Hiking and history

Two of my great loves in life are exploring and history. So when I get the chance to combine them I jump at the chance.

When compiling my outdoors bucket list for 2016, one of the hikes I focused on is the Iron Goat Trail near the summit of Stevens Pass.

The area is famous for Wellington avalanche in 1910 which killed nearly 100 people. Today there is an interpretative center, nearby tunnels, train trestles and train cars. Sounds like a fun hike.

The interior of an abandoned train car in Pasco.
The interior of an abandoned train car in Pasco.

During my research of the area, I stumbled upon a book called The White Cascade by Gary Krist. It was written in 2007 and goes into detail about the Wellington disaster. It is exhaustive in its history, but is written in a very easy to read, fast-paced narrative – and it is only 250 pages long.

An abandoned train car near Pasco.
An abandoned train car near Pasco.

It had many interesting chapters about the rise of the railroad in the Northwest, how the tunnels were built at Stevens Pass, who the workers were, and more. It also contained some beautiful imagery of the craggy Cascade Mountains which loom over many of our lives.

Two of my favorite passages are:

Given the massive snows, precipitous alpine terrain, inhospitable remoteness, and always unpredictable weather, there were some very good reasons why this pass had been shunned even by Indians on foot before the coming the Great Northern Railway – reasons that the passengers aboard the Seattle Express were soon to discover for themselves. For no matter what the railway propagandists might say to the contrary, there were indeed places in the country too wild to be tamed by the technology of the railroad – and Stevens Pass might be one of them.

Gary Krist – The White Cascade, page 44

… the Cascades are, as one writer has put it, “restless with the restlessness of youth. They break off in hunks and slide down canyons, they toss off their mantles of trees and sling them down roaring rivers. … It is as though the hundreds of peaks in the Cascade chain remembered the exciting period only a few million years ago when they first boiled up out of the retching earth and threw themselves against the northwest skies.”

Margaret Bundy Callahan

Retold in The White Cascade by Gary Krist, page 36

Marvelous imagery of those wondrous yet deadly mountains that cut a path through the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

The upper reaches of Fort Worden, which overlooks the Puget Sound.
The upper reaches of Fort Worden, which overlooks the Puget Sound.

I really recommend the book. It is a quick read and offers up some fascinating history about the state of Washington.

The only quote in the book that I had beef with was this one:

The unhappy consequence for those on the west side of the range was Puget Sound’s notoriously soggy weather.

Gary Krist – The White Cascade

Most Western Washington folks I know love the rain, and take pride in the soggy weather.


Some other historical hikes and places I like to explore are: Fort Worden near Port Townsend, the Cold War-era missile silos in Eastern Washington (one of which I wrote a story about for the Tri-City Herald), the Whitman Mission Historical Site near Walla Walla, the Kahlotus train tunnel in Eastern Washington and fire lookouts near Mt. Rainier and in the Blue Mountains near Dayton.

The entrance to a Cold War era missile silo in Eastern Washington near Royal City.
The entrance to a Cold War era missile silo in Eastern Washington near Royal City.

Some places I haven’t been but have heard about and would like to visit in the future are: Tubal Cain mine, the nearby B-17 plane crash in the Olympic Mountains and the Mount Pilchuck Lookout near Granite Falls.

– Craig Craker


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