History Corner- Transports on the Trail


(Note:  This article appeared in an issue of the 2003 Alpiner.  Are the vehicles still there?)

By Doug Simpson

A hiker is often surprised by the unusual or unexpected o his wilderness forays.  New viewpoints or vistas are always pleasant, as are sighting of wildlife and coming across remnants of logging or mining operations from years past.

However, a totally different kind of unique experience is to discover a long-abandoned vehicle in the wilderness.  Yet each of the major Issaquah Alps has its own vehicle—and perhaps a special story to tell.

One of the trails on Tiger Mountain is called the Bus Trail—and for good reason.  As you perambulate this pleasant family trail, there it is. . . an abandoned Greyhound scenicruiser lying on its side, slowly rusting and rotting away.  Since its location is not in a very steep place, it could have gotten there pretty easily, but  why was it abandoned?  Even Bill Longwell, who has written the ultimate guidebook to Tiger Mountain, was unable to provide an explanation of its origins.

The upper reaches of Squak Mountain were once owned by the Bullitt family, which had a small lodge near the top of Central Peak.  Today, all that remains are part of the fireplace and a cement floor.  (I’m assuming the picnic table was brought in later.)  In any case, the Bullitt aerie was reached by a narrow old road up Squak’s north side, connecting to the Mountain Park neighborhood of Issaquah.  About a mile down the old road (now but a narrow trail) and steeply down into the trees and brush rests a car.  Once it got off the road, it would have been nearly impossible to pull back up, so apparently it was just left abandoned there.  Stimson Bullitt knows nothing of it.  But wouldn’t you like to know how and when it met its end?

Cougar Mountain was more developed earlier in the 20th century, with mining camps and numerous roads crisscrossing its upper reaches.  It, too, has an abandoned car.  This is the most mysterious of the three.  It is off the Shangri La Trail (another one-time road) just below the route’s main turn north to the AA trailhead atop Cougar.  The car was abandoned off the road/trail, but this time on the uphill side.  How?  Why?

I am very curious about these automotive mysteries, as are, I’m sure, countless other hikers.  So my imagination has run amok, and these are my theories as to the origin of these ancient (well, at least 50-60 years ago) transports.

As for the bus, it is not much of a stretch to envision it as a base adjunct to some mining, logging or power company at work.  It is close to the power lines.  It may have been an office, a chuckwagon or rest station.  When the operation ended, it was simply left behind.  Whether it was tipped over by the departing workers or just malicious hikers is anyone’s guess.

The Squak/Bullitt car went off the road, I surmise, either due to snowy, slippery conditions, or perhaps due to drunken or careless driving by someone descending the mountaintop getaway.

Let’s have some fun with the Cougar car (no Mercury model here).  I like to think that the car met its untimely and unlikely end as some renegade moonshiner or desperado of some sort was racing recklessly to get away from the pursing law.  Well, it could have happened that way!

What are your theories of these transports of the trails?  And what other mysteries have hikers uncovered on their excursions into the wilderness?

Hannah Wheeler