Public access to Monte Cristo and its hiking trails is closed until further notice. This is due to the court ordered U.S. Forest Service’s hazardous materials cleanup.

The public still will be allowed to park at Barlow Pass and hike the mile into Twin Bridges and the Gothic Basin trailhead. The closure boundary follows the east bank of the South Fork Sauk River and includes all campgrounds and other trails in the area. Thus there is no access to either Glacier Basin or Silver Lake trails. Closure Map

Work Party October 24, 2015

Our last work party of the year will be October 24. We plan to do some final minor repairs to the Weden outhouse and we will remove our bulletin board. We will drive in on the new road, and plan to dig water bars on some of the trails and do some other miscellaneous work in the Town site area. Meet us at the road new entrance (~1 mile north of Barlow pass) at 9:00 am. Please bring rain gear, appropriate clothing for doing light construction and brushing. Also bring your and lunch food and water. This will be our last work party for the year. Contact any of the listed board members for more information.

We are planning again, for our Winter Social. Please mark your calendars for Saturday, February 6 at 5:30 at the Marysville Jennings Farm. Our program this year will be a very nice slide presentation of the Monte Cristo area, both from the old days and from the present. A postcard will be mailed to our members with all the pertinent information on it. Anyone from past Town site programs and all Forest Service staff are also invited. The presentation will be given by David Cameron and Louise Lindgren.


Currently, the cleanup is well along: the repository has been filling up with mine tailings. It looks as big as a football field. The cleared trees have been decked for trucking out at a later date. The concentrator is cleaned up and the excavation has vastly improved the exposure of the hand built rock wall foundation (even some timber framed windows have been exposed). A road has been excavated for cleanup access along the Glacier Basin trail to well past the Comet Mine Bunker. The Comet was carefully excavated so most of the timbers were preserved in place. They are also trying to preserve the timbers of the old trestle as it approaches the concentrator but much excavating must be finished in this area of high contamination. A new road also goes up to the Rainy Mine on the north side of Glacier Creek and a temporary bridge also crosses the Creek to access the United Companies Concentrator and beyond. Of course these roads will all be torn apart and put back to their original state when the cleanup is finished. Many undiscovered artifacts have been set aside during the cleanup. In summary, we are very grateful that the Forest Service has been so careful, showing much interest in preserving this area for everyone.

Photos of excavation in process and some discovered artifacts

Monte Cristo Closure In Effect for 2015

Public access to Monte Cristo and its hiking trails for 2015 ended on April 15 and will last until further notice. This is due to the court ordered U.S. Forest Service’s hazardous materials cleanup.

The public still will be allowed to park at Barlow Pass and hike the mile into Twin Bridges and the Gothic Basin trailhead. The closure boundary follows the east bank of the South Fork Sauk River and includes all campgrounds and other trails in the area. Thus there is no access to either Glacier Basin or Silver Lake trails. Closure Map

Work this season is planned to include excavation of a repository hole for the wastes, minor county road improvements beyond Hap’s Hill (m.p. 2), and removal of mining-related materials from sites in and near the town, along with mines along 76 and Glacier creeks, which form the headwaters of the South Fork Sauk River. Temporary bridging of Glacier Creek next to the United Companies’ concentrator site will be in place until the end of August, when it must be removed to protect endangered fish species.

Some of the affected sites to be cleaned are the concentrator, its ground tramway to the bunkers of the Comet/Golden Cord, Rainy, Mystery, and Pride of the Mountains mines, the assay building in the town across from the school site, and tailings piles from the Rainy, Pride of the Woods, and Sidney mines above the town. For details see the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website and the USFS related documents.

During this season M.C.P.A. will be working to assist the Forest Service on other area projects, planning for new interpretation in and around the townsite in conjunction with the Forest Service, and preparing to restore our previous signs, materials, and programs, including that of the volunteer townsite hosts.

Our annual dues of $24 for the coming June 2015-May 2016 year may be paid at any time to P.O. Box 471, Everett, WA 98206. Keys previously issued to the county gate at Barlow Pass will be valid also for this season, allowing driving as far as the clay slide, approximately half a mile in.

Our regular work parties will be the third Saturday of the month, while a special picnic event also may happen. Watch this space for updates and details!

Again: There is no legal public access beyond Twin Bridges, but the Gothic Basin trail will be open, as it stays west of the river.

2015 Annual Meeting and Potluck – June 6 at Verlot

Our Annual meeting will be at its usual location, behind the Verlot Service Center, June 6, at noon. Please being a side dish or a dessert for a potluck lunch, to be shared with everyone at noon, prior to the meeting. The MCPA will provide hot dogs and drinks. Both the potluck and the meeting will take place upstairs in the Forest Service building. If the weather cooperates, everything can be outside. (The main room where we usually have our potluck is off limits this year, but the kitchen should still be accessible.)

Please see our website to familiarize yourselves with the new changes to the cleanup. This will be discussed at our meeting. Also, if any property owners have received any letters from the DOE, we recommend not responding. This will also be discussed at the meeting.

Our work parties this year will be the third Saturday of each month; June 20, July 18, August 15, September 19, October 17. We ask all members to include their own lunch for work parties since we will not be providing the usual BBQ as we did in the past. We may have some work parties off site at other camp grounds but this will be discussed at the Annual meeting.

Happy 100th Anniversary Hartford Eastern Railway

Today, June 1, 2015, marks 100 years since the Rucker Brothers lease began on the prior Northern Pacific railroad running from just outside Snohomish to Monte Cristo.

The railway was originally built by Rockerfeller in the 1890’s and named the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway. By 1910, the Northern Pacific took over operation of the line. However, due to poor performing mines and high maintenance costs, the NP chose to lease the line to the Ruckers in 1915. The Ruckers main concern was accessing 1000’s of acres of timber they owned in the area, and they also catered to the mountain tourists. Minimal freight was also hauled to and from the Silverton and Monte Cristo townsites.

