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

May 14, 2022
Jack Pass far from clear

Current Area Weather Forecast
Forecast Data for Jack Pass Summit

Northwest River Forecast Center (NOAA)
Snohomish County Flood Warning System

River Level at the Galena (9-mile) bridge
Skykomish River Basin Summary

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

NOAA Snow Depth Model for Jack Pass area

Cliff Mass Weather Blog  new

Saturday, May 14 - Jack Pass far from clear
Feet of snow, weeks to go. It does not look promising for vehicles on Memorial Day weekend, which is no surprise. Through mid-May, days in the mid-40's have been the norm, with many overnight lows in the 30's. Even after a lot of rain, the river is still running low. This is not a good sign for the meltdown.

Significant snow begins at least a mile from the top on the Beckler side climb. Wheeled vehicles have not yet made it any higher. Descending the North Fork side, it continues until after the first three switchbacks, clearing up on the long straight section near the bottom. There will be trees to clear from the road, and the surface will be in terrible condition until there is maintenance. The slide area near the end of the pavement is an obstacle course of rocks and boulders. Erosion damage and debris remaining from last year in the San Juan area are significant. The road surface is failing at the riverside edge there, and the uphill lane is a rock pile. This may be a problem for some vehicles. There is a boulder in the road near Troublesome Creek.

NF-63 will not be passable to Blanca Lake and the upper trailheads when the pass opens. Rocks and debris have overwhelmed the new box culverts and covered the road up to many feet deep.
A solid repair has been made to the Beckler Road damage near Hwy 2 that appears below.

Thursday, May 5 - New Drone Video
Kirk (Smokey) Bair has posted a new drone video—Season 2, Part 3—flown yesterday.

Wednesday, April 13 - Road Project Tour
  Drone videos by Dan Sharpe

These photos link to aerial videos contributed by a bridge engineer on the project team. The first is a trip over the full length of the new road alignment, outward from the inside. The bridge you see here is temporary. Ahead where the road splits, we continue on a temporary service road above the new main road to the entry point at the Index end. The second video is a quick view of the new bridge footings at the near end, and the reason for the bridge. Many concrete trucks rolled by here via Jack Pass late in the season last year, finishing this pour on schedule for possible completion of the road by the end of this year. That would be an early completion by the contractor. The county still has it scheduled for completion next year. Thanks Dan!

Thursday, April 7 - New Drone Video

Drone overflight video 03/10/22 - Season 2, Part 1
Drone overflight video 04/06/22 - Season 2, Part 2
Drone overflight video 05/04/22 - Season 2, Part 3 ← A new drone video has been posted.
Drone overflight videos - Season 1

Sunday, April 3 - Beckler Road Open, Winter Storm in April

I don't see this in Forest Service information officially yet, but heard that the county has repaired a single lane so the Beckler Road can be traveled again. This does not mean that we are anywhere close to a driveable Jack Pass. I don't expect that before mid-May. Significant new snow is expected up there, even now. A winter storm warning just went into effect for the next few days. And by midweek—at least one night below freezing here.

Wednesday, March 23 - Beckler Road Update
As of today, it appears that no progress has yet been made with restoring a lane.

Thursday, March 10 - Construction has resumed.
Index-Galena road construction resumed for this season a few weeks ago with a full crew on six day weeks. Here is a first drone overflight video for this year by Kirk (Smokey) Bair. Links are available in the content below for last year's videos. Completion late this year is a contractor goal and a possibility—no promises! The county plan is for three years of construction.

Drone overflight video 03/10/22 - Season 2, Part 1
Drone overflight video 04/06/22 - Season 2, Part 2
Drone overflight videos - Season 1

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - Beckler Road Problem (update)
The Beckler Road is in USFS jurisdiction. Their news on this was posted today on Facebook. Their photo shows the depth and scale of the problem a little better. It has been declared unsafe to cross for any kind of vehicle. Barricades are now in place. The county will assist to expedite the restoration of a single lane, possibly next week. According to the FS, full repairs may be three to five years out.

Monday, March 7, 2022 - Serious Road Problem
This is on Beckler Road near the power line crossing, just under a half mile from Highway 2. A large sink hole has appeared under the pavement, severely undermining both lanes. It was discovered on Friday and appeared to be worse on Sunday. The asphalt had no remaining support and was beginning to sag. It will be deep enough to stop traffic when it fails, which it may have already. Outbound vehicles may have become stranded behind it when it became unsafe to cross, and with no way around it.

Saturday, November 27 - Thanksgiving Weekend

Warm, wet weather continues, with no new snow expected for the coming week. Next weekend it may be cold enough, but is expected to dry up. Play in the snow traffic was lighter than usual on Black Friday and Saturday, since the snow was crappy. There can be much more of a crowd here on good snow. There are always a lot of Christmas tree hunters on the pass too. It's a pretty terrible time to commute, especially when there is only a single driving lane. My weekend trip involved a trailer, so it was made in the middle of the night. As you can see, most any vehicle can make it (and still can). Keep the rough conditions on the road in the valley in mind, and possible high water issues.

Wednesday, November 24 - County Update
The county has posted a November update for the construction project, announcing the end of the work season with some details on first year accomplishments. The project is on schedule and the area will remain closed to the public.

Wednesday, November 17 - First Freeze
 Last night on the pass
First freeze for this year was last night at 30. It cleared up with some nice moonlight. We didn't make the 20's, per the forecast. It is clear today, so the pass should be no worse. And of course, the road in the valley is no better! I toured all the cabins today in case of tree damage from the windstorm on Monday. I didn't find any new trees down. Two that I heard break and fall were found across the road near here. Others were heard breaking and must be outside the cabin areas. For years, there has been a huge, old growth Douglas Fir log on a gravel bar at the low end the community. It was still there after the 9 ft. high river event in late October. This one peaked briefly at 10 ft. It's gone now.

A new drone overflight video was added today. For prior flights, see this previous article.

Tuesday, November 16 - The road is a mess!
 ... but not here!
The road is a mess, but navigable. I made it to the top of the pass. There is significant erosion damage at MP 13.1 (Bear Creek), 13.8 (San Juan) and 15.1 (culvert location between pavement end and the bridge). In the climb, snow that matters begins at the final switchback. It's only a couple of inches on top. I have not yet been down the Beckler side.

San Juan is the worst of it. There too, I would call it more erosion than undermining at this point, but that will be next. They all need repairs to prevent serious damage in a next, similar event. Getting through San Juan required moving rocks due to my low vehicle. I still had to crowd the riverside edge. This would not have been safe with water running over it high enough that you can't see what's there (and what's missing)—not to mention the possible sideways push right over the edge. Better offroad vehicles can do more climbing on the rock pile in the safer, uphill lane.

The road damage photo tour is here.
  Just for fun

Monday, November 15 - Receding River

The river has been receding through the night. It has been warm (49 at daybreak), but the rain let up. Jack Pass has been washed free of snow. This may not be over if we get the heavy rain today that still appears in the forecast. The flood warning is still in effect for some areas. Temperatures will be coming down later in the day, and a fair amount of new snow is due on the pass tonight. At least we get to start over now with the snow accumulation up there. I'll add an update on road conditions upriver after I have seen how it turned out. At mid-morning, the river should be receding from over the road just above the bridge. The problem at San Juan may still be significant.

Weather Change, Road Damage
This late day update is delayed because of a server outage I had to deal with to restore service. It was stormy in the afternoon—high winds and more heavy rain. I heard trees break and fall nearby. A large one went down over the road just above here. This all started as I was about to go upriver to check the road. It was not then safe to go.

A neighbor who made it in described significant road damage in the San Juan area. The riverside edge there is undermined enough that it couldn't be trusted in that lane. The uphill lane had to be favored, which required running up on a rock pile with two wheels. It may not be safe or even possible to get through there now with some vehicles. There were other locations with damage or obstructions too. I will try again tomorrow to get up there for pictures and more details.

It is 35 approaching midnight and there have been showers of snow grains. Pass conditions are again in question. It was seen to be snowing heavy up there by late afternoon, and as far down the valley as San Juan. I'll report what more I see or hear.

Sunday, November 14 - Raging River

It warmed up overnight, heavy rain continues and the flood warning is back on. The river rose sharply after midnight to an early morning peak of 9.5 ft. It raged all day above 8 ft. and went briefly above 10 ft. in the late afternoon. It is 53 here at 6 p.m. The flood warning is extended through Tuesday morning, naming Index-Galena Road and from Index to Gold Bar and Sultan. Clearing is still expected on Tuesday with a first freeze down in the 20's on Tuesday night.

