News from the Skyko North Valley
Skykomish North Fork and surrounding area
Skyko 3, Skyko 4, Index-Galena Road
Wild Sky Wilderness Area

August 30, 2014
Your gun rights are at stake.
Please vote NO on 594.
This is why...

Current Area Weather Forecast
Forecast Data for Jack Pass Summit

Flood Status and River Levels (Snohomish County)
River Forecasts and Data (National Weather Service)

River Level at the Galena (9-mile) bridge



Please see the County website for their updates.

This newsletter was posted on the county website in 2007.
This route feasibility study was published in March, 2009.
This county newsletter was published in September, 2010.

FHWA Approved Design Report -  March, 2011. 

Snohomish County Newsletter -  May, 2011. 

Wild Sky Resources

Avalanche Information

Hunting Rules

Fishing Rules

Burn Ban Information

State Highways    US2

Energy Project:  Snohomish PUD Information

Energy Project:  HeraldNet Article - September 2010

Energy Project:  HeraldNet Article - September 2011

Hwy 2 Road Closure - State DOT Information

NOAA Snow Depth Model for Jack Pass area

Wednesday, June 18 - Propane Time
Northern Energy is currently planning our propane delivery for next week. Please let them know your intentions for this fillup. I have reviewed the list with the driver and believe all are accounted for, but they would still appreciate hearing from each of you. New for this year is electronic delivery tracking. The driver can no longer add a delivery which has not been listed before leaving home base. There are no independent deliveries except at a very high price. Our fillup is coordinated with another remote stop near Stevens Pass. We usually get one more trip just before winter, but it is not a sure thing if we get an early snow. I will be here to assist the driver. If you need my help with a locked tank, let me know. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Sunday, April 13 - Pass Conditions
Hiking conditions are easy and fast - no snow, no trees in the road. Two Jeeps made it in over the pass on Saturday by using low tire pressures to crawl over the snow. Obstacles were minor and the snow depth on top is about two feet now. It is starting to look like an earlier meltdown this year. USFS and country road cleanup should be easy and fast when the time comes. I don't know their plans yet. There was a low helicopter flyby on Friday.

Wednesday, March 12 - Hiked in


The road is bare to the Index side of the washouts. The forest floor on the hillside is bare and wet. The main road beyond the washouts is still snow covered all the way, from a few inches deep at the lower end to about a foot deep at the high end. The road is starting to show through in the foot trail at the lower end only. Bare spots are emerging where the water runs across the road. The foot trail is not as well traveled as in past winters (my bad), but is useful enough to be faster than punching through elsewhere. It is a bit of a balancing act to keep moving near the upper end where the boot prints are deeper. I had little loss of time there since I had trekking poles. They were also very useful at the stream crossings and on the slippery hillside trails. With the river still at 4-1/2 feet here, the stream crossings were not quite "easy" yet with dry boots. Ankle deep into the water made it faster with more stable footing. My total time incoming was 1:35.

 
 

Thursday, January 30 - Pass Conditions Today

Monday, January 27 - Pass Update
Today the pass was reported as driveable again with a 4WD truck. It was done without chains but a 2WD vehicle was found stuck near the top and had to be towed out. Several 4WD vehicles have now been seen in the valley.

Friday, January 3 - Pass Update
4" new snow on the pass. Still driveable.

New Year's Day, 2014 - Driving Conditions
Big surprise! A Subaru Outback just drove in. Their news is that "anyone" can make it over the pass right now. Oddly, the Beckler River Road was most of the challenge. It is still quite snowy and icy (never plowed). You would think that climbing over the pass isn't even remotely possible. Instead, they found the gravel road mostly bare all the way to the top. There were one or two inches of snow at most here and there. Use it while you can. There will be new snow up there sometime. There may be a few inches more coming on Friday. If there is not too much and with some traffic to beat it down, we may still be able to drive in for a while longer.

New Year's Eve, 2013 - Hiking Conditions
Hiking conditions are excellent. The ground is bare and wet on the trails around the washouts, and the road is now 80% bare. It is a fast trip with dry boots at this river level (3 ft.) and while the ground is mostly free of snow and ice. I still do this (and the slippery trails) with trekking poles. They help to keep the speed up and have spared me many falls. My travel time today was 1:10 from the car to the cabin. Driving around would have taken almost that long and adds risk of stranding a vehicle here if there is new snow. I don't yet know what the pass conditions are for vehicles. There have been tracks, but they may be from the offroaders who can make it in regardless of snow depth on the pass. If I see anyone drive in while I am here, I will try to get some news.

Saturday, November 23 - Pass Conditions
An unmodified 4WD SUV has been seen on the main road in the valley today, but he did not stop to talk. I conclude from this that driving over the pass is possible with 4WD and appropriate tires, and maybe with chains. Update: Ranger Brad Lammers was in the area later in the day, indicating once again that 4WD vehicles (possibly with chains) should be able to make it over the pass. He called on my son and friends, who were doing some shooting practice in the area. This is a good thing. All was well and in compliance with requirements and best practices.

Friday, November 22 - Pass Conditions
The winter storm of last weekend was expected to leave 20" of snow on Jacks Pass. Some who drove out on that Friday said it was snowing heavy. I left earlier with plans only to walk back in. Yesterday was the first vehicle attempt from the Beckler side that I know of. A 4WD Toyota pickup could not make it to the top. He chose not to attempt it with chains. Others are likely to try on the upcoming holiday weekend. If I see vehicles on the inside or hear of anyone who makes it in between now and then, I'll post the news here. Please share the news if you see it before I do.

The propane deliveries were completed on the 12th, just before the snow.

Friday, July 26 - Geothermal Energy Leasing

Legal Notice, Everett Herald, July 1
USFS Letter, Request for Comments
Skykomish Geothermal Consent to Lease

The Forest Service has now published an environmental assessment (EA) related to the BLM's request to conduct lease sales for the purpose of geothermal energy exploration and possible development in our area. There is some background on this below, dated June 6th of last year. At that time, there was an opportunity to comment during the scoping period for the EA which is now complete. Linked above is a final request for comments related to an imminent decision by the Forest Service to grant this BLM request with a finding of no significant impact. Also linked above is a public notice which appeared in the Everett Herald on July 1st. The deadline for comments will be 30 days after that, which is coming up next week on Wed., the 31st. Comments are invited in response to the published EA (linked above). All studies and findings can be reviewed on the Forest Service web page for this project (linked above). Instructions for commenting can also be found in the links above.

Sunday, July 14 - Lost Doggie is Home
I heard from the Skykomish Ranger Station on Friday about this. Today it was confirmed by the nice people who have been caring for him. His name is Ramsey and he is happily back home with his people now.

Monday, June 24 - Dog Found
I lost my people in the forest. Have you seen my people?

I am safe and healthy and staying with some nice people I borrowed from near the Beckler campground on June 4th. We went to visit the ranger station in Skykomish but my people had not been there. The doctor said my people-finding chip was too old to be helpful. I lost my collar, but my new people think I am too well cared for and polite to have left my old people in the forest on purpose. I was pretty hungry when I got here and they're feeding me well, but I would rather live with my own people. I have my own email address now:

Saturday, June 22 - Propane Delivery
For my neighbors with fixed tanks, Northern Energy is tentatively planning our propane delivery for Wednesday of this week. I'm out too and have been negotiating for a price. It was too high in November. Watch for an update on the timing and let me know if you need help with access for the driver. They would appreciate hearing from each of you to verify your intentions. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Monday, June 10 - Road Cleanup, Air Show, Campgrounds
The county road cleanup has now reached the Howard Creek bridge and should be complete to the washout by tomorrow. This afternoon, the Forest Service had a 75 ft. trail bridge airlifted from the top of Jacks Pass to the Troublesome Creek area. This was originally scheduled for tomorrow. I had hoped to be on-hand for photos, but the contractor moved up the flights on short notice due to the more favorable weather today. I'll try to get some photos from the FS or the contractor's crew. If this bridge replacement project remains on schedule, the campgrounds will open next Thursday, June 13. There is still a good deal of firewood available, resulting from the road cleanup. Permits are required and will be issued at the Ranger Station in Skykomish. Their hours are now 8:00 to 4:30, Tuesday through Saturday. They will have field presence on Sundays and Mondays.

Thursday, June 6 - Road Clearing Progress
I have just received this news from the county regarding their progress with clearing the road...

"Our crews have cleared the traveled way from the top of Jacks Pass west to Troublesome Creek as of the end of shift yesterday. The logs are being cold decked near the edge of the roadway per [Forest Service] request. We have personnel headed that way again today and we plan to continue until the downed vegetation along the route has been mitigated."

Wednesday, May 22 - Part III
I went out this afternoon and brought my Jeep around. It was no problem, but it's quite the obstacle course. My Jeep is not very shiny, but it wasn't before either. I had to tow a stuck 4WD F250 out of that last pile of snow on top of the pass. He just didn't have my aviation background. I made a run at it in 4-Hi and just did the last half airborne. Eeehaa! Fly in or bring a shovel. They were using theirs.

Wednesday, May 22 - Part II
 
 
A 4WD Toyota pickup just made it in. I caught a ride to the top of the pass for photos. The remaining stretch of snow up there is just a couple of car lengths up to about 18" deep. It takes 4WD and some ground clearance to get through it right now, but it could be shoveled out for 2WD in reasonable time. It is a rough, slow trip between here and the top with a lot of brush and limb crossing, side scraping, pushing through overhanging limbs and shoulder driving. Don't bring anything shiny if you want it to stay that way. A lot of the trouble can be cleaned up by hand, but that will make for a very slow trip.

