Sunday, April 5, 2015
April 5, 2015: Ruins
We have never been a people content with the status quo. Standing pat with what you were dealt just isn't in our make-up. Expanding, changing, updating, that's what we do best. And when we do, we are usually in such a hurry, useless it's torn down and replaced with better on the very spot, we have no issue just to leave the old behind.
Up in the North Cascades, above US 2 over Stevens Pass this drive to improve and leave the old behind is illustrated, by the mile. The Iron Goat Trail now takes hikers along the old Great Northern route up the west slope of the pass. Interpretive signage tells the story of the GN's drive to build and then rebuild and then rebuild again their troubled right-a-way. Each time they left behind the unused for Mother Nature to exercise her will.
Before the days of the Iron Goat Trail I felt like I was on an Indiana Jones style quest when exploring the old grade. There were a few rough trails here and there, but it was mostly a case of tromping through the heavy underbrush that so hampered the early locators with names like Haskell and Stevens. Eventually the narrow way would widen slightly and large timbers would jut from the rain soaked ferns and scrub alder. The thick second growth timber would make it hard to get my bearings. Is this part of the old siding of Alvin, or the sheds to the west?
Maybe one of the oldest artifacts left behind by the Great Northern's struggle to conquer the Cascades isn't even a part of the Iron Goat Trail. On the eastside of the pass, only 100 yards or so above the hustle of US 2, a small cedar grows over a wood axle still attached to a rotting wagon wheel. At first glance you might think this is the remains of some poor pioneer's wagon. Only miles from their destination of the Puget Sound lowlands, their prairie schooner gave up and fell apart.
But no, nothing quite so grand. This is the remains of one of probably thousands of the two wheeled, mule pulled carts used in grading the railroad from the Twin Cities to Seattle. The first Great Northern line over the pass required a series to switchbacks sawing up to the summit. This cart was used to build that route. Whether it was just left behind after the railroad was completed in 1893, or the axle broke during the process and it was cast aside, I'll never know.
What I do know, this old wheel does share one thing in common with the ruins littering Windy Mountain on the west slope. In the rush to build, to finish so it could be upgraded and rebuilt, this too was cast aside and left behind.