Hart Family F-100 Trips & related info
Preliminaries to Hart Family visit to the site
Larry Carpenter is in contact with Mrs. Millie Andrus, the sister of Lt. Hart. Mrs. Andrus had expressed interest in the location of the site with an eye toward perhaps visiting the site if possible. Larry informed me of this and we commenced an email correspondence with Mrs. Andrus to introduce ourselves and to provide a torrent of information we (I) thought would be helpful.
The Story Behind Hart Ridge
By Larry Carpenter of Estes Park
(As published in the Aviation Internationale newsletter)
The United States Geological Survey could have prevented a local mystery of sorts if their own guidelines had been followed on the U.S. Geological Survey Mount Richthofen, CO quadrangle dated 1957. In 1977 the quad was updated with revisions shown in purple.
The "mystery" revolved around the naming of a narrow ridge stretching between Mount Cirrus and Lead Mountain located directly on the western boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park that coincides with the Continental Divide.
This ridge was named Hart Ridge and was printed in black letters, not purple, which seemed to indicate this geological feature was named prior to the issue of the original quad dated 1957.
Any confusion was cleared up for me with the reply, dated January 31, 2000, to my letter of inquiry to the United States Board on Geographic Names in Reston, VA. This response stated that Hart Ridge "...was indeed named for Lt. Eldon Charles Hart, Jr., of the Kansas Air National Guard, who was killed when his plane crashed in the vicinity on January 30, 1967."
"In the vicinity" was the correct terminology because the actual crash site was to be found about one and one-half miles west of Hart Ridge on land included in the Never Summer Wilderness Area under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.
Ron searches for a crash site
Several years ago club member Ron Miller had trekked into the area and, after searching diligently, finally located a crash site and photographed the widely scattered wreckage on an unnamed mountain slope west of the Divide. A photograph of the vertical stabilizer displayed the logo of the Kansas Air National Guard, the markings still clearly visible decades later. This was about all of the remaining debris that would indicate this was the crash site of Hart's F-100 Super Sabre on January 30, 1967.
Local media information in 1967 told only of the massive aerial search for the missing aircraft in the Milner Pass area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Heavy snow had fallen the day after the plane was presumed to have crashed. The aerial search was called off after eight days had passed with no success, but ground parties used snow cats to continue the search. No local newspaper account could be found revealing when the missing plane and its pilot was found.
Larry makes an inquiry
In 1995, out of curiosity, I had requested information from the Wichita (KS) Public Library to try to learn more about the pilot and his unfortunate accident. (Only one article was sent which would seem to indicate reluctance on the part of the research librarian to delve deeper for information without the use of an index.)
This article dated Feb. 2, 1967 told of new snow falling on top of 10-20 foot snow depths in the area of the search. Lt. Hart, according to the Wichita paper, was 26 years old and was flying one of two F-100s out of McConnell Air Force Base when he had disappeared in heavy cloud cover over the mountains. He left behind a widow, Darlene, and two sons, Brent, age 4, and Todd, age 15 months.
Larry gets a call
On January 21, 2000 I received a telephone call from a woman inquiring if I might know of an F-100 plane crash in Rocky Mountain National Park. The woman expressed amazement and delight when I asked, "You mean Lt. Hart's?"
This woman had called RMNP headquarters inquiring if anyone there might know of this crash site which she believed to have occurred within the boundaries of RMNP. Fortunately, her call to the park reached someone there who directed her to call me.
This woman was none other than Lt. Hart's sister, Millie Hart Andrus, of Rexburg, ID. With only two calls this woman had not only reached someone who knew of the crash but who could also direct her to someone who had been there in person, Ron Miller.
Thus began a series of letters and e-mails between Millie, Ron and myself. Millie was sent a copy of the accident report and any other information we had. At first Millie was a bit skeptical that Ron had found her brother's plane since it was not found on Hart Ridge. She felt he might have stumbled upon the wreckage of another airplane that might have crashed in the vicinity. Duke's Sumonia's extensive list of air crashes didn't show any other air crashes that might have been confused with the F-100 loss. When I sent Ron's photograph of the tail fin all doubt was removed from her mind.
