Work Party Saturday, August 16 2014

Our next work party will be Saturday, August 16. We will meet at the MCPA picnic table (~1 mile in beyond Barlow Pass gate) at 9AM. Bring your own brushing tools if you have them. Lunch provided by the MCPA !

Upcoming Family Picnic to be September 20; time and place to be announced soon !


We hope you will be able to join us at our MCPA annual meeting this Saturday at noon. Bring along something for the potluck lunch, and then we will have the opportunity to make plans for the summer. The Forest Service hazardous materials cleanup is atop the agenda. A summer picnic social for August 16 and our regular third Saturday work parties also will be discussed.

Location: Verlot Public Service Center, 11 miles east of Granite Falls on the Mt. Loop Highway. We’ll be in the former residence/ timber office building behind the main office. With a sunny forecast, plan for sitting on the sunny lawn for business to follow.

For further information: Call (360) 793-1534


U.S. Forest Service On-Site Coordinator Joe Gibbens has announced that the closure of all public and private access to Monte Cristo has been pushed back a year. Thus the existing county road to the townsite as well as trails off it to Gothic Basin, Glacier Basin, and Silver Lake will be open as normal through 2014. Reasons for delay included the wet spring delaying the resumption of construction on the new access road from Mowich to the bottom of Hap’s Hill, state Department of Ecology approval procedures running into summer, and the need to incorporate cultural resources information into the work plan. During this work season contractors intend to finish the three new bridges on the access route plus other smaller road tasks. This new portion will remain closed to the public through 2014. In addition, sampling wells will be dug at the hazardous materials depository site below town, and sampling will be conducted at the Mystery and Justice mines for possible drainage water treatment. Project benefits from the delay are lower contractor costs and having to place temporary culverts across Glacier Creek a single time rather than twice.


Snow depths still prevent hiking and biking to the town. Unlike last year the number of windfall trees across the road appears minimal. For those with road permits, driving is possible to the avalanche/picnic table area 3/8 of a mile in. Keep alert to National Weather Service forecasts for river, avalanche, and runoff conditions.


At 6 p.m. our board will hold its spring planning meeting at Third Place Books in the Lake Forest Park Town Center. Members always are invited to attend. For further information, contact President Kal Klass at


Mark your calendar for Saturday June 7 at noon for our annual meeting and potluck at the Verlot Public Service Center old timber office. Come to hear updates on what is expected to happen this summer, how we and the public are affected, and what we can do to get through this odd period. Your thoughts and opinions are valued as we decide how to proceed. New members and visitors are always are welcome!


MCPA, a private non-profit 501) (3) organization, has its dues year starting every May to coincide with normal access to Monte Cristo. Our dues are $24.00 per year, with an additional $18.00 cost for an optional annual key to the county gate at Barlow Pass. With the clay slide blocking the county road at 6/10 of a mile, parking is available there along the roadside. Notarized liability waivers from MCPA and Snohomish County also are required for drivers. Donations to MCPA are income tax deductible.


With the early plowing to reopen the Mt. Loop Highway for access to Darrington, we have an unexpected April start to the hiking season. Both the Big Four picnic area and the Mt. Dickerman/Perry Creek trailhead parking lots are open and clear, At Barlow Pass the highway parking area is mostly clear, but the upper lot still is snow bound. Above Silverton the Deer Creek road is open at least two miles, The Coal Lake road is open for three. The Sunrise Mine trail road is accessible, but with no estimate on how far it is snow free. From Barlow Pass the Monte Cristo county road is drivable to the MCPA picnic table/avalanche chute, but with some snow on the road. At that point the avalanche zone still features approximately eight to ten feet deep at its maximum depth and roughly two hundred feet across. From there the road and trail is quite walkable, with too much snow for bikes and too little for skis. At the Devil’s Elbow there are some small trees and debris across the road. Movement at the clay slide appears to be only several inches, fortunately. Two obstructing trees, ten to twelve inch diameter dry alders also are at the slide, one prior to and one after it. Both are easy step overs. The river is running hard at the start of the bypass trail, which is walkable with no major issues. Due to extreme danger, crossing the river here is not recommended.


