Day 262 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways
Petey and I went on the neatest hike this morning. It was so unsual, interesting and scenic. To get to the trailhead near Stevens Pass, VANilla took us through valleys of fruit orchards, followed alongside the Wenatchee River, and climbed a 4,000 foot pass before turning onto a gravel road which took us four miles to a parking area at the old town site of Wellington.
The trail runs along the old Great Northern Railway passage still marked with mile post numbers representing the distance from St. Paul, Minnesota. We walked about 1.5 miles to mile marker 1712 where we found a cache to complete finding a cache in each of the lower 48 states. Along the way we walked through a concrete snowshed that stretched nearly 2,000 feet and was somewhat eerie.
Great Northern Railroad Disaster
As we followed the path we encountered several interpretive signs depicting one of the worst railroad disasters in the nation’s history. Despite the Great Northern route being the best engineered of the transcontinental railways with the old Cascade Tunnel replacing a series of switchbacks in 1900 and snowsheds added for safety, winter conditions still presented serious hazards. Many times trains were stopped for days during winter storms.
One such time, in the winter of 1910, passengers boarded a train in Spokane and began their fateful journey to Seattle. They were halted for 36 hours in the First Cascade Tunnel while crews worked overtime to clear the tracks of snow. Once the tracks were cleared, they moved through the tunnels and parked at Wellington.
After three more days of waiting, passengers demanded that they be moved back into the tunnel, but the railway superintendent feared the coal exhaust in the tunnel would cause asphyxiation. To get food, supplies, and additional help, the superintendent struggled along the grade to Windy Point and down a steep slope to Scenic. Some passengers followed, while others planned on making the trek the next day. Unfortunately, these passengers never got a chance.
An avalanche roared down the mountainside and pushed two trains into the gulch below. While many came from Seattle and Everett to help; after the spring thaw, the total count was 96 dead. The disaster is documented in The White Cascades by Gary Krist.
Iron Goat Trail
As rail traffic increased, a new Cascade Tunnel was constructed in 1929. The new tunnel is still used by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The old tunnel and associated grade was abandoned and is now the Iron Goat Trail.
The trail passes by enormous concrete walls to the north periodically marked with algae and moss from water trickling over the edge, beneath alders and evergreens, and through ferns and wildflowers towering chest high which partially block the view of the mountains to the south still with a few patches of snow.
I would have liked to continue another mile and a half to Windy Point overlook, but despite the glorious temperatures, Petey didn’t seem to feel the same way I did! We returned to the trailhead, continued west in VANilla for a few more miles where we found Deception Falls. The falls tumble down the mountainside beneath the highway. It might be the first time where I enjoyed the views of the crystal clear creek and moss covered trees along the half mile loop more than the falls.
Certain parts of the creek are so clear that it is essentially sterile. The conditions are such that the water can’t soak up minerals and the sunlight can’t penetrate the shade of the towering trees for algae to grow thus life in the creek is nearly non-existent.
The moss covered trees were mystical, but I really found the springboard stump to be fascinating. Loggers cut trees in the area during the 1890s construction of the Great Northern Railway to use as ties or trestles. It took two men hours to cut the trees down using a large crosscut saw or misery whip.
Standing on a springboard, they could cut above the butt swell which would save them time and energy. To insert the springboard into the tree, loggers chopped holes in the stump. When they stood on the board, its metal protrusions jabbed into the roof of the hole in the tree to stabilize in place. These enormous stumps had a smaller tree growing from its middle.
Gold Bar, Washington
A bonus to visiting this popular area was finding another cache. In fact, caches were everywhere along the Iron Goat Trail and simply in the general area, but I was rarely able to keep connectivity with my phone to get to any of them! After our visit to Deception Falls, where Petey rested in VANilla, we found a roadside fruit stand selling a basket of cherries for a $1 and then we pulled into Zeke’s Drive In for a mushroom swiss burger and some greasy onion rings. So many cars were there far after the regular lunch hour, that I just had to stop. My body is currently thanking me for the extra fat!
I attempted visiting Wallace Falls State Park; however, being Labor Day weekend the parking area and campground were full, so I think I will return in the morning to see another waterfall. In the meantime, I steered VANilla through several back roads where I found a cut in the forest with remnants of an old campfire. It’s where I plan on spending the evening. ETB
Map of My Road Trip Across the USA
For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.
Other Articles About Washington You May Like
- Day 263 – North Cascades Loop (Part 2)
- Day 264 – North Cascades Loop (Part 3)
- Day 265 – North Cascades Loop (Part 4)
- Day 266 – North Cascades Loop (Part 5)
Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop. Each card has a travel story associated with it. 20% of proceeds are donated to charity.