Millie had never lost touch with her brother's widow and sons. His rather large family had decided that they wanted to do something special in memory of Lt. Hart in the Year 2000. Millie was heading up the planning for this "reunion" and so made the fortuitous call.
In August many of Hart's family will be heading for Colorado to celebrate the memory of Lt. Eldon Hart. Those family members able to do so will hike to the crash site.
Are you perhaps wondering why the family might want to do this? Why would so many people come from so far to attend this "reunion" of sorts? Having been involved in other first-time visits of surviving family members to fatal crash sites I have firsthand knowledge of the "closure" such a visit can bring. But it wasn't until Millie sent me (and Ron) numerous undated newspaper clippings that I learned something that touched me deeply.
You see, according to these accounts, Lt. Hart's remains were never recovered from the site. While memorial ceremonies were held for the family after the wreckage was finally located in mid-July 1967, the crash was so violent searchers could not recover any remains. This mountainside is his place of burial, his final resting-place.
Part II in next month's issue
August 2000. The Extended Hart Family Visits the Site
The following was written by Ron Miller for the newsletter of Aviation Internationale - the Estes Park aviation group.
With the Hart & Andrus Clan in the Never Summer Mountains
In Part I Larry Carpenter outlined the context behind the naming of Hart Ridge and the fact that Harts sister, Millie Andrus, had inquired about the location of the wreck site and found Larry Carpenter and Ron Miller to be contacts who could help the family with their idea of visiting the wreck site. Part II covers the family reunion and hike to the wreck site undertaken on Saturday Aug. 12, 2000.
E-mail is a wonderful method of corresponding with several people at the same time about a subject. As Millies intentions became clearer, we began a correspondence by which the logistics of a trip to the site were discussed. Copies sent to all interested parties kept us in synch and certain questions could be taken by various people. Larry, for instance, checked out the situation with regard to placing memorials in a wilderness area when Millie asked about that. Ron did some motorcycle reconnaissance during June collecting mileages and verifying that the expected 4WD route was still open and passable.
The Hart/Andrus clan is a large extended Mormon family. During the course of the planning it became clear that this would be a LARGE group having a reunion and possibly hiking to the wreck site. The patriarch of the clan, Eldon C. Hart Sr (called "Chief" by the family) would be present and had expressed the hope that he would be able to visit the site where he lost his eldest son (Eldon C. Hart Jr). Darlene Hart White, the widow, now remarried to Glenn White was kept informed of the plan through Millie. Brent, Harts elder son would be attending but the younger son, Todd would not due to medical problems.
When Millie finally got around to naming the names involved, Ron had to diagram it in order to comprehend the relationships between the 44 people. And then Ron began thinking this was going to be too much. (Funny how right instincts can be!)
The planned date of the hike was 12 August. Ron and his father Ron Sr. normally go camping/hiking/fishing for 2 weeks during September but this event was one reason to pull up the dates so Ron Sr. came out from Seattle for the event. The two of us headed out on Monday 7 Aug to check out the area and enjoy the time. (Actually, another reason for the pull up was that the the Silverthorne A-3D crew had planned a reunion hike on 7 Aug but had to cancel due to family illnesses.)
On Monday 7 Aug .Ron and Ron convoyed from Ft. Collins, over Cameron Pass and down to the Old Homestead RV Park and Campground near Rand, Colo. Old Homestead RV camp was the site that Millie had picked for the clan reunion. We barged in and asked if there were enough room for us to park the Unimog and set up camp so wed be right in the middle of the action. There was.