Early this morning, an incoming truck was stopped at the San Juan dip. Rocks and debris there had to be cleared. It had enough clearance to make it through the high water there, but was stopped again by the river over the road at the North Fork bridge. After a two hour wait as the river came down some, they made it in.

Later in the day, this was another incoming effort, stopped at the same place. No-go! For reference, this can be expected at 9-ish feet on the Galena gauge. Both of these crews also reported significant rock hazards in the road in the slide area. Some of them had to be moved.

Saturday, November 13 - Update on pass conditions

Better! Thank you for this contribution, Trevor! Likely after tonight, better again. Heavy rain has resumed and it is expected to get warmer. The flood watch continues, with snow levels going above 10,000 feet tonight, but not for long. A minor threat of new snow on the pass resumes on Monday night, with a first freeze in the valley after clearing on Tuesday.

Friday, November 12 - Flood Warning

The flood watch has been upgraded to a flood warning. It rained heavy all night. I think the river has a ways to go yet. It's coming up on 8 feet at noon, running brown and carrying some debris. Snow may be less of an issue on the pass now, but the water may get too deep for some vehicles at the North Fork bridge, or in the San Juan area.
Evening update: The rain let up and the river backed down from just under 9 feet. I don't think anyone is shut in or out yet unless the puddle is too deep at San Juan. I didn't go up there. It would have been a little higher over the road after this, taken at 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 11 - Jack Pass Conditions
  Last night on Jack Pass
Pics contributed by enthusiastic new property owners, Jack and Alyssa. They chose not to complete the inward trip. I don't think these conditions will persist even until the weekend. I've not yet seen other vehicles in the valley since the snow. Mine is still here on a bet that we'll get a meltdown out of this warm, wet weather system. We're in a flood watch now.

November 6, 2021 - 15 year anniversary of the flood that wiped out the road. Now nearing the end of the first season of its reconstruction!

Halloween-ish, 2021 - Missing News
Filling in some prior gaps after the fact...

The "record storm" (on the coast) was uneventful here. There were a few brief, minor wind events. No damage or trouble with new trees over the road—then just a lot of rain. The river ramped up to a little over 9 feet on October 28 (and did not really spike to 20+ feet)—a first high water event for the season. It was inconsequential here. The river ran over the road just above the North Fork bridge—typical above 7 feet, so potentially deep enough to stop traffic. I drove out just before it got there and went through high water almost too much for my car in the San Juan dip. That problem is not from the high river, but from runoff on the uphill side. I was intending a round trip, but could not get back in until the high water settled back down the next day.

Construction Progress...

Returning on the 29th, I met with the county project engineer at Index for an end-of-season update. Bridge footings at this end were nearing completion. On the previous Saturday, there had been dozens of concrete trucks rolling by here. I was shown pictures of an impressive box culvert midway along the route—also nearing completion. These massive concrete projects were mentioned as important goals for this season to hold the intended construction schedule. In general, good progress was reported with no setbacks. Construction is not currently set to conclude on a specific date. The crew will be downsized as work continues well into November on a few more objectives. Conditions allowing, there may be return visits throughout the winter to monitor and deal with possible issues dealt by the seasonal weather.

Kind Baring neighbor, artistic and talented drone pilot Kirk (Smokey) Bair, has contributed these videos from drone overflights of the project at various times throughout the first season of work. Kirk advises to set video quality at 4K. Thank you, Captain Kirk (Smokey) Bair!

Drone Overflight Videos
05/09/21 Part 1
05/16/21 Part 2
05/23/21 Part 3
05/29/21 Part 4
08/15/21 Part 5
09/07/21 Part 6
10/04/21 Part 7
10/31/21 Part 8
11/17/21 Part 9

Sunday, October 24 - Record Storm Approaching

An all time record-setting storm is approaching. There have been some early windy spells here, not yet serious. The Cliff Mass weather blog is the best read that I know of on this. This will be our first significant weather event of the season. We have been close to snow on the pass, but the near-term issues will be with the stormy warm fronts and possible significant rain. Snow levels are high again. Trees over the road are my next concern.

Friday, June 11 - Gravel Road Improved
The gravel road over Jack Pass has been getting some work by County Road Maintenance this week. It should be much improved for the weekend.

Sunday, June 6 - Everett Herald Story
The Everett Herald Story I mentioned earlier has appeared this morning.

Sunday, May 23 - Jack Pass Opens
After seeing SUVs arriving in the valley today, I ran my Subaru successfully over the pass. I had to charge through a last pile of snow on top (smaller version of what you see below). A lot of traffic has been through it now. By tomorrow, it shouldn't be much of a problem for anyone.

Thursday, May 20 - Pass nearly passable

A winch equipped, 4WD truck made it in today. Winching was not required, but could have been. Others (also 4WD) had tried and were found stuck in the road needing to be winched out. That was not here, but in some other deep spots near the top of the Beckler-side climb. It is cold again and the river has come back down a lot. There may not be significant improvement before the weekend. It should be cleared up for just about everyone by the following (Memorial Day) weekend. If I see others getting in sooner, I'll be back with an update.

Friday, May 14 - Busy River - Melting Snow
It looks like the river has finally ramped up to stay. It is holding above four feet and barely came down at all in the coldest morning hours. I expect to see a new high this afternoon. Actually, I think it's already at a new high (4.25) at 10 a.m. This is encouraging for the pass—especially without rain—but I think we're now shut out (or in) by the high, fast water on the walk-in route. I am not optimistic about the pass for this weekend. I plan to wait a few more days before going up for another snow check. I will report the first vehicle arrivals I see in the valley.

Tuesday, May 11 - News Crew Visit, Road Progress
Sunday, with a fair amount of difficulty, I helped a courageous Everett Herald news crew in and out of here. Since the river was cooperating (just barely), they signed up for the whole adventure and we had a great visit here the cabin. When there is a resulting story, I will link to it here.

I spoke with the Operations Manager of Encore Environmental, a subcontractor currently here for the logging portion of the road project. The roughed in service route for heavy equipment is nearly complete to the upriver end. Our previous hillside trails for getting around the washouts are obliterated, and that entire area remains off-limits at all times. Fortunately, we will soon be in over the pass for the season.

Aerials are courtesy of Baring resident and drone pilot Kirk (Smokey) Bair.
Videos are forthcoming, with updates as the project continues to progress.

Monday, May 10 - Snow Melting Progress
In the climb from the North Fork side, the snow has receded beyond the next (third) switchback—there are four. Almost immediately, it is too deep to drive though. The Beckler side has been driven to within two miles of the top. Similar has been reported there—deep snow begins right at the snow line. No one has been to the top yet. When we can make it, remember that the shaded, first stretch of the descent is usually still a problem, especially for climbing back out. I measured snow depths of two to three feet from above the final switchback to the top.

North Fork to the top are on Monday. The final three are a Beckler side climb on Saturday.

The June theory may not hold up, but we're still at the usual question... Will it be passable for Memorial Day weekend? A couple of weeks may do it. I don't think it will be sooner. More tree clearing is going to be needed after the meltdown. The condition of the gravel road will be terrible—slow going due to ruts and potholes.

Friday, April 26 - Snow on Jack Pass
Snow in the valley has receded to the second switchback in the climb. On top of the pass, it is still five or six feet deep. Long ways to go!

Friday, April 23 - Area Closed, Changing Conditions
There have been many transgressions of the closed area by recreational users. Here you can see the resulting change in the signage. Those of us who have come by permission will now encounter hostile, high water conditions on the allowed route. On a trial run last evening, I found it difficult, but possible with a lot of rock hopping and some wading in cold, fast water. The bypass route required triple the usual time. The river level was just shy of 4 feet at Galena. A planned visit by an Everett Herald reporter and photographer has been called off and may be rescheduled for later. A private distribution with more details will be going out shortly.

Friday, April 16 - Changing Conditions
65 Tuesday, 66 Wednesday, 67 Thursday and 71 today. The river is rising. Property owners: As the river goes above 3.5 ft, which is imminent, we're getting into problematic territory for a known, acceptable walk-in route. I next plan to consider some wading and will have to report back on how that looks. I have talked to someone who knows the area well about the possibility of exploring for a high route. It does not look good. If even possible, it would take hours.

