First mile of new access road
On Saturday September 21 MCPA volunteers in 4×4 vehicles were convoyed in to Monte Cristo by the hazmat cleanup project head Tim Otis and his wife. We had the opportunity to view progress on the new three mile access road being constructed for the cleanup plus spend time readying the town area for winter and forthcoming public exclusion. While the first and last portions of the new route utilize previous road grades, the middle section is entirely new. As it adds additional hills, rises, and dips with little appreciable elevation gain, it would not surprise us to see reduced numbers of hikers and cyclists using the now 10 mile round trip when it is done.
Another temporary bridge on new access road
To date little improvement has been accomplished on the two miles of existing county road from Hap’s Hill onward. Minor widening and removal of a small stump were done where river erosion has dug out a hole in the grade and exposed rails from the old Everett & Monte Cristo/Hartford Eastern Railway. Focus has been to construct the first of three bridges which will be required for the new middle section. When that is done sometime in early October work will be suspended until next season and the area closed to public access.
The 16 adults and two boys made excellent use of their time in town before the convoy headed back down the South Fork Sauk River valley. All MCPA interpretive signs were brought in, photographed, inventoried, and stored. Drainage bars were rebuilt to protect Dumas Street and other public paths. Major brushing was done from the end of the road through the old parking lot/railway yards and turntable (which still works). Broken windows from recent vandalism to a Forest Service cabin were boarded up. Blown down logs blocking Glacier Street were removed.
Temporary bridge on new access road
Our thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for allowing this opportunity, and thanks too to those who came out on such short notice to see the new route and take a probable last look at historic locations before they are affected by next year’s removal of hazardous wastes.
Looking towards townsite from Mystery Hill
We were just informed that there will be a tour for MCPA folk into the townsite on each of the following Saturdays: September 21 and 28 and October 5. This will allow us to see progress on the new access route and have some time to work on readying the area for this winter and next year’s exclusion for the hazardous materials cleanup. If you would like to join us and help out, please let David Cameron know at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 793-1534 by Thursday the 19th for this weekend, as we need to have a count by then. We will meet at Barlow Pass at 9 a.m. Saturday, follow a contractor’s pilot truck, and leave Monte Cristo at 4 p.m. the same way. This will be passable only by four-wheeled drive vehicles, so the count is important for passenger space. Bring along lunch, drinking water, suitable clothes for the weather, and tools for brushing or tread work.
A change in route has made this access possible. Instead of intersecting the current county road atop Hap’s Hill at M.P. 2, it will instead follow Forest Service road #6714 to its junction with the the county road just before the base of the hill. This reduces the amount of new construction impacts, but retains the troublesome approach near the camping area, which is highly susceptible to washing out.
Contractor work is expected to end by mid-October with the onset of fall rains and snow. Conditions change within the day, especially with storms and swiftly rising river levels.
On Monday September 16 we will meet with Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes and hazmat On-Site Coordinator Joe Gibbens to discuss our need for transporting work party volunteers into Monte Cristo to prepare for the exclusion. We hope to be able to finish taking down and storing the interpretive signs, maintain drainage and trail treads, and brush as much as possible along Dumas Street, the turntable, and the town site. Results of the meeting will be posted as soon as we know them.