Where the Heck is Melmont Ghost Town, Anyway?

The Hike to Melmont is Great but May not Be What You’re Expecting

Where the heck is Melmont, anyway?

Every single group I came across on my hike asked me some variation of that question. I was never able to answer. I just asked the question in return.

Looking back after having returned and done some research, I realize that we were all in the midst of Melmont as we asked where it was. We just didn’t realize it.

I say none of this to deter anyone from going there. I plan on going back. It’s a great trail. Beautiful. Quiet. Humming with history and nature.

Just know this beforehand: there is no grand, dramatic destination. No distinct town waiting there in the woods to be discovered. You aren’t going to turn a corner and find yourself looking at the clearly defined perimeter of an old mining town busy with ghosts.

It’s still pretty cool, though.

The Foothills Trail to Melmont

This sign is at the trail head.

The trail to and through Melmont is named the Foothills Trail. It’s maintained by the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.

There are at least three entry points onto the Foothills Trail. All three are clustered fairly close together along the side of Washington State Route 165 south of the town of Carbonado, Washington.

The spot I used was exactly 1 mile south of Carbonado. From 165, you can clearly see the sign I have in a picture up above.

If you’re traveling south through Carbonado, the sign will be on your right. If you’re going north, it will be on your left.

Remnants of Melmont are Scattered Along the Trail

This is a retaining wall at Melmont.

The first clearly defined Melmont artifact I found was a retaining wall. The view I show up above is the view you get after you walk down the slope off the trail.

From the trail itself you’ll see some of the stonework wall, but if you want to get a really good look at it you have to walk down the hill. The slope is very steep, and the footing can be slick. This is especially true during rainy season.

Beyond the wall is another old building that you’ll see just off the trail. Another blog claims this was a dynamite storage shack. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Visit Rainier is a good site so I assume it is.

Supposed dynamite storage shack.

There is also an old schoolhouse up the trail, but keep in mind that it looks basically like the dynamite shack above. It’s not so nicely maintained that it immediately resembles any kind of building in particular.

Great Trail, Know What You’re Getting Into Before Making the Drive to Melmont

I love this trail. I can’t wait to go back again. However, I do wish that the other blogs and sites were clearer about the fact that Melmont is not a big centralized ghost town. It’s a (very) few buildings nestled in the woods off the side of the Foothills Trail.

So, in my opinion, this is a great trail for hiking and a great trail for running. It my also be a great trail for camping (though I don’t know the legality of it). But, it’s not a great trail for seeing a ghost town or a mining town.

In terms of humanmade artifacts, I actually enjoyed the Fairfax Bridge most of all. It’s a historic site that looks really interesting from the trail trail that runs underneath it. I tried to capture the “really interestingness” in the photo below.

I’m a writer, not a photographer, so forgive the poor lighting. I’ll be adding this skill of photography to my repertoire soon.

The Fairfax Bridge as seen from the Foothills Trail.

By all Means, Go to Melmont

Hike the Foothills Trail. Enjoy the pieces of Melmont mining town. Absorb that beautiful walk and the countryside surrounding it.

Just know before you go that the town may not be what you’re envisioning or expecting when you hear “ghost town.” You may find yourself on the trail asking, “Where the heck is the town of Melmont?”

Chances are, when you ask that question, you’ll be standing right in the middle of it.

Happy Nomadding, friends!

Four Great Day Hikes around Lake Quinault, Washington

Quinault is a launch-point to adventure for people of all fitness levels.

You don’t need to be an athletic super-freak to experience the place’s magic. You also don’t need to have endless amounts of time. Just a pair of comfy shoes and a couple hours will do.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that the Quinault area is my favorite place in the Pacific Northwest. I can write a whole book about all that you can see there (and I intend to). But, in this piece, I keep things simple.

I list five of my favorite Lake Quinault day hikes below. Each entry notes the trail’s level of difficulty as determined by my completely unscientific classification system.

Try one. Try them all. Whatever works for you. Enjoy. Tell me about the experience (or not)!

Happy nomadding, friends.

Kestner Homestead and Maple Glade Nature Loop Trails (both easy)

I’ve listed these trails together they each start within feet of each other in the parking lot of the Quinault Rain Forest Station. You can hike one or the other or do both.

I’m going to cheat a little bit here because I’m lazy. At least, I’m feeling lazy at the moment. I’ve going to link to the pieces I’ve already written for these two locations.

