Haskell Pass, Montana [October 2002]

In October 2002, I spent a day exploring Haskell Pass with Larry and Linda Vielleux, who own the Izaak Walton Inn, and also my next door neighbors in Essex. We used the trip to plan the 2003 Haskell Pass Expedition, which would take place the following May, as well as a chance to get out and explore the old line.

We decided to start by exploring the area around Ashley Creek, which is between Kalispell and Marion. After finding the roadbed, we hiked into the woods for more than a mile, eventually reaching the western approach to the Ashley Creek trestle. This segment of the line was abandoned in 1947, so we found a number of more modern rail spikes along the way. However, we also found a number of the original triangular ties, indicating that the GN didn't do much to the line after abandoning the segment west of Marion.
Eventually, we reached Ashley Creek, where the line crossed a 150 foot high trestle. Not much is left of trestle, except for a few splinters and the rock caissons, but the crossing is impressive -- imagine rolling across the creek in the 1940s, old wood timbers groaning under the weight of the locomotive...
We then drove over Haskell Pass, hiking into the woods to reach the western portal of Haskell Pass Tunnel. The tunnel looked much the same as it had earlier in the year, but this time I ventured inside. The tunnel was originally 1400 feet long, but the eastern portal, located in a deep ravine, has long since collapsed. I was able to walk in about 800 feet before reaching a collapsed portion, and decided not to venture further. Walking out, I shot this photo looking out the western portal, over the pile of rubble which partially blocks the entrance. That's the silhouette of Larry Vielleux on top of the pile of rock.
We then headed further west, reaching the pilings that were once a trestle across Island Creek. In the autumn, the creek runs dry here, so we were able to walk through the tall grass to reach and inspect the pilings. They're in amazingly good shape, more than a century after they bore the last Great Northern Flyer across Haskell Pass.

[May 2002][October 2002]