Helping reduce the isolation of Darrington following the tragic slide on SR 530 east of Oso, the road out to Granite Falls via Barlow Pass and down to Silverton was repaired and plowed this week. It provides a slow, rough, alternative route not suitable for freight or large vehicles. Prior to that the only access into and out of the town was east on SR 20 through Skagit County to Rockport, then south on 530.

As most of us well know, driving the unpaved one lane with turnouts portion of the Mountain Loop between the Whitechuck River and Barlow Pass requires headlights, slow speed, and close attention to poor sight lines. We heard one Seattle radio reporter refer to it as “scary.” So, be aware that some drivers will be experiencing unfamiliar conditions as well as a new route.

Winter road damage has been minor, save for repairs to the clay slump just north of Bedal close to the intersection with Forest Service Road #49 up the North Fork Sauk River. Be alert to clay spots, tumbling debris, and rough, muddy sections, especially as we still are in the very early spring rainy season. Snowy periods are possible for the next month as well, often in the steep last mile from the Mowich bridge to Barlow Pass. Barlow ‘s elevation is 2360′.

No time frame has been given for the reopening of SR 530 through the slide area. Given its scope, depth, and recovery issues, it may not be soon.

Our thoughts, best wishes, and support go out to all those involved with the disaster. It has been a hard time.


Public access to Monte Cristo very early this season will be possible until access road work shuts it down for safety reasons. At our Winter Social February 1 the Forest Service explained that finishing their new route from the Mowich crossing below Barlow Pass on the Darrington side to its junction with the existing county road near the base of Hap’s Hill (m.p. 2 on the county road) remains to be done. That primarily consists of laying permanent decking on the first of its three long stringer bridges, then construction of the remaining two.

No timetable was given, as their starting date will depend upon snow and soil conditions, along with contractor agreements and arrival of the log stringers.

Until the bridges are done, hikers and bikers will be able to utilize the existing county road. When access ends, there is a possibility that the public will be able to go as far as Twin Bridges and the Gothic Basin trailhead, but that has yet to be decided. We will post the information as soon as it becomes available.

There are other undecided issues. One is how Glacier Creek will be crossed temporarily for equipment to reach the United Companies’ concentrator and other nearby contaminated sites. A second includes final determination of the size and boundaries of the hazardous materials repository. This will be located at the railway switchback below town next to the start of private property and was tested for suitability in 2013.

A new point is the possibility that the removal may be extended into 2015. One option being discussed is to focus on the townsite locations this summer, then the mines in the Jackson Wilderness next year. This would result in a larger capacity two-cell repository rather than one, as each must be permanently sealed at the end of a working season.


Cascade Earth Sciences of Spokane Valley is the prime contractor for the cleanup. They expect the Palm Construction Co. of Winthrop to return as the road and removal subcontractor. Their workers’ camp recreational vehicles will be located near the end of the county road below the Monte Cristo campground and may also utilize neighboring private land. Cultural resources subcontractor is ASM Affiliates of Stanwood, which will have on-site observation and monitoring to reduce damage to physical remains and artifacts. They already have been working to protect the old Sauk River wagon road.

Access to the Rainy mine, which is on the right bank of Glacier Creek upstream from the concentrator, will require construction of a temporary road to its portal and tailings pile. This is across the creek from the Pride/Mystery terminal and bunkers on the townsite side, also slated for cleanup.


Overseeing the federal cleanup to ensure it meets state laws, the Washington State Department of Ecology also is conducting its own studies and monitoring plan. For the past several years its teams have been conducting field research to evaluate the project’s effect on terrestrial and aquatic life forms, including plants and insects this past summer. Aquatic work is just beginning. Its area extends downstream below Monte Cristo Lake almost to Elliott Creek. Background and site sampling have been going on to establish base lines for comparison as materials are exposed, removed, and replaced with covering and new plantings. Monitoring by both agencies is expected to last for decades. Meanwhile, their first lab results are expected in late spring.