Wednesday, May 22 - Road Maintenance Update
From an observation made by a county crew lead on Monday, the snow on top of the pass is still considered to be a problem. They have been advised by the Forest Service that they will plow in approximately two weeks. I know what you're thinking. The snow will be gone by then. That's what I think too. I mentioned it and have asked if they would consider doing it now. I sent some requested information with what more I know about conditions on the inside for the county's consideration in resource planning. If more of you make it through in the coming days, I would appreciate more details about conditions further up the road, and of the remaining snow situation. Some pictures from up there, and of anything else significant along the way, would be greatly appreciated.

Currently, it does not appear that there will be a road maintenance crew up here between now and the holiday weekend. Two lifted trucks have made it in so far, through or over the snow. It turned cold again soon after the second one came through, so the melting has been slowed. A driving lane has been cleared all the way in, but only up to their "man truck" standards. I have not yet talked to the most recent driver. Someone else who drove up on Monday has reported that it was not yet passable for a street rig. I will be watching for anyone else who makes it in and will try to get better news. I expect more updates from the county after their further coordination with the Forest Service.

Monday, May 20 - Part II
I have news from the Snohomish County Road Maintenance dept. There was a coordination on this with the Forest Service last Friday. County RM intends to have crews in the area this week to remove trees from the road. One of their lead workers ran into an FS crew up there working on it today. Trees that are cleared from the road will be left for consideration by the Forest Service for firewood cutting by permit. You can inquire about a permit at the Ranger Station in Skykomish. I have not yet heard an estimated time for completion of the work. They have not yet seen the full scope of it. They have said that they will keep me informed.

Monday, May 20 - Road Conditions
   
One lifted truck made it in on the weekend, clearing a lane past the cabins to the Galena bridge. He may have plowed through snow and climbed over some of the debris, so I doubt very much if the road is ready for the average vehicle yet without some additional clearing. I will be here to watch for county equipment and to greet the first ordinary vehicles to arrive. I will post promptly with any such news. My walk back in on Sunday evening was easy, fast and enjoyable. Someone has retasked the county sign at the end of the road. It was useful there as a foot bridge over the stream, but I doubt if it will stay.

Saturday, May 18 - Update on Pass Conditions
A loader was seen on the pass Friday clearing snow and debris. Apparently it stopped near the top where there is still a section of significant snow reported to be 18" deep for about 200 ft. I don't know if this was Forest Service or county. I assume they ran out of work week, or perhaps did not want to open the pass to invite traffic to the inside which has not yet been cleared. In any case, this sounds encouraging for next week. Update: Someone who drove up today reports that the climb was uneventful until near the top, where the previous details were confirmed. Walking the first part of the downhill grade revealed a large tree problem, and that's just the beginning of it. Certainly the heavy equipment can get through that remaining snow, so here's hoping that work will resume on Monday.

Sunday, May 12 - Jack Pass Update
The guys who made it over the pass yesterday spent 11 hours more getting almost to Troublesome Creek before driving back out. That should leave a reasonable number of trees in the road for one similar trip. Currently, that would still mean dealing with three feet of snow on the pass. It may still be two weeks from driveable with ordinary vehicles.

Saturday, May 11 - News from the Jack Pass summit
Someone experienced with this made it to the top today from the Beckler side with an exceptional vehicle and some winching. The snow on top is still three feet deep. I got this news while they were still on the North Fork grade descending into this "trees in the road" hell.

Friday, May 10 - Pass Conditions
I have received two independent reports from attempts last week to drive up the Beckler side of the pass. One indicates that it was not possible to continue beyond a mile or so past the end of the Beckler Road pavement due to snow and trees. The next one, possibly a day or two later, was stopped primarily by snow at an elevation of 1600 ft. That is still a considerable distance from the top, which is at 2600 ft. Tree problems along the way up to that point had been cleared. I know of someone who plans to go tomorrow for another look. There should be an update here later in the weekend.

Saturday, May 4 - Trees in the road
 
 
I have been up the road as far as Bear Creek now. There are still some foot-deep patches of snow on the road in clearings along the way. The tree situation is the worst I have ever seen. There are many hundreds of trees in the road, and a number of sections where they came down in clumps that are piled high. No one is going to be driving in when the pass melts down, even with chainsaws, until there has been a road clearing project with some heavy equipment. It would take days for a chainsaw crew to cut through all this stuff and clear a lane through all the debris by hand. There are very few places where you can't see the next place where you would have to stop and work for hours from the current one. I'll try to find out what the county has in mind. A helicopter made a low, slow pass through the valley yesterday while we were walking this, so they may already know what they're up against.

Tuesday, April 30 - Out like a Lion


For the last few days, it has been dark and mostly in the 30's with cold rain and occasional strong showers of snow grains and ice pellets. It is 32 in the valley this morning and snowing with trace accumulations. This late winter storm has had results at lower elevations here than were predicted. There has likely been a setback to the melting up on the pass. I am looking forward to this stretch of improved weather ahead. Maybe it will help!

Friday, April 26 - Snow Melting
One of my science minded and highly math capable neighbors with a PhD has studied the NOAA snow depth model for this year as compared to last year. He concludes that the current estimated snow depth on the pass is comparable to what we had at three or more weeks later last year. Since we drove in on April 23 last year, it may be possible to do so during the first week of May this year (if it remains warm). He adds "I'll believe it when I see it." I had not planned to explore the Beckler side of the pass for driving conditions until at least the middle of May, but it may now be worthwhile to do so earlier. Keep in mind if you plan on trying this that you won't get very far on this side of the pass without a chainsaw. The first trip when when passable for snow is going to take a very long time because of the trees that are down over the road. Those that were cleared earlier by the 4x4 guys in winter were only the first half of the problem. Hopefully the county will watch this news and plan an earlier trip in for clearing the road this year.

Wednesday, April 24 - Hiking Conditions
The snow is gone from the road all the way up to the cabins now. There are still patches of it at the high end, but nothing you can't walk around. The real snow begins at Troublesome Creek now. There are a lot of trees in the road. I have seen bicycles carried in, but I don't think they were very useful over any real distance. My travel time yesterday was 1:15. The valley was brightly moonlit through the night and the low temperature was 32.5. It should go above 60 this afternoon.

Monday, April 1 - Just Kidding
I have not really abandoned the website. There has not been much changing news and I haven't taken any time to be imaginative. Through the winter I stayed very busy on some tiresome projects. I was here for most of January through early March and returned again today. Hiking time was 1:40. It felt like 70 going up the road. 30 would have been better. I did not encounter snow on the road to walk through for more than a short distance until reaching the rock pile with about a mile to go (first picture). Except for a few bare spots, it was mostly still snowy for the rest of the way in. The last quarter of the trip took half the total time. The snow is slippery and not always supportive. The second photo is approaching the neighborhood where the snow is still pretty deep. In the last one, you can just see the tip of the tall orange cone in the road near the entrance.

   

Around the cabin, there is a fair amount of bare, dry ground. It seems like most of the property will be clear long before the road is. One disappointment was to find that we're still quite some time from being able to wheel any supplies up the road. That would be after hauling everything through the forest around the washouts, and you'd still have to carry everything for the last mile. There are also a lot of trees and branches in the road to cope with along the way. I don't expect to be driving in until about the same time as last year. We just barely made it in for Memorial Day weekend.

Here you can see NOAA's predicted snow depth model for the area for this week. Follow the link under the photo for more details. Note that you'll arrive on a specified date, which may be old news. This applies also the link near the top of the page. You can adjust the date forward on their website. Currently, it shows more than 100 inches on the pass. What they show in the valley floor is not correct. There is more.



Road Project

Some of us made it to the county's open house presentation in Monroe last week. The updates were informative as to progress with the environmental assessment and permitting, as well as the location and characteristics of the proposed new road. They are now at the 60% design phase. A 200 ft. bridge is now planned near the end of the new route to cope with some wetland challenges there. Since last season, there has been a noticeable increased presence of county personnel, environmental and engineering consultants on the hillside marked by many new flags and survey markers. In parallel, plans are underway to replace the Howard Creek bridge at this end of the route. Overall, I consider all the news encouraging. Although... the timeline now indicates that a solicitation for construction contractor bids would be made in early to mid-2016. I assume that construction will take a minimum of two years. Thus, we have five or more years to go. The county prepared this newsletter in advance of the meeting, and has now published this comprehensive summary of the meeting's exhibits on their website.

I plan to be here with updates while the seasonal conditions are changing. Please share your news if you see it first.

Saturday, January 12 - Clear and Cold
 

This is the second clear, cold day since the weather system of all last week. It went down to 16 last night and the high for today will barely make 20. The snow is up to four feet deep in the clearings here. Little of it is well packed enough to support boots alone on the surface. The old snowshoe and boot trail was reported to be fairly walkable on Thursday. Reported hiking time was two and a half hours (by an athlete). I assume that trail conditions are about the same now and possibly better due to the hard freeze. Friday night's low was 22 and it was never above freezing yesterday.

