Five miles outside of Wallace, Idaho, lies the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, named after Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, the hero who led nearly his entire crew of 45 firefighters to safety during the Great Fire of 1910.
In 1910, a huge fire dominated north Idaho. Pulaski and his crew of 45 were on Striped Peak when the blaze erupted, and they knew they had to flee. Pulaski led his men to the Nicholson mine tunnel, where Big Ed ordered the firefighters into the mine shaft on August 20th.
Pulaski told his crew to lie face down in order to have breathable air, rather than heavy smoke. At one point, a man tried to make a run for it, and Pulaski pulled his revolver on him and said, “The next man who tries to leave the tunnel I will shoot.” Naturally, the tunnel was a madhouse, but after about five hours the place had quieted down. Some men passed out, five of whom were never to wake again. The rest survived the blaze, thanks to the actions of “Big Ed.”
For decades, the tunnel’s location was lost. In 1979, archaeologist and historian Carl Ritchie was given the assignment to find the mine. After countless hours of research and exploring, he finally discovered its location outside Wallace. The community members raised funds to create a trail to the site, which includes informational signs along the way and a restored wooden gateway to the tunnel. Although it appears burnt and realistic, the arch was crafted after the fact to appear as if it successfully made it through the 1910 fire.
Know Before You Go
The trail is four miles there and back. It is moderately trafficked and dogs are allowed on leash. After hiking for two miles, you will be able to view the Nicholson mine. Although there is no maintained path to the mine entrance, it is possible to walk to it. There is also a metal gate within the mine, blocking off people from entering.