Monday, April 12 - April Snow, Construction Progress

It snowed again between Friday night and Saturday afternoon. There was accumulation on the road, but it was above freezing and most of it was gone by Saturday evening. Snow on the pass is now at a new high. You know what that means—there is more to melt than ever, and the melting has not yet begun. Note the still constant, low river level. It made 51 today—first day above 50. The early morning low was 30. Construction progress... Heavy equipment has arrived on the middle road section.

Wednesday, April 7 - Road Construction Update

Construction is well underway. Currently, a subcontractor is logging the route. There will be a service road above the new main road alignment along what we hikers have known as the "high route" on the hillside. The contractor will push through from the Index side. Intending one or more temporary bridges, they expect to need no access over the Jack Pass route. This answers the question about any possible plowing or maintenance of the gravel road for benefit of the project.

 A "soft closure" begins near the top of the hill above Skyko 2.

The hard closure begins at Trout Creek, a few hundred feet beyond this. The signage here is clear. Entry is not allowed into the construction zone for obvious reasons related to safety, liability and potential disruption of work. Note the link to the FS Closure document that is posted on the sign.

 FS Closure document as posted (for readability)

Short term, the project team expects a limited need for access by some property owners. There is not a similar expectation for recreational use. Access will resume for all via Jack Pass after the meltdown. For those of us allowed, passage is conditional and tentative. We cannot enter the active construction zone at any time, and can attempt to bypass it only during non-working hours. This may soon be impossible when the river rises, and/or when work begins in the channel for debris removal. Incursion through private property is also an issue. A bypass route high enough on the forest hillside is not expected to be possible. More details will be in a private distribution.

Construction times are restricted for wildlife protection through September, due to noise. Work hours are from two hours after sunrise until two hours before sunset, Monday through Saturday. The contractor expects to fill this schedule, with crews arriving to prepare (quietly) for work at 30 minutes before the starting times.

It has been stressed to me that the no-entry construction zone will be hazardous at all times, including non-working hours. Safety and liability concerns are still relevant where they have work in progress, even when the workers are not present. There will be logging and blasting, resulting in unstable conditions that will persist. The temporary roads will not be available for pedestrian or vehicular travel at any time.

The project office site is just outside of Index at Skyko 1. One portable is the county's, the other is the contractor's. Power and communication are pending, after which it will be staffed "sometimes."

Here is some interesting information about the contractor, published yesterday: Goodfellow Brothers - 100 years. One of their earliest signature projects was the Grand Coulee dam. Now in their 100th year, they have the "famous" Index-Galena Road project! I think they can handle it! And some good news—while the county plan is for a three year project, the contractor expects a possibility of completion within two years. Until the project is nearing completion with more variables accounted for, we should continue to expect a third season of construction before the road can reopen.

I intend regular updates as things change.

Wednesday, March 31 - Road construction has begun
Work began on Monday, March 29. The road closure is now a quarter-mile closer to Index at the near end of the Trout Creek bridge. The site is now actively being logged. This is dangerous work which will continue for the next few weeks. Pedestrian access through the area during working hours (at least) will not be allowed. I expect that we can still get through on the opposite side of the channel (island route) while the river is still low enough. We can determine this pretty closely by watching the river level on the Galena gauge. For more than a brief trip, we should watch the forecast and be prepared for changing conditions. The contractor is intending 10 hour work days, Monday through Saturday. We may have options before and after work hours, and on Sundays. This is not yet determined, but I will look into it. I am in touch with the on-site, county project engineer. Our needs for access will be discussed at a meeting with the contractor tomorrow. After this, I will meet with the project engineer on-site, and we should then have more details.

Friday, March 12 - Update on Hiking Conditions

I've had inquiries about hiking conditions for the weekend. I went to the Howard Creek bridge and back. It was 1 p.m. and above 40. The snow was packed and supportive. In these vehicle tracks, I was at three quarters of full speed, at least. They are available to the end of the road. Where they are deep and narrow, I did better on the ridge between them where the center of the vehicle has packed it somewhat. There, my boot prints were an inch or less, but I am a lightweight and had no load. I would not want to be on snowshoes, and I would not be without these trekking poles. They spare me a lot of falls and I can move a lot faster with this kind of unsteady footing. On warmer snow, when it gets slippery, it will be slower. It froze for the last two nights and made just 45 yesterday. At 2 p.m. today, it is 43 and may not go higher. I think it's going to be pretty reasonable out there in the morning, especially in the early cold. There should be experienced boot prints to follow on the island route. I am not aware of any recent traffic on the hillside routes.

Wednesday, March 10 - New high by five degrees

New high by five degrees—47, with 44+ for at least a few hours. As you can see on the blocks, still more than a foot of snow. That's not exactly in the clear, so probably more in places. What did that lying groundhog say, anyway? We need our own that resides at least five miles up the road from Index. That is about where we have always seen a significant change. I go by the forecast for Index here, but it's almost always a lot colder.

Monday, March 8 - Snow on the pass has doubled.
My neighbor made it back in this weekend with the Polaris on tracks following a high-powered snowmobile to help compress the snow. There were fewer tree problems than expected. Snow on the pass has doubled to an estimated 10 feet since his last crossing three weeks ago. Both machines had a difficult time getting back out. It looks very unlikely that there will be any "early" vehicle access over the pass in May. Snow on the road in the valley is melting stubbornly. Nights are still 32/33 and it barely clears 40 for a short time in the afternoon. Tracks have been made down the road to the washout, but the wheeled vehicle cannot make it down there yet. The snow is still too deep and soft under the tracks. Hiking conditions remain terrible, with snowshoes recommended.

Wednesday, March 3 - Road construction will begin
Contractor bids for the road project were finalized in January. Last week, the Snohomish County Council awarded the contract to Goodfellow Brothers, who came in under the engineer's estimate. The project team is preparing for a handoff from the design team to the construction team for contract administration and inspection. Construction is expected to begin next month, likely for mobilization and the installation of erosion control. The construction area will be a no entry, limited access zone. I do not yet know when that will begin or what it means regarding the walk-in possibility. I will look into it. It matters less, of course, when the pass clears. A pre-construction meeting is pending, after which more details are expected.

Sunday, February 28 - Update on Conditions
Yesterday, it made 38 for a few minutes in the afternoon. Today it was 38 by noon and stayed that way for hours, never higher. Maybe that is progress. Over both days, no new snow! Today was a first morning I did not have to clear the newly white deck again. So far, progress with the melting is hard to see.

I went up to the road and walked it for a bit. Just getting to it was a chore, because the clearing here at the entry is a typical deep spot. I had been across the bridge earlier—same problem. I wouldn't want to be doing that for miles. There was never any support in this snow. It has always taken punching through to the bottom. Snowshoes would likely improve travel time quite a bit. It is tiring either way, probably less so on the snowshoes. The snow is still deeper than I thought—easily two feet in clearings. I know someone who will read this and say "It ain't stoppin' me!" and it won't. It never has. Sorry no new picture. I forgot to take the camera and I'm not going back. Got boots full of snow.

During the winter storm forecast period you see below, there was one really stormy event. I was on a planned connection time after midnight to get some work done. HughesNet stops ripping me off with bogus data depletion at midnight. I wrapped it up at 2 a.m. and then all hell broke loose. There was no sleeping until after 4 a.m. It was something unique. The trees were loaded. It was above freezing. It was something like a driving sleet storm that was coming in waves of wind-blown new precipitation while blowing heavy snow and debris out of the trees. It battered the place, roof and walls. It was spooky! I have not yet noticed any damage or new trees down, but I have not been out and around much yet.

There were no attempts on the pass this weekend that I am aware of. A trip is being planned for next weekend with snowmobiles and/or tracks, anticipating an "all nighter" with tree problems. If it turns out that way, it will not be the first time. VHF radio commmunication is being arranged to cover most of the route, with hand-held satellite backup that will cover all of it.

Crime watch continues via the usual private channels. Additional coverage was necessary through the week before (and including) Christmas. There was a handoff on the afternoon of Christmas day to cover the week between the holidays.

I'm having a grouse for dinner. Don't be impressed with my survival skills just yet. It was taken legally in the Fall. When I share my mouse recipe, then you can be impressed.