I finished a tour of the Skyko 4 properties yesterday. I found no trees down on cabins except for the one I have talked to the owners about privately. There is no apparent damage. Oddly, there are many more trees down than usual, including some very large ones, that didn't hit anything. Some were close and fell between cabins. Quite a few are down over the private roads. As far as I know, everyone has been lucky. A few sheds and outbuildings are damaged. My main propane tank is wearing a big one and would have been emptied if the tree had fallen a few inches differently. I have not yet been down through Skyko 3, but others have and reported more of the same. I have not yet been up the road to the more isolated cabins upriver. That will be a snowshoe trip after it warms up.

Saturday, January 5, 2013 - Hiking Conditions, war zone
I hiked back in Friday morning. Travel time was 3 hours, but it could have been 2:30. Someone who came in later made it in 2:30. We both had heavy packs. Snowshoes would have been a hindrance. There was no postholing - just 1-2" footprints in the fresh stuff on top of the old packed-down showshoe and foot trail. Outside it would be slow-going (or snowshoes required). I think these conditions will now worsen for a while due to the rain and warmer temperatures in the forecast. That's why I came when I did, and in the early morning - for the frozen base. Afternoon commutes have been slow due to the melting. Crossing the Howard Creek bridge, you're walking at the level of the guard rail so that's about the depth of the snow up here. If it turns slushy, it's going to be miserable to walk through and I won't be going anywhere until it freezes again. That may be a problem only at the lower end. It was still below 30 here last night. There are more than the usual number of trees down around here. Many more are still leaning. They are now mostly free of snow but you can still hear them cracking. From what I have seen and from talking to others, no damage has been found yet to main cabins, but there were a number of close calls. All the properties have not yet been seen. I'll get to it within a day or two.

Sunday, December 23 - Hiking Conditions
Hiking is now difficult due to the snow, with a foot or more near the washouts and two feet up around the cabins. It is a four hour trip with snowshoes recommended. Many trees have fallen over the route due to the snow burden. Consider the risk. Highway 2 is currently closed from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth for this reason.

Wednesday, December 5 - Pass Conditions
Yesterday it was possible to get over the pass with 4WD and chains, or possibly with 4WD and better snow tires than mine. It was snowy over a 5-mile stretch from about two miles up the gravel on the Beckler side until halfway down on the North Fork side. It was raining on top and the snow (up to six inches deep) was slushy and very slippery. Today, the snow levels are expected to drop below the level of the pass and stay there. At least 30 inches of new snow are expected up there between now and the weekend. It looks like the driving party is over and it's time to start talking about the hiking conditions.

Wednesday, December 5 - Pass Conditions
Yesterday it was possible to get over the pass with 4WD and chains, or possibly with 4WD and better snow tires than mine. It was snowy over a 5-mile stretch from about two miles up the gravel on the Beckler side until halfway down on the North Fork side. It was raining on top and the snow (up to six inches deep) was slushy and very slippery. Today, the snow levels are expected to drop below the level of the pass and stay there. At least 30 inches of new snow are expected up there between now and the weekend. It looks like the driving party is over and it's time to start talking about the hiking conditions.

Saturday, November 24 - Pass Conditions
Pass conditions have improved. After the warmer weather and weekend traffic, there are now wide, bare gravel tracks all the way across. The remaining snow is keeping it wet and there may be ice on the road when the ground freezes. New snow that was expected on Tuesday has been removed from the forecast. It looks good for another week of driving in and some dry weather on Monday and Tuesday. It was snowy at this time last year, but passable with 4WD and chains.

Wednesday, November 21 - Route Conditions


In the afternoon, it was 33 on the pass and snowing with 3-4" of accumulation. Traction was fair. After dark, the snow was about 6" deep and 4WD seemed necessary for the climb (without chains). In the valley, there have been a few showers of slushy snow that did not stick. The otherwise constant rain then tapered off to intermittent showers. I assume the snow to be little if any deeper on the pass, and possibly beaten down by the traffic. Ice will probably be the next issue when the ground begins to freeze. There have been no obstacles in the road.

Monday, November 19 - Pass Conditions, TV News
It has been raining non-stop in the valley since the weekend. At 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, it was 35 degrees on the pass and raining. There was no new snow. The temperature in the valley was 37 at that time and has remained at 37 or more through noon today. Driving conditions over the pass should be no worse than as last reported. Slides are currently more of a threat than snow. I expect one update on route conditions later this afternoon, and for those of you with holiday weekend plans, one more at mid-day on Wednesday. At that time, there is a possibility of new snow. Snow levels are expected to rise again from late Thursday through Saturday, then drop below Jack Pass level again on Sunday. The river peaked at 6 ft. here this evening out of this weather event, so river conditions on Oct. 29th are still the most impressive so far for this year.

My KIRO TV news interview was scheduled and announced for the 5:00 show on Friday, but due to a last-minute technical issue, did not make the broadcast as planned. I was advised that it would possibly be rescheduled for today.

Monday afternoon, pass update:  Route conditions are unchanged.

Monday evening, TV news update:  The story ran on KIRO TV news at around 6:15 p.m.
Chris, Roland, anchors and crew at KIRO TV news... You guys are the best. Thanks for the story!

Friday, November 16 - Pass Conditions, TV News


Here at the summit are the worst of our pass conditions this afternoon. Elsewhere, the tracks are down to bare, wet gravel on both grades. Currently, you can make the pass without special vehicle requirements - at least until the next new snow. There is no snow in the valley and I think we're going to be OK through the weekend, possibly until around Wednesday of next week. Thanksgiving might be more challenging.

 

Reporter Chris Legeros and photographer Roland Bailie of KIRO TV news came in with me today for a short story on lifestyle and conditions here while we still await road repairs six years after the flood. This was the intended follow-up to the story he was here for soon after I was stranded by the flood. It was postponed from last week when they were diverted to another story while on their way here. It had to be rushed for broadcast due to both of our schedules, but should have aired on the 5:00 news today (about the time I am posting this). Today was thought to be a last chance for this due to the upcoming weather and road conditions. The story may be available on KIRO's website around 48 hours after it airs.

Monday, November 12 - Road Conditions
The entire gravel road across the pass has been filled wherever needed, graded and rolled over the weekend by Forest Service contractors. It is in great condition now for what we have left of the driving season before there is too much snow. I am not aware of any plowing intentions and consider them unlikely. Snow was a possibility on top of the pass through last night, but not in significant amounts. I do not yet know how it turned out. This weather event is now trailing off and the snow levels are going back up for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, October 31 - Halloween
We don't really say "boo!" around here. Someone might get shot. The river has been less interesting than on the 29th. The pattern of dry days and wet nights has continued. I don't think we'll see a new high above 7 ft. tomorrow morning but will post the news if we do. The propane truck is due here tomorrow.

Monday, October 29 - Rain and River



There have been considerable downpours for the last two days, mostly at night. These warm temperatures add a lot of melting snow to the mix. I went out this morning to benchmark how the river looks at a few interesting places during this 7 ft. peak indicated by the county hydrograph at the Galena (9-mile) bridge. All of these photos are taken while the river was at or very near this level. The road is most threatened (at least by high water to drive through) at the low spot in the second photo just above the North Fork (10-mile) bridge. Now repaired, this part of the road was destroyed by the Nov. 2006 flood. As you can see, the water starts coming onto the road right at 7 ft. The next photo is at the MP 11 repair (still plenty of containment). And just for fun, the last one is at Bear Creek Falls. It looks like the river will rise again between tomorrow and Thursday morning, possibly to higher levels. If we get to some interesting, higher peaks in daylight and reasonable weather, I'll try to do this again for comparison. We are included in a flood watch, but this river is not yet named as likely to flood.

 
 

Here's what we had in the first photo during the Nov. 2006 flood:



This is National Hermit Day. I'm in the right place.

Monday, October 22 - Propane, Snow
Propane deliveries are currently scheduled for sometime next week. Our vendor would like to hear from all accounts regarding your wishes for a fill and with whatever you know of your current volume. To provide service, the driver must arrive with your pre-printed delivery tickets from the office. Northern Energy (Pam): 800-683-0115.

There was up to 2" of snow on the pass over the weekend. It is gone from the road now.

Wednesday, September 26 - River Gage
The river gage has been fixed today and is back online.

Tuesday, August 21 - Fire Emergency

 
 

There was an imminent forest fire emergency here in the valley yesterday. Having apparently smoldered since the weekend, a fire erupted near a popular unimproved campsite above the washouts near the end of the road. A couple who had hiked in for the day saw the smoke and found visible flames beginning to involve a large tree up to four ft. high. The roots all around it were smoldering. They fought it with as much water as they could carry in the one small container they could find and shouted for help to a goup of young hikers who were passing by later. All joined in. No one had a vehicle or communication. Vacationing neighbors who had driven down there noticed the commotion. They drove back up here to let me know and then went back with buckets to help. I arranged for the 911 fire call from here, notified USFS law enforcement and then drove down there with a water pump, some hose and more buckets. The fire appeared to be contained by then. Some of those who had been helping had left the area.

Forty minutes after the call, a fire crew from Index arrived, having hiked in from the Index side of the washout with all the gear they could carry. I thought that was impressive. From our message, they knew concerning the size of the fire that we were running not away from it, but towards it with buckets. They immediately started digging into the root system to look for hot spots and explore for the limits of the fire. It was found to be approximately 20 ft. by 40 ft. in surface area.

USFS law enforcement was next to arrive. Officer Brad Lammers then handled communication via radio. A Skykomish fire crew arrived from the long drive over pass with a fire truck soon after that to back up the Index walk-in crew and soaked the burned area with the truck's fire hose. A County Sheriff's deputy also drove in. A USFS fire crew from North Bend was expected last night or this morning to follow up.