On Tuesday Ron and Ron drove Ron Sr.s Suburban (known as "Big Blue") to Baker Pass so that Ron Jr. could make a thru-hike from Baker Pass to the wreck site and on north out the Silver Creek trailhead to both add supplemental flagging to the trail and to get current info to help choose a trailhead route to the site. Both Rons had a refresher course in 4WD as Ron Sr. popped the bead on a tire and then drove on it until it went flat.(neither of us heard it go) Even allowing for the tire change, what was normally a 1 hr trip in Ron Jrs Jeep Cherokee took 2 in a bigger, lower vehicle. (reality check)
Instead of the intended 0900 start time at the trailhead Ron Jr. headed out at 1200 planning to meet Ron Sr. on the Silver Creek road about 1800 (thats 6 miles in 6 hrs at 11,000 with about 1000 climb and 1500 descent accumulated) . Ron Sr. hiked to the ridge overlooking the trail to the wreck site while Ron Jr. travelled at flank speed to the crash site. Ron Sr. then departed back down the 4WD road and proceeded to go end-around to make the meeting time.
It took 2 hrs 15 minutes from trailhead to crash site including tying flagging ribbons onto tree limbs and rocks to supplement the existing trail markers. [Remember this figure.]
At 1730 the two Rons met up at the major obstacle, a wide mudhole, on the Silver Creek Rd. Few 4WD vehicles could go the 3 miles from here to trailhead. From trailhead to the crash site by this route would be 1.5 miles and 1100 of elevation gain to get to the top of the ridge where the crash lay on the other side. This clearly was not the optimum route. Baker Pass trailhead would be the choice.
After taking Wednesday as a forced day of rest getting a replacement tire and doing a little fishing, on Thursday we took the Unimog up the Silver Creek road to the end and then had a pleasant hike up to where we could see the pass over the ridge to the crash site. This truly verified that this route was not desirable. We had a nice day of it anyway and the Unimog earned its keep as it carried us on a road where other 4WDs fear to tread.
(Click on pictures to get enlarged images)
|North side odthe ridge. From
Silver Creek drainage.
On Thursday evening in camp we were joined by Dale Hueske from White Cloud, Kansas. Dale is researching and documenting "Naper 28", a C-47 crash during WWII that carried the entire graduating class of P-47 Thunderbolt pilots from Bruning Field to their deaths in the first in-flight breakup of a C-47. Dale had also participated in the Elk Mountain Wyoming hunt for a United DC-3 last summer. Ron Jr. caught a brief introduction to Rich and Millie Andrus - the clan hosts. Ron Sr. had spent the night with them on the way to Colorado so hed had some time with them earlier. They then spent that night in Granby and planned to return Friday afternoon. The two Rons tried their best to impress upon Rich the number of details and command decisions that would be needed in order to carry this event off in style. We werent too sure wed gotten through. But we had determined that we would give Rich every chance to exert his authority as Expedition Leader while we Millers operated as consultants and guides who would provide information but would not normally be giving orders.
|Dale Hueske listens attentively.|
On Friday morning, after fiddling with Dales truck (transmission and other problems), the Andrus came back. Theyd gotten the message and had decided to forego a tour of Rocky Mountain National Park in favor of coming back to fuss over logistics! The Rons had spent the entire week making lists of important things to be addressed and so we started to discuss these things even as the Andrus clan started trickling, then flooding, into camp.
One of the major logistical decisions that was required was what vehicles were available, how many people wanted to make the hike, and how the transportation was going to work out. Rich Andrus hadnt really been 4 wheeling before and Ron Jr. had been uncertain that the condition of Baker Pass road had been made clear. Rich suggested that about 1400 we take Chiefs 4WD truck up the road for a look-see. The truck is a full-sized 3/4 ton Ford pickup with crew cab so Rich, Chief and the 2 Rons got into the truck for a little ride. The 9 miles from the campground to Teller City revealed a stuck themostat on the truck (A common Ford problem but not a problem for the short term- it was stuck open). But once beyond Teller City, there was a surprise. The truck would not go into 4LO! We went a few hundred yards up the road and then turned around and went back to camp. This could be catastrophic as we would likely need every 4WD vehicle in camp to participate and the round-trip is too long and slow to make a shuttle practicable.
