September 27, 1892

A Tramp on the Trail

Visit to Bridge Creek and Horseshoe Basin

Vast Wealth in Sight

The Ferguson Group of Mines and Tunnel – A Feasible Railroad Route and Unlimited Tonnage Assured – Large Bodies of Good Timber – Most Stupendous and Awe-Inspiring Scenery in America – Incidents of the Trip, etc.

For the past year or two the Leader has been printing more or less glowing accounts of the great mineral belt known to exist in the backbone of the Cascade Range beyond the head of Lake Chelan, but while these accounts have been in the main correct, they have necessarily been from hearsay and could not carry with them the weight and conviction of personal inspection and investigation.

In order to be posted for himself, the Leader man embraced the first suitable opportunity offered, with good company included, to visit the mining district and September 14th found him at Stehekin, en route.

At this point the tourist, miner or prospector bids farewell to the steamboat and strikes out into the wilds. And it is wild, no misstate about that. There are no wagon roads, except for two or three miles on the north side of the river, but for six miles up the valley trails follow both sides of the river.

Accompanied by Al Spader and Ben F. Smith, of Chelan, the writer struck out afoot on the south side and took his first lesson in tramping on a trail to the mines, said trail being simply a bridle path barely wide enough to admit of the passage of a pack animal.

The trail leads for the most part through a dense forest, now hugging the banks of the rushing river and anon climbing high on the rocky bluffs. The Stehekin valley is all taken up and here and there the cabins and clearings of the settlers appear. One has an excellent view of Rainbow Falls at a distance, on the north side, as it makes its 300-foot perpendicular plunge. Here is one of the choicest bits of scenery to be found anywhere in the lake region, and ere long some one will erect a hotel and create a noted pleasure resort, for the spot is romantic and beautiful beyond comparison.

Six miles up the valley the trail crosses the $600 bridge recently erected by the county and the two trails from the head of the lake to this point blend into one and follow up the north side until opposite the mouth of the Agnes, which empties into the Stehekin from the southward a volume of icy water equal to that of the latter. There the trail leaves the river and climbs for hundreds of feet up the bluffs, in order to pass a narrow box canyon whose sides are too precipitous for even a trail. After attaining an elevation of 500 or 600 feet a view having new parallels in the world is afforded the admirer of the sublime and awe-inspiring in nature. At your feet, far below, is the turbulent river, boiling, surging and plunging in the sunlight, weaving its serpentine coils in and out through the forest verdure. The course of the Agnes can be clearly traced for miles towards its source high up among the mountain crags, whose summits, reared to a height of from 10,000 to 12,000 feet, are mantled with eternal snows, where can be seen a single glacier five miles long, a mile wide and 1,000 feet in depth – said to be the principal source of three large streams, the Agnes, the Entiat and Railroad Creek. Looking out over the panorama here presented one could easily imagine himself in wonderland, and the artist who could faithfully portray it on canvas could command a fortune.

At Vroman’s lake a little further on, the first signs of mineral along the trail were discovered. Messrs. D.A. and E.B. Vroman have several claims in that vicinity, one of them, the Comstock, having considerable development and showing rich mineral. Al Spader also has a promising claim located at this point.

On, four or five miles farther, over a vastly improved trail, through some very heavy bodies of cedar, fir, hemlock and pine, reminding one forcibly of those on the Sound, at 5 o’clock our party reached Bridge Creek, fifteen miles from the head of the lake, the town taking its name after the stream which pours its clear waters into the Stehekin at this point. It is not much of a town now, to be sure, having only one house that of Mr. and Mrs. Bayard Wilkeson – the large store tent of Messrs. Wilkeson & Ladue, where the post office is located, and an A tent or two; but it has that which is rare in this mountainous region, a broad and beautiful townsite, and it is the natural center for the Agnes cree, Bridge creek and Horseshoe basin mines. It holds the key to the situation and will surely come to the front by and by.

Our party was enlarged to seven along the trail by the addition of Messrs. D.S. Hunt and E.J. Davis, of the Falls, P.T. Jordan, of North Yakima, and Captain Griggs, of Grand Forks, Dakota, and we received a most cordial welcome from Col. Frank Wilkeson, Postmaster Ladue and others. It was our good fortune to meet here, Messrs. W.E. Gilkey, T.B. Moore, W.W. Wilkinson, and E.H. Ewing, all of Edison, Skagit county, who have valuable mining interests on the main Bridge creek. There are no mines nearer than eight or ten miles of the mouth of the stream, and as scarcity of time precluded a visit in that direction, the writer is indebted to the above-named gentlemen for interesting information. Messrs. Gilkey, Moore and Wilkinson came over on this side of the range last year and located twelve claims ten miles up the main fork, on three principal veins and spurs therefrom. The mineral is of two kinds, ruby silver carrying gold, and galena. That carrying ruby silver has a four-foot vein with fifteen inch pay streak, which assays as high as 1,200 ounces in silver and $20 in gold to the ton. The ore is free milling and the whole four feet will pay to work. The galena claims have an average pay streak of two feet in width, assaying as high as 100 ounces in silver and 60 percent lead. The high-grade claims referred to are named respectively the Lena and Lizzie Rees, the low-grade claims are the Jumbo, the Edison and the Comstock. The gentlemen have done considerable development work this year and are satisfied that they have a rich proposition. Their business at Bridge Creek was to meet capitalists who were expected in to investigate their mines.

