The last 2 miles of the Middle Fork road were paved in early October, 2014 from the MP 10.6 bridge to the Taylor River campground. The Middle Fork trailhead parking areas were paved at the same time.
Middle Fork trailhead prepped for paving
Middle Fork Trailhead parking lot paved (from construction newsletter, courtesy of ACI)
Newly paved Middle Fork trailhead parking lot
A paving project open house was held at the North Bend Ranger Station on April 23, 2014. Several engineers from the WFLH and a representative of the contractor were present to answer questions. The event was more lightly attended than previous events, possibly because most of the decisions have already been made. This attendee put in a request to rationalize the milepost marks by starting them at the intersection of the Middle Fork Road and 468th Ave SE instead of I-90 Exit 34.
North Bend Ranger Station, the open house venue
WFLH project engineers available to answer questions
The recent heavy February rain has done more than make the river rise and get the snow pack closer to normal. All the small side streams have more than their normal flow and as the ground gets saturated, things get loose. This huge rock rolled out of a spot 15′ above the road just a little before the Island Drop river view at MP 4. Always pay close attention while driving the Middle Fork road as rocks, and especially trees come down regularly.
Big rock falls on the Middle Fork
Another reason to keep your speed down
An unnecessary tragedy occurred on February 8, 2014 when a Toyota Land Cruiser going too fast heading up the Middle Fork road veered out of control, shearing off trees and coming to rest on boulders ten feet below the road bed. Car parts were scattered throughout the area indicating a particularly violent collision. 17-year-old Calvin Hancock was sitting in the rear passenger seat and was killed, pronounced dead at the scene. The three others in the car were brought to the hospital to be treated for injuries. The group were on their way to rescue other friends who had vehicle trouble further up the road.
This road in particular is not safe for fast driving, if any are. Calvin’s mother expressed appropriate grief and anger in response to this accident as a comment to a Snoqualmie Valley Record story – “The boy who died was our son. I hope all of his classmates learn from this tragic event. Too much speed and lack of driving experience are the sole reason for what happened. Your parents aren’t trying to bother you. Your parents have experience. The next time an officer pulls you over and yells at you for being an idiot, remember that he may have just seen one of these horrible, horrible accidents and another dead teen.” Amen to that.
Site of accident at MP 6.4
Memorial photo and flowers
Graffiti is not uncommon along the Middle Fork road, but it’s rare that it’s done so elaborately and results in such a cryptic message. Between the USFS and others, defacement of signs, bridges, trees, rocks and other objects doesn’t remain in place for long. That’s a good thing because graffiti contributes to a perception of disorder and permissiveness, and that can be reversed by timely removal.
Around New Years day of 2014 vandals removed the sign board, spray painted the frame in two shades of blue and painted the enigmatic word “Tree” along with an arrow pointing to the right.
Within two weeks of being vandalized, the graffiti has an obscuring layer of paint
This particular sign board has been in place since 2011, featuring several different messages all related to fire prevention.
Before the fall of 2011, this location had a simple “No Target Shooting” sign. The new sign allows for a changing message, in this case “A Beautiful Forest Is A Matchless Sight”
A year after this sign board was erected it got a new message — “Wanted, Your Campfire DEAD-OUT”
The third message on this board appeared in the spring of 2013 — “Protect And Enjoy Your National Forest”
Living Snoqualmie called it a one-two punch from Mother Nature. A warm front brought heavy rains and high winds to western Washington on January 11 and a flood watch was posted. But there has not been enough low elevation snow so far this winter to produce dangerously high volumes on the Middle Fork river and the flow peaked at a safe 7.76 feet/6,560 cfps at 1am on January 13. Fortunately there was no significant damage to the road surface. As expected, trees were downed, but all of them were already passable by mid-morning on January 12.
Double whammy on the straights before the concrete bridge with a young douglas fir from the right and an alder from the left.
Trees rarely fall alone, and one medium size alder brought down a smattering of smaller ones with it.
Puddles of water colored with valley bottom clays fill up near Big Blowout Creek bridge
Alders are the first trees to grow back after logging and weaken when deprived of light by maturing firs and cedars. This spindly alder was growing behind a large douglas fir stump. Expect the white-barked alders in the center to fall in coming years as well.
Not all trees fall during the storm. This section of road was clear in the morning after the storm, then a large maple uprooted mid-day and brought down an alder with it. A spontaneous crew of hatchet-wielding visitors blocked by the fallen tree cleared a path wide enough to get vehicles past.
A jumble of fallen trees triggered by a large uprooted maple, neatly slicing another tree in half on it’s way down.
Three days later a volunteer chain saw crew has cut back the larger branches. Much of the large debris will probably be salvaged for firewood.
