Finding Robe Canyon
Date of Adventure: December 15, 2014
Once we started learning more about the golden ghost town of Monte Cristo, we started researching how the spoils were transported out of such a remote place. That led us to learn about Everett & Monte Cristo Railway. Two sections of it have been converted from rails to trails. On this cold winter day, we decided to check out the lesser-known section, Robe Canyon.
This drive is so simple. We made our way easily into the town of Granite Falls. From there it was two more miles of paved road.
The trailhead, like so many off-beat locations, is not well marked. We passed it the first time. The sign is smaller than we expect and showing signs of neglect. Since no one else was parked here, it was even less noticeable.
From the brick park marker, there are several trails that weave into the forest on the same side of the street. We picked the most well-used of them and hoped for the best.
The forest is wide open with no underbrush. So we could quickly see park marker signs.
The sign to the left of the trail indicated the path is closed at the end of tunnel number five, one of the railroad tunnels. It also gives a warning about the steep path, which we had also heard about.
From here on out a single trail was well-defined. It quickly drops down into the canyon by way of several switchbacks. At one of them, an old car wreck-turned planter sits. Clearly someone cracked themselves up by placing the sign nearby.
After the switchbacks the trail meanders flatly through a wide expanse of wetlands. Beaver and otter activity is everywhere, including well used paths from one watery channel to another. For us, observing animals and their sign is one of the delightful bonuses of searching for lost history.
The trail pops out of the forest along the main channel of the South Fork Stillaguamish River. Here the paths travels through a riparian area between the bank above river and the wetlands.
As the trail approaches a stream crossing, evidence of more turbulent days can be seen.
Railroad surveyors and engineers chose the most direct path between Everett and Monte Cristo. However, that path was close to the Stillaguamish River. Early white settlers to the area tried to convince the railroad to choose another path, due to frequent flooding and rock slides. The railroad ignored this advice. This proved their undoing. Dealing with flooding and rockslide was one of the major contributing factors to the failure of the railroad and the town of Monte Cristo.
After the stream crossing, Robe Canyon really begins to show. The rocky wall rise on both sides and the wide river channels narrows. The water begins to bubble and boil through this chute.
At this point evidence of the railroad begins to show. Rails poke out of the stream channel. Then we realized we were now walking on a hand-built rock and concrete foundation.
Just around the bend, the actual wooden railroad ties could still be seen, embedded in the concrete. Considering that construction began in 1892, this is an astounding scene.
In one spot along this solid trestle we found a wooden water channel still performing it's job of diverting water under the line.
At this point we could make out the dark maw of tunnel number five. We were so close! We heard mixed reports about whether it was open, but the sign at the top of the trail indicated it was. You can scroll back up to the top and read it for yourself.
Then we came across this sign which dashed our hopes. We never advocate to break the law, and we don't recommend you do it here. We do hope that very soon those manage this trail will join with those who care about it's historic significance to make this last portion accessible once again.
Thank you for reading about our adventure. If you choose your own adventure to this spot, we hope you will drop us a line.