Thursday, February 25 - Colorful Weather, HughesNet Problems
I missed a couple of updates I had in mind because I could not get the connection. When I got to the forecast today, I found what I already knew. It is still winter storming here. It has been near 33 around the clock for days. Last night, it snowed heavy all night and turned back to rain about noon today. There were some prior new snow events, followed by more rain. The trees were loaded again this morning. I thought I had animals on the roof at 4 a.m. It turned out to be soft snow bombs falling out of the overloaded trees. Accumulations are not that much more. It was nice yesterday. I should have gone out snow walking in the road. Now I hardly see the point. What we gained while it was raining on the old snow has now been reversed by the new snow (couple of inches). I'd say it's about a foot deep or a little more, probably a lot more in the clearings usually known for that.

Updates are in question while my system is in a degraded state. It's not the snow. I can deal with that. The system is breaking down at the provider's end. I have Iridium messaging with a Garmin InReach for backup. I'm depending on it more right now for all things urgent. I'll have more to say about this in the near future (when possible). If you are a HughesNet subscriber in the area, will you please check in with me? I have been tracking some wrongdoing with my system (with records and proof) for almost a year now, since the pandemic began to stress their severely oversold bandwidth in March of last year.

Monday, February 22 - Constant Rain

Since peak snow a few days ago, the rain has been nearly constant in the valley, often heavy. The river is rising and wiping all the cute little snow caps off the rocks. Temps still linger in the low 30's. There is likely a lot more snow on the pass than what you see in the pictures below. It has packed down to about a foot here in most places I need to go. I will give it a few more days and then explore how it's doing in the main road in case anyone is wondering about the hike.

Saturday, February 20 - Worsening Conditions
Not suprisingly, conditions on the pass have worsened. The track rig you see below was not able to make it in last night. They turned back (first time ever) from near the top due to whiteout, terrible snow conditions and the possibility of embedded, fallen trees. The lower Beckler Road was a real chore too, even for this machine, due to the deep snow and ruts.

It snowed again all night. Today it's a mix with light rain. It's no deeper out there (still about 2 ft.), but is soft and difficult to get around in. The overnight low was 33. It's not cold enough for decent snow and far from warm enough to melt it. Yesterday's high was 35.

Friday, February 19 - Snowed in (or out)

Through January, we were having a warm, wet winter. We barely got dusted wtih snow and it was never an issue with hiking conditions. Nights below freezing were few, and not below 31. Then came the February cold spell. Days in the low 20's (but not teens, as appeared in the forecast). All were windy, and the first of the serious snow was drifty and going everywhere that it usually doesn't. Through mid-Feb, we honored every winter weather advisory. Snow, more snow, and again more snow. As it warmed up, it snowed heavy and became more dense, packing down the old powder. Then it pretty quickly became soft and slushy.

By the 16th, hiking in/out was brutal, with more than six hours enroute reported by one party. Hiking conditions are currently terrible, and will be that way for a while. It was 33 and still snowing this morning. I hope we get a lot of the warm(er) rain that appears now in the forecast over the next few days. I've had trouble with just about everything (but not too much). Kind neighbors have been helpful with firewood and supplies. I'm not going anywhere soon.

These are pass conditions over the last two weekends. It has been rough up there due to all of the 4-wheeler climbing for sport. There have been many signs of stuck vehicles that had to be winched out. One (unsuitable) vehicle made it into the valley on frozen, morning snow and could not then make the climb back out. We thought it would be there until Spring, but it went away, apparently with a lot of winching help by one or more rescue vehicles. Getting over the pass with anything conventional has been impossible since long before snow hit the valley.

  Feb 7

  Feb 14
Many thanks to my friends, (adventurous) Loren & (courageous) Shannon for the pass checks and great photos!

My satellite system has been problematic due to its age, pandemic related overloads, and what I believe to be wrongful tampering by the vendor to cope with the overloads. Lately, the snow and keeping the dish clean enough to get a signal has been a problem. I use my limited allocation of data very sparingly, which partly accounts for my delay in getting this news out about the weather change. While preparing to bring up a HAM radio station for backup (which I still plan to complete), I got the exciting news that StarLink is coming! For many months, I have had hopes of receiving notice that I can participate in their limited, early service rollout. I've just been approved to install service with an ETA for the equipment of mid- to later this year.

I'm working on another update with details on the status of the road construction project. I think it's going to be good news.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - Midnight Storm
There was a massive storm here last night. The worst of it was around midnight, with crazy high winds and driving rain. I could hear a lot of trees cracking and some falling, one or two nearby. I checked most of the cabins today. Two in Skyko 4 had some damage. Those property owners have been notified. Surprisingly, all the others were fine. I'll check some of the more outlying cabins tomorrow when I go out to see how it looks up and down the main road.

It's not the usual January storm news. That would be snow. We had a time of snow in the valley in December, but it didn't last very long. There have been many days in the high 30's with unrelenting, cold rain. The snow has been receding back upriver until there is now very little of it within sight. Commuting over the pass is still out of the question except with extreme vehicles. Now it is likely that many new trees are down over it. Hiking conditions have been good, just really wet. Best routes depend on the level of the river, as always.

Friday, December 18, 2020 - County Road Project
 Good News!

Snohomish County has published today in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, and will publish again on Monday and Tuesday, this Call for Bids for the road construction project. Many of you have seen my private distribution in November regarding the pre-bid announcement to prospective contractors which anticipated this outcome. I will bring this up to date for the current context and post it here in the near future. Quick bottom line...

In October, a Thurston Co. Superior Court judge ruled on the appeal case, upholding the decision of the Shoreline Hearings board which affirmed the construction permits. Construction may now begin. Contractor bids are due in January. Snohomish County Public works has planned for construction to begin next season in 2021, with three years of construction.

Monday, November 16 - Heavy Snow on Jack Pass

Sorry for the extended break! My season of little news was mostly claimed by "real life" demands. For the record, I want to mention that we had first snow on the pass October 23. There was enough in the forecast to be more of a problem, but it didn't turn out that way. We continued driving in until this more recent event, which began last week. The snow was three feet deep on the pass by Friday night. This crossing by a UTV on tracks is the only one I know of. I assume we are shut out with ordinary vehicles until spring. There will be updates on hiking conditions.

Our propane was delivered on October 15. That was a bit of a close call, since the October snow would have been a showstopper for that. September was meant to be the month of delivery, but communication with the vendor has become more difficult, due partly to Covid-19.

Historically, the last few weeks could have been stormy with flooding. Our highest river came to 6.7 feet on November 5. That's a little under where it runs over the road just above the North Fork bridge. I look for that starting at about 7 feet, and there was no evidence of it. In very wet weather, the San Juan dip is sometimes a bigger problem. This floods from the runoff, not from the rising river.

Tuesday, June 9 - County Road Work

The road is getting some county help over these two weeks. On the road today were a grader and excavator, a chainsaw crew and lots of incoming dump trucks with new gravel. Most of the entire route has been scraped clear. Gravel has been dropped in the pothole areas, but they are still bad. I went over the pass today before most of this work and they are the worst I have ever seen. I would give it at least a few days if you'd like a nice ride without a lot of truck traffic.

Friday, May 22 - Holiday Weekend Time
There has apparently been some confusion about my last article (May 14). I meant to be clear that the route would be passable for most vehicle types by the weekend of May 16. It has been. Many vehicle types have been seen in the valley since Friday, the 15th—including a delivery truck, a long/wide flatbed trailer and many small sedans. I'm not sure about a big, boxy RV (have not seen any). It may just take some additional clearing in a few tight spots. The other issues and precautions mentioned still apply.

Thursday, May 14 - First Vehicle In
This should be opening weekend for most. A first wheeled vehicle made it in last night. It was a lifted, winch-equipped 4WD truck with locking front and rear diffs. Winching was not required but 4WD traction and high clearance were necessary.
The snow went fast for the final half-mile of the Beckler side climb. Today, we are down to these last two problematic patches of snow. The first is to make it into the bare gravel clearing on top. You can see how that was the end of the road for this sedan. The second tough spot is the beginning of the North Fork descent. Favoring one side of it has made it 4WD passable. A lane has been cleared over the route. By the weekend, this should all be passable for most vehicles. On the early side of the weekend, I would at least be prepared to shovel snow. Some trees are still hanging over the road and could come down to require more cutting.
There are cones in the road at one badly washed out spot in the level gravel just before pavement resumes (outgoing view). The road surface has not failed at the riverside edge of the San Juan dip, but it drops off sharply. Watch out for the speed bump there. It is high enough on the safer side to drag high center between the wheels for some vehicles.

It has been suggested that many places along the way could still be improved if others would stop and toss a few limbs and branches clear, instead of weaving around and driving over them. The same goes for rocks in the road in the slide area. New ones are coming down all the time. Some of them are tire killers, or worse.

