Not for the savings bonanzas or the ol’ fashioned tramplings, nor for the buyer’s remorse or the last item on the shelf fist fights.
No, like many of us I worked, but #Optedoutside the minute I got out!
Didn’t have a lot of time, with the sun being so stingy in these winter months, so a short walk to Franklin, WA, an old coal mining ghost town fit the bill.
Eh, it’s got a spooky ol’ cemetery anyway. Who needs light when you have ghosts?
We parked at the small cemetery along SE Green River Gorge Rd. and began our walk.
Someone has done a lot of work to improve the road heading up to Franklin. What has historically been a muddy grade now has a new layer of gravel on top of it.
The trails have been liberally brushed, and some sites that I hadn’t seen in a decade of visiting this place have been cleared of vegetation.
A heartfelt “Huzzah!” to the volunteers and their efforts!
We reached the graveyard after the sun had disappeared beneath the horizon. No ghosts, but plenty of ambiance.
Heading back we encountered some people who decided that dropping a road flare down the 1300′ mine shaft would be a good idea. We were just in time for the show.
The flare erupted in a magnesium flash, brilliantly contrasting the decaying twilight.
Within seconds it was gone, screaming it’s way to the bottom. A robust slap announced it’s arrival with mine’s icy waters.
Darkness. Then inexplicably a light began to flicker from the ghostly depths. A menacing glow struggled to life.
Looking down the stygian pit, pulsating red with sulfurous smoke, it really was a vision of hell.
After the flare burnt out we ambled back to the car, both of us the better for #optingoutside…
Then promptly #optedforthriftshopping at the Goodwill where I got a couple of nice merino wool sweaters, 50%off!
Head to the center of Black Diamond, WA. Turn east on Lawson Street (There is a Los Cabos and a Cenex station at the intersection) this road will change names a number of times.
Continue on this road for about 3 miles then start looking for a small graveyard on the east side of the road. This is probably the best parking available. Hike south on the road to a gated off area. This is the trailhead.
Rain, rain and more rain was on the forecast today. Despite that, armchair enthusiasm was running high!
We headed up for Snoqualmie Pass, bolstered by rumor that there was enough snow to make it worth the effort to break the snowshoes from their long, long hibernation.
Well, there was snow, but it was a lot higher than any of us really cared to hike in this sorta November slop.
So instead Blewett!
If it’s rainy on the west side, it’s usually a little less so over there. The fact that the place is absolutely steeped in mining history is another selling point, at least so long as I’m concerned.
We got to the old townsite and took a quick tour.
First we swung by the arrastra, a curious artifact sandwiched between the US 97 and Peshastin Creek just south of the Blewett historical marker.
The second site we visited was the remains of the old stamp mill, which is in surprisingly good condition considering the proximity to the highway. Definitely a gem hidden in plain sight for the history minded road tripper.
Briefly we headed back down the highway thinking that a hike along Negro Creek would be fun, but with the high water, didn’t seem worth the treacherous crossing. So…back to Blewett.
We followed the little footpath which passes the Keynote Tunnel and followed it to it’s end before beginning uphill.
Two thick metal cables were stretched down the hillside, inviting us upwards to find their source.
Gaining the ridge granted us some beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides partitioned by low, soggy looking clouds.
Continuing up, we passed countless collapsed adits and cuts, sometimes marked by small piles of shattered, milky quartz left behind by those who still search these hills for precious metal.
One small cut even contained a pick axe and shovel. Modern no doubt, but waterlogged and weathered.
The ridge made a nice stopping point and allowed us ample views up and down the US97 corridor.
Leaving the ridge, we opted for a more direct path to the car.
Blewett can be a fun place to visit, but be aware that there is a lot of privately claimed land in the area and many potential hazards in the form of open shafts and deteriorating tunnels.
Respect all private property postings, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because many sites are full of hazards, and… some people can get pretty weird when that funny yellow metal is involved. Just a friendly word of caution.
As always PACKITINPACKITOUT!, leave it better than you found it, take only pictures leave only feet prints, and especially in the Blewett area: STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE
Around the turn of the century Ravensdale was a thriving little coal town with a population upwards of 1,000 residents.
Now it is more or less a collection of rural suburbs, but some old buildings still remain, and I feel it retains a character of it’s own, though coal ceased to be king many, many years ago.
One of the worst coal mining disaters in state history occurred in Ravensdale when just after one o’ clock on 16NOV1915, an explosion at the Northwest Improvement Companies mine claimed the lives of thirty one men.
Many of those men were laid to rest at Ravensdale cemetery.
While it is not unusual for a small town to have a cemetery what follows is:
In 1963 graverobbers descended upon the little cemetery, exhuming graves, smashing headstones and vandalizing the grounds. The graveyard was robbed multiple times. It’s said that headstones were scattered throughout the surrounding woodlands…
The cemetery was largely forgotten in the following years, records were lost and time marched on.
Today you would never guess that right in the middle of a nondescript rural suburb exists what is left of a graveyard that bears with it such a storied past.
