Total Ascent: 1600ft
Highest Point: 2100ft
Total Distance: 10.5 miles
Location: N 47° 29.5980, W 121° 58.3800
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Although we were once again derailed by snow levels, this time we were prepared with a decent fallback hike. We’ve spent a great deal of time climbing the peaks in the Tiger Mountain State Forest, but we had yet to explore the more remote areas hidden in the recesses of the 13,500 acre wood. We’d found a couple of trails online, plugged them into our GPS and decided on a circuitous route out to 15 Mile Creek hoping to run across the fabled “Grand Canyon” we’d heard mention of.
Tiger Mountain Forest is a “working forest” – timber continues to be carefully harvested from the slopes, and radio towers and power boxes are sprinkled along the side of roads and at the top of various peaks. This means the landscape is constantly changing, and you’re never exactly sure what is around the next bend. While our journey started off on the usual logging road, we quickly leapt onto the Iverson Railroad Trail and then took us through a wide rage of terrain. We tromped past a clear cut to enter a young forest of cedar and fir before pushing deeper into more mature stands. We eventually lost the sound of the highway and enjoyed the snowy surroundings.
The Iverson Trail dumped us onto a logging road that we took up to the Tiger Mountain Trail, which stretches from one end of the Forest to the other. A little over two miles in, we found ourselves on the Artifacts Trail and soon came upon the namesake. At the turn of the 20th century Tiger Mountain was covered in thick stands of old growth, a lumber opportunity that was soon tapped by local logging interests. Among many others, a company called Woods & Iverson set up a mill 1912 that eventually operated and maintained many miles of logging roads and railroad on Tiger Mountain. On February 23rd 1925, an overloaded train hauling debris lost control and jumped the track at Holder Creek, killing a member of the crew who was unable to get off the train in time. Most of the wreck -- which included the engine, a passenger coach, some flat beds and a tracklayer -- was salvaged from the site and the bridge that used to span the creek is long gone. Still, some twisted metal evidence remains, quietly being devoured next to Holder Creek. Rusted wheels sets and spring boxes are piled to one side of the trail, and a few yards further on mangled rails and the moss-covered remains of the tracklayer lean haphazardly against some trees. The thick canopy overhead works with the noise of the creek to give the area a close feel thick with the smell of forest and damp earth.
Short on time, we pressed on to 15 Mile Creek in earnest, which ended up putting us back on the Tiger Mountain Trail. The path stayed mostly flat before starting a slight descent toward the next trail intersection, Hobart Grade, which itself took us steeply down the creek. Unfortunately for us, we had not specifically sought out the “Grand Canyon” in our trail hunting, and our route deposited us next to a less-exciting section of 15 Mile Creek. The site is still appealing, though with more time we would have explored the area a bit more, probably heading downstream toward the Grand Canyon Trail. More than once we got a little turned around and had to backtrack, so next time we’ll bring along this trusty map to help us along.
This expedition was a welcome return to what we think of as a traditional hike because for the first time in a while we left the logging roads for some actual trails. The path was gentle and well-maintained and had we been following a more traditional route, we would have never lost our way. This was a vast improvement over recent trek up East Tiger and was a great way to discover lesser-known areas of the park.
To get there, take I-90 to Exit 25 Highway 18 junction. Take Highway 18 south for about 5 miles to the Tiger Summit Trailhead parking lot which will appear on your right. - Nathan
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