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Therese Iknoian

Traveler | Photographer at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian spent a decade as a daily newspaper journalist before launching a freelance writing career specializing in outdoor, fitness and training. All the while trotting the globe, her focus finally turned to travel. Fluent in German, Therese runs a translation business (www.ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. Also a French speaker, she loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication and the search for great travel discoveries.
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My Seattle friend and I were in need of a hiking adventure, and selected Hansen Creek trail, a new hike that promised some steep hills, single-track trails, and a little scree scrambling.

Example of a crystal that was found near Hansen Creek trail.

Crystal-hunter and owner of the pictured crystal above, Chuck Saitta, shared the following with us: This specimen is called “Lovers.” A Hansen Creek Amethyst entangled in an embrace with its mate. This is a great story: I got off work early one day and decided to walk up to see if there was any way to see open patches of dirt through the snow. The snow pack was still intact but the melt had started. I was wearing work clothes and dress shoes. I got up to the parking area and started walking. The main area for crystal was a North facing slope so the sun was hiding from the dig area. As I walked further I was met with frozen ground, which made the walk easier. When I got to the site, there was only a tiny spot of dirt showing. With no tools present, I picked up a stick and scraped the ground just a little. Out popped this little gem. I also invite you to visit http://facebook.com/harmonicfrog — my mining site. There you can see other crystals from Hansen Creek and read some of the stories.

After a bit of searching by car, we found what looked to be the trailhead on the west side of Snoqualmie Pass east of Seattle

After parking, loading our packs, and letting the dog out of the van, we set off, looking for the trail that promised to be heading uphill after about a mile on an old overgrown road. Soon we saw some narrow clearings heading up the mountain, but with no signage, there was no way to know if any of these were the trail or not.

Optimistically, we headed up what looked a bit like an old mine tailing, a waterfall of brushless muddy sand spewing down the hill. We fought our way up, sliding back down every few steps and using limbs and trees to pull ourselves up.

Still not sure if we were on a trail, we continued scouting when all of a sudden, we both saw heads popping up from behind old growth tree stumps, and then ducking back down again. What had we stumbled across in the forest?

We approached one man at the nearest stump to ask if we were on a trail. He raised his head long enough from clawing in the dirt to say, “Trail?? No, we’re hunting crystals,” then down went the head and on went the clawing.

My friend and I exchanged curious glances and kept scrambling, optimists that we are. After a few more minutes of scrambling, we came across a young couple and two young boys crawling around in the dirt. We asked what they were doing, and, in a far more friendly tone than our previous encounter, he explained how this was one of the most well-known places to hunt for crystals – at least to serious crystal hunters, which explained why we had never heard of it. He showed me a flat mesh basket he was using to scoop up dirt and shake till the grains fell through, leaving rocks to inspect in the quest for quartz crystals. He even pulled a couple of crystals out of his pocket. These weren’t rocks that looked like dirty ol’ garden variety pebbles despite the claim of a crystal. We were talking gorgeous quartz crystals that would draw a nice bit of pocket change in a store or at a crafts fair!

As we glanced around the dense brush, it became easier to pick out other little groups of people sitting in the dirt. While we didn’t find our trail up the mountain, we saw other crystal-hunters (a.k.a. amateur geologists or rock hounds) hiking in while we were headed out – most were equipped with packs and little shovels, while a few had a pail of beers.

HITT Tip: Seems the Hansen Creek trail area doesn’t exist without some controversy — click on Hansen Creek Quartz Crystals. There are some alleged claims that the Hansen Creek Crystal area was once closed. Seems unsure if it’s still closed since there are plenty of rock hounds there. And there was some question if the closure was legal. If you are intrigued, perform a few Internet searches and you’ll find plenty of videos and stories. It seems to be administered by the Washington State Mineral Council now. All that aside, to get there: Head east from Seattle on I-90 and take exit 47. Go back across the freeway. At the intersection, turn right. Be sure to look up. When you see a power line, keep going. Then you’ll see a high train trestle. After that, park at the first road on a switchback on your left and walk about a mile. You’ll see the collecting areas on your right side. We were told people tend to dig beneath old growth stumps on their downhill side. and there are some environmentalists who argue that such digging tears up nature. We’ll leave you to your own opinion.
HITT Tip: If you really are looking for a hike other than Hansen Creek trail — or want one before or after some crystal hunting — that can be found all around the area too. One popular area is just up the road at the Denny Creek area off Tinkham Road. This is also off Exit 47 and there are plenty of options.
Heads up! This information on the Hansen Creek Trail was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.