There was no apparent fire pit, properly constructed or otherwise. The fire was on a wooded trail near the river some distance from the usual location of camping and fires. This was thought to have possibly been the result of a carelessly discarded cigarette. There had been no lightning. Thunderstorms had once been in the forecast, but had since been removed. There has been no rain for weeks, and temperatures during the preceding days had been above 90. The forest was very dry. There was some wind. We think it would have gone up if it hadn't been found when it was.

Monday, July 23 - Geothermal News
Everett Herald reports on discontinuance of the energy drilling project
This is "old news" and does not necessarily change the imminent possibility of leasing by USFS for geothermal energy exploration and development in the area. This report is focused on Snohomish PUD's withdrawal as was previously mentioned below. The additional lands being considered have been nominated by other organizations.

Saturday, July 7 - The wolves are back
The Discover Channel will feature a special on Washington Cascade wolves this evening.
Do we have grizzly bears too?

Friday, June 8 - Propane deliveries
Northern Energy is planning our spring propane deliveries for Thursday, June 21. If you have fixed tanks which are serviced by NE, will you please call Pam at Northern Energy, 360-657-7078 or 800-683-0115, to let them know your intentions (even if no service) and with what you know of your current fuel level?

Wednesday, June 6 - Geothermal Energy (it is not over) - Revised June 7/8
As an update to the Garland drilling project, Snohomish PUD has now published an RFP to solicit bids for the decommissioning of the well site at Garland Mineral Springs. Details are here. This does not put to rest all concerns about the prospects for geothermal energy development near here. Revised today, to correct the timeline for requested comments, is a USDA Forest Service scoping letter which begins...

Dear Interested Citizen:

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is proposing to respond to a request from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to grant consent to lease approximately 9,308 acres that have been nominated for leasing on the Skykomish Ranger District. This project will evaluate the suitability of these acres for geothermal exploration and future development. The Forest Service (FS) will determine if the lands should be leased, leased with stipulations, or withdrawn from further consideration for leasing and subsequent development. For lands selected for leasing, the FS would also identify site-specific stipulations that would guide any subsequent exploration or development activities. This project will not make the decision to authorize leases or any exploration or development activities.


Full details, including a map of the affected area, can be found on this Forest Service web resource entitled:
Skykomish Geothermal Consent to Lease
Update June 8 a.m. Documents are not currently posted (see notes below).
Update June 8 p.m. Documents have returned (second map now removed).

Comments will now be accepted through July 6th. As you will see on the map, extensive areas of our surrounding public lands are being considered, including the North Fork river valley for some distance on both sides of Garland, the Rapid River and Beckler River valleys and thousands of acres on both sides of Jacks Pass which are not officially within wilderness boundaries (not including private property). Please be fully informed by reviewing all of the available information.

Garland and the surrounding area originally nominated by the PUD are just the tip of the iceberg. Snohomish PUD has withdrawn its nomination of lands on the North Fork side previously identified here on a map which is no longer relevant. See the above link for the relevant full-sized map (figure 1 only).

Note that although Snohomish PUD has withdrawn its nomination for certain lands on the North Fork side, the FS will continue to consider them in its recommendations to the BLM. This does not mean that they will be selected for leasing, or that if they are selected, that any interested organizations will bid for leases on them. My understanding is that all such lands in the North Fork drainage, if offered, are likely to carry restrictive stipulations. Riparian reserves, the scenic river, and slopes in excess of 40% will cause almost all eligible land on the North Fork side to include the NSO (no surface occupancy) restriction, except as otherwise determined by a site-specific analysis. The result is that almost no such land on the North Fork side is likely to be available for occupancy, and thus may be considered unlikely to be of interest to bidders.

Due to possible confusion and misinformation likely to result from the map you will see (for now) in figure 2, depicting PUD nominations on the North Fork side which are no longer relevant, I have asked the Forest Service to consider removing it. The scoping letter referring to both maps, amended once already to correct the comment period, may have already gone out to distribution. If you receive it, please watch the FS website linked above for the latest version in case of any additional updates or corrections.

Update: On Friday morning, June 8, these documents vanished temporarily from the FS website, presumably to correct this map situation. On Friday afternoon, the documents returned but without the second map. There is still a reference to "figure 2" in the scoping letter, but it appears to no longer exist. I think we can assume this to be intentional (because the letter is as it was mailed), and that you should not expect to see a figure 2. "Thank you!" to my FS contacts for getting this change made promptly and back online.

Update on the river gage
This thing (permanent link top center on the page) we know to be useful to judge both hiking and driving conditions, fishing and rafting conditions, and in the extreme case, flood conditions. Over the years it has been very reliable. As you can still see on the chart, it went down in January. The county techs have been back since the road opened to finish the troubleshooting. Replacement parts are on order and are expected to be installed no later than sometime in July.

Wednesday, May 30 - Spring Road Cleanup
County crews are cleaning up the the paved road today, above and below the gate all the way down to the washout.

Wednesday, May 23 - The pass is clear.
Today's report crossing the pass: "Not enough snow left to matter for anyone."
For future reference, the image below shows the predicted condition of the route at the time we were first able to get through (still showing a small blockage).

Tuesday, May 22 - The pass is open.
Four wheel drive, chains and high ground clearance are no longer necessary, but some tire spinning is reported on the outbound climb. Having at least a shovel on board, just in case of a predicament, has been suggested for today.

Sunday, May 20 - The pass is almost open.

The pass has been successfully crossed today by one 4WD truck with high ground clearance and chains. The road is now bare to the top on the Beckler side, and "regular cars" have made it to the summit, but were not yet able to continue down the back side. The truck with the chains made several runs through 100 feet or so of nearly foot-deep snow at the high end of the back side. The gravel is now exposed in the tracks, but high ground clearance is still required. They suggest high, 4WD rigs only for today, but think that pretty much anything will be able to make it within the next few days. The rest of the route to the gate, and beyond it to the cabins for those who have access, is not obstructed by anything you can't get around. The road is still highly ubstructed between the cabins and the washout. It appears that Memorial Day weekend has been saved by the much accelerated melting during the last few days. Thank you neighbors, for the news and photo and for charging through this today to speed things up for the rest of us!

Tuesday, May 15 - NOAA Snow Model


The above link provides NOAA's real-time snow depth modeling information for the Jacks Pass area. Near the top, you can zoom by one more increment. As of today, you can see that the mostly pink (with some blue) bottleneck at the summit is still projected to have 30-40 inches of snow on the ground. It is not clear to me if the expected resolution is fine-grained enough to differentiate between the road level at the summit and the surrounding hillsides. It does seem to recognize the narrow constraints of the valley floors and at least most of the Beckler and North Fork grades along FS65. I assume that day by day as the meltdown continues, we will be able to watch these corridors widen and converge to become an all-green path over the top. I expect that we will have news from someone who has been up there to see it and discover the first passable conditions before this image cleans up to what we would like to see. I still plan to go, but have not yet been up there and have not yet heard from anyone who has since the last report that is given below. I will post any such news as soon as I receive it. My thanks to the property owner who tracked down this interesting, additional resource and passed it along to be posted here for the rest of us.

Update on snow depth
The Beckler side has been driven today (May 15) by FS personnel to within one mile of the top. From there, it is impassable by 4WD truck due to high-centering. They too are waiting for the meltdown until they can break through with 4WD vehicles. There are no plowing intentions.

April, 2012 - Construction Delays on Hwy 2
See the above link for details on the Hwy 2 road construction project just west of Index. There is a lane closure and delays due to one-way traffic with flagging around the clock until completion which is currently scheduled for April 27th.

Saturday, April 21 - Snow Melting Projections - When can we drive in?
Someone who went over Jacks Pass today (not on wheels) reported six to eight feet of snow on the road at the top.

 

Snowpack Variations in the North Cascades
At locations where there have been scientific studies that I can find, the melting season does not begin until May and continues though June. However, most of these locations are above 4000 ft. Linked above is the most relevant resource that I have been able to find. I have not studied it in depth, but some kind of extrapolation to our conditions at 2600 ft. will be necessary. I have looked at where they do this in other parts of the world too and the math is insane. There are so many variables. Stevens Pass is our nearest available and most relevant study. Our meltdown would likely begin sooner and progress at slightly higher rates than what you'll see here for Stevens Pass. Since we're measuring from now after a first look at the remaining snow, let's assume the melting is already under way. What matters now is how far we still have to go until we can push through what is left. From an assumed best case of 6 ft. remaining now until a first chained-up, drive-through depth for some vehicles of 12 inches, we have 5 ft. (maybe more) to go...

60" at 1.5"/day = 40 days = June 5th (not in time for Memorial Day weekend). Obviously, that could slip one way or the other for any of several reasons. The snow may be deeper than that now. It may melt faster, or slower. I used a number just slightly higher than the average melt rate reported for the several higher locations studied. Oddly though, Stevens typically has a slower meltdown than some locations which are at higher elevations. If someone beats some tracks down up there with some kind of a man-truck, then what's left in the tracks will be what's left of the problem. Now we'll just have to wait and see how it turns out. If I get more news from anyone who makes it to the top of the pass again later, I will post an update. If there is no news yet by mid-May, I will go up there one way or another from the inside to see how it looks and report back.

