October is always a month of transition, especially in the PNW. I love the shoulder season, with the crisp Fall air which eventually brings snow and the anticipation of winter. It’s still surprising what a difference one week can make, and a few thousand feet of elevation.
Two weeks ago Catherine and I did the enjoyable Iron Goat loop hike, a 6 mile jaunt. The trail follows the old railroad bed used by early steam engines to climb over Steven’s Pass until the tunnel construction finished. It also officially terminates at Wellington, the site of the largest avalanche disaster in the US, in terms of fatalities. We caught great fall scenery on a relatively clear day! Of course in true PNW fashion, it rain the week before and the week after.
The caboose marks the turn around point, after which Catherine and I hiked the upper railroad grade and detoured to Windy Point. There we enjoyed some great views and met a trail crew volunteer. He told us a bit of history of the iron Goat trail restoration, and helped remind me that next summer I want to be more involved in hiking trail crews to give back and help others enjoy the great hikes out here.
Windy Point used to be a precipitous turn for the railroad, until a tunnel was excavated into the hill the make the turn less sharp and protect trains from winds and weather.
Iron Goat trail was full of remnants of structures, tunnels and history, which you’ll have to go investigate for yourself! I don’t want to give it all away but there was a lot of signage and great stories from the past.
Last weekend I convinced Tim and Dylan to do a more typical PNW hike-in the rain. We headed to Snoqualmie Pass to investigate the Kendall Katwalk near where Sweeney and I skied last April. The hike was serene, if lacking in views, and we had an awesome time! We also got soaked. We encounter rain, sleet, and heavy snow, with below-freezing temps and lots of snow at the Katwalk.
We knew there was a possibility of laying some tracks in the North Cascades, but I’m glad we did this hike and content to wait a few more weeks until there’s more snow to go crazy over. We’ve got a whole winter ahead of us!
The Katwalk proper looked a bit less striking in the low-visibility conditions. “I think…this is the catwalk?”, I exclaimed as we passed across it. We decided to go a bit further and hang out in a grove of trees to have a snack before descending.
Turning around we encountered a few other groups, and we were glad to have made the first tracks up for the day and have the trail to ourselves for the most part. On the descent the snow, and then rain, really turned up a notch.
With the high country getting hit by snow, this probably marks the last high elevation hike, and the start of touring season on the horizon! Bring on the snow! Here’s praying we don’t fall prey to El Niño.