#Optoutsideafterwork

Ashes to ashes...
Ashes to ashes…

I was up at 4AM on Black Friday.

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.

“New” ruins

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.

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Sweet Jeebus no!

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!

Score!

Happy Trails,

Harry Biped

Catching those last rays
Catching those last rays

GETTING THERE

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.

 

 

 

Ol’ Blewett

Ol'Blewett
Ol’Blewett

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.

The arrastra
The Arrastra

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 crushenator
The Crushenator

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 built this city on Rock n’ Roll

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.

Nuclear Moss
Nuclear Moss

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.

Old tram something probably

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.

CONSIDERATIONS

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

It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule...
It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule…

Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

 

Halloweiners

Uh, not going that way.
Uh, not going that way.

Despite the flood warning today a couple of us Bipeds decided to head for the hills.

Due to the inclement weather being particularly inclement, our mine search was called off in favor of a dry hike: The Snoqualmie Tunnel.

Being an abandoned train tunnel, it really fits the bill for a rainy day hike, and when better to visit an abandoned tunnel full of ghost trains and ectoplasmic hobos? Halloween!

That's not bogeyman, is it?
That’s not bogeyman, is it?

 

The trailhead was flooded when we arrived, so we parked along the road near the freeway on-ramp and made our way down an embankment to reach the eastern portal.

The tunnel was pretty much as expected; cool and a little damp. Perfect for a day when the alternative is; cold, and sopping wet.

The sound of rushing water bounced off the walls as we approached the western light.

Rockdale Creek, which flows over the top of the portal was raging. We hiked up and around to take a closer look.

Yeah, it's raining out
Yeah, it’s raining out

At the top, large chunks of wood barreled down the swollen waters. An eerie deep rumble accompanied by a slight tremor, signaled a boulder tumbling through the culvert below our feet.

Heading back to the shelter of the tunnel we saw a group of bicyclists preparing for the trip down to the exit 38. “Beware the bogey man”, they warned as we walked by.

“They were just kidding though, right?”

Rockdale Creek rip roarin'
Rockdale Creek rip roarin’

 

Kitanning Mine

Kitanning Cabin
Kitanning Cabin

The Kitanning Mine is located not far from the tiny hamlet of Index, WA, and can be found just off the long washed out Index-Galena Road.

GETTING THERE

(Disclaimer: These directions are for novelty purposes only)

Winter walk
Winter walk

The washout makes for two different ways to reach the Kitanning; either from Beckler Road, just past Skykomish or by driving to the washout at the end of Index-Galena Road and hoofing it along a rough hewn path through trees, mud and some post-apocalyptic looking sections of washed out roadway.

"Road Closed"
“Road Closed”

In the wintertime hiking is sometimes the only way, and makes for a nice winter walk anyway.

Either way you go you’ll wanna end up at the east side of the wash-out.

♪♫Ooh, ooh, ooh looking out my back door♪♫
♪♫Ooh, ooh, ooh looking out my back door♪♫

Maybe ½-1 mile or so east of the washout shore exists a curve in the road from which a faint trail leads off into the woods. Follow it and you’ll start gently gaining elevation.

At this point mine finding experience is a good thing to have. (A copy of Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1 really helps too)

To the best of my recollection I followed the little trail until it disappeared beneath thigh deep Oregon Grape.

Lonely miners...
Lonely miners…

I found an ephemeral stream bed to my right and followed it up, staying left when an obstacles came and eventually began reaching small cliffs, working my way around the them.

When I first went some years ago the sight of the old cabin meant you were there. However I’ve heard in recent years the old Kitanning cabin has collapsed, possibly making the mine more difficult to find, and sealing the hodge-podge of relics and ancient pornography within.

The upper adit
The upper adit

THE TUNNELS

The first adit is right around the corner from the remains of the cabin, literally. It’s right there.

The tunnel is a couple hundred feet long and is blasted into what seems like pretty stable rock. Turquoise colored mineral staining can be seen inside, as well as a couple scattered artifacts.

The upper adit is approximately 500ft above you, amongst steep and sometimes cliffy terrain. An old miner’s trail fades in an out, occasionally leading the way.

This tunnel is a couple hundred feet longer than the lower one and boasts more impressive mineral deposits.

Tessbo Biped deep in the Kitanning
Tessbo Biped deep in the Kitanning

An interesting side note is that this adit does not have a corresponding tailings pile. Strange, no?

According to DWHM#1, the entire tailings pile was hauled off to the smelter by the Twentieth Century Alaska Copper company in the early years of the 1900s.

THE MINERALS

Copper was what was sought after at the Kitanning and is found in the ores; chalcopyrite, bornite, chalcocite and pyrite.