Would one of my PhD qualified, record-keeping friends like to contribute to this study? I suppose we should have been paying more attention during previous years, but for one reason or another, we have had plowing assistance until now. I am not aware of any such intentions for this year. It seems that we have at least five years to go on this route. Maybe we can have this all figured out and recorded for future use by the time it doesn't matter any more.

The route is thought to be clear except for the snow. There are no slides or avalanche sites, visible trees down or obvious rock problems in the road. It is not that clean in the valley. There is still a lot of road clearing to be done. What we did for the snowmobiles was only that wide, and we were sledding over a lot of trees that are now exposed. Some that did not yet fall are a hazard, still leaning precariously.

Saturday, March 17 - Trail Conditions
The ground is bare in the forest around the washouts with a lot of slippery mud, standing shallow water and busy streams on the hillside. None are out of the ordinary and all can be crossed in one place or another without wading, but there will be no dry boots. We used the high route to avoid the slippery grades and wider streams on the lower trail. I don't mind all that when unencumbered, but we had some gear with which we knew we would travel better on the high route under these conditions. The lower main road above the washouts is bare. Thin snow begins a little below halfway in and increases to a foot or more in the upper third - up to 24" in places. You never walk through more than a few inches on top of the base in the established foot trail where light, regular traffic has kept it well enough packed down. There have been multiple new snow events, but for the most part the meltdown is keeping up. Total snow around the property is more or less unchanged over the last month or so. Walking time is around :30 to :45 more than optimal. Most of the extra time is spent on the trails around the washouts - choosing routes and footing. A little more time can be lost in the snow at the top, but not much. Daylight on the road is through about 7:45 p.m. Overnight and morning temperatures are near 30. The early morning precipitation today was impressive snow. By 10 a.m. it was rain. It is 33 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, March 10 - Outcome of the Garland drilling project.
The PUD has now published the approved minutes of their February meeting during which the outcome of the Garland drilling project and proposed next steps were discussed. The details can be found on pages 59/60 of this document. The test well came up short of expectations for geothermal energy development potential. It has been recommended that the site be abandoned in accordance with Washingon State requirements; environmental studies halted; the site cleaned up and restored, and their lease with the property owner then terminated.

The river gage is down.
Some of you have inquired about the Galena bridge river gage (link above) which stopped transmitting in January. I know the tech who maintains it from several prior visits over the years and have offered to assist with winter maintenance if ever needed. Ordinarily, it runs fine through the winter until they can get to it with a replacement battery in the spring. There was no known likely cause for it to stop transmitting this time. A small tree had fallen near enough to the radio mast to cause suspicion of damage, but none could be found. They sent me a key and for next steps we checked battery voltage and verified that the radio was switching on and attempting to transmit on schedule. This led to the conclusion that the optical sensor has failed. It cannot be repaired now with a simple component replacement because designs have changed for this component. It will probably remain down now until driving conditions are restored for a service vehicle in the spring.

 

February Moon Chasing
I went moon chasing in February after noticing the uniquely spectacular conditions - clear skies, snowy valley, moonrise probably in a great place to see it and well before dark. Long ago I had some ambitions with photography, but I emphasize "long ago." For one thing, cameras have turned to crap; or at least mine is crap. At least the film is free and you don't have to wait for your pictures any more. There are some settings on mine but I didn't understand them very well and none of them had a picture that looked like a moon. So here's how the moon chasing adventure went...

It was two evenings before the official full moon. I went out in my boots at about the right time to find a good vantage point. I wanted it to be easy to get to because the snow was still difficult, so I chose the 9-mile bridge thinking that might work. By the time I figured out the angles were all wrong from there, it was too late to go anywhere else, especially at trudging through deep snow speed. The first picture is taken from there of the wrong mountop that I could see from the wrong bridge at the right time.

The next night I went the other way and had farther to go, but went on snowshoes. I had with me an excellent tripod and a crappy digital camera. I still didn't know about the settings. I was just going to try them all. I went to the 10-mile bridge which looked like it might have the right angles, where I waited and waited for that moonrise. It never came. It got dark - no moon, so I figured I had misunderstood the angles and from there it must have come up behind the mountains in the wrong valley. After giving up and snowshoeing most of the way back to the cabin, I turned around and could see the glow of the missing moonrise appearing right where I thought it would be in the first place - just later. I said a bad word, stuck my ski pole in the snow and ran (on snowshoes) for as long as I could, which was only about halfway back. I finished the trip in time to be there for a pretty good view, but not the one you see here. I got a few pictures but they didn't turn out very well. It was too late and the moon is less impressive after it climbs above the horizon. This was the night before the official full moon, and I now knew that I had an ideal location. According to the weather forecast though, the clear skies were going to be gone by the next evening - the night of the official full moon.

When the sky was unexpectedly still clear the next evening, I studied up more on the camera settings and took off on showshoes again to hopefully get it right this time. I was there before dark, had the tripod set up and knew exactly where the moon would rise. Well, it didn't - for almost two hours. I knew it would though, so this time I waited. I was underdressed for just waiting around out in the cold. I tromped a racetrack into the snow from one end of the bridge to the other and did laps, clockwise and counterclockwise. I tried not to look for the moon on every trip, because I knew that would be too soon. It usually was, but I didn't want to be at the wrong end of the racetrack when it started to peek out. Occasionally I stopped to practice with the camera to get all those settings down, but it kept getting darker, which made it harder to find any settings that worked. With each lap too I was watching the expected cloud cover get closer and closer to the place where the moon would rise. I was very excited to finally see the faint glow of the beginning of the moonrise, but it was very dark otherwise.

I got a number of pictures that should have been good (if the camera wasn't crappy), so what you see here is both "practicing" before dark, where the moon would have actually been two days earlier, and what I had to settle for when it finally got there, which is kind of a fuzzy mess. The glow isn't all from the technical challenge of the exposure. A thin cloud cover was beginning to intervene which accounts for that. I don't think even a good photographer with a good camera could really do justice to the way it all looked though. By lingering for a bit longer (a few more laps), the moon rose high enough in the valley that I had a very bright trip down the road back to the cabin. Without waiting for the moon it would have been very dark. I learned after I got back (because I looked it up, not necessarily just in time) that the moon rises almost 50 minutes later every night! If you can imagine the moon on the right having shown up in the photo on the left, that's the picture I really wanted and missed two evenings earlier. It would have been a lot easier to expose properly (with a crappy camera). I hope there will be another chance for that particular photo at the same time next year.

Thursday, February 2 - Hiking Report

Hiking conditions were great this morning. I came in early for the more solid snow. The ground is about half bare now in the forest around the washouts. That makes the trails a little harder to find. I got here with dry boots but you have to work at the stream crossings a little. The river is still low here. The snow is icy and packed on the main road, about 4-6" deep most of the way up to 8" at most near the end. It is very solid in the sled tracks. I experimented with walking out of them but there was too much punching through. In the tracks, there is a lot of looking down to negotiate all the ankle twisting frozen boot prints, but it was still easy and a lot faster. Total time from the car to the cabin was 1:45. Snowshoes would be a hindrance. I don't yet know if those tracks get soft in the afternoon, but even if they do, it's just a few inches deep. I carry an old sharp ended metal ski pole with no basket and it would not push through to the asphalt in the tracks. It was a little slippery though and that might be more of an issue later in the day. The road is bare in a couple of places near this end where the water runs over it. It was 30 when I got here just after 9 a.m. At 3 p.m. it was 33. It was easy to shovel the deck. The snow is just "clumpy" and not frozen to the surface. We got no new snow here out of that system that ended yesterday. The weather should be real nice through Tuesday. The moon will be full then and the ground still white.

Friday, January 20 - We made it.

We made it to the washout today. There were a lot of trees in the road, including new ones on the first half we cleared yesterday. We have been over the route four times now, so our sled tracks are pretty firm and will support walking on top about 50% of the time. Punching through is usually just ankle deep or a little more. Two snowshoers came in on the tracks all the way after we finished, which will also help. Just before dark, we picked up two other hikers at the bottom. They found the snowshoers' trail around the washouts easy to follow. I prefer the upper route around the first washout, but they all came in on the lower one. At least three cabins are now occupied. We've been busy but still hope to tour more properties looking for damage, hopefully on Saturday.

Thursday, January 19 - Power Outage

We're having a power outage, but it's probably because they never installed any. There was no freezing rain here today, just more snow. Andrew and I have been clearing a snowmobile path to the washout. We made it about halfway today. There are a lot of trees down over the road. We only took a hand saw today. We got stopped just before dark by a larger tree. We'll go back tomorrow with a chain saw and try to make it to the bottom. Walking outside the snowmobile tracks is still very difficult. It's not that great yet in the tracks either. We're hoping that will improve after a few more runs.

Tuesday, January 17 - Buried in snow
 
I have seen more snow, but it was fluffy powder. This is deep and heavy. I have never seen the trees this loaded with snow. They bombed the cabin roof all night - sounds like thunder. It is well above the knees now and hard to get around on the property. We went down to the washout and back last night on snowmobiles, but cannot see the tracks any more (or the snowmobiles). Hiking the road would be impossible today. According to the winter storm warning which is now extended through tomorrow, we may get up to three and a half feet more.

Monday, January 16 - Lots of Snow

Andrew and I walked back in yesterday. Driving to the Index side of the washout was easy then but probably icy and treacherous by now. It was in the low 20's here all night. We trudged through 12-18" of moderately heavy snow all the way up the road. With heavy packs, some trail finding and a few stops, it took us almost four hours. We finished after dark, so I'll get more pictures today. Oddly, the snow was deeper down the road than it is here. It was about 10" when we got here. The trees are heavily loaded. There is new snow this morning and a lot more is expected. Index is named in the current winter storm warning for tonight through tomorrow.

