Battle with an Iron Goat

This past weekend, myself and some friends went on a hike on the Iron Goat Trail. I had seen amazing pictures of the hike in the past, so I was looking forward to being able to see it for myself. Not to mention that I have this fascination with trains (always have) as well, so to learn the history of this line and walk along and in a few of the snow sheds and tunnels first built in the early 1900s is just amazing to me.

For those who are familiar with the trail, we walked from the Martin Creek trailhead to the Wellington trailhead and then back again. On the way out, we used the lower grade of the trail and on the way back we used the upper grade. There were some cool sites on the upper grade, but personally, I enjoyed the views on the lower grade more. For those that want to see the details of our hike can check the runkeeper logs here.

If I had to do this over again though, I think I would cheat somewhat. My favorite parts of the trail were in the first few miles of either side. I didn’t need to see as much of the places in the LONG middle of the hike. Speaking of sites, my photo collection of the hike is online here. Some very notable places along the trail were a nice spot on the lower grade where there was an avalanche / land slide. I have an interactive panoramic picture from that spot here. Additionally, standing at Windy Point and looking out over the valley and looking at Steven’s Pass and looking down on the NEW cascade tunnel still in operation as well. We were even able to watch a train cross into the tunnel. One interesting trick it looked like the train used was to have engine’s at both end of the train. I am wondering if it needed both, or whether they could just use one while the other one was in the tunnel. They used to use electric cars to PUSH fully loaded trains through the tunnel when the tunnel was first built which is why I wondered about the two engines.

One thing I never expected to enjoy on the hike was the history of the trail and the town of Wellington. I knew before hand that there were some tunnels/snow sheds and I knew that there were some great photo opportunities as well. However, the whole reason for many of the snow sheds and tunnels being built was specifically because of the avalanche which happened. This remains the worst (by deaths) avalanche disaster in the US even today. I am VERY tempted to pick up this book on the event as well. I will be checking to see if it’s in the library here for sure.

I would definitely recommend this hike to others. There are even different lengths depending on your interest. If you just want a few miles, start at the Wellington end and hike through the shed as far as you would like and back. Alternatively, there is an interpretive center in the center of the trail (scenic trailhead) as well which even has a separate .5mi loop too. If you want to hike as much as 6 mi, I would recommend starting at the wellington trail head and hiking to windy point and back. If you want to see the WHOLE trail, then bring two cars and ferry one car to the Martin Creek trail head or the Wellington trail head. Hiking west to east is both uphill (only railroad grade) AND incurs the tax of hiking up one of the switch backs to get to the upper grade which at the worst spot in the center is about a 400ft elevation gain. If you want to hike a smoother / easier hike but want to see the whole trail, then you can do the same dual car trick and hike from east (Wellington) to west. That hike is 100% downhill. Either way you choose, my personal recommendation is to use the lower grade on the west 3 miles of the hike. Both upper and lower go to and from the same locations though. If you are as crazy as we were, then you can just park at either end and walk all the way through and back also.

I am looking forward to going back and learning even more as well. I was quite fascinated by the history I learned and did not expect at all. For those who missed it in the deluge of links above, here are some highlight links:

- Pictures

- GPS map of the trail including elevations

- A few Photosynths along the trail


Sorry to all (are there any anymore?) who actually follow this RSS feed. It’s been a busy year. This post took about 2 hours working on pictures, an hour of researching the history and gathering links, and then an hour to write it all up as well. I would love to have that amount of free time to write about everything going on. There is a LOT of detail that I miss. But alas, I just have not had the time. The SHORT version is going to be following what I post on Flickr and what I tweet about.

Till Next Time


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