Back at camp Ron Sr. rolled under the truck for a look while Ron Jr. served as lever yanker and helper . This truck had never, EVER, been in 4LO in its 90,000 miles. It was physically impossible right from the factory. Ron Sr. backed a bolt out to make it workable and performed yet another good deed.
That evening, as the clan kept growing and growing and growing, there was a community dinner. Larry and Vi Carpenter had arrived from Estes Park and joined in as well.
After dinner the Andrus called everyone together for a briefing on the occasion, a briefing on mountain safety (by Ron Jr) and some meditation music. The emotions involved in the occasion became apparent as the significance of this trip began to settle in on our minds.
|Glen White & Darlene at briefing.||Ron gives briefing.||Millie Andrus displays T-shirt for
The Plan was 0600 departure from camp with 7 vehicles and all seats occupied.
At 0640 we were underway. At 0915 we were at trailhead with the vehicles parked in a line on a logging spur road leaving plenty of turnaround room in the circle at trailhead. Folks headed out for the ridge overlooking the S. Fork of the Michigan River, the drainage at the foot of the ridge we would be hiking today.
|Group picture.(Sorry about the
quality. Video capture not good.)
|Parked in a line on a spur road.|
The variation in speeds between the members of the group became apparent immediately. The 20-somethings who do triathlons and mountain biking were almost instantly up to the ridge and viewpoint. Darlene and her sister Ninee were awfully far back, and Chief was practically the last one up to the viewpoint and travelled with assistance from Ron Sr. After a stop for photos and pointing out the site and the route the fast hikers were divided into a group of 10 and sent on their way. The next party of about 5 divided off and headed out and the final party eased away from the overlook taking pictures of flowers and going terribly slowly. Ron Jr. stayed with this group while Ron Sr. took station in the shade on the ridge staying behind with the non-hikers providing a spotting scope, water, food, clothing, shelter and everything else during the course of the day. All parties were communicating using Motorola Talkabout portable radios. The 2 Rons have found these to be highly useful and the Andrus clan had several as well so we had coordination via good communications when needed. (These turned out to be one of the more indispensible items on the gear list.)
The weather for the hike was pleasantly cool and somewhat overcast. The overcast was a concern because it implied moisture and storms later but the shade from direct sun was welcome.
Most people had taken the advice to have 2 quarts of water per person in some form or another. The ideal form, of course, is for each person to carry his own but in some cases this was modified so that one person carried all the water for about 5 people. Im glad I wasnt that person! They usually called these people "Daddy."
|Brent Hart, Darlene Hart White, Millie Hart Andrus
and Julina Hart Hokanson pose with the site just
above Brent's head.
Ron Jr. eventually fell in with Glenn White, Darlenes 2nd husband. Glenn is 71 and had given a fright when he lost his balance at the first set of rocks to be crossed. I was close behind him and easily caught him. But he was such a positive and enthusiastic guy that I didnt have the heart to demand that he turn around early where Dale Hueske had exercised wisdom and turned back. We went on quite well and Glenn surprised his family with his progress.
|Glen moves out below Baker Pass|
The fastest hikers reached the crash site in just over 2 hours. The last hikers reached the site in 5 hours. Darlene and Glenn were there almost last. (Darlenes sister Ninee and her 13 year old daughter were last.)
|Along the trail. Just around the corner lies the site.|
During the intervening hours, the rest of the family had spread out over the site and looked carefully at the debris and started collecting things of interest. I was horrified to find that theyd found a piece of helmet, 2 pieces of flight suit, and a lace-up panel from the g-suit. Apparently the Air Force hadnt really sanitized the site. I was very surprised that when Darlene was handed these things that she absorbed their presence with acceptance and grace. To her these proved that Eldon had been killed instantly and explained why the Air Force had not had any remains to return to the family. These were questions that had haunted the family for years. Eldons son Brent spent considerable time on the site looking it over even though he initially hadnt been very interested in the event.
|Other family.||More.||The family at the site. Glenn White furthest away.
