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John Guilford's Hikes

Barlow Pass - Monte Cristo on 1996-04-05

Date: 1996-04-05

Location: Barlow Pass - Monte Cristo

People: (including myself): Pam, Myla, E.B., Kendra, Kileah

Start:			12:35		0 miles
Washout:		1:00
Bridge/Weden Trailhead:	1:05		~1 mile
Hap's Hill Camp:	1:40		~2.5 miles
Leave:			2:30
Out:			3:00
We were looking for a good and easy hike to take the girls on, and the road to Monte Cristo seemed like it would be ideal.  We didn't know if we'd make it to the town or not, but even if not, it would still be a nice hike.  We didn't want to do much snow travel as some of the girls only had tennis shoes to walk in.  The day started off cloudy/overcast though the forecast said that we'd be getting some clearing later in the day.  They turned out to be wrong about that.  We parked at Barlow Pass (elev. 2320).  There was snow in places where it had been piled up by the plows, but the road looked pretty clear.  The road gains about 500' on its way to Monte Cristo and is level and flat the whole way in. 

Soon after we started, we ran into snow on the road.  The snow wasn't thick (a couple inches at most) and it was pretty solid with some soft stuff on the very top.  It wasn't bad at all for those with boots, but some of the girls in tennis shoes eventually got wet feet from the snow.  Initially I expected the snow was due to the large hill to the immediate SW of the road that blocks the road from much sunlight.  However, even when the hill retreated, we still had more snow than not.  From the warm weather we'd been having lately, and from looking at the terrain as we drove up, we really didn't expect snow.  It was a surprise. 

Shortly before the bridge (and the Weden Creek/Gothic Basin trail head) we came to a *major* washout.  The floods had taken a huge bite out of the road, clear into the adjoining hillside.  There were barricades across the road saying "STOP! This means you! Road closed to foot traffic.  Use the trail around" or something close to that.  They had put in a trail that climbed up the hillside and around the washout, including a rather substantial wooded bridge across the ditch on the side of the road.  The bridge was made of railway ties, it looked like.  I can't think of why they'd need such beefy timbers there; my guess is that it was handy and available.  They (who "they" are, I don't know) had rigged a steel cable over the washout.  I am guessing it was for hauling supplies over the washout (using a platform mounted on a pulley), though that's just a guess as there was only the cable present (i.e. no pulley or platform). 

We had no trouble crossing the trail, though there was one guy who was bringing in supplies to Monte Cristo.  He had driven his truck as far as the washout, but he needed his snow mobile to go further.  When we passed him he had just failed getting his snow mobile over the trail and was preparing another try.  I think he needed a running start to get over a certain section.  There wasn't any snow on the trail and it didn't look like it was something the snow mobile really wanted to do. 

After we crossed the trail around the washout, we quickly came to the bridge (still in its state of dis-repair) and the trail head for the Weden Creek Trail which leads up to Gothic Basin.  By this time we were pretty much into snow full time with occasional bare ground showing through.  Earlier I had joked to Pam that we should have brought our XC skis (referring to a previous weekend that we had gone skiing and ended up having to hike a couple miles in to find any snow).  It turns out that if we had skis, we probably could have used them, but clearly the girls don't have skis, and neither does Pam for that matter.

Going past the bridge we found a couple more spots where the road was washed out by the river.  These weren't as bad as the terrain was relatively flat and the track/trail going around the washout wasn't any big deal (to foot traffic, at least).  It did look like it was going to be quite a while (and some non-trivial money) before one would be able to drive all the way to Monte Cristo again, if ever. 

About 1:30 the girls were getting hungry and we stopped on a clear section (i.e. no snow) to have a snack.  This place had a dry creek coming down from the east to the west side of the road.  This had a nice, dry, rocky bottom and we found a downed tree that provided nice, dry seating for our snacks.  While we were eating, we heard what I first thought was the buzzing of a large insect, but the noise got louder, and soon the snow mobiler came by.  He slowly went down the foot high embankment, across the rocky bottom of the dry creek, and up the other side, and kept going. 

After eating, I went down to the river and washed my hands and discovered a decent view of Del Campo.  One could see a large portion of what must have been the trail to Gothic Basin, including one waterfall that was perhaps King Kong's shower.  You couldn't see the trail, but I knew the trail was up that hillside.  About this time, the snow mobiler came back through the other way.  Apparently he dropped off the supplies he had and was returning for another load.  Either that, or he had gone in w/out a load to get his son (the one who lives at Monte Cristo) to help with the hauling.  The guy on the snow mobile was the other one's dad who came up periodically with supplies for his son.  After I got a couple pictures we headed back and were passed by the son hiking back out to the washout. 

The hike back out seemed to go quicker, though it really took about the same time.  We passed the father/son team at the big washout where they were in the middle of dragging a propane tank covered sled over the rough trail around the washout.  Pam and I stopped and chatted for a while.  We never learned what the son did for a living that he could afford to live in Monte Cristo.  They did tell us that there isn't any mining going on there.  Apparently the water powered (Pelton wheel) generator doesn't generate too much power, as he has to depend on the propane to run his freezer.  He said that if they were getting a lot of power generated, then he could save propane by running his freezer off electricity, but it sounded like that wasn't common.  It wasn't clear to me whether the generator just didn't make that much power, or whether the generator belonged to someone else, and that he only got power from it when its owner had a surplus. 

As we approached Barlow Pass, a light drizzle started falling.  It wasn't any big thing, though as we drove home, it kept up and increased to a light rain.  We didn't bring rain gear with us, so if we had gone all the way to the town, and then the rain started falling, we'd be a bit damp by the time we walked out.  That wasn't an issue, however, as we were essentially out by the time the rain came. 

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