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’

 

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Claim

Ore Crusher
Ore Crusher

Along the way up the McClellan Butte trail you might stumble upon the remains of the mill site and adit of the Alice Claim… that is, you would have along the old trail.

Nowadays you’d probably only find it if you were looking for it.

The adit
The adit
The adit from the trail
The adit from the trail

At one time in the not so distant past, the trail up the butte passed right beside the claim, but now that trail has been abandoned in favor of another, and is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Rusted "thing"
Rusted “thing”

Interestingly enough, hikers still pass right by the site, albeit on a different path, though I imagine only a few oddballs ever notice.

The abandoned trail and mill site are found along Alice Creek, which as a matter of interest was named Revington Creek during the time the Alice Claim was in operation.

Abandoned trail
Abandoned trail

The adit itself is collapsed and flooded in addition to being dug into steadily decaying overburden. Which is to say, even if this thing were open, it would be exceedingly dangerous to enter.

STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE!

Ore crusher detail
Ore crusher detail

According to Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.#1,  there once existed three tunnels totaling 500ft of underground workings. However, during my visit I only located the one.

El Crush-o
El Crush-o

A Seattle Times article from July 1900 stated that construction of a surface tram had begun at the claim, linking one of the adits to the mill site. At that time, the mine working machinery was already in operation and the milling equipment was on order. The capacity of this mill was said to handle 10 to 15 tons of ore per day.

Old wood pile
Old wood pile

Nowadays not much remains, though what does is impressive enough.

The first major artifact seems to be some sort of furna.. You know, honestly I have no idea what in the hell it was exactly, maybe a furnace/boiler something. It looks as though it handled high temperatures at one time, judging by the decaying wrap on the pipes and a mixture of ash and brick underneath it.

Moss toupee
Moss toupee

Feel free to school me on this one!

The second, and in my opinion, most impressive artifact is what I’m very certain is an ore crusher. It consists of three large metal pestles set in a large cylinder with an ore chute on one side. I imagine this thing was as loud as hell when it was running.

(The ore crusher is known as a Huntington Mill, designed by Frank Atwood Huntington, learn more about the man and his machine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Atwood_Huntington)

Stove bits
Stove bits

Other artifacts include what appears to be a smashed wood stove and a pile of cut wood in addition to the miscellaneous corroding pipes, bars and various chunks of rusted metal that litter the site.

The Alice Claim is worth a visit for those of you interested in such things and luckily the star artifacts are too heavy to be carried off, so they will likely be there awhile. Though some jackass tagged one of them… yeah.

Anyway, as always, don’t be that jackass, leave it the way you found it.

Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Inside the Ore Crusher
Inside the Ore Crusher

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