In the Footsteps of Sawmills and Timber Beasts:
Searching for the Snow Creek Logging Company

Story and Photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 5 miles – Time out: 6 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Highest Elevation: 800 ft.

Pet Friendly: Yes

November 5th 2014

Searching for Snow Creek Logging Company - Per Berg map

Searching for Snow Creek Logging Company – Per Berg map. Click map to enlarge

A century ago, the Snow Creek Logging Company had a large camp in the hills of Miller Peninsula southeast of Blyn, WA. The company, one of many on the Olympic Peninsula, cut millions of board feet of logs from 1917 to the 1930’s. One day in November, I decided to go and search for clues to the camp on the old dirt roads and paths between Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay. The drive between the head of the two bays, along the curve of SR-101 is ten miles, but hiking through the forest, straight across the neck of Miller Peninsula, the distance was half that. If the logging roads on my map actually existed, I hoped I could find the site of the camp and make it out of the woods before the early winter darkness.

I began my walk at 10:30am at the misty shore of Sequim Bay. There were few opportunities to earn quick and easy cash in the pioneer economy of the Pacific Northwest in the 1850’s; a farm took years to clear, and trapping, fishing or prospecting were specialized trades. But then there was logging. Logs paid cash, and on the Olympic Peninsula there were huge stands of timber right on the shoreline. The big trees only had to be cut, tumbled into the water and the cash-money pocketed. The logs were rafted to sawmills while the lumber hungry cities of the West cried for more.

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In the Footsteps of Manganese Miners: Exploring the Crescent Mine

Story and Photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 3 miles – Time out: 4 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation Gain: none

Pet Friendly: yes

August 14th 2013

Exploring the Crescent Mine 2013

I have a confession: I’m lured by stories of vanished gold, hidden gems, old maps, and especially all manner of lost mines – so I was very excited when my friend Lynn Johnson asked me to take a walk along the Olympic Discovery Trail and visit the abandoned Crescent Mine. Andy Stevenson joined us. Not only is Andy a past president of the Olympic Discovery Trail, but he knows his geology. Andy holds a degree in mine exploration from Stanford and has explored for copper, gold, and uranium. He still mines recreationally now and then on a couple of gold claims his grandfather left him. When I asked Andy how he became a miner he said, “Learnt it at my grandpappy’s knee,” Turns out Andy’s grandfather was also a Stanford trained engineer and successful miner.

Lynn, Andy and I drove to the west end of Lake Crescent and parked our cars at the turn-off on the north side of SR-101 at the intersection of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. We walked down to the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) to start our journey.

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Cape Flattery

Story by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Photos by Bret Wirta

Distance: 1/2 mile – Time out: depends

Degree of Difficulty: 0 – Elevation: not much

Pet Friendly: Yes

October 29th 2012

The trail to Cape Flattery is a short walk, but it may take you a while to get back to your car depending on how much time you spend staring at the sea.
My brother Mark traveled from New Hampshire to visit last autumn. Of course it rained the entire week – hard. The deluge soaked us while hiking along Hurricane Ridge, silted up the Bogachiel River and ruined our fishing, and reduced the number of salmon trying to leap upstream at the view area at Sol Duc Falls to a lone fish thrown against the rocks by the roiling, thundering whitewater. But the one thing the rain couldn’t suppress was the awesomeness of Cape Flattery.

We drove to Cape Flattery along the northwest edge of the Olympic Peninsula on Route 112. We passed empty beaches and lonely coastline. We parked at the trailhead. It’s a short trail with many wooden steps and boardwalks sloping down to the sea. The path was wet and slippery so watch your step.

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Marmot Pass Hike

Story and photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 11 mile round-trip – Time out: 8 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft. Pet Friendly: Yes

August 1st 2012

“Why did you choose this trail?” I asked a hiker who was lacing up his boot on the bumper of a car with California license plates. He said, “I read a guidebook. It said if for some terrible reason you’re allowed one hike in the Olympics in your lifetime, this one should be it.” I laughed and said, “That’s author Craig Romano. That’s why we’re climbing Marmot Pass too. “

It was noon when we left our car at the Upper Big Quilcene trailhead. It was good to be hiking with my family. My wife Trisha handed me my hiking poles and our teen-agers swung on their backpacks. According to Craig’s guidebook we’d see Marmots and plenty of wildflowers. It was sunny and in the mid 60’s. If our hike to Marmot Pass wasn’t as wonderful as Craig said it would be, it wouldn’t be because of the weather.

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Madison Falls Path and Picnic

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: Few hundred yards – Time out: Pretty short

Degree of Difficulty: 0 – Pet Friendly: Yes

June 11th 2012.

Plenty of places to picnic

Plenty of places to picnic

If you are looking for an outing that combines a wheelchair access path, picnic area and a beautiful waterfall then Madison Falls in Olympic National Park is hard to beat. My elderly Mom was visiting us and she doesn’t walk much so this path was perfect. We began our outing with a picnic at the trailhead. There were plenty of tables in the green meadow. The Elwha River tumbled just across the road from us. My Mom, my daughter, her boyfriend and I enjoyed our repast in the sunshine.

