While having a beer with friends recently, someone raised the question “when are we going to go hiking again?” I believe it was our friend John who piped up and said “There’s a trail in Olympic Mountains where you can hike up to a B-17 crash site.”
Well that sounded pretty cool to Melissa and I so we quickly followed-up with “when do we go?”
On a foggy Saturday morning, we all piled into the car and drove over to the Olympic Peninsula to find the Tubal Cain Mine trailhead near Sequim, Washington. We eventually found ourselves on a narrow dirt road climbing higher and higher up into the Olympic Mountains. After a while, the cloud cover overhead opened up and we found ourselves looking down onto a blanket of clouds filling the valley below.
The Tubal Cain Mine Trail, located in the Buckhorn Wilderness, leads you up what remains of the abandoned Tubal Cain Mine. But our main destination was the B-17 crash site located near the mine. We would later search for the mine but come up short assuming that it was hidden under a layer of deep snow that lined the hillside.
The first couple of miles were through the cool mature forest. Much of the lower part of the trail is lined with rhododendrons, which were just starting to show buds. We continued climbing until encountering snow on the trail. The trail started to level out which made the trek through the snow a little easier. It was so beautiful trekking through the snow with the sun shining through the trees.
We eventually spotted parts of the wrecked B-17 nestled in this pristine valley near the mine. It was difficult to see at first as much of it was covered in snow. In fact it would have been easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there. But there it was. We had found it.
About the CrashIn January 1952, the search-and-rescue B-17 was returning to McChord Air Force Base after assisting with a rescue mission in Canadian waters. Flying in blizzard-like conditions, the crew of eight was passing over the Olympic Mountains when their jumbo plane clipped a ridge and skidded down a steep, snowy slope before coming to rest in the valley below. If you look closely in the water nearby, you’ll see debris from the crash all around the seemingly pristine valley.
Lunch on a Rock
We spent some time exploring the site trying to imagine the path of the aircraft based on its final resting place. After a while, we settled down on a large bolder for a bite to eat before making the trip down.
It was quite surreal enjoying such a beautiful day in this pristine location with the debris of a plane crash just a few yards away. We finished eating and packing up as other hikers and their dogs showed up. We no longer had the place to ourselves. It was time to go.
Could not find the Tubal Cane Mine
On the way back, we attempted to make one last attempt to find the opening to the Tubal Cain Mine, but we could not see it.
It was a beautiful hike which left us with a deep appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us here in the Northwest. Perhaps we will return to pass on the experience to someone else.