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Searching for Monte Cristo in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

U.S. Forest Service archeologist Jan Hollenbeck speaks to a group of youth about Monte Cristo on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington.

U.S. Forest Service archeologist Jan Hollenbeck speaks to a group of youth about Monte Cristo on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington.

Like many national forests, Washington’s Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is home to visiting hikers, nature and recreation enthusiasts, fishers, and bird watchers.

It is also home to a ghost town – recently explored by a group of Seattle youth with the help of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie foresters.

Several years ago, a Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie archeologist came across old data suggesting that 88 Japanese laborers may have called this once mineral-rich mining town of Monte Cristo home. This was great news for the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience of Seattle, a longtime partner of the forest who had been researching such information for an exhibit illustrating the experience of early Japanese laborers in the Pacific Northwest. The Wing, as it is locally called, had been exploring the concept of environmental heritage, or the connection between local communities and public lands. The museum tasked its community-oriented group of youth to lead the groundwork on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie.

In late August, the group headed east of Seattle to the forest for a three-day research excursion. Leading this adventure was a group of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie foresters who guided them deep into the forest’s inner grounds to Monte Cristo. The juxtaposition between now and then was tangible. From the town’s establishment in the late 19th century until its demise after the turn of the 20th century, Monte Cristo had flourished with residents, families and businessmen, including John D. Rockefeller. This was in stark contrast to the ghost town where not much was left behind.

Monte Cristo turned into a ghost town soon after World War I and officially joined U.S. Forest Service land in 1992. Today, visitors to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest can hike or walk on the four-mile trail that was once an old road. But when the art exhibit opens in March, museum goers will be able to hear a variety of collected sounds of the old town.

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