The path to the falls is paved and though steeper in places then the ADA ramps at our hotel, Olympic National Park lists the path as wheel chair accessible. It was a warm and sunny day but was cool under the leafy canopy. Hardwoods ringed the edge of the field which gave way to firs and cedars as we walked closer to the falls.

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Backpacking the Dungeness

June 1, 2012

Heather Grev

Upper Dungeness to Boulder

Upper Dungeness to Boulder

Brian and I used the Memorial Day weekend to take a wee little backpacking adventure. I know usually when we go on outings like this, I just post pictures, but I’m going to try an be better about documenting the fun.

This time of year, it’s really hard for us to find suitable trails. Most the great stuff is still under snow. We also have to avoid the National Park areas, because we want to bring our big ole mutts along and that’s a big no-no in the National Parks. Add to all of that the personal mission for both of us to keep on discovering new places to go hiking and avoid repeating trails…

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Hiking Gold Creek with the Klahhane Hiking Club

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 10 mile round-trip – Time out: 5 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Pet Friendly: Yes

April 25th 2012.

Mossy rocks

Mossy rocks

Gold Creek isn’t a destination hike. Most of the beauty occurred during the first half hour of the hike along the Dungeness River and Gold Creek. But the trail provides some nice views of the ridges and mountain peaks as it leaves the valley floor. The problem is that Gold Creek didn’t start out as its own trail. The Gold Creek trail used to be the beginning of the trail to the Tubal Cain Mine, but when the National Forest Service built road #2870 it cut the trail in half. The interesting half of the trail, the Tubal Cain Mine Trail, now begins on the other side of the road where the Gold Creek trail ends. It’s kind of like taking a nice four-course meal and serving two courses one night and then two the other. The appetizer and salad will be tasty, but it won’t be as hearty a meal as the main course and dessert and certainly not as nice as if you ate them all together.

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Hiking Deer Ridge with the Klahhane Club

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 10 miles round trip – Time out: 5 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 2 – Pet Friendly: Yes

March 8th 2012.

The Klahhane Hiking Club is an Olympic Peninsula-based hiking club. The club hikes regularly all year long. I was invited to join the group for a hike, but I was a bit nervous as I don’t head into the forest much in the winter. I bought a pair of micro-spikes and gators for my hiking boots and lashed my snowshoes to my daypack. My equipment ready, I met the group, ready for a snowy adventure.

We started up the frozen trail around 10am. Though it had snowed recently, there was just a skiff of snow on the trail. There was more snow on the last few miles of road than at the trailhead. Our four-wheel drive bottomed out a few times on the last mile of rutty road. The light snow on the frozen trail was slippery, so I pulled on my micro-spikes.

The group told me that the Klahhane Club, like the Sierra Club in California, the Mazamas in Oregon, and the Mountaineers in Seattle, is an old hiking club. The Klahhanes trace their beginnings back to 1915. In Chinook jargon, Klahhane means, “Good times outdoors.” They even have a cabin of their own at Olympic National Park.

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Fort Flagler

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: various – Time out: various

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Pet Friendly: Yes

February 19th 2012

Fort Flagler State Park is one of the most beautiful parks on the Olympic Peninsula. It would be a wonderful day trip if you are staying in Sequim, but I’ve been fortunate to stay overnight at Fort Flagler on most President’s Day Weekends over the last decade. That’s because my church rents one of the historic army barracks for that weekend each year. I’ve had many wonderful memories; strolling, hiking, exploring, or just sitting on the bluff enjoying the expansive view of Puget Sound.

Fort Flagler State Park

For over a hundred years, Fort Flagler along with Fort Worden and Fort Casey guarded the entrance to Puget Sound, protecting us from a naval invasion. Together the forts with their big guns were known as the “Triangle of Fire.” Today, Fort Flagler State Park with its silent gun batteries is a wonderful place to explore. Walking down narrow stairways, through dark tunnels dripping with water; it’s easy to imagine you’re in the dungeon of a medieval castle. It takes bravery and bright flashlights to explore the old fort – especially at night.

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Olympic Discovery Trail to Sequim Bay Estuary

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: Up to ten miles Time out: 4 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Pet Friendly: yes

February 7th 2012.

Walking along the Olympic Discovery Trail from the Holiday Inn Express, Sequim to the estuary at the head of Sequim Bay was a wonderful way to spend a sunny winter afternoon.

For the most part, the Olympic Discovery Trail follows the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul Railway’s railroad bed from Port Townsend 130 miles to the Pacific Coast. Though there are still many miles left to complete, much of the trail is paved and well-maintained.

I walked across the street from the hotel to the trail and turned east. The wide paved path cut across a mile of open field. I walked past streams and swampy pools where life lay dormant just waiting for the spring that was soon to come. The open fields ended as I walked into the forest and onto the huge Johnson Creek Trestle.

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