Forum Index > Trip Reports > Illabot Creek May 10, 2020
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Roy Jensen
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PostSat May 16, 2020 9:04 am 
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C P of WTA fame has been tracing out the old Illabot Creek (FS#771) trail.  My brother and I decided to investigate his progress.

Our Route
Our Route

Take the Rockport-Marblemount Road to the approximate milepost 6.2  This is gate blocking road access to Seattle City Light power lines.   Walk about 100 feet south on the access road and on the left see an opening in forest which follows an old logging road heading east.   The old road is easy to follow and once crossed Illabot Creek.

Gate on powerline access road
Gate on powerline access road
Start of old road
Start of old road
Road
Road
Road divide left to old creek crossing
Road divide left to old creek crossing

Near the end there is an obvious line which climbs up to a bench above the road.   Follow the path through the 2nd growth forest.  Lots of small down timber.    The crossing of Creek #1 is steep and muddy.   The route crosses several seepage areas along the way.   The current route ends short of Creek #2.  Crossing Creek #2 could be a challenge because the hillside above Illabot Creek is steep, and Creek #2 forms a steep canyon.   At the end of the developed path, we decided to climb onto a series of benches looking for a route to cross Creek #2.  The photos show what is typical of the terrain along the route.

Trail leaving road
Trail leaving road
Path
Path
Typical terrain
Typical terrain

We found what appear to be a trail dropping into Creek #2, but the path crossed near vertical slope, which did not have the nerve to continue.  Continuing the route will required finding a route across Creek #2.  We traversed back to the excellent logging road and walked back to our car.    The entire route crosses 2nd growth timber.  Lot of “Deer” flies landing but not biting.

End of developed route
End of developed route
Looking down old trail to Creek #2
Looking down old trail to Creek #2
Old trail?
Old trail?
Bridge over Creek #1
Bridge over Creek #1
Sauk Mtn
Sauk Mtn

This is a work in progress with a lot more work to be done.  Currently this is a tough hike for experienced hikers only.

Historical note:
The Illabot Creek Trail is listed in the 1939 FS trail inventory as going from the county road to Illabot Lake for a total of 8.5 miles.   3.5 miles outside the forest and 5 miles inside the forest.

1962 Forest Service Map
1962 Forest Service Map
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FiresideChats
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PostSat May 16, 2020 2:53 pm 
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Cool recon. I enjoyed the historical context. We are fast closing in on a century since the CCC trailpalooza.
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neek
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PostSat May 16, 2020 3:30 pm 
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C P is one of the more interesting characters to follow on WTA.  Thanks for the report.
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timberghost
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PostMon May 18, 2020 5:25 am 
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well done
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Sculpin
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PostMon May 18, 2020 7:15 am 
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Roy,
It looks like the point where you marked "join road" is on Road 16, the primary route up Illabot?  I have a map of old growth from 1986 that shows that much of the forest below Road 16 - including much of the trail down there - was still in old growth in 1986.  Looks like all that is gone now on the stretch you hiked?  I noticed that old growth is marked but farther up the creek.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Kim Brown
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PostMon May 18, 2020 9:22 am 
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Is this an older trail to Slide Lake than the current route?

I assume there were lots of side trails up there from old homesteads, but wasn't aware of a built trail from that side. Anyone know any history of it? When was it built?

Makes sense for a trail back in the day, to follow a creek as this old one does. Cool.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Bramble_Scramble
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PostMon May 18, 2020 6:49 pm 
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Last Frontier in the North Cascades by Will D. Jenkins has a passage on a winter journey to Old Jack MacIntyre's cabin at Illabot Lake. I'm not sure of the date but it was sometime in the early 1900s.

"Well, anyway, it was eighteen miles to Mac's cabin at Illabot Lake according to his own reckoning; six by the old wagon road through the big timbered bottom from Rockport to the Henry Martin Ranch at the mouth of the creek, and twelve more---the hard ones---by Mac's own trail through Illabot Creek Canyon."

I've heard Illabot Lake has quickly turned into more of a marsh in the last 100 years but at this time it was definitely a lake.

