bryan Flats Photo: Jake Nichols

JACKSON, WYO – Staying on the flats might not be a bad idea right about now. If you’re like me, you just don’t trust your instincts in the backcountry when it comes to the epic amounts of snow with wind-packed cornices and rain-laden heavy pow on top of a weak crust layer. I get nervous just thinking about what might happen.

Come with me – we’ll be safe doing some cross-country skiing in Bryan Flats. The objective is to make it all the way to the Rimrock Homestead, which is no longer there. I sometimes wonder if it was ever there. I swear I saw it once. And now it’s gone.

But first, head south to Bryan Flats. That’s the right-hand turn not long after you pass Camp Creek Inn. Just turn when you see the giant moose. Drive in to the parking area at Bryan Flats. Snap into your skis and maybe pack along some snowshoes – it’s been that kind of winter. You’ll be heading on a two-track road that snowmachiners should have pounded down enough for your enjoyment. This is FR30460, by the way.

The first half-mile is open and somewhat boring. You’ll have great views of Beaver Mountain on your left. Look closer for a cool cave opening halfway up. After a mile, keep your eyes peeled for moose, especially if you are traveling with dogs. The last time I was in here during the winter I came upon three Shiras when I was at least 2.5 miles in.

After a mile and a half you will be fully skirted around private property. Next is a big bend at the two-mile mark. This is all a gradual uphill but nothing too daunting. At 2.7 miles in, just before you crest, there is a trail off to your right. That heads straight to the Willow Creek/Lick Creek confluence. Lick Creek is hardly anything but there are some monster bull elk up in there. Just sayin’.

The uphill ends at 2.8 miles. Now you’re headed due south and fixin’ to T-bone Adams Creek. There will be another trail split right around here as well. I don’t know if it will be visible in the winter, and I doubt many snowmobilers take it, but that trail goes where we are going, sort of, but then continues over Adams and up into the woods to later connect with the popular Wyoming Range National Recreational Trail 142.

I don’t know why anyone would hook up with 142 this way when it’s much easier to stay down in the drainages, skirting Adams west until you pick up Willow. At any rate, you will be staying on the wide road and after a big bend near the end you will be closing in on the Rimrock Homestead. It’s no longer there. But I swear it was.

It was the summer of 2003. I was on horseback and horribly lost in Willow Creek. I finally found the confluence of Willow and Adams but still wasn’t sure where I was. I had no map, no GPS. The horse was ready to give out. I had to lead him going up some hills.

Then I saw a pretty white clapboard house sitting there all by itself. It was so out of place and well kept I thought it was a mirage. It had a little fenced corral and for more than a few minutes I seriously contemplated breaking in and spending the night. It was getting late.

When I returned to the area in 2008, the little house was gone. I couldn’t find a trace of it. I wondered whether I really saw it at all. I questioned my sanity. No one I asked had ever heard of it. Then I found a map that referred to the “Rimrock Home.” It GPS’d at 43°14’8”N, 110°38’32”W.

I matched this with Google Earth satellite imagery, which showed Bryan Flats Road clearly but no structures. Then I noticed a little tag at the bottom of the screen that said “Click to see historical imagery from 1994.” I did. And there was the house.

Noted river rat Forrest McCarthy, who mentions the old Rimrock Homestead on his packrafting guide blog, further backs me.

So I’m not crazy.

About Jake Nichols

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