Travel safely and bring no virus! See you here.

Monday, May 11 - Monday pass update
Sunday outbound over the pass (on tracks), the additional melting observed was encouraging. Someone in something Jeep(ish) had made it to the top, but not beyond. It may still be a week or two before passable for the less adventurous, especially down the North Fork side. A cutting/clearing and winching intensive trip may be attempted later in the week with a 4x4 truck. The expectation is to "maybe" succeed, but for the inbound, downhill run only until after a stay of at least a few days—thence the winching-intensive attempt to climb back out. I will advise here whether it happens and/or how it turns out. Sorry, no new pics for today. Will try again next weekend.

Saturday, May 9 - Still too much snow
Snow begins closer to the top of the pass by half a mile and is still much too deep to get through. Offroading Jeeps have not been able to get very far over this soft snow. None have been to the top yet, even with winching. Snow is still three feet deep in much of the top clearing. Sunny spots are showing some gravel. It's going to take more than a few more days to melt down—longer for the mostly shaded top section of the North Fork side which will see less recreational traffic. Obstructions are improving, but there are still a few difficult spots for full-size vehicles.

Wednesday, May 6 - Midweek comments
For driving in soon after the snow melts down, someone should be following the snow line up, clearing a lane. Even some of the Beckler Road may still be a problem, although it has improved some due to firewood harvesting. After there is bare gravel in the top clearing, there is usually too much snow in the shaded, top section of the inside grade to continue inbound—at least for some vehicles, especially with having to climb back out. After this point, there will still be enough clearing work left to make for a long, slow trip. The earliest vehicles to make it over the top may still not make it all the way in unless prepared for more cutting and debris moving. The work is mostly done as far upriver as the rock slide area. I should have another update on conditions up there after the weekend. It should be really warm over the weekend, which may help a lot. The last 24 hours were too cold to make a difference. There were thunderstorms last night.

Sunday, May 3 - Weekend Pass Update
The main snow line is now at about a mile from the top on both sides of the pass. The remaining snow is still too deep and unstable for travel on wheels—on top of the pass, still four feet of it. Nothing on wheels has been close to the top yet, though there are signs of a number of failed attempts. Over a much greater distance, trees down in the road, and leaning over it, are still going to be a problem for full-size vehicles. Smaller ones may disappear in the potholes. I expect another update next weekend. It may hit 70 here!

Thursday, April 30 - County road repair update

Official from the county today...
Index-Galena Rd: MP 6.5-6.9 Repairs - April 2020 Update

This project remains on hold pending a decision from the Thurston County Superior Court regarding the judicial appeal of the Shoreline Hearings Board ruling on June 19, 2019, which ruled in favor of the project. The hearing before the court, like many other civil cases, has been delayed due to the COVID-19 response. Hearings are expected to be rescheduled for some time later this year.

Currently, milepost 6.4 to 6.9 is the only area left to repair and remains closed to traffic. No construction is scheduled for 2020. However, we anticipate construction starting in 2021 pending a favorable ruling from the court.

Learn more here about the Index-Galena Road project.

Monday, April 27 - Commuting Update

On this side, snow has receded to the second switchback in the climb—on the Beckler side, about halfway up. On both sides where it begins, it becomes instantly too deep for travel. The Evergreen Lookout sign (one of our snow depth references pictured below) has disappeared—possibly for firewood—maybe for leverage or traction to recover a vehicle that shouldn't have been there. Last weekend, a trailered-in, lifted Jeep with huge tires went over the edge about halfway up trying to make the climb. After a failed self-recovery that broke straps and winch cable, it was recovered with the aid of additional vehicles. The snow is described as "impossible" for any wheeled vehicle to get through (or over). As mentioned before, there will not be a lane for conventional vehicles until there has been considerable clearing work done after the snow is gone. Then the potholes are going to be horrific. Rocks in the road are also a problem at the bottom on this side. The Beckler Road is highly ubstructed over its entire length. We still think middle to late May, with Memorial Day weekend now in question. An important variable will be the timing of road maintenace by the county or the Forest Service.

The trails are in reasonable shape, and messy. Bicycles are still appearing and can travel most of the road. For almost a week, the river has been running too high for the island route. It's not all snow, unfortunately. There has been a lot of rain.

Monday, April 20 - Weekend Pass Update
Improvement on the pass over the last week was by inches. The snow is quite terrible for off-roading over it. Trees and debris are still going to be a significant problem. More promising is that nights have become warmer—low 40's, and the river is running a little higher. Still, weeks to go.

Thursday, April 16 - Pass, Road and Trail Conditions

I have some catching up to do. Early in this pandemic emergency, I chose to be isolated here. Soon thereafter, my satellite system failed due to traffic overloads (not surprising). After a day or two, it came back impaired. When it became once again reliable, I found myself on an emergency allocation of data that has been difficult to manage. I understand it now and have learned to keep it reliable by using only brief, intermittent connections. Most of that has been going for essential email.

I know that pass conditions are on everyone's mind. Many have asked. I don't mind, of course, and I'm getting replies out—just not as quickly. The pass is still deep in snow—probably four feet or more at this point. The photo above was taken in late March. We had heavy snow on the 31st, after which it was at least a foot deeper. There was more snow in the first few days of April. I've been telling everyone that we have weeks to go and to expect the usual mid-May until you see better news here. I am getting weekend updates from Loren as he tracks over the pass. We can run a wheeled vehicle to the top when it gets closer, but that won't even make it yet to the end of the pavement upriver. One Jeep made it in recently with extreme offroading techniques. It appears they had difficulty getting back out with a lot of winching. Someone else who tried it in a similar way last weekend had to turn back. It has been above 60 here for a short time in the afternoons, but nights are still in the mid-30's (32 a couple of nights ago). Check out the Galena river gauge. There is a brief, minimal rise each afternoon. Until there is an impressive rise that is sustained, there is no significant melting up there.

Road and trail conditions are excellent. I have had some hike-in visitors. There have been a number of bicycles brought in. Loren has made that practical by clearing his way through most of the 23 miles from Highway 2 to the washouts below here for his commuting. This was to make it in over the pass on tracks, and from here to the washouts on wheels (quad-wide only). There were, and still are, a LOT of trees down over the road. There is still much clearing to do before there will be a single lane for conventional vehicles. Even when the snow is gone, it will not be passable without a lot more chainsaw work and debris clearing.

The Superior Court hearing on the county road construction permits has been rescheduled for June 19.

Sunday, February 23 - Another Winter Storm
I'm watching another winter storm today. Up to two feet of new snow is expected at the level of Jack Pass. Here in the valley, it has been a mix of rain with heavy showers of snow grains. Last week between storms, the weather was clear for a few days. Hiking conditions improved to good, with about 40% of the road bare. There are a lot of trees down over it. The river dropped low enough for the island route around the washouts. It was found in much better condition than expected. It was 90% unaffected by new trees and debris down over it, whereas the routes on the forest hillside are a terrible mess. There is still plenty of snow on the ground at the cabins.

Saturday, February 1 - Almost a flood

The flood watch is now a flood warning. Saturday morning, the river peaked above 9 feet here. Flood phase 2 is at 10 feet. Seven ft. is about where it runs over the road above the North Fork bridge high enough to block vehicles (not that anyone is driving). Index almost made it to flood phase 3. Gold Bar went above flood phase 4. Now it's going to get cold again with some overnight freezing—helpful!

 Trailhead on the Index side
By someone who qualifies my assessment of trail conditions with "tornado." This is not the main river, but the commonly dry channel where we sometimes hike.

Monday, January 27 - Weekend Access

Trees down over the road made UTV tracking over the pass extremely difficult last weekend, consuming a lot of labor and travel time, chainsaw fuel and multiple chains. After eight hours of travel, cutting, digging and winching, it got done. It was just for getting by on tracks, so was not left in any kind of offroad-passable condition. The snow is still deep. A declining snowpack will expose more problems. Conditions were brutal on the hiking route too. After days of rain with no freezing, the snow was still terrible. Hundreds of trees are down over the road. The hillside trails are no such thing any more, due to thousands of fallen trees. I expect we will find the island route similarly destroyed. It hasn't been seen yet because the river is still too high.

Thursday, January 23 - Changing conditions, cabin checks
   last week

We're just out of another winter storm watch. It warmed up and rained in the valley through this one. Now it's a flood watch with an avalanche warning. The rain was heavy through last night. I wish it would flatten the snow faster. It has rained for days and the river is just beginning to rise.

