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Trip Report

Kelley Creek, Horseshoe Tunnel — Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

Central Cascades
The new log foot bridge across Martin Creek and a concrete bridge pier from the old railroad trestle.
I started my hike from the Martin Creek trailhead for the Iron Goat Trail and hiked this new Forest Service "Horseshoe Tunnel" trail that goes down and across Martin Creek to the location of the old Great Northern Railway's 1,512 foot long horseshoe railroad tunnel. This new trail begins at the far north end of the parking lot past the restroom. There are interpretive signs located at different points on the trail that show your location on a photo for a train crossing either the upper bridge#400 or lower bridge #401 over Martin Creek. The upper steel trestle was 67 feet tall and the lower one was 160 feet high. The horseshoe tunnel was built in 1893. The last scheduled train came through on January 12, 1929. The next day the "new" 7.8 mile Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass opened for regular service and is still used today by BNSF. The rail line of the present-day "Iron Goat Trail" was abandoned, rails removed and trestles taken down. It was left to nature until the Iron Goat Trail construction began in 1992. Both of the horseshoe tunnel portals are caved in, so you can not go inside. After hiking over to the location of the upper trestle east side bridge #400 abutment, I went back to the junction for the trail heading downhill to the new steel girder/log foot bridge across Martin Creek. This is a well built bridge over the fast moving creek. There are concrete trestle piers located along the trail from old bridge #401. Then it was up a couple of switchbacks to the junction with the new Kelley Creek Trail and the trail going up to the lower west side bridge #401 abutment and the south portal of the horseshoe tunnel. I took a few photos and then headed back down to the junction and hiked north on the Kelley Creek Trail to the log foot bridge over Jake's Creek at the Wild Sky Wilderness boundary. A little further is the area of the north tunnel portal and the upper west side bridge #400 abutment. From there I hiked the new Kelley Creek Trail that is on the west side of Martin Creek. This well built trail only goes about 1.4 miles for now. When I got to the "End of Maintained Trail" sign, the new construction went a little further up the ridge line and stopped. The route ahead is brushed out, flagged and has survey stakes. It is supposed to connect with the old Kelley Creek Trail further up Martin Creek when finished. The old trail went on to a side trail to Captain Point and the main trail up to Scorpion Mtn. Besides the bridge across Martin Creek, the Forest Service has installed several smaller bridges on these two new trails. Hopefully they will have funding to finished the new Kelley Creek trail in 2015. Did not see any other hikers on these trails. No birds or animals either on this sunny, blue sky cold day. As I was hiking about halfway up the Kelley Creek Trail, I heard it coming up behind me. In a few seconds it was over me just above the tree tops and then gone in a flash. It was a fighter jet from WINAS on a training flight through the Cascade Mountains. Being so low the jet was much louder than the roaring Martin Creek. Check out these new Forest Service trails when you are up at the Martin Creek trailhead for the Iron Goat Trail. If you are a railroad history buff, check out the photos of the Iron Goat Trail area in the book, "The Great Northern Railway, A Pictorial Study" by Charles & Dorothy Wood published by PFM. George
Roaring Martin Creek from the new log foot bridge.
Log foot bridge over Jake's Creek on the Kelley Creek Trail at the Wild Sky Wilderness sign.
One of the interpretive signs on the Horseshoe Tunnel Trail.
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John Herny, by Michael Cooney

All of that was built by muscle power, not so much as a bulldozer.
This is my favorite rendition of "John Henry".

Posted by:

Cascade Liberation Organization on Nov 14, 2014 11:40 AM