Start off with a bit of railroad history, then follow a trail into the Wild Sky Wilderness. Parallel Martin Creek on a bench above the waterway, winding upward through the forest to meet Kelley Creek and the old Kelley Creek trail. WTA helped construct the connector, designed to increase the connectivity of the trail system of the Iron Goat.
The trail starts off from the same parking lot as the beginning of the Iron Goat trail. But, instead of heading for the Iron Goat, go to the northern side of the parking lot and find the trail on the left. This first part of the trail is the site of the old bridges that once spanned the ravine you will be hiking down.
There were two bridges as the track turned a ‘horseshoe’ to climb upward toward the pass. The horseshoe was a tunnel chiseled under the rock on the west side of Martin Creek. The bridge is long gone, torn down in 1929 when the new route was built. Take the little side trails that lead to overlooks with interpretive signage and some interesting pictures.
Now head down, passing some impressive concrete foundations that once supported the trestle spans. Cross over Martin Creek on a sturdy bridge. Once you cross the creek, a short trail to the left leads to the site of the old tunnel and the other side of the bridges. Here you’ll find a picture of what one of the bridges looked like when it was still in use. The tunnel has disappeared in landslides, but much of the rock taken out when the tunnel was built is still visible. When you finish your history lesson, return to the main trail and follow it to the right. It is labeled Kelley Creek trail.
The Kelley Creek trail now heads north into the Wild Sky Wilderness, the boundary reached a half-mile from the trailhead. There is a sign just before you cross the log bridge over Jake’s Creek. Once across, begin a gentle steady climb up the ridge in a mature forest of hemlock, fir and cedar. There are still some impressive old trees here, now protected in the Wild Sky. In the spring look for trillium and queen’s cup in flower, in the fall, mushrooms. Along the path are many bright green deer ferns.
The way becomes steeper, switchbacking up the hillside overlooking the creek. Occasionally there is an open spot with some partial views across the creek valley. About two miles in there are some views of small waterfalls and some viewpoints. There are no unobstructed views, but good glimpses can be had through the trees.
Once you reach the high point, the trail heads slightly down to meet Kelley Creek. There is a tricky stream crossing here; it is not wide, but it is deep and moves fast in times of high runoff. You may have to call it a day here if you are not comfortable making the crossing. But if you think you can manage it, proceed carefully, crossing on rocks, and continue on to Kelley Creek, just a short ways further.
There is a log across Kelley Creek. Cross if you feel confident doing so, or just eat your lunch by the creek. If you take a minute to look at your map, you will see that Kelley Creek flows down from the north and meets up with Martin Creek just downstream from the log, out of sight of the trail.
Further exploration can be had by crossing the creek and hiking up to intersect the old trail that starts further up FR 6710. As of this writing in 2018, the trail continued as a brushy blowdown mess through an old vegetation choked avalanche chute. If it gets logged out and cleared so it is safe, hikers could continue up the old Kelley Creek trail, meeting the Johnson Ridge trail at the Scorpion Mountain-Joan Lake intersection.