Peak snow was last weekend. I went out on snowshoes Thursday for a first round of cabin checks. The trees were still loaded, but it was clear and calm. It was slow going and I didn't make it all the way around. After that, there was more wind with some mixed rain and snow, and the trees were dropping too many snow bombs, so I stayed in. On Monday, I finished the tour. Better than expected, I found only some minor damage. Some trees are down, but most of them missed the cabins. Most of the minor damage I found was from large, falling branches.

Some hikers made it in on snowshoes last weekend—five hours incoming, three hours to get back out. It was barely reasonable then and should be getting better. There has been no overnight freezing, so the snow stays heavy and slushy. There will be many trees down across the road, some buried in deep snow, making it difficult for any kind of off-roading over the pass. More than twenty were encountered downriver by the hikers.

Wednesday, January 15 - Too much snow

Tuesday, January 14 - Highway 2 Closed

Monday, January 13 - Real winter, lots of snow
It has been snowing since the 10th. We had three inches before then. Through the days of "heavy rain" that appeared in the forecast for Index, it was snowing heavy here. For a some of those, it was just cold enough to be snow. An occasional mix with rain and some freezing rain kept it heavy—terrible for hiking. It is well below freezing today and should stay that way for a while (better hiking). Snow showers, sometimes heavy, are now piling on the new powder. Several nights in the teens are expected. The trees have been super loaded for days and many are falling. I'll get around soon to look for cabin damage.

Friends and neighbors
I'm not sure if they're doing it the hard way, or if I am.

Successful pass crossing on the 5th...
  ...and on the 11th, five hours enroute.

Slow trips! Lots of trees over the road. One stranded vehicle along the way that should never have been there. Tracks, winch, chainsaws and emergency communication and supplies are quite necessary. OK, I think I had it easy and they were doing it the hard way, but in such comfort!

There was apparently a technical rescue at the upper cable crossing today with a successful outcome. I'm trying to get details. Stevens Pass is closed. Highway 2 is also closed between Sultan and Gold bar due to snow and trees over the road. There was a rumor about State Patrol assistance with transportation at Index. It's bad out there, and I'm cozy by the fire but probably stuck here for a while.

Friday, January 10 - Real winter got here

January 1, 2020 - Happy New Year!

It was dry enough this morning for a walkaround. I heard a tree crash down in the night loudly enough to startle me from a sound sleep. I assumed it would be close. I checked all the cabins that might reasonably have been affected but there was no sign of it. Either I dreamed it or it it fell harmlessly in the forest.

This little buck was sitting in Skyko 4 when I got there, just quietly watching me go by. It seemed unconcerned when I approached it for a better picture, so I thought it might be injured. Not so. He didn't like me then and got up to wander off.


December 31, 2019 - Party Time

Not the snowy party I had in mind, and without much company. The snow was gone yesterday from this part of the valley. Rain began last midnight and has been constant, often heavy. The river is rising—nothing impressive yet. It may be cold enough to prevent that here, while warm enough that it won't snow. The pass is probably getting hammered. Maybe I will too.

Friday, December 27 - Snow in the valley
It snowed overnight and we have an inch or more at the cabins now. On the pass—maybe two feet. I have seen no vehicles over it lately. At mid-day, the snow here is turning to rain.

December 25, 2019 - Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20 - Heavy weather week

It began with another winter storm warning calling for heavy mountain snow, mostly above 3000 ft. Then it warmed up to heavy rain with a flood watch—adding high wind, avalanche and landslide conditions to the forecast. The river is rising sharply on Friday. None of that should be serious here, but it's going to be a mess. I don't know yet how pass conditions are affected. I'm not aware of anyone who cares at this point. Winter finally got here and we will soon be talking about hiking conditions. If I hear about a driving opportunity again, I will mention it here. Some years, we catch another break for driving in after an earlier pass closure.

Saturday, December 14 - Trouble on the pass

The pass is a problem now with about a foot of new snow. Someone made it in last night with a winch-equipped truck, but does not recommend it for others.

Wednesday, December 11 - Winter Storm Warning

Heavy snow is expected in the mountains starting today. A trace appears in the forecast at Jack Pass for this afternoon, with more by the weekend. The pass has often been hit with more snow than we see charted for it when the snow levels are somewhat higher. There will be a lot of rain in the valley, which means rocks and debris and maybe trees in the road. If the river does not rise like it should, snow is probably accumulating on the pass. Watch out for the unexpected, one-way trip.

 40 Degrees and raining on the pass at 2 p.m.

Monday, December 9 - Still driving in.
No snow, no special vehicle requirements, just potholes! The rocks in the road were getting bad, but they have been recently cleared. Snow is beginning to appear in the forecast again for next weekend. Maybe we will soon have a real December.

Wednesday, December 4 - Appeal Hearing Update (revised)
Earlier, there was mention of a November 15 trial date that appeared in superior court records. This was not the actual hearing, but the date on which next events were to become scheduled. The hearing is now set for April 3, 2020. Briefs from both parties will be filed with the court prior to that date. If I can get them, I will post them here. The documents originating this lawsuit are posted below. If you're tuning in late, this article and others it may refer to will bring you up to date on the circumstances. I do not yet know if a decision can be expected at the conclusion of the hearing, or if it must come later.

Monday, December 2 - Update on Pass Conditions
This was Sunday afternoon in the upper valley and on top of the pass. The snow was letting up in the late afternoon and may have turned to rain since then.

Monday, November 25
  Snow on the Pass
I have been saying about pass conditions that "no news is good news" until there is a change. Now is that time. Snow hit the pass last night with an accumulation of about four inches by this morning. I expect to see tracks down to the gravel in this by the time the weather clears up tomorrow. After that, very cold nights, so it will be icy. There was some snow in the upper valley on the pavement too.

Thursday, Augst 15 - Cabin break-ins
  There have recently been some cabin break-ins.
We know when, within a day or two. What else we know, and what we are doing about it, is available via private email (if I know you).

Tuesday, July 23 - Appeal matter update
It was necessary to wait 30 days after the hearings board final decision to comment further. Until last Friday, it was possible to appeal this decision to a Superior Court. It was learned yesterday that a petition for judicial review was filed last week with Thurston County Superior Court. This is a disappointing setback. Whether with or without merit (recorded by the hearings board as without), this is clearly a continuing effort to delay or intervene with the project.

My last knowledge of the project timeline was of the county's intent to advertise for contractors in the fall of this year, for construction to begin next season. This was subject to unencumbered shoreline permits after the appeal period. We do not yet know how this will change things. I will follow the judicial review process as closely as I can, and will post updates. I am in touch with the Thurston Co. Clerk's office and expect to receive copies of the filed case documents shortly.

Update, July 23 p.m.  I have the case documents. Most relevant is the Petition for Judicial Review. I have removed the apendices to reduce the bulk of it. Most of that was the Shoreline Hearings Board findings, which we already had. Nothing can be assumed about what will happen or when until the respondents have entered their response to the summons. The trial date is tentatively set for November 15.

Thursday, June 20
  Appeal matter resolved

This appeal matter is now closed, effective June 19, 2019. The Shorelines Hearings Board ruled yesterday in favor of the respondents, Snohomish Co. and the WA State Dept. of Ecology, sustaining the long awaited Shoreline Substantial Development and related permits. I believe this clears the way for the solicitation of contractor bids for construction, but I have no official response from the county on this yet. My conclusion originates from a review of the hearings board Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order. From the appeal matter record, you can link to this final document. This is very interesting reading, and a good summary of this ordeal of now almost 13 years. I so appreciate what can be seen here of the capable representation by our county personnel and Ecology in defense of the project.

Wednesday, June 12 - Grading complete
Grading appears to be complete to the top of the pass now, where heavy equipment was seen grinding out whole sections of the potholes before placing new gravel. The ride is quite good all the way to the top now. There are still a few bad spots on the North Fork side where it levels out near the bottom, and in the switchbacks.

Memorial Day Weekend
The campgrounds are open. Work has continued on the gravel road. It is now much improved for about the first three miles of it on the lower Beckler side. The potholes are still bad adjacent to the upper two bridges and for a stretch near the top of the pass.

Friday, May 17 - Road cleanup begins
It looks like the county began work today, possibly sooner, on the spring road cleanup. A grader has been over the entire route to the washouts on this side, but only to clear the road of rocks and debris. A small section of the gravel road between the Beckler pavement and the first bridge, one of the worst for potholes, has been graded and improved with new gravel.

