A Ride to Jack Pass

May 10th-11th, 2005

a tour report by Kent Peterson

It is overcast as I leave Issaquah and today I'm headed north and east, into the high country north of Index. a small town on Highway 2 in the Washington Cascades. It's a land of green trees and moss, grey clouds and mountains.

I ride out of Issaquah, up and over the Plateau and down into the Snoqualmie River Valley. In the small town of Carnation I stop and buy a few supplies: a little extra food, a very tasty donut and a disposable camera. I ride north on the Valley Trail, cross west to rejoin the Valley Road at Duvall and then ride north and east again, recrossing the valley at Tualco Road.

Ben Howard Road runs east from Monroe to Sultan. It is a quieter, hillier alternative to Highway 2. Last night's rains have soaked the land and small pools still dampen the edges of the road. As I roll past, half a dozen frogs leap sequentially from the road to the water in spontaneous acts of ballet.

At the town of Sultan I stop for lunch at the bakery before heading east along the highway.

Highway @

The clouds still hang low in the sky, masking off the mountain crests. At the town of Goldbar I turn north, turning again onto smaller roads. May Creek and Reiter Roads wind eastward to Index. I climb into the clouds and the quiet. On this weekday, there are really no cars here. People with places to go stick to the Highway and what sounds there are here are the sounds of wind and water: the river tumbling over it's stony bed, a light breeze that barely rustles the leaves. Occasionally I'll hear my own breathing on a climb or the buzz of my bike's freewheel as I descend.

Bike on the bridge

At Index the road turns more north than east, following the north fork of the Skykomish River. The old mining roads mostly follow the river courses into the high country and every few miles smaller streams tumble in from even higher places.

Index-Galena Road connects Index with a memory. The names of places like Galena, Silver Creek and Mineral City are now reminders of times when men and women were here, looking for great wealth and mostly finding something else. The old road along Silver Creek is closed now, a rock slide several years ago sealed the northern reaches of the creek away from anything with four wheels. But the old mines are still up there and the remnants of the old road leads to to the old town site of Mineral City. And if the books and maps I've seen are accurate, still further north an old miner's trail crosses Poodle Dog Pass and leads to the ghost town of Monte Cristo. But that will have to be another trip for another day.

Camped by logs

It's raining lightly now and getting on toward the time I should start looking for a place to camp. The campgrounds don't officially open for another few weeks. The larger campground at Troublesome Creek had "Road Closed" signs across the entrances but many smaller sites along the river are empty and inviting. The San Juan Tent Campground is also completely vacant today. I have my pick of spots and I pitch my tent next to a big old log.

Front view of tent

The Tarptent is a lightweight shelter from rain and insects. I've been really impressed with this tent. It packs up super small and is very quick to set up.

Feet in the tent

How big is the Tarptent? It's big enough. Here's a self-portrait of my feet. The glare is the reflection of my camera's flash off my rain  jacket.

Self Portrait

Here's another self-portrait of me settled into the Tarptent.

Bike Camp

The Skykomish River is just a few steps from my tent site. I slept very, very soundly. I did wake up once in the middle of the night and was amazed at how very dark the night was. On clear nights in the mountains, often the moonlight and stars shine very bright but on this night the cloud cover is complete and I can detect no difference between having my eyes open or shut!

Skykomish River

The Skykomish River.

Big Trees

It's misty in the morning. After breakfast I pack up camp. Before leaving I take a few more pictures of the campground.

Small Flowers

Tiny flowers grow alongside the moss at the base of the big trees.

Falling Water

Tiny creeks tumble down from the high country.

Misty Mountain

The morning sun will burn off the mist eventually. This is a quiet section of the river, a respite before the terrain climbs again up to Jack Pass.

Ghost Trees

At the crest of Jack Pass, the mist makes everything ghostly and dreamlike.

East of Index

Back on the Highway 2, which is the big road in this part of the world.


East of Index there is the Espresso Chalet and the Bigfoot Park. I stop for a latte and a picture.

A friend of mine once asked me if I believe in Sasquatch, the creature also known as Bigfoot. Like Fox Mulder and many others, I want to believe. I also think that our ability to conceive of attractive fictions is very strong and that it is most likely that what we think of as the Sasquatch is as fictional as Fox Mulder himself.

Is there something large and strange and wild and unknown up in rugged mountains north of the town of Index, Washington? I know there are mists that swirl ghostlike through the trees, rivers that will tumble down steep hillsides and mountains that rise into places where men will never walk. Are there also creatures out there whose lives are wilder than ours?  Of course. Squirrels, bears, raccoons, porcupines, frogs, fish and more bugs and birds than we will ever ultimately catalog. But something big and wild that still somehow looks like us? Bigger, stronger, wilder; something more at home in a rugged world beyond the reach of pavement and cell phones and a nagging sense of urgency? Perhaps.

I don't know if there is a Sasquatch. I hope that there is and I like to think that he is out there. I like knowing that there are wild places, places that we can glimpse through strange mists, a rugged home for a more rugged version of ourselves.

We can visit these places, we can make little claims on the land and adapt ourselves with clever jackets and lightweight tents. We can even be somewhat at home there. But ultimately, we are passing through. We come back to the latte stands and the parks with picnic tables and then to solid roofs and walls.

And the land remains. Streams tumble down and stones soon cover the roads we've abandoned. I hope Sasquatch is out there. And I hope we never find him.