In October 2013 the Forest Service completed a badly needed upgrade to the Dingford Creek trailhead. When the Middle Fork road was permanently gated here in June 2007 the Dingford trailhead absorbed the users that previously drove farther up the road to Goldmyer Hot Springs or the Dutch Miller Gap trailhead, in addition to those heading up the Dingford Creek trail or down to the bridge over the Middle Fork river to the Middle Fork trail. On sunny summer weekends the parking was often maxed out, and without any restroom facilities the surrounding forest was becoming a smelly mess. Besides a new prefab Cascadian Vault Restroom the parking lot received a thick layer of gravel and concrete parking bumpers. The bumpers increase the capacity encouraging diagonal parking on both sides of the trailhead area.
Panorama of upgraded Dingford trailhead
This change did not come out of the blue. It was part of the Access and Travel Management decision 8 years ago in 2005.
The Decision: Dingford Creek Trailhead
In conjunction with the conversion of Road 5600 past Dingford Creek to trail/private road, sanitation facilities will be provided at the Dingford Creek Trailhead. Additionally, the current capacity of 10-12 cars, parking will be expanded to up to a maximum of 30 cars. Cutting and grubbing alder and brush that have encroached into the parking area and into the south shoulder of Road 5600 just prior to the trailhead will accomplish this. Once cleaned, the area will be graded to provide the expanded parking.
Mossy Dingford Creek trail signboard in January 2011
Updated Dingford Creek trail signboard in November 2011
Dilapidated Dingford Bridge trail signboard as of January 2011
Updated Dingford Bridge trail signboard in November 2011
A busy Dingford trailhead with parking maxed out in September 2012
Dingford trailhead parking on a typical winter day before the upgrade
Temporary Dingford trailhead parking during trailhead upgrade
Temporary road closure for Dingford trailhead upgrade
Digging a pit for the badly needed Dingford trailhead restroom
The dirt from the toilet pit was trucked down the road and dumped by the gravel wash at the wash of Garfield’s Great Canyon
A new restroom in two pieces. The structure is constructed to look like wood, but is actually made of concrete
Many truckloads of gravel were brought in to resurface the parking area
Dingford trailhead upgrade with lots of new gravel
Sometime in the spring of 2013 a rock slide blocked the Middle Fork road about one mile before the Hardscrabble trailhead. As explained in the linked post, the USFS is committed to keeping a 40″ wide path open. So on September 18, 2013 a Forest Service crew spent a full day blasting the bigger rocks and rolling the smaller ones to clear the rock slide. This movie was made with two cameras mounted near the the blast site with additional audio edited in from the radios used to coordinate the closing of the trail for safety concerns.
Before. Tarps covered previously drilled holes drilled in large rocks
Placing explosives and packing mud
Packing mud over holes
Attaching detonation cord
Pouring ANFO prills into garbage bags
ANFO/emulex charges sitting on top of smaller rocks
Shredded tree from second blast
After, a cleared trail
After delays to coordinate with patches on the upper couplet and the discovery of a surprisingly large rock, construction of the new culvert on the lower couplet is complete. Notice how deep the concrete culvert frame is and then how little is exposed above the water in the last picture. The bottom is filled with natural stream bed material so fish can pass through easily.
Crews discovered a very large boulder that needed to be removed to install the culvert.
Work crews guide the box culvert sections into place
The work crew guides a cap onto the culvert sections
The repaired culvert draining on a rainy winter day
Signboard appears offering land for sale in April, 2011
Trailhead parking for Mailbox Peak has been a problem ever since the hike started appearing in guidebooks in ~2007 and it’s popularity started rising. The DNR built a new parking lot
off the road in 2013, but it’s not scheduled to open regularly until the new Mailbox Peak trail is completed in 2014. For many years hikers parked in the pullout on the north side of the road, and in the small loop in front of the gate leading to the trail itself. But some trouble started in 2011 when for sale signs appeared for property on either side of the road.
Typical busy day at Mailbox with the north pullout full and overflow parking along the road
Location of parcels
“Sale Pending” in 2012
Nothing changed for a year and a half until the property was nearly sold and “Sale Pending” placards appeared. But something clearly went south because the property was not sold and a year later four large concrete blocks were placed in the pullout parking area with messages making it very clear that parking was forbidden. In the next couple weeks an access road to the parcels on the south side was cleared and more concrete blocks showed up.
Excavator opening access to property
Cleared road provides access to property for sale
This site does not cover private property issues other than transfers to public status, so no attempt will be made to explain this sequence of events. However, as of February, 2014 the DNR seems to be negotiating to purchase these properties to prevent development from creeping farther up the valley.