Friday, April 26 - The snow is gone! ... but the potholes will wear you out!

Monday, April 22 - Almost there
Climbing the Beckler side to the top is no longer a problem. However, the gravel road is in terrible condition starting as soon as you leave the pavement. The potholes are severe. Then at the top, the debris in the center of the clearing needs to be avoided. It is full of nails.

This is the final, problematic stretch of the upper inside grade. As you see it, 4WD vehicles were still getting stuck in it, even descending. Favoring the edge of the road near the signs is now getting them through both ways. It is quickly improving, so this won't be a problem for more than a few more days. I can't say yet for sure that by next weekend, it will be passable for lower clearance and 2WD vehicles also. I suspect that will be the case and will add that news when I have it. If this becomes our first fully passable weekend, it will be three weeks sooner than last year (and most years).

The lower inside road has been substantially cleared of rocks and debris by some property owners who have been able to make it in early. Thank you, neighbors!

Saturday, April 20 - Still too much snow
A Toyota 4x4 had to be winched across the pass to make it in last night.

Wednesday, April 17 - Appeal hearings complete
The shoreline permit appeal hearings began on the 15th and were concluded today. The contesting party was heard on Monday. Tuesday, for Snohomish County, the senior planner and the road project manager testified in support of the proposed project, as permitted. Wednesday, the state Department of Ecology was represented in defense of its approval of the shoreline permits. The appeal board has a case load and can take up to 90 days for a decision. They hope to make a ruling within 60 days. We can be optimistic, but no one has offered a prediction of the outcome.

Monday, April 15 - Update on pass conditions

One vehicle made it in for the weekend. It was a Hummer H3, and it had to winch across the top in both directions. There were six inches of new snow on the pass. As for number of weeks to go, last week didn't even count. Between the cold and the new snow, there was no improvement. We may still be two weeks out. It will depend on the vehicle. The road is described as in terrible condition with deep potholes. If that necessary maintenance could be done soon, the plowing still needed would be minimal.

Thursday, April 11 - We spoke too soon
Sorry to get your hopes up. I will be surprised if anyone makes it in this weekend. Getting back out might then be even more difficult. It has been a week of constant cold rain—low 40s, sometimes high 30s—while the river never rose. I don't think there could have been but a minimal amount of additional melting on the pass. Just as likely is that there may be some new snow up there now. The quad that winched in around that stuck vehicle last weekend had to be winched out on Sunday at the top of the climb, and through another bad spot in the clearing on top. The forecast is now showing nine inches of new snow due on the pass by next Sunday.

Last evening, the river went suddenly white for about an hour before it cleaned up again, without rising at all. Something must have flushed out of a drainage upriver. That may mean there will be some new issue with the road up there, depending on where it happened.

Saturday, April 6 - Saturday update
The stuck vehicle has been cleared and they say that capable vehicles may soon be able to get through. The snow was knee-deep or a little more in the worst of it, and slushy. The rescue truck also got stuck for a while near the top on the Beckler side. It is cold, so I don't think it is improving right now. The new snow level was not far above the pass today. I would give it at least another week or until there is news of someone getting through. I will be watching for that.

Caution: Those who first try should avoid the center part of the clearing on top where you see the fire pit in the picture. Pallets were being burned there, and the nails are going to be left behind.

Friday, April 5 - Friday on the pass
Getting over the pass is still no-go for most. There is waist-deep snow at the top and a stuck vehicle is still blocking the road. A UTV that made it in on wheels had to be winched around it.

Monday, April 1 - More weekend observations
  Saturday on the pass

Through the weekend, we were still hiking in. Most of the road in the valley is clear of snow. There are just a few patches left where it was deep and shaded. No vehicles have made it in yet. One 4WD vehicle got stuck on the pass where you see it and the driver had to walk in from there. He was out of the snow just a short ways down the inside grade. That shaded first stretch of it is always in deep snow that is last to go. It can be a show-stopper even going downhill after making it easily across the top.

Quite a few difficult spots were encountered while climbing up the Beckler side. Out of the vehicle, some of the snow was found to be waist deep. I had hoped that maybe another week would do it, but now I'm not so sure. Mornings have been cold (38). We can't usually make it in before mid-May, so it is still very early unless the snow pack has been lower than normal up there. I will watch for incoming vehicles and hope to walk out and bring my Jeep around at the earliest (known safe) opportunity.

Monday, March 25 - Weekend Observations
  Saturday here

There is still a lot of snow around the cabins, and on most of the road all the way up from the trailhead. The picture at the top was taken on Jack Pass. There has been no conventional vehicle traffic. Four wheel drive was necessary even to make it to the end of the Beckler pavement. Watching the level of the river can give us a clue how the meltdown is progressing.

The appeal hearing is back on the calendar for the week of April 15th.

Monday, March 18 - Everett Herald Story
This article appeared in the Everett Herald today. I don't see anything new.

Friday, February 22 - Weather Update
 Thursday afternoon

For Tuesday night, we had another brief winter storm warning. Out of that, there was an inch or two of new snow over the previous base on Wednesday morning. Then through yesterday, it was very nice, with two nights of impressive moonlight. I went out on the tracks for a walk upriver (boots only) and it was still fast, but only in the tracks. It is 30 and snowing pretty heavy on Friday morning. We are in another winter weather advisory (not warning) for today and tonight. So far, this one is hitting harder than the last warning. Still snowing through the afternoon out of a dark sky.

Wednesday, February 20 - Improved hiking conditions
I have reports of much improved hiking conditions since Monday. The island route is currently favored, has been traveled multiple times on boots and snowshoes, and should be easy to follow right now. This is on the north side of the road, accessible when the river is low enough. It runs level and is well cleared, bypassing both washouts and the middle road section. If you need more details, let me know.

Monday, February 18 - Presidents' Day Weekend
 We three die-hards
Cody, Bruce & Loren (in order of seniority) — Look quick, before Cody leaps out of the photo!

I am a total fake. I got here when it was easy and just stayed until it was ridiculous. Then these two showed up, arriving from both directions. Cody's trip on foot from the Index side (without snowshoes) was six hours plus. Loren spent almost four hours clawing his way in over the pass, beginning at Hwy 2, sometimes pushing through snow over the windshield. There had been a recent effort in Jeeps with big tires that could not make it.


Saturday, Loren made us some UTV tracks down to the washout to improve the commuting. It made 36 on Sunday. I went out during the warmest part of the day to give the tracks a short test walk without showshoes. It did not freeze overnight and the snow had settled more than I expected. It was easy walking on the tracks even at mid-afternoon. Boot prints did not exceed ankle deep, but there is deeper, softer snow (even under the tracks) on some parts of the road. Jumping out of the UTV down at the washout was into higher than knee-deep snow.


Thursday, February 14 - Terrible snow
Happy Valentine's Day! why do we do this?

  trailhead today

I went out on snowshoes last night due to a missing person situation. There was a good outcome. I will not be disclosing the details—to respect the privacy of those involved. My reason for posting is to report that snowshoeing conditions were absolutely terrible. I would not have ventured out yet just for testing if this hadn't come up. I was postholing 18 inches on 250 lb. snowhoes (at almost 100 lbs. under) into slush near the surface. It was brutal. I would not undertake the four mile trip in this snow. Something is going to have to change—either a lot of melting or a good freeze after more compacting. The sky was clear and the moonlight was impressive on all the snow, even at 50% moon. It was the only light necessary for getting around. It was still above freezing. It might have been a rather enjoyable trip if not for the crappy snow.

It was a little above freezing for most of the day yesterday. The snow has settled some, but is not nearly compact yet. The powder is gone. It is just terrible snow now that needs to go away.

Not surprisingly, the appeal hearings mentioned earlier, scheduled for this week, were canceled due to weather. They will be rescheduled, possibly in April.

Wednesday, February 13 - Buried in snow
It snowed heavy all night on Monday. All day Tuesday, it was still snowing, sometimes heavy. By dark, it slowed down and for a brief time became light, freezing rain. It was 30 by then and stayed that way all night. It made 32 at mid-morning today and the trees are shedding gigantic snow bombs. Snow depth is around three feet. It's hard to tell because there is a lot more drifting than usual. Drifts are four feet or more in places. I'm not walking out into the clearings yet because I'll get flattened by one of those snow bombs.