Since there isn’t a tailings pile, specimens are mostly limited to what you can knock from the veins inside the tunnels.

As always, leave it the way you found it (aside from some mineral samples perhaps)

Good luck and happy trails!

Nuclear Patina
Nuclear Patina

References:

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

McClellan’s Butte 5162′

Ol’Mac looms…

If you are driving down the I-90 and spending more time looking out the window than on the road, McClellan’s Butte is hard to miss. It’s the big rocky spire, sorta looks like the Matterhorn from some angles.

Anyway, most rubbernecking hikers probably fall into one of two camps:

A: Man! I gotta climb that thing!

or…

Hanging out along the ridge
Hanging out along the ridge

B: There is no F$%#ing way you’d catch me up there!

Well guess what? Ol’ Mac’s Butte is a win-win!

The prominent rocky spire doesn’t disappoint those looking for an airy scramble, and allows some decent bragging rights the next time you’re rubbernecking down the ’90.

Alternatively, if exposed scrambling isn’t your thing, the Butte provides a challenging enough hike and great views from a slightly less lofty perch just below the imposing monolith.

THE NUMBERS

a4

Distance: 9-12 miles RT

Elevation gain: 3700′ ft (1128m)

Difficulty: YDS-1 hike, YDS-3-4 scramble

Licks to get to it’s center: The world may never know…

THE NAME

Spittin’ Image!

McClellan’s Butte is named for General George B. McClellan, a civil war era general and moustache aficionado which history seems to hold in mixed regard.

In 1853, George was here in the Washington territory surveying possible routes for the coming railroad.

Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that Yakima Pass near Tinkham Peak would be the best option for the rails, however no one else of consequence shared his opinion and Yakima Pass was never used.

McClellan’s efforts were however recognized, and his name was bestowed upon the butte, perhaps, some speculate, due to their uncanny resemblance.

Later Ol’ George even made an unsuccessful presidential bid against the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln.

In the end McClellan died of a heart attack in Orange, New Jersey at the age of 58.

 

Biggest trees on the '90!
Biggest trees on the ’90!

THE HIKING

We start out just off the Tinkham Road exit on the ’90. The trailhead is just a little way south of the interstate up a dirt road.

(There does however exist cheaters parking area further along the FS 9020)

milwlogo8

The trail briefly winds along through forest, then beneath power lines, meandering along old grades. Early along there is a split, either way you’ll end up at the John Wayne Trail (Old Milwaukee Road)

Heading west at the split along an old grade will take you along the “official” trail.

Reaching the Milwaukee Road, you’ll likely hear Alice Creek to your left and might see a bicyclist or two scoot on by, to continue up the butte trail, look to your right.

Off trail scrambling
Off trail scrambling

It’s within this next section that one can find the “old” trail which ambles past the Alice Claim , where one can view a handful of mining relics from an earlier era.

The next grade crossing is that of the FS 9020 (the cheaters parking area), not a lot to see here but a gravel road, and usually some parked cars. Press on!

You may have noticed by now that there are some pretty impressive trees along the trail. Somehow these giants were spared the lumberjacks unforgiving sawblade, while their less fortunate brethren are now only massive stumps.

These are some of, if not the largest trees along the ’90, so feel free to plop your butt down and view them with reverence and awe.

Lotsa big ol' trees
Lotsa big ol’ trees

The trail now begins to climb, and soon, at about the halfway point, the next and most dangerous landmarks will appear…

THE AVALANCHE CHUTES

As is evident from the lack of trees (or most anything but rock and snow) avalanches regularly thunder down these gullies when conditions are right for it.

Avalanches don’t always happen when you might expect!

Even during a nice, sunny spring day, so long as there is snow in the upper reaches, a slab of white death can break off and before you can say “Kalamazoo!” you’re history.

Just food for thought…. be aware!

Always check the Northwest Avalanche Center website for current avalanche conditions. (…and donate!)

Post thaw avalanche chute
Post thaw avalanche chute

Avalanches aside, these gullies can also be dangerous to cross for the unprepared as when they are snow filled they can be extremely steep.

Furthermore they can be undermined by flowing water and a simple posthole could potentially put you in the drink, or worse.

Carry the right gear, and know how to use it.

AHEM, BACK TO THE HIKING…

So after the avalanche gullies, the trail continues up and up.

Eventually you’ll round the south end of the ridge and sparse views of the FORBIDDEN lands of the Cedar River watershed will appear.

The trail does a large sort of U-Turn and soon you’re traversing the west side of the ridge.

