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A Vintage Trip To Monte Cristo

A hike from many years ago that held some significance, it was the last hike I took a film camera on. Not long after I received my first digital camera (a gift from Kirk) and how I took photos changed. But on that day we set out. It was a cold November day in 2002 and our goal was Glacier Basin Trail above the Monte Cristo Townsite. We were coming from opposite directions so it sounded like a good halfway point and we met at Barlow Pass, where the trailhead is.

To save Ford’s energy (he had just turned 5 two months before) I brought his jogger stroller and he rode while we walked the closed road (certain people have keys when the road is not slumped due to private in holdings and mines). The road walk was a long one each way so our thought was to preserve his strength for the actual hike. It was somewhere between 4 and 5 miles each way. It wandered through flood plains, high road above the South Fork of the Sauk River and crossed it on a narrow bridge at one point. A side creek had an old bridge, long broken in the middle. We chose fording the creek instead, being so late in the year it wasn’t an issue.

And some sections were downright ugly, logging/clearing scars and a road full of potholes.

Still, it wasn’t a bad walk. At times the trees encroached the road and it was pleasant.

Soon enough we reached the walk in campground and the crossing of the river to enter the ghost town of Monte Cristo. That bridge is no longer there, it blew away in a flood a couple years ago. It was a lovely bridge though. We left the jogger stroller there and headed over on foot.

Kirk on the bridge:

The South Fork of Sauk River is a pretty stream though one to wary of, due to old mines that cover the area. You have to be careful with where you get drinking water up there.

The townsite…how I wish I had taken more photos. Yet…apparently I took one, yes one, lousy photo! And of all things the couple cabins that were near the bridge. The streets were signed as were the buildings left. At one time it was a grand miners town!

As we walked through the townsite we crossed a couple more of the metal/wood bridges and eventually got spit into the woods to a trail junction.

And what seemed like moments later we came out into the open, looking ahead at where we were going:

A ring of jagged peaks, covered in a bit of snow and waterfalls thundering down, all around us. It was an amazing hike. And for Kirk it was even better. Every hike with me had been in the rain until then. So we happily accepted the very cold blue skies and winds at that point.

A young Ford, looking down the valley:

We stopped at the waterfall you can see in the above photos. It was getting very cold the higher we went (it was November and in the mountains….). As we had gotten above the waterfall the steps were getting icier and while immensely pretty it wasn’t worth going on. So I didn’t get to Glacier Basin but it was OK.

Kirk Standing above the waterfall:

We walked slowly back to the trees and back through the town. We picked up the jogger stroller and a tired Ford jumped in. Feeling lazy we strapped our daypacks onto the stroller and enjoyed an easier hike out. Ford fell asleep and as we walked we spent those miles talking.

As we left the townsite I turned back and saw the peaks behind us:

It was an interesting hike. We saw no other hikers, only a lone truck coming out to an in holding. I mean every year to go back and finally see Glacier Basin. But as I looked at those old photos it occurred to me that Ford would love seeing the townsite again. Being a teen and going to a ghost town? Easy to sell I am sure!