Jeff White next, Darlene and Olivia. Other family
and Vi Carpenter in blue next to the elevator.
At about 1500 it became clear that it was time to head back to the cars. The car keys and parking situation was sorted out just in time and the fast movers headed out carrying the car keys for all the vehicles so that a de- parking rodeo could free up peoples vehicles as soon as they wanted to go back to camp. (Remember that wed parked in a line on a spur road so the fast movers were blocked in) By 1540 the slow movers had also vacated the site with Ron Jr. bringing up the rear as self-appointed "sweep."
There were some light showers which moved thru and kept things damp and cool. On the trail we never did get a genuine downpour so it was just the occasional coverup with a poncho. Meanwhile, on the ridge back with the optics there was some serious rain and Ron Sr. had some juggling of warm clothing and raingear to deal with to keep the unprepared from suffering.
About 1/3 of the way back Darlene became nauseous with exertion. Her son Jeff White had been struggling all day with nausea and diarhea from the flu. Jeff toughed it out on the way in but started to suffer on the way out about the same time. Darlene thought that she too had the flu but in hindsight it was that she was dehydrated. She hadnt been drinking enough and had been drinking from small water bottles stashed in various packs so her consumption was difficult to determine. So, from here on, about every 200 yards she would have to stop as waves of nausea overcame her. Glenn was still Mr. Positive and was moving right along. He wasnt moving quickly but was moving steadily. Unfortunately Glenn took 2 falls while crossing a long rockslide (Rock Glacier actually) . He wasnt hurt but scared us all. I finally decided that Darlene was trying to hurry too much so I built us a train. I would be the engine and set a steady, slow pace by walking in front of the rest of the group. All they would have to do would be to carefully place their feet as they walked at my slow, slow, slow pace. We set out. Immediately our prospects improved. Darlenes nausea stayed under control, Glenn began singing my praises as a very wise man (I guess he was getting delirious) and the other young men got in line without complaint. We finished crossing the rockslide, travelled the length of the ridge and descended to the low point on the hike in this manner. I think we actually closed the gap a little on the party ahead of us with this slow but never-stopping progress.
At the low point, there was a 120 hill in a grassy meadow to climb to reach the actual point of Baker Pass. The climb really isnt terribly steep but its demoralizing since its at the end of a very long day. Even the slow steady pacing couldnt work. So we did 10 slow steady steps then a rest. The young men in the Andrus family had stayed behind at Baker Pass to help so I asked one of them to take Jeff Whites pack. Jeff felt that his manhood was being insulted but I pulled rank anyway and made him give up his "light" pack. (The only real order I gave all day.) It must have weighed 25 lb after the food and water had been used! He was as bad off illness-wise as Darlene. Meantime, Mr. Positive (Glenn) was having a wonderful time. He did what I asked him to do and he saw the good results in it and sang my praises the whole time. Progress up to Baker Pass was excruciatingly slow but it never stopped.
Darkness was coming on. Not only was sunset coming but with the clouds overhead the light was getting fairly dim. At the pass Rich Andrus and another fellow (Richard?) took hold of Glenns arms and started support/walking him more quickly up the jeep trail. Gus Hart and myself took hold of Darlene and did likewise. Jeff White brought up the rear in fits and starts. I turned over Darlene to someone else and circled back to be with Jeff. He was bravely going on with slow movement and sitting spells. I cant imagine how uncomfortable it would be to be that tired, in that place, with the flu. He gutted it out.
From Baker Pass another 120 must be climbed then its about 400 down to the vehicles. Once we had the climbing finished the party staggered enthusiastically, and with great relief, to the trailhead.
