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Jer's PhotoWe're constantly receiving feedback from our readers and we're always looking for ways to make the website better. In response, over the last month we've implemented a few changes which you may have already noticed. In case you missed it, here are some new additions:

Highest Point: We've had many requests to start including the highest elevation point in our trip reports so hikers can use it to roughly judge the snow level of a hike. Moving forward, new trip reports will include "Highest Point", but it will be awhile before we get all of our older trips updated with this information.

About Page: Many of you have been reading our posts for a while so you know our story, however we realize that newcomers might be interested in what we're about. We've added a new About Hiking With My Brother page that new visitors can check out.

Social Networking: What blog is complete these days without being tied into Facebook and Twitter? We'll be using our new Facebook Page to share updates such as where we are hiking and the latest blog news. The Facebook Page will also serve as a forum for questions and discussion. The Network Blogs application is now setup to publish to the Facebook Page. If Twitter is your cup of tea, all Facebook posts are setup to post to our Twitter account as well.

Map Update: The map now uses a browser cookie to store its latitude, longitude, zoom, and map type so when you navigate to a different page on the blog, the state of the map remains the same! Now you can use the map to browse different hikes, and never lose your place when you look at trip reports. If you want to restore the map to it's original state, just click the "Reset Map" link located in the upper right-hand corner of the map. Keep in mind that you need enable cookies for this feature to work. Cookies are usually enabled by default, but if you're having trouble, here are some articles on enabling cookies if you're using Internet Explorer or if you're using Firefox.

As always, send your feedback to hikingwithmybrother@gmail.com and we'll keep the improvements coming. Thanks! -Jer

Sunset Mine - Trout Creek

Our Hiking Time: 3h
Total Ascent: 800ft
Highest Point: 1650ft
Total Distance: 4 miles
Location: N 47° 51.4320, W 121° 27.9060
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoEvery once in awhile we like to take a break from lakes, waterfalls, and mountaintops, and take a hike out to something a little different. After touring the Mineral City town site, we found a few other abandoned mining operations and decided to do a little exploring. Sunset Mine was easily accessible and looked exciting, so we geared up and headed out to Index.

sunset mine hikingwithmybrother
Tromping around Sunset Mine is more a stroll through history than it is a hike, but what it lacks in distance it more than makes up for in the fun of investigating the mines. Obviously, all tunnels and openings should be approached with caution, but the two large stopes have collapsed enough that they are now fairly shallow and do not go back much more than 200 feet. Lingering wooden beams and platforms seem to be the most unstable, so we avoided getting too close to them. All it all, the area was fun to explore. If you’re looking for a longer hike, there are supposedly more claims along Trout Creek further past the Sunset Mine, just keep following the road to find them.

There's a lot more to Sunset Mine, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take Highway 2 to the Index turnoff. Drive past Index and continue on the Index-Galena Road for about five miles to the Trout Creek Bridge, just before the road washout. Just past the bridge take a right onto a forest road. If the gate is open, decide whether to park your vehicle here or brave the two miles of pothole-ridden road to the mill foundation. Most four-wheel drive vehicles should be able to make it without too much difficulty. Remember the mines can be dangerous, so keep your explorations safe. -Nathan

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Sunset Mine Trout Creek

Blethen Lakes - Quartz Creek Trail #1263

Our Hiking Time: 7h
Total Ascent: 2500ft
Highest Point: 3700ft
Total Distance: 11 miles
Location: N 47° 34.4280, W 121° 36.3480
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoThis week we once again returned to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley and ventured off the beaten path to try the trail along Quartz Creek to Lake Blethen. The route is not very popular and what we could find on the trail was inconsistent and unclear, so we resolved to investigate.

lake blethen quartz creek hikingwithmybrother
Lake Blethen and its very close neighbor Upper Lake Blethen were named for Col. Alden J. Blethen, the longtime owner of the Seattle Times Newspaper, which he purchased in 1896. To this day, the Blethen family continues to own a controlling interest in the Seattle Times. It is unclear why this set of lakes were named in his honor, other than the need to come up with something to call these nice but ultimately uninspiring lakes.

The trail follows logging roads built atop long abandoned mining roads used to access the quartz and copper from the Rainy Mine, first mined in 1901. The Rainy Mine is comprised of multiple adits and was worked intermittently until copper prices rose prompting extensive extraction from 1951-1957 after which it was abandoned. In the 1970s logging interests expanded the roads and quickly chopped down almost everything in the Quartz Creek Valley, prompting many hikers to avoid the area.

Today the road is lined with second-generation hemlock and cedar, now shouldering out the alder and huckleberry that took over after the clear-cut. The road is pleasant, beginning at the lake blethen quartz creek garfield hikingwithmybrotherend of Forest Road 56, just before the Taylor River Bridge, and veering off to the left at a signed juncture pointing toward Quartz Creek. At times it is difficult to tell whether you’re hiking a trail or a creekbed, but for the vast majority of the hike, the trail is clear and easy to follow. Occasionally the sharply pointed top of Mt. Garfield can be seen to the east, as well as Quartz Mountain across the valley. At roughly two miles a spur veers up to the right toward Rooster Mountain - keep to the left to get to Lake Blethen.

Although easy to follow, as the hike progresses, the quality of the road progressively degrades. There are occasional blowdowns blocking the trail. No creek crossing has a bridge, although a single log - all that remains of a massive bridge that washed out sometime between 1998 and 2003 - spans one ravine. Thankfully, some thoughtful hikers had brought a saw and cleared quite a bit of encroaching underbrush that had been blocking the trail. The road ends and gives way to real trail at a creek roughly a half-mile from the lake. Most of the time the bootpath is easy to follow, though we occasionally lost it in the snow. When in doubt, Quartz Creek drains out of Lake Blethen, so upper lake blethen quartz creek bessemer hikingwithmybrotherfollow it to the lakeshore.

The lake itself is not overly impressive, but it certainly will be quiet. For added seclusion, climb the 500’ up the pass at the far end of the lake to Upper Blethen and a close encounter with the craggy top of Bessemer Mountain. Enjoy the splendid isolation. Perhaps see some wildlife – we found plenty of rabbit, coyote and deer tracks long the way. Still, it’s difficult for us to recommend this one – while not a miserable hike by any means, some creek crossings are a bit tricky, and the watery, rocky trail is no cakewalk. Overall, it is hard to balance the reward of Lake Blethen with overcoming the obstacles necessary to get to the shore. Unless you’re craving some route-finding or bushwhacking adventures, we recommend you give this one a pass.

To get there, take Exit 34 off I-90 and take a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half-mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. Continue to follow the twists in the road until the pavement runs out. Continue on FR 56 for 12 miles, crossing the Taylor River. Once across, keep to the left for another quarter mile to the end of the road and the trailhead. -Nathan

Blethen Lakes
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