After many years of planning and four years of construction the grand opening of the newly paved Middle Fork road was celebrated on National Public Lands day, September 30, 2017. On the same day a ribbon cutting ceremony was also held for the recently completed Granite Creek trailhead and a reroute of a troublesome section of the Middle Fork trail. Multiple work parties were out this day as well, and everyone was invited to the Middle Fork campground for food and beverages to wrap up the festivities.
These videos include highlights of the comments from representatives of the many government and private agencies that contributed to these projects. The theme of the day was working together to realize the opportunities presented by the Middle Fork valley. For the sake of brevity, most of the recitals of thanks to various groups and individuals have been edited out, but a full transcription is available here.
The Mountain To Sound Greenway also has many excellent photos on Facebook taken by Ray Lapine.
It was convenient to have this celebration on National Public Lands Day, but there was still a short section of the road by the TANW1 river gauge that was not completed by this date. That would happen a couple months later when the final bit of pavement was laid down and the last guard rails installed in mid November, 2017.
Work has begun on the new Granite Creek shortcut trail. This trail will start at a new parking lot the DNR plans to build near the concrete bridge and will wind up the ridge west of Granite Creek to join the old road, recently converted to a trail. The new trail starts out on an old logging road but leaves about 1/3 miles in on a new track that stays along the ridge line. For a number of years there has been a little know user-built trail that some hikers have used to shorten the distance to Granite Lakes by about 1 1/2 miles each way. Sections of that trail have always been steep and muddy and the new trail looks like it will be a big improvement when completed. But as of December 26 with recent rains and snow, the new trail is also very muddy and slippery and does not yet connect with the main trail above.
New Granite Creek shortcut trail route. The trail is still being roughed in. The dotted line is based on pink flagging indicating where the rest of the trail will probably be located.
In a 2009 planning document the DNR said “The new trail will follow the old logging road for half a mile, but then leave the road and wind its way up to the east amongst the various stream drainages west of the Granite Creek Canyon. Once above these deeply cut drainages, the trail will climb the dry ground available west of Granite Creek to meet the Granite Road-Trail, utilizing as few climbing turns and switchbacks as possible.”
2009 trail route concept. Planning has been going on for a long time. The route as constructed deviates quite a bit from this early version.
The new trail currently leaves the old logging road about .3 miles from the main road
The new trail is roughed in with freshly cut banks for now
Amenities are already being built such as this bench at a spot with a view over Granite Creek
The new trail winds back and forth on a ridge and stays much closer to Granite Creek than the old user-built shortcut trail
Excavator that’s handling the initial trail rough-in
An old deteriorating log stringer bridge crossing Granite Creek was pulled out last year during the DNR road-to-trail conversion of the Granite Lakes trail last fall. Concrete pads were poured for a pedestrian bridge that will sit far above the creek even at high water, but it will not be installed until this fall, or possibly spring 2014. In the meantime, a temporary bridge constructed from pieces of the old log stringers was put into place. Last winter it was at times a hazardous crossing, especially when icy. Now railings have been added which should provide for a secure crossing until the new bridge arrives.
New railings for a safer crossing (photo by bikejr)
Temporary stringers shortly after trail conversion
Top is flattened, but still hazardous when icy (photo by Richard Perkins)
These are the two oldest cars I know of still sitting and rotting in the Middle Fork. Most of the junkers have been hauled out, but these are not very accessible. With help from experts at nwhikers.net I was able to get probable model identification leading to photos of what these cars looked like in their prime. Not that they looked that way when driven into the Middle Fork, because as stated by a valley veteran “Some logger/miner/decrepit somebody just drove an ol’ junker ’til it died, then they just left them. Then maybe somebody shoved the junk out of the way.”
The Granite Lakes road-to-trail conversion is underway, with work currently being done on the road segment between the Granite Lakes fork and where the Thompson Lake trail took off. A large excavator is digging up the old road bed and removing culverts, leaving a roughed-in trail instead of a road. It will take a number for years for vegetation to re-establish itself along this trail, but it’s currently mostly willows and slide alder that will come back fast.