I’ve written about the Kestner Homstead Trail here:

I’ve written about the Maple Glade Nature Loop here:

Irely Lake (easy once you get over the initial elevation gain)

Irely Lake is my favorite Quinault day hike. I don’t know why. I don’t try particularly hard to figure it out, either. Something about trail’s energy just speaks to me.

Getting to the trail can take a little while, but it’s a beautiful drive. You have to go all the way to where the South Shore Loop Road turns into the North Shore Loop Road (or vice versa).

Once you reach the trail-head, it’s 1.2 miles to the lake. Right off the road you’ll climb a little ways. It’s rather steep, but it doesn’t last long. Past that point, it’s mostly smooth, level sailing all the way to Irely.

Irely is a dark little lake tucked away in the center of gigantic fir, cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees. If you go down the short side trail to its shore, you can see all kinds of life out there.

I’ve seen elk hitting the lake for a drink. I’ve seen countless birds. I once saw a Biblical plague of baby frogs there. They were fascinating, adorable little guys that I wrote about here.

The trail gets sloppy in the winter. Oftentimes wind will blow branches or whole trees over the trail in the stormy season.

The mountain-lion warning signs there are no joke. I’ve had a couple encounters with the animals in the area around Irely Lake (one on Irely Lake Trail specifically). So, factor that into your preparations and estimations of risk tolerance.

I’ve pinned the location to a Google map you can see below.

Colonel Bob (hard)

Ah, Colonel Bob. My ancient nemesis.

I frequently see this trail rated as “medium” difficulty on other sites. Then again, I’ve also seen Mount Storm rated as “medium,” and that is just preposterous.

Bob isn’t as difficult as Storm King, but it’s given me a hard workout even when I was in peak fitness. Still, its 13.6 miles can be done in one day (which of course is why I included it here as a day hike). Unless you’re in very strong hiking shape, you will be tested to complete the Colonel Bob out-and-back without camping for a night, so be warned.

My misadventures with Bob have been the result of circumstances (snow and an injury) rather than the difficulty of the trail itself, but I’ve always thought of Colonel Bob as a person I held a friendly grudge against. I try to get up there once a year.

The view atop bob is one of the best but, I’m ashamed to say (considering i run a travel site), I don’t have a picture of it at the moment. I plan on remedying this soon. For now, I’ve pinned the location to a map.

You’ll just have to trust me: it’s a nice view. Or else just check out the folks at Outdoor Society for pictures.

Birds of Mount Si

I saw some birds while hiking atop Mount Si in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As usual, it was mostly Canada Jays (also known as Camp Robbers), which are a popular Si attraction because they will eat out of people’s hands without hesitation. I’m not endorsing the practice and don’t indulge in it myself, but the fact is that it’s a pretty regular thing up there for people to do.

Canada Jays no top of Mount Si
These Canada Jays, also called Camp Robbers, can be found all over the top of Mount Si. They will eat right out of your hand (literally).
Canada Jay eating on Mount Si.
Here’s a Canada Jay eating some crumbs on Mount Si. This particular one was on top of the Haystack.

This was the first time I ever saw a Blue Jay on top of Mount Si, which was a thrill. They’re beautiful, noble birds.

Blue Jay on top of Mount Si.
This blue was on the “false top” of Mount Si. Beautiful, regal animal.
Blue Jay on top of Mount Si.

Hiking Mount Si in the Time of COVID-19

Washington State parks reopened for hiking on May 5, 2020. Two days later I grabbed my trusty Discover Pass and headed for Mount Si in North Bend, Washington. 

I kick off every hiking season with a trek up Mount Si and have had many memorable climbs there, including the time I saw a guy carry a tuba all the way to the top. This year’s trip was unique, though, and I suspect I’ll never forget it. It came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and was the first time I’d gotten out of house (other to walk down the street or grocery shop) in months.

Mount Rainier seen from top of Mount Si.
Mount Rainier as seen from atop Mount Si.

This hike will forever be burned into my psyche as the most life-affirming outdoor experience of my life. It was a reminder of everything I love about the Pacific Northwest, the outdoors, and just plain-old being alive. 

I went from top to bottom of Si without stopping to rest one time. At one point I even broke out in a run. I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape during this winter season, but the fuel that sent me to top of Si was pure elation at being free and outside in the sun on a beautiful day.

