Making the hike to Monte Cristo – finally | Taking Stock

Sep 20, 2017

I don't have a bucket list as such, but there are certainly things that I would like to do before I die.

The fantasy with Reese Witherspoon will probably have to remain just that, a fantasy, but in August I was able to accomplish two things that I have long wanted to do. I saw the first total solar eclipse of my life on Aug. 21, and two days before I visited the historic mining town of Monte Cristo, deep in the Cascade Mountains.

I don't know when I first decided that I wanted to visit Monte Cristo, but it has probably been on my mind for more than 50 years. Various reasons kept me from it.

My late wife wasn't a hiker, so although we drove by the Monte Cristo trailhead at Barlow Pass a couple of times, we never stopped. More recently, I had worried about my stamina and whether I could navigate the fallen log that serves as a bridge over the Sauk River about a mile into the hike.

Earlier this year my son-in-law, Steven Davis, mentioned hiking to Monte Cristo, and I nagged him until he picked a date. His son Dean Davis, my grandson, went with us. Steven was an Eagle Scout and Dean is a Cub Scout, so hiking comes naturally to them both.

An early start got us to the parking area at Barlow Pass before it was full. We set off down the road that was once the grade of the Everett & Monte Cristo Railroad. We hadn't gotten very far before washouts of the old railroad grade forced the trail off the original route and onto a real hiking trail.

A mile in we came to the Sauk river crossing where there was once a bridge, but now there is only a fallen tree to cross the river. Fortunately the tree was very large and dry – the bark had fallen off ages ago. It was easy to use; someone has cut some steps into the shore side. Halfway across I realized that because the river was low I could jump off in the middle and walk on gravel to the far side.

Soon, we picked up the road again. This wasn't a technical hike; it was relatively flat and often took a wide road. There were sections where it appeared the river tried to reclaim territory, and walking over the uneven river rock there was difficult.

We had probably hiked about three miles when a small truck came up the road and passed us. A few minutes later another truck came along, and the woman inside warned us that maybe 15 or 20 more were following behind.

We had picked the weekend when the Monte Cristo Preservation Association was having a work party. I didn't even know there was such an association. By the time we reached Monte Cristo, there were more than a dozen cars and trucks parked at the end of the road.

My daughters say that I can't go anywhere without seeing someone I know. Once again that turned out to be true, even in the wilderness of Monte Cristo.

Historian David Cameron was there. I had last seen him in Skykomish in May during Upper Skykomish History Day. David had been seated at the Index table, while I had been sitting at the Alpine table next to his. Then I met Craig O'Brien. We had never met before, but we both know Tim Nyhus of Ghost Towns of Washington.

Craig wound up putting us to work. He was replacing interpretive signs that had been removed during the hazardous waste mitigation that had recently happened there. We wound up carrying signs to Dumas Street, which had once been the main street of Monte Cristo.

There are still some structures on Dumas Street, but the forest has done an efficient job of reclaiming its territory. You wouldn't know a street had ever been there. The tree that Jimmie Kyes planted on Dumas Street in the 1920s is still there, though it looks unhealthy. Commander Kyes was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross in World War II.

To see Monte Cristo, it is amazing to me that a town could ever have existed there. It was built partially on a peninsula and partly on an island where three creeks form the headwaters of the South Fork Sauk River.

One thing pleased me very much: the railroad turntable that had been built in 1893 still turns after 124 years. I don't know whether it could still hold the weight of an engine, but to see it move really topped off an already great day.

As we stood there marveling at the turntable, the same woman who had warned us of road traffic pointed out the general location of Friedrich Drumpf's property. For me, that tied historic Monte Cristo to the present world.

 

Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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