Where is that?
Well, it’s not as familiar sounding as many of the community names, but Wellington is located just on the west side of the summit of Stevens Pass. This is the original name of a small railroad community that was found there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Situated right near the old exit point of the original Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass, Wellington became nationally famous in 1910 when the deadliest avalanche in American history occurred there. Snow and debris came roaring down the mountain that day, ultimately killing 96 people including both passengers on a train as well as railroad workers clearing snow from the tracks.
All that is left of Wellington now are some old foundations of some of buildings there that were used to service the trains as they entered or exited the tunnel. It is also the eastern trailhead of the Iron Goat Trail, a popular hiking trail in the region. If you visit Wellington today, you can view these old railroad ruins, check out the mouth of the old Cascade Tunnel, and even walk through the remnants of a snowshed that was built in the years following the avalanche as a way of protecting trains and their passengers.
The old tunnel is a very cool thing to see and gives a great glimpse into history. There are plenty of signs though that warn of how dangerous it is to enter it and it’s recommended visitors listen to those signs. The tunnel is on the National Historic Registry too and getting the opportunity to combine history and nature like this is not always possible. After a visit to the tunnel via a very short path to the east from the parking lot, you can return and head west into the snowshed.
The snowshed is dark and cool. If you’re going there early or late in the year you’ll want to wear a light jacket even if the sun is shining outside. If you’re traveling with kids, this is where the fun starts. The path is even and straight and there are small wooden bridges over the small areas where runoff water passes through so they can run ahead, sprint back, and burn off plenty of energy.
About halfway through, there is a short side trail that leads outside the snowshed to a viewpoint that details the history behind the avalanche that happened there.
After that, you return to the snowshed and continue heading west. Along the way, take note of the difference between what’s inside the snowshed and outside of it. Every once in awhile you’ll come across a small pine tree that is unlucky enough to have started its life as a sapling growing up inside a concrete structure. You’ll also see plenty of evidence of the railroad tracks that once ran through the snowshed in the form of old and decaying railroad ties. There are also spots where rebar is becoming visible from inside the concrete supports, roof, and walls. This is a sign that this structure won’t be here forever. Taking the opportunity to see it up close and in person while we can is another reason for visiting it.
When you reach the end of the snowshed, you’ll see what I think is a look at the whole structure’s future. Here, the trail leads you back outside where you can view a portion of the shed’s decaying process in action. The roof has fallen in and chunks of concrete are hanging in the twisted metal that supports them. You can continue on from there, further on down the Iron Goat Trail, or turn around and return to the parking lot where you started.
A visit to Wellington is a unique opportunity to stretch your legs in the great outdoors, see a couple of regionally important pieces of history up close and in person, and also learn a good deal about the history of the region. Adults and kids will both enjoy the time they get to spend there.