Jul 04
Monte Cristo Trailhead, Sam, Ethan, Patrick

Monte Cristo was a booming silver mining town at the end of the 19th century, thriving in a basin of surrounding majestic peaks. The town died early in the twentieth century, but some activity had persisted in the town, finally terminating completely as a town when superfund cleanup of the town and mining sites occurred in 2015. Between fires and cleanup, the town is now left to a few remaining wooden structures. It is distinguished in that it was the location for the very first Trump hotel, a massive structure of two stories tall.

The three oldest Flanagan kids (our grandchildren) were eager for a hike. Since I was with Ethan for a hike last week in the neighborhood of this hike, I knew that he was capable of doing this hike. I didn’t tell the kids that Jon had planned to meet us later int he evening after he got off work. The walk to Monte Cristo started at Barlow Pass and was along the bed of the old railroad tracks providing the only access to the town at one time. About 1/2 way to town, the train crossed the river which it was following, continuing along the east side of the stream. This bridge and the west side banks of the tracks had been washed out, forcing a crossing of the river on a large log. The designated campsite was just before town. The town itself is a national historic site, but also private property, meaning that the campsite had to happen outside on national forest land. Patrick, Sam, and Ethan slept in a 4 man tent, and I slept in my Zpacks Duplex tent. We explored the town, had dinner, and then Uncle Jonathan showed up about 8 pm, just before dusk.

Three Hobbits heading down the trail
The townsite is returning to the wild
Preserved signage from the town
The lodge, which some people believe was the old Trump hotel

With Jonathan, we decided to first explore a trail that heads west from town on the next day, taking us up to Silver Lake and Twin Lakes. Jon was up this way from last year. The trail was a persistent vigorous climb, but when we had reached about 4400 feet elevation, in the vicinity of Poodle Dog Pass, we hit continuous snow. Our hope of making it to Silver Lake or Twin Lakes was pretty much dashed. We could have plunged through the snow for a distance, but really wasn’t prepared for this. So, we returned down to town, did short excursions, cooked up dinner, and went to bed early.

A view of the surrounding mountains from near the top of Poodle Dog Pass
Poodle Dog Pass
Three fearless adventurers with Jon
Looking down on Silver Lake. In a month, it will be a perfect camping spot. The trail to Twin Lakes goes persistently upwards off to the left.

We woke up early on the 4th of July, and had most of our belongings packed, leaving up only our tents. We decided to quickly run up to Glacier Basin, south of town, before hiking out. The views were even more spectacular than yesterday. Snow-capped mountains completely surrounded us as we wended our way up the path. At about 4400 ft again snow was encountered. Just before that, the trail became very steep, with one section having a fixed rope to facilitate ascent and descent. Because there was a fantastic waterfall right there, I let Jon take the boys up a bit further before we all turned back to town. We were able to quickly pack up, and the hike out was less than two hours. After wishing Jon goodbye, the drive home was quite easy. It was amazing to see huge attendances to the trails coming off of the Mountain Loop road, with miles of cars lining the road from folk spending their 4th in the mountains.

Mountains completely surrounded us
A large waterfall on nearing Glacier Basin
Very happy hikers
Very worn out hiking shoes. They went into the garbage when I arrived home.
The trail to Glacier Basin was lined with Columbines.
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