Not Nearly as Many People On Mount Si as I Usually See on a Beautiful Day

I didn’t know how many people to expect coming across on the trail. I counted them for the first leg of the hike but quickly lost that effort to the simple joy of being outdoors again.

All I can say is that I’ve done Mount Si dozens of times, and the crowd I saw there this time seemed far smaller than ever before. The weather was perfect, yet the parking lot was at only about 1/4 capacity when I pulled in at 8 am and at maybe 1/2 capacity when I left at about 1 pm. 

Smiling, Friendly People Hiking

Some folks on the mountain were understandably concerned about COVID-19 and wore face masks. They were the exception, but just about everyone was conscious of maintaining space.

Everyone kept at a distance from everyone else the best they could. It wasn’t like the usual Mount Si hike where I’d cross people on the trail and trade hearty “hellos” and jokes about how we don’t know why we subject ourselves to that ascent. People weren’t unfriendly. Just cautious.

Looking out from top of Mount Si
View from atop Mount Si.

The Haystack’s No Joke

This isn’t COVID-19 related, but I want to share something I was reminded of on this hike.

The spot that most hikers consider to be “the top” of Mount Si is not actually the top. If you climb up the boulders of that “false top,” you’ll link back onto a short trail that takes you to the bottom of a stony mound called the Haystack. 

The Haystack is not a hike. It requires actual climbing. The rocks are porous and give good grips, but the fall is no joke.

I think people underestimate the Haystack because there are no warning signs and because so many people hike Mount Si. Don’t be fooled, though, the Haystack is enough of a climb that many people find themselves terrified and clinging to the rocks wondering why the hell they went up there.

I know this for a fact. I’ve seen it a few times in the past, and I saw it again on this trip.

Northwest Nomad climbing up Mount Si's Haystack.
The Northwest Nomad climbs up the Haystack of Mount Si.

I love the Haystack climb, but partway up I looked down and realized that it’s really not something to take lightly. There was never a point where I felt like I was going to fall, but in several sections I looked down and knew that if I did fall I would be seriously injured.

One fellow who I ended up making friends with (shout out to Deepak) told me repeatedly that he couldn’t believe how shady that climb is, considering the fact that there are warning signs or guidelines about using any gear.

I laughed, but Deepak was right. I saw with my own eyes how often the Haystack catches casual outdoors-people off-guard and scares the beejezus out of them.

I love the Haystack climb. It’s my favorite part of Mount Si. If you’ve got the physical conditioning, dexterity, and desire, I fully recommend you go for it.

Just know that it might be above your comfort level once you get up on those rocks. Be mindful of your own limits and all that jazz.

Already Planning Mount Si Hike #2

Early on in the COVID-19 lockdown, I vowed to myself to spend as much time as possible outdoors this year, to really embrace the beautiful world around me and my precious freedom. I intend to uphold that vow.

I have many plans, but a second time on Si is a certainty, and probably sooner than later.

Maple Glade Nature Loop Trail near Lake Quinault

Busy Reader Highlights

  • One of the most accessible trails in the Lake Quinault area
    The trail is very short and is also wheelchair accessible.
  • Packs a punch
    At less than a half-mile long, the trail is very short. In that short space, though, it gives a great feel for the flora of the Quinault rain forest.
  • It’s literally right next to another fun, short trail
    The Maple Glade Nature Loop trail starts only a few yards from the Kestner Homestead Trail.

Leisurely Reader Discussion

The trail is easy to find. Just park at the ranger station embedded in the map below and you will see the trail-head right there. You can hike it on your own time or you can talk to the rangers and see when they’re doing a guided tour. I have not done the guided tour myself so can’t speak to that, but I have talked to the rangers around that station and have always found them to be friendly and knowledgeable.

I assume the guided tour is a good experience. As for going it unguided, the trail is short and wheelchair accessible, but by no means is it short on sights.

You get a good look at the giant sword ferns, maples, spruces, and other prehistoric-sized trees. You also get a good look at the thick coats of moss that cover the trees, which I personally find to be the most remarkable phenomenon there.

The trail intersects with the Kestner Homestead trail, which I’ve written about here. If you have the time and energy, the two trails together make a great pairing. Or just stick to the Maple Glade trail. It’s good fun and a way for everyone to enjoy the magnificent Quinault Rain Forest.