There are two things that will enhance your enjoyment of hiking in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. An active interest in the history of the area, and a tolerance for wet weather. Fortunately I seem to have acquired both. Ok, I get the acceptance of wet weather… I go outside to “play” almost everyday of the year. But the history? How did this solid “D+ / C-” student who barely passed English (my native language) and never felt the need to “waste” his free time with silly things like school homework, come to have such keen interest in history? Well, it probably all started by following the explorers, the trappers, the pioneers, the miners… The trailblazers who discovered the beauty of the northwest, and the native people that had thrived there for 1000’s of years.
That brings me to yesterday’s hike up the Elliot Creek Trail, to the old Penn Company Mining camp on the shores of Goat Lake. My walk up the misty, forested path was really a walk back in time. Back to the days when hard men (and women) poured into this mountainous wilderness searching for that elusive gold vein that would make them rich beyond their wildest dreams…
About all that is left of their presence now are some springboard notches in the ancient cedar trees, and a few remnants of the cedar planks that formed the puncheon road.
Ok, here is your little micro history lesson. Way back in 1891 a group of prospectors filed a mining claim on a mountainside near a beautiful alpine lake, that up until then was known to the Native American as Sweetleehachu. So when these first miners sent out wildly exaggerated reports of gold streaked veins popping out of the mountainside a Pennsylvania mining company got busy building a road into and lake and established a small a townsite. Penn Mining officials renamed the lake, calling it Goat Lake after all the mountain goats that could be seen scrambling around on the mountains.
The town on the northeastern shore was destroyed by avalanches and then rebuild on the northern side of the lake. Eventually the ore ran out and the town was abandoned and left to slowly decompose… But our story doesn’t end there…
Do you remember the name Bob Heirman, the long time Snohomish County fisherman and environmentalist, from an earlier edition of the Adventure Journal? Susan and I met him by chance one day when we were birding at a local sewage treatment pond. Well I learned that Mr. Heiriman had a connection to Goat Lake as well.
Back in 1958 Bob and his fishing buddy Henry Grill hiked into the lake to explore a 5 acre parcel of lakefront property that Henry had been deeded as a birthday gift from his brother. The two anglers were surprised to find several of the buildings still intact, just the way they were when the town was abandoned. Bob described the discovery in his book, “Snohomish My Beloved County, An Anglers Anthology”.
In a very weird conclusion to the tale, it seems that the US Forest Service actually burned the cabins to the ground sometime in the 1960’s not realizing that the cabins were on private property.
Many years ago the log bridge spanning the mouth of Elliot Creek was destroyed by winter storms making it all but impossible to get over to the remnants of the old township. So that exploration may have to wait…
The City of Darrington has a nice history page. Click here for a link.
So back to the hike. Here are a few pictures I took as I rambled up the trail.
Once I got inside the boundaries of the wilderness area the trees got bigger and the volume of the waterfalls increased dramatically.
I scrambled down to McIntosh Falls to shoot some video and take a few photos… Unless this is my mom reading these words, in that case I think someone hacked my Adventure Journal and added those photos just to get me in trouble.
The waterfall, named for the family that used to run the hotel at the Penn Co. camp, drops about 300 feet, and the sound is deafening.
I topped out at the lake and spent a few minutes poking around, taking photos of wildflowers, shooting video, and eating a snack.
Of course I didn’t forget to add a little video of the day. The background track is the 1969 Cream classic Badge. Written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison.
That’s about it for this one. Thanks for following along with my travels.