Tubal Cain Trail #840

It was shortly after 7 AM on a Monday and I was already antsy for the next adventure. I was slowly slinking back to reality after an incredible weekend spent at Deception Pass. I checked the weather to see what the week held. The skies were sunny and welcoming and I had to see if it was going to linger into the weekend. The report showed sunny and mid 50’s all week and beyond. But I’m far to familiar with the weather in the Pacific Northwest to be overcome with joy without a healthy dose of trepidation mixed in.

But as if mother nature was making up for all those shrouded peaks I climbed in the summer months she opened up her skies and gave me a week of clear weather and an open invitation to visit her at her best: The Olympic National Park*.

The 5 Wilderness located within the Olympic National Forest* :

** There is a distinction between a National Forest and a National Park. The long and skinny is that a Park is rarely altered from it’s original state and preservation is key and ongoing. While Forest are managed for multiple uses-timber, recreation, grazing, wildlife, fishing, and more.

Tubal Cain Trail is located deep in a remote section of Buckhorn Wilderness. The trail head is accessed by 20 miles of dirt roads that weave in and out of the mountains that sporadically open up with views of vast wilderness. The thousand foot cliffs are sudden and sheer but allow for a dramatic and enthralling drive.

There is something very different about a day hike in the woods and being fully loaded with everything you need to survive and knowing you’re going to sleep under the stars. It’s more to explore than to reach a destination. It really allowed Jenny and I time to take in the setting at a slower pace.

We strolled and stopped to meander and gaze at the many picturesque ways the sun was gracing our presence in the forest. I could feel my boots indenting the soft moss covered trail and hearing the squish as the water escaped. A slight bounce felt in every step.

The Tubal Cain trail offered much more than a gorgeous hike along an incredibly well maintained trail. The first 3 miles were a calm incline that was forested with an open canopy that allowed the sun to shine through. Just after 3 miles we were met with Tull Canyon Trail that lead to the plane crash. There was nothing casual or friendly about this half mile trek up to the site. It was steep and rocky but the weight on my back exasperated the incline.

Relaxing in the sun

After a half mile climb the trail leveled out and I saw the first signs of campsites nearby. But It was within seconds that a gleaning piece of metal struck my line of sight and refocused my attention. I walked over and stood above what was once part of a plane carrying a search and rescue crew. They were on their way back when they crashed into a mountain ridge. I was in amazement at the forces that had taken place and was left imaging the horrific sounds that such a thing would cause. It was hard to imagine in such a serenely quiet place.

History is something I really enjoy and when I get a chance to combine it with hiking I’m eager to delve into the details. I had researched a lot about the trail itself but after coming home I delved even deeper into the history and still I yearn to learn more. I’ll be heading back to this trail next summer to make Buckhorn Pass and Buckhorn Mountain which I was unable to do this time around. One day simply isn’t enough to fully indulge on all that is offered here.

Surely one of the spookier aspects along this trail is the Tubal Cain Mine. I went inside but only for a moment. The water level is at least a foot high and there are bats eerily silent on the tunnel walls. The trickle of water somehow doesn’t drown out the silence of the tunnel. There are still remnants of the mine along the trail but by all records most of it has been looted.

Some people borrow sugar, maybe ketchup or even an egg in a pinch but I prefer to borrow dogs for hiking and Cookie is top shelf hiking material. This was our first backpacking trip together and she handled it like a solider, happily trekking mile after mile and occasionally looking back at me to make sure I was okay. She loves to get out and hike!

Originally when we had set out I thought our most likely camping location would be Buckhorn Lake. That turned out to be the case and we arrived within one hour of sunset. Jenny and I were both exhausted by the time we reached camp so we slumped our packs against a tree and rested in silence while taking in the partially frozen lake. Before dark we managed to have camp set up and gathered ice cold water to boil for dinner and a hot cup of liquid to warm up our bones. The temperature was dipping fast and it was going to be in the 20’s.


Cookie had never gone backpacking before and by nightfall she kept wandering up the trail and looking back wondering when we were headed home. Once she realized we were staying the night she plopped right down in the tent and had a nap. I made a few mistakes on this trip and most of them concern Cookie staying warm at night. I had wrapped her in three coats but it wasn’t enough so she ended up sleeping in my bag with me. Initially she let me know just how upset she was that I had moved her but in the end she understood. She woke me up in the morning with a hug and a kiss.

Buckhorn Lake

Every trip is different and this time around I had great company along with great scenery. I like to say that the journey is always individual but the destination is best shared. I’m grateful that I was able to share the trail and evening with two lovely ladies. The only thing that rivaled any of the above were the simple slices of individually wrapped Tilamook Cheese that had me grasping for more. There is something about hiking that takes cheese to another level. Try it sometime and in the mean time, happy trails!

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