As we climbed into the 2 trucks, we were overcome by full darkness at about 2035. Rich Andrus had his boys with him in Chiefs truck, Ron Sr. had Darlene, Glenn, Jeff and myself in Big Blue. We were a pretty tired and quiet bunch on the ride down.
About 2300 we arrived in camp to a small greeting group. Chiefs right front truck tire had gone flat on arrival in camp. Fortunately for the final party, there were still folks awake and theyd kept some of the barbeque dinner for us. Dale Hueske shared dinner with us and listened to the story. Hed had the good sense to turn back around Baker Pass on the way in saying "Theres one Air Force guy on that mountain. There doesnt need to be another." Im grateful that Dale had made that decision. Wed had enough to deal with getting Darlene and Glenn , the most important people of the party, there and back.
At 2400 in the washroom I said to Dad, "Welp, first up in the morning, last to go to bed. Supervisors work is never done." He wearily agreed.
We slept until 0730 the next morning when we heard the noise of tools clanging while changing Chiefs flat tire for the drive home that day.
After breakfast Rich and Millie called the remainder of group together again and we shared our experiences from the preceding day. Emotions ran high but this time it was positive from the accomplishment of the trip and the achievement of a goal that the Hart/Andrus clan had had since 1967. There were quite a few tears in many eyes as we shared our thoughts on the matter.
Glen summed it up nicely by saying that it was 10 times more beautiful than hed expected but also was 10 times harder too. Wed shared adversity together and made some great friends.
Dad packed up and left just after lunch headed for Seattle. Dale too headed out. The vast majority of the Hart/Andrus bunch departed leaving just Ron Jr. and the mountain biking gang in camp. The youngsters headed out for some wild riding while I took a nap and then began my journal. Dinner that evening was shared with the Andrus family and we started to have an evening campfire event (though the "campfire" was actually a Coleman lantern due to the fire ban). But just when Rich had gotten started quizzing me about life aboard submarines, son Bryce called from the airport to report difficulties getting out of DIA. Apparently life with 9 children can be like that......
On Monday Ron gave some Unimog rides in the campground and then headed out for another day or 2 of camping. The Andrus clan got home ok after having accomplished a marvelous reunion.
|Andrus clan does "shots" of H2O.|
It was an honor and a privilege to have been able to help with this mission. You couldnt have asked for a nicer bunch of people.
After departing the Old Homestead campground, I drove across Calamity Pass and found my way up the S. Fork of the Michigan river - the drainage below the wreck site. I drove as far as I could then parked and camped.
The next day I hiked up the remaining jeep road then the trail up along the Michigan River to a point where I could see the wreck site. The wreck is probably 1000 above the valley floor. I didnt go up to the wreck. I simply proved that this is not the best route to the site.
Labor Day 2000 - I decided that I might try a metal detector at the site to look for Lt. Harts wedding ring. Darlene had mentioned that it had never been returned and I have a detector that can differentiate between gold and other metals (allegedly).
I drove the mog all the way to the end of the trail and camped. Then I carried the metal detector up the basin and over the ridge to the site. After finding lots of metal but not the gold ring I returned to the truck. It takes about 1.5 hrs from the trailhead to the wreck site and has approximately a 1000 gain.
On the second day I took a small folding shovel anticipating that it might come in handy to dig. As I reached the site, a flight of 3 F-16s flew past the site just under the broken clouds. How magnificent to see them flashing in and out of the cloud shadows. I waved to them as they went by but no doubt they didn't see me down there with their brother.
After spending perhaps another hour on the site, concluded that it would take several men working a month or more to really find all the metal and that I stood little chance. It was a nice thought but I wasn't going to be able to pull it off.
I proved that this too is not the best access route.
Best access is to go to the end of the Jack Creek trail and walk the same route the Hart family did.
It is possible that the family will place some kind of marker at or near the site in the future.
Last Modified: 1/1/2008