Friday, January 13 - Snow on the way, lots of it!
Today is probably the last day to drive in until Spring. Five feet of new snow is in now in the forecast for Jacks Pass by the end of the week - maybe two feet here in the valley. Driving conditions are currently excellent. Tomorrow morning will be the last of it.

Thursday, January 5 - The road has been plowed.
There have been some questions about the breakin. If you do not already know that your cabin is involved, it is not. Most of the isolated cabins that are more at risk for this have been checked since this was discovered. No other incidents have been found. With some neighborly help, we were able to quickly secure the cabin from additional weather and animal damage. The owners were on site the next day with more help and material for improvements. There is still some neighborhood watching going on, but obviously it's not always going to be enough. I was near enough to the damage when it happened that I should have been able to hear it. I did not hear it or I would have intervened.

The road has been plowed all the way through and beyond the gate. I had been told that the Sheriff's Dept. may order this done for safety reasons. Apparently they were not happy about the difficult access in followup to this incident. Improved weather is due for the next few days. I hope some of you can make it up to take advantage of that and the good driving conditions.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - Vandalous Breakin, Possible Arson Attempt
There has been a malicious, destructive breakin at one of my neighbor's cabins. We found it yesterday and think that it must have happened within the previous day or two, possibly on New Year's eve. A large rock was thrown through a sliding glass door. Another plate glass window was destroyed from the outside. From the inside, dining room chairs were then thrown through a third plate glass window - presumably just for fun since they were already in. There was not a lot of ransacking done inside, but some. Most disturbing were the several indications that they may have been attempting to burn the place down. Propane lamp fixtures and oil lamps had been tampered with. A quantity of lamp oil was missing. Curtains were found partially burned at the corners. The cabin had not been recently occupied and was pretty damp, including the curtains. This may be the only reason it did not burn. The Sheriff's dept. is investigating.

Saturday, December 31 - New Year's Eve

This morning from the 9-mile bridge


About an inch of new snow overnight; 29 degrees and the sky is clearing. A Subaru Outback (no chains) came over the pass last night and was just barely able to make it. The issue was ground clearance in the center. The ground was not yet frozen but by now it probably is. There may be a lot of ice under the new snow on the many bare, wet spots that were exposed after the warm rain. There are a lot of rocks in the road in the slide area that will now be harder to see.

Wednesday, December 28 - Rotten Weather
That's not a complaint. I like all kinds and try to be here for all the extremes. I last went over the pass Monday evening. There was an inch of new snow on top from the earliest part of this weather system. Tuesday morning it was 30 and the valley was white with slushy snow that was gone by the end of the day. Since then it has warmed up quickly; the rain has been constant and is often heavy. It was 44 in the valley at 4 a.m. this morning. The river is very busy and rose quickly from 3 to 6 ft. overnight. If the temperature falls as much as predicted between now and the weekend, we'll have ice. About a foot of new snow is then expected to accumulate on top of the pass Friday evening through Saturday. The Garland area was dark and quiet when I drove in. There were no new tracks in the snow going that way. I think we're on our own now.

Sunday, November 27 - Cats & Dogs - Flood Watch - Short Term Snow Storm
First, that's what it's doing... raining cats & dogs. The river is rising quickly. The forecast is for dry weather tomorrow. Next, I found big cat tracks in the yard today that I thought might be cougar. I know bobcat and these were larger. I consulted an expert and they turned out to be coyote. I guess that's more of a dog. I have seen them here before. As far as I know, all the weekenders left and made it over the pass without chains. To the best of my knowledge, they all had 4WD. I see no reason to expect commuting difficulties for the coming week.

Thursday, November 24 - Thanksgiving Day - Winter Storm Warning
Happy Thanksgiving! I should have an update on pass conditions by noon today.

Tuesday, November 22 - Flood Watch

Monday, November 21 - Snow in the Valley - Avalanche Warning - Winter Storm Warning
It was still snowing in the upper valley this morning with now about 5" on the ground. Hikers report the snow trailing off near the lower end. Only one "monster truck" (judging from the tracks) has made it in recently that we know of.

Saturday, November 19 - Pass Conditions
The weekend weather is nice. Sorry, but I have no information on current pass conditions. There may be much new snow since the last crossing I know of, which was on Tuesday. Snow levels should be above 4000' by mid-week, so there is hope for commuting on Thanksgiving weekend. It may get very wet between now and then. The hydrologic outlook is interesting.

Wednesday, November 16 - Pass Conditions
This report is from a round trip over the pass yesterday by two trucks traveling together. They thought chained up and 4WD to be necessary and suggest two or more vehicles or a winch in case of trouble. The winter storm warning continues until Thursday morning.

Saturday, November 12 - Pass Conditions

Friday, November 11 - Propane Done, Winter Storm, New Gate
The propane delivery was completed on Tuesday. All went well. Please watch for your bills, or ask for them. Usually, the first bill is left on your door by the driver, but they know that doesn't work very well here.

Our first winter storm is here. The pass may get several inches of snow a day for the next few days.

This substantial new gate is just inside the old one, which will now be left open.
The same dual-lock system is here and is better protected.

Wednesday, October 26 - Propane Deliveries
Our winter propane deliveries will be within the next week or two - last chance until spring. Please advise Pam at Northern Energy of your wishes for a fill while they are here. They would like an estimate of how much we will take so they'll know whether to make a special trip or combine it with another. Please give them your approximate tank levels if you know. If you'd like for me to check on it for you from up here, let me know. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115

Thursday, September 22 - Howard Anderson
Sadly, I have just learned that Howard Anderson passed away unexpectedly this morning. His family wrote knowing that many of us would want to know. Howard and his mother Mary have been dear friends to me throughout my years here in the valley. Their time here began decades before mine. I have been told much about it, and of their country lifestyle on the Olympic Peninsula. Mary is still going strong in her 90's and never missed a trip to their cabin with Howard that I know of. Howard was loading their van for another cabin trip this morning when he experienced a sudden, massive heart attack. I spent some time with Howard and Mary here very recently. We will be seeing Mary's adult grandchildren now. I will share more of the Andersons' history here later if the family approves. Dear "Grandma" Mary and family, we are so sorry for your loss. Howard will be greatly missed. I personally will miss his great engineering mind and his memory of all things North Fork.

Wednesday, September 14 - MP 11 Repairs are near completion.



Monday, September 12 - Hwy 2 Closure Delayed
The Hwy 2 closure mentioned earlier has been delayed until further notice. You can follow the state DOT's news on this project here. There is also a more prominent link above.

Sunday, September 11 - Email Outage
If anyone has been trying to reach me over the weekend, I had an email server outage that I was unaware of until Sunday evening. I wondered why email was so quiet. I thought it was just because everyone was enjoying the great weather. Someone finally texted me to let me know and I was able to fix it from here. Sorry about that. It should be fine now. Those of you who don't know I can receive text can ask me for the number if you like. This has been useful sometimes for those who are on the road.

Thursday, September 8 - Hwy 2 Delays Imminent
A kind supporter and regular contributor sent this to me today for all of you, knowing that I rarely read any news and sometimes miss things that are potentially very important. This is not going to be fun: Sky Valley Chronicle, regarding Hwy 2 partial closure for 19 days - to begin this weekend near Gold Bar.

Saturday, September 3 - Geothermal Energy Drilling
Many have been curious about the drilling project at the upper end of the valley on the Garland property. This is a PUD project involving contractors. Some of you may have noticed related announcements near the gate. I have not yet had time to track down all of the details. Previously, I thought this might be exploratory drilling for research or experimental purposes. We now know that there may be a lot more to it. Depending on what they find, there may be an intent to build a production, geothermal power facility here. You can read more about this in today's Everett Herald story by Bill Sheets. This story by Steve Wilhelm appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal last week. I'll have more on this as time allows. This is posted, private property. We are not allowed to go there to watch and inquire. You will undoubtedly notice the noise as you come and go through that area. Later in September, they will begin drilling 24 hours per day for weeks with intent to reach a depth (through solid rock, I presume) of 5000 feet.

More County Road News
There is a recent development in the road reconstruction project. I would be guessing to call it a setback, but that is my suspicion. The county has posted a letter of determination by the Federal Highway Administration that a more intensive environmental assessment process will now be required. I do not yet know how this is expected to affect the timeline.

Friday, August 26 - Medical Emergency Update
Mike (the person we helped) hiked in and met me at the washout yesterday to pick up his gear. He is doing well. He said he "wouldn't have made it without us" and expressed his sincere appreciation to everyone involved for all the help. He said he woke up in the hospital at 2 a.m. and had no idea how he got there.

County Road News
The county has released their Public Involvement Plan for the road reconstruction project. You can see in this document and in this timeline summary that the planned completion of construction is now in 2015 (not 2018, as had been previously stated). But of course, this is projected based on multiple estimated times of completion for various dependencies, such as the environmental permitting process.