The forbidden lands
The forbidden lands

(Note: this is a good place to jump off trail if you wanna scramble the whole ridge)

Here is a nice pleasant respite from the singularly upward direction of the trail prior to this, and with westward views and mountain meadows to boot!

Soon you’ll find yourself passing below the large rock walls of the ridge  before turning upwards, just below the summit block itself.

A steeper rocky section of trail is the last little bit to conquer before finding yourself at the landing beneath the imposing, monolithic block that is Ol’ Mac.

Ol' Harry up on the block
Ol’ Harry up on the block

THE BLOCK

As you will certainly see, the block is pretty exposed.

Climbing out onto it, you might think that exposed is an understatement when you discover that the block essentially terminates into oblivion, and any resultant falls from here would likely result in death, or worse.

Stay within your comfort zone, this isn’t a place to screw around.

That being said, the block isn’t technically difficult, and affords many hand and footholds that have been tried and tested hundreds of times before. (Never hurts to double check)

I read somewhere that at one time there existed an aviation navigational light at the top of Ol’ Mac, part of a system of lights that guided aircraft to Seattle.

“The Closer” ascending the block

In those times there was also a handhold and more of a path to the top. (At the moment my book collection is in storage,  so I’ll get back to you all about the specifics)

Along the scramble you can occasionally spy remnants of those days etched into the rock.

Once on the top you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts (weather permitting) as you are standing upon one of the best viewpoints along the I90.

360º of unobstructed views!

ALTERNATIVE ROUTES

In Cascade Alpine Guide vol. 1, Beckey describes a couple different routes;

One of them is ascending to the summit ridge via the upper south slopes by way of the second avalanche gully as a moderate winter or spring snow climb.

This one I can vouch for, as a couple friends and I took it one spring without knowing it was really a route. The slopes here are steep, but if you keep your wits about you, the ascent to the ridge is a piece of cake. Some light class 3 scrambling is the worst of it.

Ascending the south slopes
Ascending the south slopes

Keep in mind however, there are a lot of loose rocks, and you are climbing directly above a fairly popular trail.

Another is the East Spur, which I gather is essentially taking the first avalanche gully directly to the summit, I’ve looked at it and intend to give it a try someday, appears to be a long class 2-3 scramble.

The NORTH BASIN is more of a climbing route, popular when the basin is snow filled. I have read that the rock near the upper reaches is pretty loose and crumbly and may have been a factor in a 2005 fatality along this route.

ETC…

McClellan’s Butte has a little something for everybody, and while a popular destination, thus far never seems too crowded.

Besides the summit block, the entire trail is YDS class 1, however, McClellan’s Butte, or any mountain should never be taken lightly; Steep Slopes, avalanche chutes, and George McClellan’s ghost are just a few hazards one may encounter while treading upon it’s flanks.

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The ’90 snaking across the land

 

There is often water available along the route, so bring a filter etc and fill up along the way.

Anyway, be prepared, leave it better than you found it, see ya there

Happy Trails!

Jack "The Bulge" at the summit
Jack “The Bulge” at the summit

GETTING THERE

Take exit 42 West Tinkham Rd. and head south, you’ll pass a WSDOT facility and a gated road on your right before coming to another road veering up and right to the trailhead. Sometimes this is signed, other times not. Either way it is a very short drive from the freeway offramp, so if you can’t find it, you probably went too far.

PASSES

nwtrailpass

Currently a NW Trailpass is required for parking.

 

 

References:

Beckey, Fred, Cascade Alpine Guide vol.1 Columbia River to Stevens Pass. The Mountaineers Books, 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravensdale Cemetery

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Around the turn of the century Ravensdale was a thriving little coal town with a population upwards of 1,000 residents.

The trail...
The trail…

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.

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To the grounds...
To the grounds…

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…

Desecrated graves...
Desecrated graves…

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.

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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.

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Bergeson Prospect

2010-OCT

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)

The great tome itself.
The great tome itself.

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.

Rusty rails...
Rusty rails…

Ahem,

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.

Rusty cowling
and rusty cowling, all kinds of rusty stuff!

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.

The boulder blocking the grade
The boulder blocking the grade

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.

Lady J emerging from the darkness
Lady J emerging from the darkness

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.

The Bergeson adit
The Bergeson adit

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.

Honey, we're gonna need to call the HVAC guy...
Honey, we’re gonna need to call the HVAC guy…

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.

Looking back toward the adit
Looking back toward the adit

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.

Such a stillness, it's eerie
Such a stillness, it’s eerie

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!

Into the depths of the Bergeson
Into the depths of the Bergeson

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

Ye olde boxe
Ye olde boxe

References:

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