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John Guilford's Hikes

Robe Valley on 1994-04-23

Date: 1994-04-23

Location: Robe Valley

People: (including myself): Pam, Rick Kline

Start:		3:45	0
River:		4:10	1
Tunnel 6:	4:35	1.6
Tunnel 5:	4:45	1.8
Bridge:		5:00
Turn Around:	5:25	2.25?
Tunnel 5:	6:10
Tunnel 6:	6:17
Out:		7:10
Due to making a pheresis donation in the morning, I wasn't available until later in the day to start, so we had to make a shorter hike, hence Robe Valley.  The weather forecasters were calling for a cold front to move through with chance of thunderstorms in the Cascades.  However, in early afternoon the sky was clear and sunny and it was too good of a day to waste at home.  We packed some rain gear and flashlights and headed out. 

The trailhead is alongside the mountain loop highway a few miles before Verlot, across from Road #41 to Tupso pass.  Right at the trailhead is a nice wood and masonry sign announcing the Robe Valley that was put there in '93 as an Eagle Scout project by David Ripperger from Lake Stevens. 

The trail does a short meander through some somewhat muddy patches before emerging from the trees to overlook a large sunken alluvial terrace.  Despite the rather bleak appearance of the terrain, it does offer good views of the eastern side of Mt. Pilchuck.  The trail takes a left turn and begins a long smooth descent in the form of a single large switchback.  As you descend, you pass through patches of trees and clearings.  The area is relatively damp with much moss along the ground and hanging from the trees. 

At the base of the switchback, you join a dirt road and turn right towards the river.  The road/trail passes through some wetlands areas that have a curious plant.  It is a dark green shoot that didn't have any leaves or needles and a segmented stalk.  I thought it could be bamboo, while Pam thought that it was horsetail.  To me the absence of little scales or a spiky conical top made it look distinctly different form the horsetail.  Shortly thereafter, you reach the Stillaguamish River and turn right to follow it downstream along the old railway bed. 

[ PIX1 ] As you progress downstream, the river starts narrowing as it approaches the gorge where the tunnels lie.  Along the way, it is easy to notice (actually, it would be very hard not to notice) the remains of the old Monte Cristo Railway that used to go through the Robe Valley before it got washed out too many times and was abandoned.  There are a couple side creeks that had to be crossed (without difficulty) before you get to Tunnel 6.  The tunnels are numbered from West to East, hence you reach Tunnel 6 before Tunnel 5.  All of these tunnels are abandoned railway tunnels that have some amount of rockfall inside.  Tunnel 6 is relatively short (one can easily see completely through it from either end) and doesn't require flashlights to navigate around the rock fall.  A short walk past Tunnel 6 lies Tunnel 5.  This one is a bit longer with a slight bend in the middle.  It is just enough so that you can't see the exit from the entrance, though the two openings provide enough light to navigate through the tunnel w/out lights.  (ed. note: I got the descriptions backwards on the tunnels - the first one is the longer one and the second one is the shorter one)

Around here the river turns frothy white as it flows over rocks and small cataracts and falls.  This is the most scenic part of the hike.  Just past Tunnel 5, "the grade enters a deep cut blocked by a heap of debris (Tunnel 4, collapsed) over which the path clambers."

[ PIX2 ] Beyond this one gets to the 'bridge.' This is a since span of concrete with a flat top about 3' wide.  This is most likely part of a retaining wall that has collapsed in the middle.  The bottom part of the bridge looks like it is composed of alternating wood and concrete with a concrete top.  It is easy to walk along the top from one side to the other (and many people do), although those with fear of heights might be bothered by the vertical 30' drop on either side.  For the less adventuresome, the path continues around the rock chute that passes under the tunnel. 

[ PIX3 ] A short distance later, one reaches the mouth of Tunnel 3, the normal turn-around spot.  The entrance to Tunnel 3 is partially blocked by debris, though it is still relatively easy to enter.  The exit is completely blocked off, however, so transits are not possible.  It is dark inside and flashlights are required.  Optimally, everyone should have their own light as the footing is uneven and tricky at times. It helps to be able to light the spot where you're stepping. 

When we entered the tunnel it was still sunny out.  After discovering that there wasn't any other exit, we returned to the beginning of the tunnel to discover that the sky had turned grey and cloudy and was threatening rain.  We were interested in seeing how much further the trail continued so we pressed forth.  The trail continues past the tunnel entrance, although the quality of the trail is markedly poorer than before the tunnel (since few people continue past this tunnel).  It skirts the gorge side of the tunnel entrance and steeply climbs up over the rocky outcropping that caused them railway builders to make the tunnel in the first place.  It is a straight forward scramble over the top and down the far side, though there is no maintained trail beyond. 

At this point, it started raining lightly.  Three things conspired to make this a good turn around time for us: it was getting late, we were at the end of the trail, and it was beginning to rain.  Judging from the clouds, it wasn't unreasonable to think that we might get dumped on some time in the future, but that's what rain gear is for. 

On the way back out, Pam collected moss for a moss basket she is making.  There is so much moss of differing characteristics, that she had her choice in selecting just what she wanted, ending up with some longer stringier moss from the trees over Tunnel 3 and thicker carpet moss from the ground near the trail head. 


[ PIX1 ] Pam

[ PIX2 ] Pam and a misc. hiker crossing the "bridge". 

[ PIX3 ] View from inside tunnel: Pam and Rick visible. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015