2012 I was invited to join Steve Payne for his annual group hike of the
Goat Trail near Stevens Pass. It
was the first time that I hiked the trail. Two years later I joined
Steve's group once more. The hike is along the old railroad grade that
tunneled under Stevens Pass. When the new tunnel was opened
in 1929 the old grade was abandoned. One problem with the old
grade is that avalanches often came down Windy Mountain and across the
tracks. Over six miles of snowsheds were built to try to protect the
trains. The Wellington avalanche in 1910 knocked a train off the tracks
and killed 96 people. The longer lower tunnel still being used today
was the solution. For most of the next 85 years the route became
overgrown and unused. In recent years it was rebuilt as a hiking trail.
Lots of history to be seen on this hike.
Gwen and I arrived at 9:07 am, just a few minutes late. twenty five
minutes later everyone else arrived. It was a gray cloudy day but it
never did rain. The Martin Creek trailhead is 3.7 miles off of Highway
2. It is at a switchback in the old railroad grade. You can hike
downhill to the trailhead right along Highway 2 or up towards the old
tunnel. We chose to head downhill to start. There are a number of old
tunnels along the grade. Most have collapsed at one end. There are also
many walls from old snowsheds. Quite a few interpretive signs explain
the historical features. This is a good time of year to hike the trail.
There are many deciduous trees along the grade. Lots of colorful leaves
on trees and on the ground. There were a lot of mushrooms too.
The grade is very gently graded. Very gently. We slowly lost elevation
on our way to Highway 2. With all the leaves, tunnels, and viewpoints
the group made many stops. At 2.8 miles we reached the lower trailhead.
More interpretive signs, railroad cars, and restrooms were found. After
a break we headed on. A short backtrack to the junction then uphill.
The next mile gains about 700' to reach the upper grade. that's just
about all the elevation gain for the day. The trail up has many short
switchbacks. The grade starts easy but gets steep near the top. The
sign at the top shows it is 3 miles back to the Martin Creek trailhead.
It is only a quarter mile up the grade to Windy Point. That would be
our lunch spot.
We arrived to find the group enjoying lunch. Since it was just a few
days after Halloween there were a lot of treats being shared. Although
it was cloudy we had better views than in 2012. Below us was the
entrance to the current railroad tunnel. Highway 2 climbed the walls of
the valley across from us. With almost no wind it was not uncomfortably
cool. I put on a jacket but no insulating layer. We spent nearly 45
minutes at Windy Point. The way down the upper grade was easy walking.
Lots more tunnels, snowshed walls, leaves, and mushrooms. There were
plenty of photo opportunities. We met several groups coming up the
grade. That was it for the day. A whole lot of solitude on an easy
trail near the highway.
Steve's Halloween hikes are a lot of fun. It did not rain, there was a
lot to see and photograph. Folks all had a good time. At some point I
want to continue on the trail to the site of the Wellington avalanche.
Maybe it will be next year.
Click on thumbnails to get
Evergreens & Leaves
Nice Leaf Color
Many Fallen Leaves
Bright Mossy Log
Wall & Tunnel
Gwen & Leaves
Bright & Dark
Trail Along Wall
Lunch At Windy Point
Current Cascade Tunnel
Checking Out Tunnel
Last Leaf Color