Sunday, August 14 - Medical Emergency
Yesterday (Saturday, 8/13) around 5 p.m. one of my neighbors found a fisherman incapacited here in the wilderness. We think it was a diabetic emergency. I arranged for the 911 call from here and we then drove him out to meet the ambulance on the Beckler side. For those of you who I passed in a big hurry (maroon Jeep), thank you for responding to the horn and pulling over. I'm sorry for the dust. Please know I don't normally drive like that. Our guest was in serious trouble and barely conscious. He was still conscious when the EMT crew met us on the other side, and they said he was doing OK when we left. Many thanks to my several neighbors who were involved, who brought the news quickly so we could make the 911 call, helped me to load him up, transport and keep him conscious enroute, stand by with a wide open gate and look after his gear. This was great community cooperation that probably saved a life. I'd like to see more of that up here. Please see me about the communication possibilities in my absence if you have not yet done so. We learned some things about the challenges of a 911 call from here, such as dealing with the inevitable "What is your address?" I will share what we have learned with each of you as we get the chance.

To the person we helped: We hope you are well! We have your bicycle and pack, but only part of your fishing gear. We were unable to find the rest. We'll look after it here until we hear from you. You can pick it up here in the valley, or we'll bring it into town if you prefer since you would otherwise have to hike in for it. My contact information was provided to the EMT crew but they may not have known that it was intended for you as much as for them.

Evin! There is finally some news! Thanks for the reminder! I'll have more news before too much longer. I thought this one was urgent to explain my dusty race from the valley.

Thursday, May 19 - More Road Clearing
The county grader just came through the neighborhood at noon today. I talked to the crew. They have now checked and cleared the road all the way to the Galena bridge. The rock slide area should now be cleaned up enough for all vehicles. There are still trees down over the road 1.5 miles downriver from Skyko 3.

Wednesday, May 18 - We can now drive in.

 

 

I drove in today for the first time this year. Many thanks to Travis and Laureen for their test run yesterday and for letting us all know. Some of you will have received their report from the county. Some county equipment was just leaving when I started over the pass this afternoon. I know some of you must be wondering... "they're not going to plow" (but now they have). This was not county road maintenance or USFS. Apparently Snohomish PUD arranged for WSDOT to clear the route and provided the necessary funding. This is somehow related to the geothermal energy research project at Garland. That being the case, only that much of the route has been properly cleared. We got lucky on the rest. The route was much improved today over what was reported even yesterday by Laureen and Travis. The pass is bare gravel all the way and the potholes are minimal. Any tree issues have been cleared. The road is full speed (25 of course) until the pavement on the inside. There are plenty of rocks in the road in the upper slide area but many have been moved by the first few folks who drove in. Trees over the road have been cut out of the way in a few places from there all the way to the cabins. All is well with the gate. The lower slide area (one of the previous avalanche sites) where there has been some previous road damage is still a problem. There are shallow rock deposits here (nothing you can't shovel, carry or throw) over which we have all crawled so far in 4WD. This is the only place I needed to use 4WD today. By spending some time there moving rocks and choosing your route carefully, I think 2WD can get through just fine if you have enough ground clearance and decent tires, or of you take the time to clear a bare spot through each of the several patches of rocks (which I'm sure can be done).

This evening I saw a big, black bear just above the North Fork bridge. I have seen them in that spot several times before. I thought I was going to get a good shot (with my camera, of course) because I surprised it from behind. It was sitting on its butt in the road messing around with something but then heard me and did not like the looks of my car when I got closer. Winter is over. Memorial day weekend has been saved!

The county has posted a numnber of appendices to the design report on their website. See the county website for these. They are not included in the design report document linked above. Don't forget the public meeting coming up on May 31.

Sunday, May 15 - Plowing Update
The county has added an item of news to their website regarding the plowing effort that we have been wondering about. Apparently the USFS plowed for a mile or two on the gravel beyond the end of the Beckler pavement and had to stop because the snow was too deep to continue. This was on May 9 so it would appear that we have a long ways to go yet on the meltdown. I would like to drive around for a photo but that's just too much driving around until things look a little more promising. I'm still hiking in and have seen others doing the same. Supplies are of course becoming an issue for everyone. It's tough to carry them in.

Friday, May 6 - Road Project News
Note the new links above. The county has posted a newsletter summarizing the status of the road relocation project. The design report was completed in March and is now approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Notable is that this now appears to be a decision for road reconstruction with a planned course of action. This "paves the way" for final design work, permitting and funding. However, the timeline is disappointing, calling for completion of the proposed construction in 2018. There will be a county public meeting at the Monroe library on Tuesday, May 31, 6 - 7:30 p.m. See you there!

Friday, April 29
There was a low helicopter overflight going upriver today just before 2:00. It looked like a Hughes 500 with some external mounted gear. Does anyone know anything about this? We have hummingbirds now. I saw just one early this afternoon - very colorful. Later in the day there were a lot more of them around. Trail conditions were reported as very good today - no ill effects from the recent snow. We should be in for a very nice weekend. Dry on Saturday... 65 on Sunday!? See you up here?

Thursday, April 28 - Winter is back.

This was taken at peak snow this morning during the winter storm that was forecast. Overnight it was mostly rain and snow mixed. I could always hear it on the roof. We had two days of cold rain while in the mid-30's, so I'm sure the pass really got clobbered again. By late afternoon here, it was just slush.

Yesterday I walked around all the properties to see if I could find any roof or chimney damage or other issues you would want to know about. If you have not heard from me privately, there were no issues (there were very few, all minor). There are some trees down over the high road in Skyko 4 that will need to be cut away for vehicle access to a few of the uppermost driveways. No structures have been hit.

These were taken on my last walk out, which was on Easter weekend.
 

Saturday, April 23 - Hiking Conditions, New Road Damage
I'm back after a demanding quarter of city life. We should be talking about road conditions over the pass by now, but you can't get near it with a vehicle yet. While headed that way to check things out, I was intercepted by a neighbor with this news. I did not then finish the trip for pictures. One plowed lane on the gravel ascent beyond the Beckler pavement was encouraging, but it stops after a short distance at a snow wall where there is only a turnaround. The plowing looks like an experiment which ended when there was no place to push the snow any more. In other words, there is still a LOT of snow up there - probably several feet of it on top of the pass. Even the Jeeps have stopped going up. We're guessing at maybe a month or more for the meltdown still. The snow runs out miles above the cabins on the North Fork side, so the snowmobile situation is poor.

Hiking conditions are excellent. There are no high water complications right now. It is easy to follow the trail and stay dry. Travel time while in no particular hurry is 1:15. All is well in the neighborhood. A few trees have come down but all so far have been found to have missed all adjacent structures. I have a recent walkaround report from our watchman if you would like to write me for the details.

There is new road damage between Index and the washout (see photos). Erosion from snow slides and runoff has compromised the river side of the road above Skyko 2. The affected lane is closed and barricaded. The road is thus closed as you see beginning at Skyko 2, except for local traffic. I assume we are local traffic to park at the washout and walk in. The safe side of the road is still open and you can get by. If the road becomes fully closed at the damaged area, it won't be such a big deal. You can almost see the washout from there. I do not yet know what the County's plans are here, but they have obviously been there to consider it.

 

January & February, 2011
New Year trip

So what's new for the year? I retired from flying at the end of the year. After 40 years of it, I'm still figuring out that it's really over, and I like not going to the airport to leave town, or the country, just fine! I have been flying corporate jets for the last 25 years. I've been all over the world - even around it once or twice on the same trip. It was always better to be home. Now there can be more cabin time! I am also in the technology business and that work will continue. I never tire of it.

Some of us have been coming and going regularly on foot since driving became impossible (make that "almost" impossible, to be explained shortly) while hiking conditions have been good. I have not known them to be other than good yet this year. It was probably difficult during the high water. I missed it due to an around-the-clock technology project for a client. News from the others was that the flooding was no big deal up here. That's what I found when I got here - that it had been no big deal.

It was snowy here between Christmas and the New Year. This photo was taken while on the way out after New Year's weekend. Several of us were here and we went out together. The snow was not deep enough to be any special challenge. It barely affected the travel time. Since then we have only had less, and now there is none. The pass is still "almost" impossible due to the early snow. It was reported to be four feet deep on New Year's weekend, and still 2-3 feet deep this last weekend. Reported by who? That's what the "almost" is about. We were shocked to hear a vehicle coming our way as we were beginning this trip out. It turned out to be a lifted Toyota 4x4 with huge tires. They had been over that four feet of snow flotation-style with low tire pressure. I have known Jeep clubs to do that up there but this was the first time I had seen property owners in here that way. We saw this happen again last weekend, followed by someone else who made it with a Blazer the same way. That's where I got the 2-3 ft. report for current conditions up there. It probably went up from there quite a bit during the last day or two. It was very stormy here with a lot of cold precipitation which did not stick in the valley, but it was close.

Those who are doing this know the snow, and their vehicles, and are prepared to leave vehicles behind and trek for miles when it doesn't work out. Due to poor traction and the occasional need for winching, the crossing takes hours. The Blazer made it out just fine, but not without winching several times to make the steeper uphill grade on this side. I could have left when they did, walking out, and would have been passing Bellevue and almost home by the time they got to Skykomish. Still though, it was cool! I might have to try that sometime if I ever get a right vehicle for it (with a winch). In the meanwhile, my snowmobiles are ready to go. We expected to need them for the New Year's trip but there was too little snow on the valley floor by then. Either of these propositions for transportation are more for the fun of it, or to get here with supplies that can't be packed in. I'm pretty sure that the snowmobile trip will take longer than the hiking also, except when the snow makes it slow and especially when snowshoes are required. I have done that twice and it was pretty much terrible (6 hours of abuse that felt risky). I still don't know why I did it the second time. I must have forgotten the first time. Now I remember and that's why I bought the snowmobiles.

