At our September 20 work party we had a beautiful day with very many people hiking in to the townsite and also up to Gothic Basin before seasonal rains returned. We checked for vandalism in the town, finished improving the start of the Gothic Basin trail, and brushed out the E&MC Railway grade trail from Barlow Pass down to its intersection with the Mt. Loop Highway. This was maintenance of the work we had begun several years ago. Thanks to everyone who turned out!
Construction of the bypass road from Mowich to Monte Cristo for the hazmat cleanup was interrupted the middle of the month by a lack of materials. It was scheduled to resume shortly with the goal of completion later this fall. If the route is passable for authorized motor vehicles by the 18th of October we hope to be able to drive in for our last work party of the season and before the scheduled year-long closure. If we have this opportunity we plan on cleaning up around the campground and toilet areas, along with cutting as much brush as time allows on Dumas Street and around the turntable. Otherwise, we may not be back until some time in 2016.
Because of the uncertainty of access these past few weeks we did not have a group picnic, but we are hoping to schedule some productive and enjoyable events for this coming year. Those will start with our popular annual Winter Social the first Saturday in February. Watch this space and your newsletter mail box for further information!
Hiking conditions into town have been excellent recently. If you are planning an outing in the near future be sure to check weather and river forecasts as the rainy season begins. Barlow Pass is at 2360′ elevation, with the townsite area around 2800′-3000′, roughly the height of Snoqualmie Pass. From Barlow to the town is an easy hike save for crossing the river, with a distance of eight miles round trip. There is no covered shelter at the Monte Cristo campground, as it burned down and has not been rebuilt. Carry your own drinking water. Due to construction, the new access road is not open to the public and will create a 10-mile round trip with noticeably more elevation gain and loss when it is. The future of the current route is unknown.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.