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Tubal Cain

A walk back into history among an old mine and the remains of a January 1952 plane crash

By the Numbers

Pyramid
The route is generally an out-and-back pyramid, with a second out-and-back pyramid if visiting the crash site
Distance
13 miles
Elevation
2590 feet
Moving Time
3h45m
Nutrition
Water is available easily along the trail, especially before clearing the trees
Logistics
The road to the TH is in great condition
External

Road

The road to the trailhead, FS 2870, received a much needed road grading (in fact, the grader was still operating and let us pass) so the road is in wonderful condition – any vehicle can make it easily.

Trail

The Tubal Cain trail is gently graded with none of the steep climbing characteristic of the Olympics. That all changes with a turn off the main trail to visit the crash site which is quite steep and not as well-groomed as the Tubal Cain trail.

We had a tentative plan for today, primarily to visit the mine entrance, see the crash site, make some coffee, and if time permitted to make it to Marmot Pass from a direction I have never approached. The trail to the mine site was in amazing condition, nearly devoid of rocks and roots.

Tubal Cain mine entrance
Tubal Cain mine entrance

The mine entrance sort of snuck up upon us and we scrambled a dirt wall only to realize there was a proper trail entrance just a few feet further down trail. The mine entrance was pitch black and it’s hard to imagine the effort, and courage, to blast into the rock in order to mine a few ounces of manganese or copper.

Continuing past the mine, and up the steepest climbing of the day, one reaches the meadow of the doomed B-17 and the debris left behind. It’s a somber experience to clamber among the wreckage knowing 3 members of the 8 member crew lost their life returning from a SAR mission. I was surprised at the amount of debris still remaining so many years later.

Hawk Peak
Hawk Peak

We had a small snack, taking it all in, on a boulder in the sun, before continuing back to the Tubal Cain trail and onwards to Marmot Pass.

Cairn marking the trail through the rabbit warren
Cairn marking the trail through the rabbit warren

Back on the Tubal Cain trail, we made fast progress until we reached the collection of camp sites in the old Tull City. It’s quite rare to come across pipes, old boilers, and scrap metal in the Olypmics, but today was a different day. We saw evidence of an old miner town everywhere we looked. We also got turned around navigating the rabbit warren of a campground – our gps tracks look a drunk squirrel was racing around trying to find a buried nut. We eventually spotted a foot bridge over the creek and continued on our way. The key is to spot the cairn which leads the way to the crossing.

Once clear of the trees the views along the trail are incredible and the easy hiking allows one to get lost in their thoughts.

We had decided on a turn-around time, and though we continued to go around “just one more turn” we finally settled down on the trail for lunch. For 30+ minutes we had the place to ourselves, chatting, eating, watching the clouds move among the mountains, flicking ants, and drinking coffee.

Coffee at lunch
Coffee at lunch

With the coffee drunk, and needing to get moving, we packed up and headed back down trail to the truck. We never made it to Marmot Pass so I’m looking forward to a return trip.

See these excellent references for more reading on the Tubal Cain Mine and the Last Flight of ‘746.

Flora, Fauna, & Falls

Two bees sharing a flower
Two bees sharing a flower
The woods and stream near the first log bridge
The woods and stream near the first log bridge

Wildflower season is definitely over with summer giving way to fall. There were, however, a few flowers still in bloom in the crash site meadow attracting the bees. The creeks are low as well but still flowing late in the season.

Route

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