So for those who have been wondering about driving since there has been so much warm weather and rain, you can't chain up and get through that stuff with anything that I know of. And even for something that will go over it, traction was reported as very poor due to the often wet snow.

There were late night "explosions" up here the other night. They might have been worrisome except for the high-flying fireworks that appeared to explain them. You see the strangest things up here sometimes.

Thursday, December 30
snow

Thursday, December 30
Today we had 6" of beautiful, sunlit powder under mostly clear skies. More hikers came in sledding supplies and reported 6" to a foot of snow all along the road. It is going down in the teens tonight. Walking conditions are still very good. I expect more hikers tomorrow. The snowmobiles could have made it in by now, but we're concerned about getting them out due to the warmer weather and rain in the forecast for just after the weekend.

Tuesday, December 28 - Winter Storm
What winter storm? I came up to watch it and it missed! Promises, promises. It rained here last night down to about 30. This morning it was 33 and dry. Four of us made the hike yesterday. Hiking conditions are excellent. The road is bare all the way. Upriver, the road is still snow covered beginning at the Troublesome Creek bridge. Pass conditions have been seen as "impossible" even at the lower levels of the Beckler grade. We are still hoping for more snow on the main road before launching a snowmobile trip.

Sunday, December 26 - Group Hike
A group hike-in is being planned for tomorrow, Monday. Please write for details if you would like to participate. Due to too much melting, we no longer have suitable conditions for snowmobiles on the main road in the valley. This may improve next week, in which case we may organize another group trip on snow machines then.

Thursday, December 23
Most of our properties have been seen since the wind storm last weekend. One cabin may be somewhat threatened by a leaning tree. Those property owners have been notified. All others have been reported as OK. The road may be too bare above the cabins for a snowmobile commute over the pass now, but hiking conditions are still good.

Tuesday, December 21
There is news from the county that USFS has cleared the slide at MP 2.5 on the Beckler road. I know nothing of driving conditions beyond that and assume that the pass is still impassable. We are hoping for more news from the snowmobilers later in the week.

Friday, December 17
Some of the foot soldiers have checked in with their news. The lower road is now bare of snow, as is the hillside bypassing the washouts. The river level is back to normal and the runoff has let up on the wet spots, so it is now possible to stay dry on the best hiking routes with at least gaiters. Approaching the cabins and here in the neighborhood, there is still snow on the ground, about 2-3". The pass has been reported as impassable for vehicles without some means of staying on top of the snow. As far as I know, at least two trees in the road which had been an issue for snowmobiles earlier are still there. Since the recent warm spell and rain didn't open the route yet, the prospects for driving will probably continue to get worse. No new property damage has been found here.

Sunday, December 12
Highway 2 was blocked in both directions between Money Creek and Skykomish this morning due to a landslide. Both lanes have now been restored. WSDOT said... "US 2 - At 2:30 this morning there was a snow slide that brought down one hundred yards of material on US 2 three miles east of Money Creek near the town of Skykomish, WA. There is now one lane open for emergency vehicles only. We expect crews will reopen the roadway by 10:30 a.m. today. There is no damage to the roadway."

Wednesday, December 8
I have news both from hikers on the low route and snowmobile commuters on the high route. Sorry for the delay getting the news online. If you need information, feel free to write me for details. If you have news to contribute, that would be much appreciated too. The current winter storm will probably supersede all that was known about conditions through yesterday. The pass was already not likely to be drivable. More trees have been found over the road. This morning's severe thunderstorm warning, to include high winds, appears to include this area.

Sunday, November 28 - Got Here
I succeeded, more or less, with my group trip of one back to the cabin today. I made it over the pass, but encountered a very large tree in the road about 2.5 miles from the cabins. I had to walk the rest of the way after dark. The snow was not easy on the inside grade, or even down here in the valley. I didn't want to risk driving back over, not making it, and facing even a longer walk to the cabin. I'm probably the only person in the world you will ever see doing this carrying a laptop. I wish I had brought a chain saw instead. I don't know what the plan is yet. Stay tuned. If anyone with a proper vehicle and chain saw would like to meet me at that tree tomorrow, I'm all ears. If interested, write me for more details about the conditions up there. It was a fun crossing and a fun walk tonight, by the way. Just another North Fork adventure! I talked to Ranger Brad for a while on the other side before I started in (after he failed to talk me out of it). There was a lot of traffic up there today, which is why I succeeded.

Saturday, November 27 - Group Trip
A possible group trip over the pass is being considered for Sunday morning. This is inbound with supplies and for maintenance. Outbound is late Sunday or sometime Monday due to significant new snow in the forecast for Tuesday. This will probably require strong 4WD vehicles with four chains, but you might be able to catch a ride with someone else if you don't have one. Write for more details if you are interested.

Friday, November 26
I have some news about pass conditions. Write me privately for the details if you need to know.

Thanksgiving Day
The temperature has climbed from 18 last night to 22 this morning. It is cloudy with a dark sky and snowing lightly. Significant additional snow accumulations are expected today. Have a good one everyone!

Wednesday Evening
18 Degrees. Still no news on pass conditions.

Wednesday Morning
The temperature was 7 overnight and has been climbing since it became overcast this morning. It is now 14 at noon. It was crystal clear all night and very bright with the moonlit snow. There has been no traffic on the road down here. Any news from the Beckler side would be welcome. See "Monday Noon" for my taxi service comments.

Brief sun break Tuesday at 2 p.m.
bright_spot

Tuesday, fighting the cold
fighting_the_cold

Tuesday, November 23
It was 13 early this morning. At noon it is 15. The forecast low for tonight is below zero. I had hoped for sunny weather for snow pictures, but it has remained cloudy. It snowed more last evening with some wind and was near whiteout at times. We have about 6" now. Between the snow burdoned trees and a little more wind, there may be more obstacles in the road.

Monday afternoon at the washout
at_the_washout  washout2

Monday Afternoon
OK, I am now officially having a blast. It snowed heavy (big flakes) for the last couple of hours. The Pathfinder is chained up for whatever, whenever. I made it to the washout and back. There are no trees down that we can't get around, just branches that I am driving over, so the taxi service offer is still good. I walked around in Skyko 4 and I don't see any tree problems. It is snowing lightly again now at 2 PM. Snow depth on the Skyko 4 bridge is about 4". I still think the pass can be done with chains, but I'm not sure I believe the 2" new total at the top for today that was in the forecast anymore. I'm not going up to try it until I need to. It is too far to walk back.

Monday Noon
It looks like 21 will be the high for today. The sky got dark and the snowfall is increasing. I have no plans to leave yet. If anyone would like to walk in (in case you cannot drive) for the holiday weekend and would like to be picked up at the washout, let me know. Bring a turkey in your backpack; or better yet, bring a live one and make it walk. I will chain up and check on the road conditions between here and the washout.

Monday, November 22
We have a trace of new snow this morning on top of an an inch or two from yesterday. It was 21 this morning and never above 28 yesterday. After the hard freeze, the ice is now more of a problem on the pass than the depth of the snow. The Subaru made it out yesterday with good snow tires. I drove up later and could not make it to the top in 4WD without chains. I have not yet tried it again with chains but I don't expect it to be a problem.

Sunday Afternoon
A Subaru Outback (4WD, no chains) just drove in for a short stay but the snow was near their limit on top of the pass, so they don't plan to stay very long. They warn... you'll slide off the road in the wide right turn about a mile below the gate if you don't go into it very slowly. I have done that before too. By the time you are into it and realize you are going too fast, it's too late.

Sunday, November 21
We were lightly dusted with new snow overnight. The temperature has been 28 all morning. Snowfall is increasing.

Jack Pass summit on Saturday
pass1snow  pass2snow

Saturday, November 20
As of last night, the pass is open with slightly better conditions than last reported. There is little new snow. It was dry in the valley last night and this morning.

Friday, November 19 - Driving Conditions
I made it in over the pass last night. My arrival time was about 9PM. The snow had been about 10-12" on top but was already fairly well traveled by previous traffic. The tracks were bare gravel on both grades except for the last mile or so near the top. I did not have to chain up my Pathfinder but I would have turned around about a mile from the top if I had not had chains available. I did use 4WD but it may not have been necessary if I had kept moving. Without 4WD and SUV ground clearance, I would say that chains would have been necessary. Hopefully you can judge the suitability of your vehicle from all that, but keep in mind that we may be getting new snow. I came prepared to walk out if necessary. I can probably add an afternoon/evening update after I hear from someone who will be driving out later today.

The trees were loaded with snow on top, which was pretty spectacular in the bright moonlight. It was possible to drive for a good while without headlights (I assume... I would never do that, of course). A large cat crossed the road in front of me while I was assuming that I could probably drive with my headlights off. The road stayed snowy until past Troublesome. There is some snow at the cabins, but not much. The road was trashy with limbs and quite a few trees had come down in several places. These had been cleared just enough to get through. The immediate surroundings of the cabins do not look heavily wind damaged. I'll check around more later.

The overnight low was about 30. There has been light rain and snow mixed this morning, and the trees are shedding their snow here. I assume that more snow is accumulating on the pass but only a trace of new snow is in the forecast for up there. This first winter storm has probably not yet killed our access (for suitable vehicles), but the next one may.

Monday, October 18 - Got Propane
The propane deliveries have been completed.


OLD STUFF