Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stevens Pass Greenway, Washington

The formidible barrier of the Cascade Mountain Range has challenged transportation interests for many years. Railroad and highway builders, driven by commerce and the desire for people to get to the "other side," benefit us now with historical interest and recreation opportunities such as are found along modern Highway 2 in northern Washington. A beautiful drive itself, the highway also provides access to several points of interest along the way from Everett to Wenatchee. In nice weather, be sure to take a look at the western valley from the vantage point of the west side of Stevens Pass. The railroad is still there, but you may see that the route has significantly altered from former days!

Deception Falls: Stand over the top of the raging water, walk under the highway for a view of the upper falls and enjoy a ½ mile interpretive nature trail. The parking lot is just off Highway 2 to the north and is signed--approximately 10 miles east of Skykomish. A covered picnic area offers a good spot for a family picnic and short hike. It’s worth a stop here just to see the Tye River make a 90 degree turn!

The Iron Goat Trail is where "rail history comes alive." A very nice hike even without the railroad remains and artifacts, you can enjoy natural beauty and the work of man together, with a potential walk of eleven miles on two trails. Look for old railroad tools and hardware along with some amazing structural remnants.

The trail's name refers to the Rocky Mountain goat that was the Great Northern Railway's logo.

From US 2, turn north onto the Old Cascade Highway at Mile Post 55 or at Mile Post 58.4, USFS Road #67. This remnant of the old highway through the pass is a one lane paved road with nice views of the Tye River. Turn at the junction with gravel USFS Road #6710. Proceed 1.4 miles to the Martin Creek Trailhead parking lot. For more information and to access other trailheads, click here.

Bygone Byways: A pleasant, short loop made infinitely more interesting if you have the explanatory trail brochure. Points along the trail include a history of the efforts of man to tame nature to provide transportation through Stevens Pass by rail and road. Represented to be wheelchair accessible, but one area might be tough because of the narrowness of the way.

Right along side Hwy 2, this trail is only accessible while traveling west. The "exit" for the trail is signed, but really, the exit is merely an extra lane off the highway. A sign on the shoulder of the road marks the trailhead; it is just a few feet east of the sign. From Leavenworth, start your odometer after you pass the gas station on the corner of Icicle Road and Highway 2 West. Drive 20 miles west on Highway 2. On the right side of the Highway, look for the sign. Eastbound traffice should go past the Stevens Pass Nordic Center (5.7 miles from Stevens Pass) and continue on Highway 2 until it joins back up with westbound Highway 2. Turn around and follow Highway 2 West a short distance to the trailhead--look for the sign.

Walking down the trail, take the right fork when the trail splits. You soon come to an area marked with a signpost where the 1892 Great Northern Railroad crews blasted through solid rock to maintain the gentle grade that railroaders preferred. The gap seems barely wide enough for a train to go through. Emerging from the rock gap, look across the highway for a view of Jim Hill Mountain.

Follow the sign to stop #4, where you will see the remains of a stone oven. Railroad workers had to eat, and often, bread or even entire meals were cooked in these rock and earth ovens.

For a short loop, continue past #4 for a view point of Nason Creek. For the longer loop and closer view of the creek, retrace your steps back to stop #5 and continue down the hill to the remains of the old 1925 roadbed. Originally a packed earth and gravel surface, the moss has now taken over in a big way. Follow the trail around for views of the creek and the return to your car for a 1/2
mile loop.

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