The road is getting better bit by bit. Another mile had gravel added and was graded today, making it a decent ride for the first 6.2 miles (2.5 of which are paved). This probably means King County will keep going for another 1.5 miles to the yellow gate. Hopefully the Forest Service will work on the last 5 miles to the Taylor Bridge soon — even one mile in the current condition is slow and hard on cars.
Grader returning after working on another mile of road just beyond the concrete bridge
Has the Middle Fork River had it’s peak flow for the year? As of March 15, it’s been a mild year for river flow levels. That’s a good thing because extreme levels cause wash-outs and road closures. Check out the graph below and decide for yourself. The top of the blue band is the 95th percentile river level for each day over the last 51 years. Excluding the top 5% river level readings eliminates the rare flood events and gives a more “usual” sense of when the river flow can peak. The bottom of the blue band is the absolute minimum, and since it’s not dangerous, except maybe to fish, there’s no reason to use a percentile there.
Middle Fork Snoqualmie TANW1 river flow statistics as of 2013/03/15
Being conservative, we’re not out of the woods yet for a major flood event this year, but given the low snow levels it’s unlikely that a damaging flood will occur now. On the other hand, in 2012 a lot of the snow pack accumulated late in the year. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but things are looking good for a wash-out free spring. But there’s still November and December lurking, when some of the worst floods have happened.
During the first few months of 2013 the Middle Fork road has been as bad as it ever gets. There have been suspicions that maybe King County was conserving maintenance dollars because of the pending construction, but that doesn’t start for another year. However, in early March the road was graded and had gravel dumped on it as far as the concrete bridge at MP 5. Beyond that it’s still terrible, only getting slightly better after crossing the Taylor River and turning south to Dingford (still some snow on that section though, but driveable).
Some time this spring as the upper Middle Fork Valley melted out, tons of rocks fell from cliffs just over a mile from the Hardscrabble trailhead. A few of the rocks are too large to be pushed or winched off the road, so blasting is planned for sometime in the first half of August, 2013. Expect both the road and Middle Fork trail beyond Goldmyer to be closed. The trail passes directly under the rock slide site so hikers and bikers would be in the line of fire of huge boulders rolling down the side of the valley.
Under the 2005 Access and Travel Management plan, the Forest Service is “required to perform all maintenance required on the segment used as a National Forest System trail.” In this case that probably means clearing enough rocks for a 40″ wide passage. Some of the inholder’s mining claims are beyond the rock slide, so they may assist with the cost of clearing a wider path to maintain access for vehicles. This rock slide is several miles beyond the Goldmyer turn-off, so access to the hot springs is not affected.
Even a gate key won’t get you to the Hardscrabble trailhead. Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org
Possible origin of slide
Location of 2013 rock slide near Hardscrabble trailhead
From 2005 ATM plan (emphasis mine) — Access to Mining Claimants on Road 5600
Mining Claimants will be given a key to the Dingford Creek gate and granted motorized access to their mining claims.
They will not be required to perform maintenance, but will be allowed—at their choice and expense—to complete routine maintenance that will allow their continued motorized access. This will include cutting falling trees, removing rocks or brushing the private road/trail.
If other than routine maintenance will be needed for their continued motorized access, claimants will first propose the work to the Forest Service, via either a notice of intent or a plan of operations related to their mining claims.
Any work will be considered to be an integral part of their mining activity and will be process under the Forest Service’s mining regulations at 36 CFR 228, subpart A.