"There were a lot of bug Dolly Vardens in Illabot Lake. And where Slide Creek came in on the east side, close to the outlet, the stream rushing down from the high country set up such a current this place in the lake was in a constant circling motion, like an eddy, and to my knowledge it never froze over although thick mid-winter ice covered the rest of the lake."

There isn't really any more information on the trail at the time because their trip to the lake was in the winter so it was covered in snow past about Iron Creek. At the end of the passage he says there was so much new snow that it took Mac three days to travel from Illabot Lake back to his Iron Creek shelter.
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Kim Brown
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PostMon May 18, 2020 8:11 pm 
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Yah, I have that book. I was going to check it out this evening to see if there's anything in it about a trail. Most of the pioneers back then just booted around. A hardy people, those. What stories in that collection of recollections!

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Bramble_Scramble
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PostMon May 18, 2020 10:47 pm 
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Kim Brown wrote:
Yah, I have that book. I was going to check it out this evening to see if there's anything in it about a trail. Most of the pioneers back then just booted around. A hardy people, those. What stories in that collection of recollections!

I believe this book was part of a Skagit County historical series in the 80's. I have Chechacos All too but haven't read the whole book and I've checked out at least one other part of the series from the library. Last Frontier is my favorite so far. I think he talks about work on the dams and rafting the dangerous Skagit gorge pre-dam. The Goat Trail up the gorge would have been a sight to see. I read somewhere that a segment still exists below the first tunnel east of Newhalem.  There's also a section on the construction of Sourdough Lookout.

If you're interested at all about the history of the upper Skagit, this is the book to check out. The sections about Illabot are 17 and 18.
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Backpacker Joe
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PostTue May 19, 2020 1:55 am 
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In the good ole days before they made the Ilabut creek road you used to hike into Jordan lakes via a route that took you up the falls.  Years ago my cousin and I found the old road (drove past an open gate and was lucky it was still open on the return) and punched all the way to the point of seeing the falls.  This is the route my dad and uncle took when they hiked into Jordan lakes in 1960.  Interesting history of the area.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

— Abraham Lincoln
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Roy Jensen
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PostTue May 19, 2020 5:09 pm 
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Sculpin:

The route we traveled on is primarily on Seattle/Seattle City Light land.   As part of the mitigation (sins) for City Light power project, City Light is buying lands for fish habitat. The roads in the area are maintained by Sierra Pacific, which has significant forest holdings in the area.  The road labeled on the map is not FS #16 but part of the Sierra Pacific road system.  FS #16 is higher on the slope above elevation 2,600 feet.  I like to think that the Old Growth areas on FS lands would be a good place to look for the old trail.

Bramble_Scramble:

Thanks for pointing out that reference.  There is a story that a landslide (1940s) caused Lake Illabot to fill up.  I will look for the reference.
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Kim Brown
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PostTue May 19, 2020 5:16 pm 
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Slide lake was created by the landslide. Perhaps Illabot too, but the name of Slide makes me this that was definitely created by the landslide.

The old growth forest around that area contains a species of warty jumping slug. If you want to see one in motion, give it a Google.  tongue.gif

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue May 19, 2020 6:11 pm 
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Warty Jumping Slug sounds like a great name for a punk group.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Roy Jensen
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PostTue May 19, 2020 8:03 pm 
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For those interested in the history of the Illabot Creek trail these maps that might be of interest:

Illabot Creek Trail first shown on 1913 FS Map.   FS Road #16 constructed to Otter Creek in 1962 to 1966.   Slide Lake trail first shown on 1972 FS Map.  Metsker Maps mirror Forest Service maps.   Earliest Metsker Map of area 1925 or 1941.

1926 FS Visitor Map.
1926 FS Visitor Map.
1949 FS Visitor Map.  3 shelters shown in area.
1949 FS Visitor Map.  3 shelters shown in area.
1962 FS Map
1962 FS Map
1966 FS Map.  FS Road #16 shown.
1966 FS Map.  FS Road #16 shown.
1972 FS Map.  First map showing Slide Lake trail.
1972 FS Map.  First map showing Slide Lake trail.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Illabot Creek May 10, 2020
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