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Monday, February 21, 2011

Iron and Ice

Monday was a perfect day for a hike. The weather was crisp but all of the forecasts said no rain.

I planned to hike the John Wayne Trail which is recognized as the Iron Horse Sate Park from North Bend to the Columbia River. This trail is the recovered rail bed of the Milwaukee Road rail system and stretches all the way to the Idaho border. Making it, I suspect, the longest, skinniest state park around.

The trail head had some interesting graphics. The Milwaukee Road was electric and the trains could gather power and re-feed the circuits when going downhill. This rail run from Seattle was vital for the silk trade. Raw silk from Asia was quickly transported east. The opening of the Panama Canal and the development of nylon and other synthetics put this system to rest. The rail route here kept a team of 100+ men who made sure the line was free of snow in the season. At the top of the mountains there is a 2.3 mile long tunnel which this trail once went through. Unfortunately the deterioration of the tunnels, which were blasted through rock, has made it necessary to detour off the trail at the summit.

Also the trail head has some of the prettiest privies I have ever seen.

I found a walking stick that someone left. This is a usual thing around here. People will find an old piece of tree limb and if you are lucky it is the right shape weight and height for a walking stick. The stick I used last year I found in April and we had many a hike together. This new stick will join me on this years journeys.

The woods were strangely quiet here. I was disappointed and a bit surprised to not hear more bird chatter. The south side of the trail skirts the Ceder River Watershed and this area is strictly off limits. To the north the I-90 corridor is just over the way. This part of the trail gradually climbs at rail grade (about 2%) and cuts through the woods bringing you out at a ridge right across from Mt Si. From I-90 you can see old bridges and trestles. It was my intention to hike to the large trestle just the other side of Twin Falls.

I was not long on underway when it started to snow teensy little flakes. No more than a sprinkle it was more charming than anything else. Here and there patches of recent frozen graupel decorated the grassy edges. I could not resist this little scene of mushrooms and frosty mosses covered in pillowy frozen rain pellets, known as graupel. It would continue to flutter sprinkles of snow on and off all day.

Along the way there are handy markers from the railroad days. It is 2135 miles to Chicago.

I wish I had paid attention to the signs at the trail head telling me how far to Twin Falls. I seemed to remember from my trail guide book that the trestle should be 3 miles.

There was plenty to look at along the way. After a mile or so, evidence that this elevation is still getting plenty of winter was all around. Frozen runoff and spray coated plants and hung icicles from rock face walls. In some areas where the rail bed had blasted through rock, the drips and trickles produced some fantastic sculptures.
Like this ice bound branch of a Salal.

Or this enrobed Sword Fern.

There were a lot of nameless beds of running water, and some creeks which required bridges. This beautiful waterfall is at Boetzke Creek. I am not sure how high it is but those are some pretty large old tree trunks at the base.

I had a happy encounter with a Pacific Wren (formerly Winter Wren) It clearly did not care for my standing and trying to get blurry pictures of him. This was the best I could do. Later in a month or so, these fellows will be so busy singing that you can usually get closer for photo-ops.

Moss and lichen was everywhere. I always am in awe of moss covered Big-leaf Maples. The moss can actually act as drought protection and many of these big trees have root systems in the branches that take up water from the moss sponges.

This stack of old rail timber very likely serves as a home and nest area for all kinds of critters.

About 1 1/2 hours out I knew that my memory for the distance to the trestle was faulty. I knew it could not be too far since I could clearly hear I-90 roaring past. A woman coming from the other direction told me she had seen something special at the trestle. I asked her how far and she said about 2 1/2 miles. Wow 5 1/2 miles is certainly more than I planned for but I had some incentive now so I kicked into a bit higher gear.

I encountered a gentleman who, like me, had a lot of interesting in photographing the ice. It is nice to chat and share along the trail.

It really seemed like no time when we reached the trestle. This spot is called the Deception Crags and it is popular with rock wall climbers. It is hard to appreciate the size of this rock face but notice the Douglas Fir trees against the wall. I would say they are at least 35 - 50 feet tall.

And here was the prize that made the hike worthwhile. Thirty-five miles from downtown Seattle a Mountain Goat sits grazing on moss and lichens.

Certainly made for a great day out. My new stick, the one on the left and I are off to a good start in our partnership.


  1. Great title for this post, Marti. Nice pics, too. I am very envious of your up-coming trip!

  2. I can see that your name is Marti! Hope you don't mind.
    Thanks for following my blog and thanks for the baking suggestions. Makes sense.
    This post is really great with all those wonderful photos.
    There is no place better than hiking the west coast trails of the US and Canada. We have done it a few years back and HAVE to get back out there!!