E.H. Ewing also has a valuable mine in that vicinity, the Mabel, discovered this season. The vein matter is four feet wide between walls, with a twenty-inch pay streak which assays all the way from 1,150 to 3,000 ounces silver to the ton.

Mr. Gilkey said there were about twenty good claims so far as known, on main Bridge creek and about the same number on the north fork.

Ah, but wasn’t that a jolly party, capitalists, miners, prospectors, railroaders and tenderfeet gathered around that huge camp fire under the starlight.

Then an open-air couch on fragrant cedar boughs, with dreams of glaciers and precipices, leafy forests and rocky trails, and mines of dazzling wealth commingled in inextricable confusion.

Wednesday morning our party, again dwindled down to the original three, were off bright and early for Horseshoe Basin, nine miles distant, crossing Bridge Creek on a very good bridge eighty rods from camp. The trail was not so good as that previously traversed, constantly winding in and out, up and down, full of logs to climb over, at times following the Stehekin at the water’s edge, then again climbing the steep mountain sides. Park creek, which also flows through a rich and noted mining camp in the great belt, empties into the Stehekin in three miles above the mouth of Bridge creek. Far up the mountain side wild goats were seen gazing down upon us complacently as they munched the wild mosses.

During the forenoon we caught up with Pierson Bros., of Foster creek, who were bound for Fairhaven via Cascade pass with a large band of beef cattle. One unpleasant though somewhat amusing incident occurred about that time to vary the monotony. The cattle had stirred up a yellow jacket’s nest and the insects were aching for a chance to get even on somebody. We happened to be that somebody and the way they sat down on the newspaper man and Ben Smith was a caution. They are warm friends when once they form an attachment to anyone but the sociability is most too pressing. But that’s a sore subject.

The valley narrows, the mountains get more abrupt and steep and the snow banks nearer as we proceed. Three miles from the basin there is a snowslide not over 100 yards from the trail, with a tunnel under it, the mouth of which is forty of fifty feet wide and almost large enough for a railroad depot.

By the way, all along the route is to be seen the time of survey of the railroads, the trail crossing and recrossing it a number of times, and it has taken an immense amount of work to clear it sufficiently through the dense underbrush to use the compass.

Opposite Horseshoe Basin, glimpses of which can be see from up the mountain side to the right looking up the Stehekin one can see the end of the valley as it butts up against he backbone of the Cascades, through which any railroad that utilizes Cascade pass must tunnel at least two miles; although the gradual ascent from Lake Chelan to this point would indicate a very feasible route, at a grade said not to exceed 11 percent.

The grade stakes of the Manhattan Company’s survey – at that of the Lake Chelan Railroad & Navigation Company – stop where the trail leaves the Stehekin to ascent the mountain side. Horseshoe basin, out of which flows one of the prettiest cascades of the district. Here the first climb on the route is encountered the trail being nearly perpendicular for about 1,000 feet, at the end of which climb you come to Ferguson’s camp, which consists of good-sized log cabin, cook house and tent, where our party was more than willing to accept the very cordial invitation to put us for the night.

The elevation here is 4,950 feet above sea level. The formation hereabouts is rightly named. It is a veritable basin in the great mountains, being narrow, semicircular depression or lap in the side of the mountain chain, with its opening to the southward. Back to the northward half a mile from the cabin, at the base of the cliffs, a little south of the center of the basin, is where the new tunnel has been started to cut the sixteen veins of the Ferguson group, the first being the Blue Devil and Black Warrior vein, the discovery shafts of which are perhaps 150 feet above the mouth of the tunnel.

Half a mile further up the face of the mountain, over the rim of the upper basin (for there is an upper as well as a lower basin, is the lower edge of an immense glacier, from which ten distinct cascades pour down hundreds of feet over the cliffs with a deafening and perpetual roar, and still back of the glaciers is the rugged sawtooth mountain ridge, which peaks are 9,000 feet above level.

All the foregoing is but another perfect description of the basin ground of the picture as is from Ferguson’s camp.

Continued next week.