North Cle Elum Trails
Near Roslyn, WA
July 21st, 2012
( Pictures Below )
This past Saturday a church group I'm leading took to the Fortune Creek, Hawkins Mt. and Van Epps trails north of the town of Roslyn. This was the second trail run of the group which is intended for those interested in offroading but who otherwise are still new to it or are as yet with out experience. A few weeks ago we ran the Durr Rd and Umtanum Ridge
as the starter "trail" and had a good time with that. The town of Roslyn itself has a modest claim to fame as the shooting location for the 90's TV series Northern Exposure and a number of landmarks around town were seen throughout the TV show. The town originally was a mining boom town dating back to the late 1800's and the trails north of town follow old mining roads that have since deteriorated in to some pleasant, and relaxing Jeep trails.
Under overcast skies we departed the Seattle area and crossed the Snoqualmie Pass into eastern Washington. And sure enough, the "rain shadow" cast by the Cascade mountains gave way to beautiful sunny skies. It's like we stepped into a different world in a matter of 20-30 miles. At the end of the pavement way out at Salmon La Sac 17 miles north of Roslyn three of the four rigs (two TJs and an XJ) started airing down and prepping for the trails. The driver of the fourth, an H1 Hummer with its central tire inflation system, just twiddled his thumbs in amusement at the rest of us. In short order we left pavement behind for a slow and bumpy 7 mile drive up one of the worst maintained Forest Service roads I have frequented in the last decade. Bump, bump, bumpity, BUMP, bump over all the pot holes we went.
It was a relief when we finally pull on to the trailhead. Not wasting much time we all shifted into 4-Lo and started up the Fortune Creek trail. Much of this trail is pretty straight forward but there are some seemingly narrow side hill sections. These were my primary concern with the Hummer but it proved to be a non-issue despite the vehicle's wide girth. After some elevation gain the trail crosses the first of many small creek crossings and shortly there after we exited onto a gravel road for a short segment before he trail continued up the mountain. The next section of trail wended it way through a denser stand of trees that was punctuated periodically by washes and other openings that revealed great views of the mountains looming over the valley we were in.
At one such point we came upon a Land Rover group and paused to let them make more headway as we snapped some photos. Eventually we caught up with them again at a split in the trail. As the Land Rover group took the right hand split, our group headed up the steeper by-pass on the left. Half way up was an odd assemblage of corrugated metal, tree trunks, and timber cobbled together to make a shelter. Inside was a steel wood burning stove that someone had taken some effort to haul up there. Curiosity satisfied, we pressed on.
Joining with the main trail we encountered some stubborn patches of snow hiding out in the shadows of the trail. No matter, we easily motored up the edge of these and came out of the trees into an alpine meadow. At over 5,000 ft of elevation the meadow lead to Gallagher Head Lake, a beautiful, serene small alpine lake with a back drop of craggy rocky mountains behind it. With such a view we stopped here for lunch.
Just as we were finishing lunch the Land Rover group caught up with us again so we headed out so they could enjoy the same lunch spot we did. Hawkins Mountain Mine trail beaconed and we were off again. This trail gets a bit more challenging than the Fortune Creek trail to the lake. It crosses some side-hill sections (though perfectly level on the trail bed portion itself) and then wanders in and out of some very sparse, dwarf-like tree cover that almost feels like an alien landscape at time. All the while it keeps climbing higher and higher providing great view. We stopped at one particular out look for some glamor photos with the mountains and valleys stretching out beyond. From that point I was able to just barely spot the radio tower from the first trail un some 46 miles away with some binoculars. Then off again to continue the trail. Between the glamor outlook and the hill climbs at the end of the trail we ended up clearing two downed trees that blocked the trail.
The end of the trail is probably the most fun and challenging. There are two steep-ish hill climbs that took us to the end of the trail. The first went easy enough. The second we had more work to get up as it was slightly damp with some ruts in it causing the suspension to flex out. The Cherokee and Hummer needed to back down and get another run at it. The two TJ just scampered up. Interestingly enough, it was the Hummer that had the toughest time. The combination of it's great weight and the not-too-flexible suspension meant that it was lifting tires and at low crawl speeds it didn't have the momentum needed to get up. But when it backed down to power up the mountain it had no issues at all.
The end of the Hawkins Mountain Main trail tops out at (surprise!) Hawkins Mountain, in a sparse bowl-shaped depression. This is the third time I've been up here and I haven't seen the mine itself yet. It could easily be I don't know what I'm looking at. Along the rest of the trail route from the approach to Gallagher Head Lake up to the terminus at Hawkins Mountain you can spots the mounts of rock tailings from other abandon mines.
3pm ticked over on our watches when we decided to head out. After setting a leisurely pace to get up the mountain with plenty of photo-ops, we practically blasted back down the trail, taking about 30 minutes to do what it had taken us 3 hours on the way up. When the Fortune Creek Trail crosses the gravel road again we stopped to re-asses the time. Two of the rigs needed to head out early since there was still easily a 2 hr drive home from pavement and they were about a half out out from that. The other Wrangler and I opted to explore the Van Epps Trail, one I hadn't been on before. After saying out goodbyes the other Wrangler and I headed up the side of the valley on the Van Epps trail. Going at a little quicker pace than normal we crested the Van Epps pass a half hour later and then reached the remains of a mining operation 10 minutes after that. When we arrived we found two quads up there (part of their own group) and two other Wranglers. We exchanged pleasantries with all involved as we looked at the wood floor and other artifacts that were all that was left of the mining shelter, but we didn't linger. We still needed to get back to the pass then work our way back off the trails and to pavement.
By 6:45 we were rolling back into Roslyn and looking for dinner. We tried The Brick tavern but not all in our part were over 21. Then we caught the whiff of delicious pizza from across the street but lo, they had a 45 minute wait and we were impatient. So we moseyed over a block to another joint and found nourishment there for the drive home.
I had a great day out on the trails again and look forward to the next run.
North Cle Elum Trail Run Photo Album
Crossing Snoqualmie pass with the Hummer in the lead. Thick
clouds cloaked the mountain pass in gloom.
Not far from the trailhead to the Fortune Creek trail we got a view
up the valley we would be traveling through.
The Cherokee and Hummer coming up the trail on a modest side-hill section.
One of the many watercourses we drove past this day.
This section of the trail opened up to reveal the mountains that towered over us.
The Hummer crossing one of the creek crossing as
we caught up with the Land Rover group.
We took the by-pass to get around the Land Rover group.
The stubborn patches of snow hiding in the shadows of the trail.
Lunch at Gallagher Head Lake.
Starting up the trail to Hawkins Mountain Mine with the peaks
surrounding Gallagher Head Lk in the background.
Stopping for glamor photos with a picturesque backdrop.
This is one of my favorites, it's a good shot of the red Hummer.
The hill climbs got steeper toward the end of
the Hawkings Mountain Mine trail.
The Hummer really working it to get up the incline.
The stock TJ with open diffs and street tires scrambling up the same incline.
The panoramic view looking back at the end of the trail.
Sloshing through a mud puddle on the way out on the Fortune Creek Trail.
The trail skirted one of the meadows near the lake.
Remnants of the old mining shelter at the end of the Van Epps trail.
Views to the north while driving the Van Epps trail, just past the
trail summit looking in to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.