Driving by you might guess the little trail leading to the cemetery instead meanders up to a kids fort back in the woods, or some teenage beer hangout.
The trail is very short, maybe a hundred feet or so before you come to a volunteer built kiosk describing the cemetery, it’s past, it’s occupants. Next to it is a little rock bordered path leading up to the grounds.
Vines of dwarf periwinkle snake across concrete remnants of graves, and in certain times of the year lilies grow for those resting below, planted many years ago by those that loved them.
At first one might come with a morbid curiosity after hearing of the cemeteries desecration in the past, but I find it’s soon replaced by a certain melancholy, perhaps a quiet solidarity with the spirits that still dwell there.
This story starts off in a book, a great book in a series of great books that are full of history and adventure for anyone who opens up a copy. I am talking about the Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines series by Northwest Underground Explorations, in this case volume #1. (henceforth DWHM#1)
Whether you are the swashbuckling adventure type or just the type who likes to swashbuckle and adventure via the pages of a good book, relaxed in a cozy armchair, this series will serve you well and is worth every penny. The pages are loaded with historic photos and are an unbelievable wealth of information about Washington’s mines, state history and even some local lore. If I haven’t made myself clear, if you are reading this blog, you are the type who needs these books.
Having spent a great deal of time in the Miller River area, finding the Bergeson Prospect within the pages of this tome of the abandoned, I was immediately interested in locating the site.
The book gives very good directions for both driving and footwork, that being said, unless you’ve spent a lot of time wandering the woods beyond the well worn trail, you probably wanna take someone who has. I should add also that if you should ever decide to enter a mine, not that I suggest you do, you should really never go alone. The potential for serious injury or death is there, and I don’t know about you but drowning in icy cold mine water, shattering my body by falling down a shaft or being crushed by unstable rock and spending my final moments on earth in the pitch black, Stygian depths of an abandoned mine is not exactly how I want to go.
Moving right along…
Gathering all the essential gear including three sources of light, I picked up a friend of mine and we were off towards Money Creek Road, a rough little dirt road off the Hwy 2 often in need of repairs. Following the directions to a tee, we parked and headed up into the woods.
One of the first orders of business was to locate an old road. The first time you go out looking for an old road in the woods, you’ll have no idea what to expect, every flat spot you see you’ll be asking, “Is that the road”? This is normal, over time you will develop an ability to pick out even the most ancient mining or logging road, and suddenly the Cascades will never quite look the same. It really is interesting just how many old road grades there are out there, and kind of a curse because if you are anything like me, you’ll wanna find out when they were built, why they were built and where they all go.
There are a couple landmarks on the way up, the first is a very large boulder, hogging up half the old road bed. It’s impossible to miss if you are on the right track, and I feel pretty confident in saying, this baby isn’t going anywhere for a very long time.
The second real landmark is a little trickier to notice even though it is huge. It is the tailings pile from the mine, but it is mostly overgrown and doesn’t really look much like a tailings pile until closer examination. Really it looks like any old berm built up from an avalanche gully.
Being that this is the tailings, or waste rock from the mine, you know you are right below it. A short climb up the pile takes you to the quite picturesque site of the Bergeson Prospect. There are a few pieces of interesting debris outside the adit (mine entrance) and if you are more interested in just locating the site and taking it in, this would make a good place for a woodland picnic on a nice day. There are many massive old growth trees in the area, and it really is a pleasant feeling woods.
My friend and I however were going to enter the mine….
The adit was flooded, and likely still is, to a depth of mid-shin height or better. One of the first things you’ll notice in this mine is the tremendous amount of rust coating the walls and covering the floor.
There are also a lot of relics left inside, the old mine cart rails, the ventilation pipes and various bits of wooden debris.
The mine is pretty deep in comparison to a lot of the other small claims in western Washington, around 1200′ deep I believe. Fortunately in this mine, there are no winzes (shafts) and it’s pretty straight forward.
There is however a great deal of water coming from the ceiling in this mine, and the constant dripping on the pipes, on the floor compounded with the echo can really play some tricks on your ears. Standing still and just listening, I could swear you could hear voices. On one occasion as we were going down a long straight section of tunnel, we saw what appeared to be a face at the end of our lights reach, stopping, we could hear the garbled voices. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I figured maybe someone else was exploring, or maybe A GHOST!
Turns out it was just a ventilation pipe half hanging from the ceiling with a steady rivulet of water falling upon it. Gotta say though, better scare than a haunted house.
The mine was pretty interesting, and not too difficult to find. If you are so possessed I’d suggest getting a copy of DWHM#1 and locating it yourself. I do not suggest entering a mine, and certainly not alone or with less than three separate light sources. Also, take only pictures and leave only footprints, there are many sites that are completely lost to us, the people of this age, because others decided to loot and plunder and for what? So they can have some shitty old piece of rusted metal sitting in their garage? We’re lucky to still have some of these outdoor museums in the state they were left, so lets keep it that way.
Good luck, and happy trails, Harry Biped
Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997