Sunday, July 5, 2009

Iron Goat Trail

Iron Goat Trail, June 27, 2009

(Iron Goat Trail Interpretive Center and Martin Creek trailheads)

Silverback and I wanted an easy hike so checked out the Iron Goat Trail off US 2. We started from the Iron Goat Interpretive Site and set out on the trail to Windy Point. We saw quite a few flowers but not many hikers and were surprised to have Windy Point to ourselves. From Windy Point we enjoyed views of Stevens Pass and the west portal of the railroad.

Silverback tells me there are 28 switchbacks on the trail – I didn’t count them but I believe him. The trail gains 700 feet according to information at the trailhead. Many volunteer hours have gone into making this trail user-friendly and informative. Railroad history buffs will find much of interest here and could probably explain the purpose of the rusted remnants we were unable to identify along the trail.

After our hike to Windy Point we drove back to the Martin Creek trailhead on the Old Cascade Highway. From the interpretive site (the middle trailhead) you can also hike down to the Martin Creek trailhead (about 3 miles one-way or 6 miles round-trip). A car shuttle is needed for a one-way hike.

The forest takes over Man’s works so quickly and efficiently that unless you are alert, you may miss a crumpled rail mixed in with the bracken or the flat, mossy spot at Corea where a bunkhouse and station once stood. At Corea a few artifacts lie beside the trail, a metal basin, bits of crockery, a broken brick or two. Corea was the site of a camp and way station where mostly Japanese lived and worked.

An interpretive sign along the trail quotes James Hill remarking that he intended his railroad work to last forever. While nothing lasts forever many features of that innovative railway still stand, unbowed by the elements and Time.

The most dramatic features of the trail are the tunnels and snow sheds in various stages of decay. You can hike to these structures from both trailheads. Even without the warnings of extreme hazard inside the tunnels we would not have ventured in. However, you can walk into a snow shed between the Martin Creek trailhead and the Interpretive Site. The shed is an eerie, unsettling place yet strangely beautiful. Odd shapes have formed where moisture has seeped down the walls – to us the formations resembled Egyptian sarcophagus.

Hikers can pick up a brochure/map at the trailheads; loops and longer one-way hikes are possible.

Getting to the Martin Creek trailhead: From Everett head east on US 2 (Wenatchee) - The Martin Creek trailhead is off US 2 where a remnant of the Old Cascades Highway begins (MP 55) or about 6 miles east of Skykomish. Take the old highway and continue to Forest Service Road No. 6710, continue 1.4 miles to the Martin Creek trailhead and facilities (a Northwest Forest Pass is required).

Getting to the Iron Goat Interpretive Site (middle) trailhead: The site and facilities are off US 2 (left) at milepost 58.3, 10 miles east of Skykomish (6 miles west of Stevens Pass). A Northwest Forest pass is not required at this trailhead. Brochures with map are available at the trailhead.

Stats: Iron Goat Interpretive Site to Windy Point overlook is 2.1 miles round trip – 700 feet gain. Martin Creek to Windy Point is 3.2 miles (one way). Study the brochure for more possibilities, including a short loop on the Corea crossover near the Martin Creek trailhead. We didn’t visit the Wellington trailhead at Stevens Pass – so can’t report the trail conditions or road conditions. Stay tuned.

Update: The Wellington trailhead is now accessible. We’ll be heading up to Wellington soon and will post information about that segment of the trail with (hopefully) photos.

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