The Ruckers also built and serviced the Big 4 Inn at the base of Big 4 Mountain until it burned in the early 1940’s.

The Hartford Eastern operated from 1915 to 1936. Due to the poor condition of the tracks at the time, only light weight gas cars (“speeders” or “galloping gooses”) used the line. These cars were essentially road buses fitted with flanged wheels. The Hartford Eastern also lacked sufficient snow removal equipment and hence the line was mostly closed between Silverton and Monte Cristo throughout the winter snows.



Closure Set for April 15, 2015

U.S. Forest Service On-Site Co-ordinator Joe Gibbens has confirmed that public access to the townsite of Monte Cristo will end on April 15, although there still remains some paperwork to be completed before that date is finalized. There is no tentative date for reopening, as it depends upon the rate of progress in removal of hazardous mining-related waste and the onset of autumn weather conditions. If you plan on hiking in to see the area before then, please help us remind others also to be good stewards and do no harm. We will post updates as more information becomes available.

Many USFS documents regarding the cleanup activity can be found here: USFS CERCLA Cleanup Projects

March 2015 Update

Mild Winter Brings Continued Access But Also Vandalism Problems

A very warm winter with virtually no lower elevation snow thus far has allowed hikers to continue visiting Monte Cristo. There are no blocking problems along the county road in from Barlow Pass at last report.

These conditions unfortunately also have led to frustrating vandalism from people not expecting to be caught in the act. A cabin had its door smashed open, others have been entered, and trash has been spread by partying groups and uncaring individuals. If you visit the area, please report any such activity to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office by calling 911. All of this damage will have be repaired and cleaned up by property owners and our MCPA volunteers. Please bring along a garbage sack and help us pack out what others leave

Hazmat Cleanup Will Begin Shortly

Project head Joe Gibbens of the U.S. Forest Service advised us that logging of the repository site for hazardous waste materials should being after April 15, weather conditions permitting. Logs will be hauled out on the new access road, decked at its junction with the Mt. Loop Highway, and offered for sale. That done, excavation of the hole can begin. When this occurs, the area will be closed to the public probably until late this coming fall. This will depend upon progress and again the weather. Plans currently are for the Weden Creek Trail to Gothic Basin to remain open, with the closure boundary to be the South Fork Sauk River. That essentially means from Twin Bridges to Monte Cristo, all camp grounds, and the trails to Poodle Dog Pass/Silver Lake/Twin Lakes, and the trail to Glacier Basin. Details should be announced on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website under the Monte Cristo cleanup.

Initial work will focus on the spots near and in the townsite, as the temporary bridge to be constructed across Glacier Creek near the United Companies’ concentrator is required by fisheries regulations to be removed by the end of August. The contracting crew will be staying at the entrance to the town and working seven days a week.

As we have seen, plans change on short notice, so keep checking for updates.

Meanwhile, if you hike in to Monte, be aware that all of our interpretive signs have been removed for storage and will not be returned to place until we are allowed back in, now tentatively 2016.

Annual Meeting and Potluck Scheduled for Noon Saturday June 6

Please mark your calendar and plan on joining us at the Verlot Public Service Center on that date as we are brought up to date on progress in the cleanup and make our own plans for the summer and fall. Ideas have been suggested for a summer picnic, service projects for the Forest Service (we have built and maintained trails for them for example) and a brain storming session on how we are going to deal with and interpret Monte Cristo once the cleanup closure ends. Your thoughts, insights, and ideas are welcome and encouraged! We do know that we face significant work in restoring signage, brushing, and maintenance after three winters and two summers of exclusion. Many questions remain. Bring yours along.

Join MCPA or send in your renewal!

Our fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31 (starting the usual date when snow conditions allow travel). Annual dues are $24.00 and will keep you in good standing through May 31, 2016. If you wish a key to the gate at Barlow Pass and do not already have one, add an additional $18.00 to cover the cost of making it. Anyone who drives on the county road also must sign a notarized waiver of liability, which you can download. Parking inside the gate gives added protection from trailhead break-ins, which are a periodic problem.

Make your check payable to MCPA and send it to P.O. Box 471, Everett, WA 98206. Allow ten days for turn around time.

MCPA is an IRS registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, and all donations, gifts, and bequests are tax deductible.

Trip Report – Townsite & Silver Lake – February 28, 2015

The following trip report is provided by and available on the Washington Trails Association website. Thanks to “Chuck” for the excellent report and beautiful pictures.

WTA Trip Report – Townsite & Silver Lake – February 28, 2015

We parked across the street from the Barlow pass parking lot and walked about 100 feet to the Monte Cristo road. The log crossing next to the old bridge was a breeze, its a BIG log! The trail was easy enough all the way to the old town ( thanks guy with the really spicy beef jerky and cheese from Oregon ) then the hiking began. All was good until we hit the snow, the trail was covered but we kept on through about 8 inches of snow for about 1 mile, difficult but do able without poles or yaktrax. Only saw 4 other hikers on the trail to the lake, we were the first ones up there on Saturday obviously. So quiet up there I know why they call it silver lake now. My pedometer read just shy of 11 miles round trip.

Trail to Silver Lake

Trail to Silver Lake

Silver Lake - Frozen and snow covered

Silver Lake – Frozen and snow covered

"Chuck" resting with Silver Lake in the background

“Chuck” resting with Silver Lake in the background

Heading towards Poodle Dog Pass / Silver Lake Trail from the Monte Cristo Townsite.

Heading towards Poodle Dog Pass / Silver Lake Trail from the Monte Cristo Townsite.