Monday, February 11 - Serious snow
Heavy snow resumed late in the afternoon yesterday. Now there is more than a foot of it. Most of the new snow was here by midnight. It looks like it's going to hit hard again tonight...

Saturday, February 9 - Weekend visitors
It stopped snowing this morning, except for what is blowing out of the trees. There have been a number of brief, gusty wind events. Snow accumulation was just two or three inches. It sounds like there was a lot more snow in town. That's pretty backwards. Neighbors who hiked in found the road plowed to the Index side of the washouts. I was more surprised by their report of fair driving conditions up from the north end of the city. This afternoon, a pair of Jeeps made it in over the pass with little difficulty, finding it unobstructed—big tires, underinflated, which may have been optional. They still have to climb back out, however.

   Winter got here

Friday, February 8 - Here comes winter

Finally, some real winter! Snow began early this morning and is coming fast. I hear it is much the same in the city, maybe worse. It is going to be very cold here tomorrow night.

Tuesday, February 5 - More Vehicles
Another pair of vehicles rolled through here at about noon today. At a glance, they looked high with big tires. This traffic may be helping things up there, but it may be old news after the next weather event, due on the weekend.

Monday, February 4 - Occasional Vehicles
A few vehicles have recently been seen in the valley. There were three on Saturday and two more today. This looks like 4x4 wheeling over the snowy pass for sport. I don't know how they are doing this, or what their road conditions have been. I sometimes hear them coming and have tried to show up in the road in hopes of a report on pass conditions, but I have not been able to get there in time. Most of them have been in pairs, in case of trouble.

It is sub-freezing today for the first time in a while, still 29 at mid-day. There was was light, new snow on the ground this morning and it is still snowing lightly.

Monday, January 28 - How to get here
  Loren & Shannon, new Skyko 4 neighbors
Loren reports a compact, three foot base near the top, and warns that his tracks will not be well enough packed, or at the appropriate width for wheeled vehicles. This was incoming on Friday.

Monday, January 21 - How not to get here
Someone capable and well equipped tried to get in over the pass Friday night. It was going well until he drove up on a pile of pallets, left carelessly in the middle of the driving lane right on top of the pass, presumably for burning. Steering around them led to a badly stuck vehicle, high-centered in deep, softer snow. Anchor points for hand winching were too distant. The driver spent all night and half the next day rigging and digging until finally escaping back down the Beckler side at noon on Saturday. When there is any next effort, be aware of those pallets. I'm not sure if they have been burned, but I would also be concerned about the nails.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - County Road Repair Update
Let's begin with some year-old news: HeraldNet article, January 2018
Interesting letter in a follow-up article.

There was an earlier projection that the project may go out for contractor bids in the spring of last year. I inquired about this late in the season, since it had apparently not yet happened. Status at the time was that a final county shoreline permit review/approval was still pending with the WA Dept. of Ecology. This was potentially difficult, but approval was thought to be forthcoming. I believe this was the final bureaucratic hurdle, with all other requirements in place - including environmental review, design/construction planning and funding. A revised projected schedule was not offered, because it was not yet known when the permit would be issued, and whether there would be an appeal to resolve with unknown timing.

In December, we received the good news about the final permit having been issued. However, there has been an appeal in opposition to the permit. I held up this news for a while, because I knew it would raise more questions than it would answer. I think I have some answers now, at least as many as can be known until the appeal is resolved.

The appellant is the Sno-King Watershed Council (SKWC), represented by William (Bill) Lider of Lider Engineering, a civil engineer who is an SKWC board member. Searching on this name reveals a history of hearings and lawsuits seeking to intervene with development. It is my hope that the appeal is routine (i.e. block all shoreline impacting development) and will be found to have no merit.

Here is one such case, quoting Mr. Lider in a dispute with Snohomish Co. which resolved in favor of development.
Here is a recent update, again quoting Mr. Lider's opposition to development in behalf of SKWC.

Here are the appeal hearing details.

On this calendar, you can see a week of appeal board meetings that are scheduled to begin on February 11.

I believe this puts us potentially in a revised schedule for construction that is not necessarily in another full year of delay. After the hearings in February, I do not know the expected timing for a decision, or if there can still be litigation. We'll have to wait for that news. I was told that when the project is released for contractor bids, it may be possible to have contractors on the job within the year (construction plan in readiness). We have been expecting two years of construction for quite some time. We are now advised to expect three, especially in consideration of a possible late start in the first season. This can potentially be improved by the contractor(s). In summary, the new road section MAY be completed and opened in 2021. I consider us "there" when we see the beginning of construction. That will make the next two or three years of waiting pretty easy to take. It is time to start watching this closer. I will be posting updates as I have them.

County Project Website

Current construction...

There is currently a county road repair project under way between Index and Skyko 2, just above the previous repairs at MP3. Signage indicates a closed road, but the Skyko 2 community is still served by a single lane, subject to waiting for construction equipment to be moved from the open lane. I have driven through without delays most of the time, and with a few minutes of waiting at other times. It is still three miles to the trailhead from there, so probably worth the wait vs. walking from there.

Monday, January 14, 2019 - Pass Conditions, Hiking Conditions, etc.
When it seems this much overdue, it gets nothing but harder to get started again. I had a very busy season with my projects, and it is really not over yet. One of them was to destroy my satellite system and rebuild it differently. That went well, but it took a big chunk out of my late summer season. After that, it was the usual race with winter before the snow shut me out with a vehicle, or in without one. That went well too, owing to a late start for snow on the pass. Then I showed up to watch it snow. What snow? What winter? This is ridiculous. When it gets to be winter, I want to see winter, even though I dread it all through summer. It did snow a few times from just before Christmas through early January. Hiking in and out, I had at most an inch on the road over the full length of it. It never stayed very long, washed away by the rain.

This may be a surprise to most of you (as it was for me), but someone drove in over the pass yesterday. I don't think he will mind me saying this, but it happened because he really didn't know any better. He knows the area somewhat, has camped here before, and had some free time for the outing. While most of us would not have bothered to try, he charged up the Beckler side of the pass finding it not too much of a problem. Going downhill on this side of the pass wasn't much of a problem either, but he soon realized that climbing back out was going to be a serious problem. For the rest of the day, he tried. Then he ended up here at my place for the night.

This was a standard, 4WD pickup - nothing special for the challenge. Big tires, not huge, all terrain, not recent, no chains. In the attempted climb back out, there was a lot of getting stuck, digging out and trying again. For today, we corrected the depleted power steering fluid, lowered the tire pressure into the teens, hoped for the best with the burned clutch, and he was on his way for another try. While mostly expecting him to come back, either driving or walking, I got the news an hour later that he had an "easy" trip out. He was so excited to make the top that he forgot to stop for the photos I wanted, but he took this one a short ways down the other side. Snow on top of the pass was two feet or less, dense and frozen. His traction was adequate due both to the sub-freezing temps (just barely) and the low tire pressure.

I am not suggesting this commute, by the way, just telling you what I know, in case some of you with the right stuff (vehicle, know-how, preparedness) would like to make use of it. If you try this and succeed, and see me standing in the road, please slow down and tell me what's new up there. I nearly got run over (not really) by a couple of flashy dune buggies that roared through here on New Years' Day just before dark (really). Nothing would have stopped those things, but I was hoping to catch a pass conditions report.

For experienced hikers who know the "island route," which is awesome if the river is low enough... I have found a river level of about 3.3 ft. at the Galena gauge to be just about limiting. The trip was totally dry at 3 ft., doable with a little rock hopping at 3.3 ft. and would have been really wet at just under 3.5 ft. On that particular trip, I messed around in the old riverbed all the way through, just to see how it was. It was a hassle. I should have been on the high route. It's not that bad, but it's worse than it was last year with a fair amount of new trees and debris down over it. It's still reliable.

The current, dry weather spell ends tomorrow - then rain. Rain here at these temps often means new snow on the pass, so I'd say this news may expire very soon if it seems promising. We are having a very mild winter (so far). Sorry for the long blackout. Now that I'm back, I will post updates as I have them. I have some county road news too. That will be added soon.

 Beckler grade near the top, going downhill after a difficult, but successful climb on the North Fork side.
Tires are at 18 PSI. At 30-some PSI the night before, it could not be done.

Thursday, September 13 - Propane Time
We are about to schedule our annual propane delivery. Will you all please check in with Northern Energy to confirm your account details and your order? Please let me know too, and if you would like for me to check your tanks for quantity. I have given them a complete list and will be assisting the driver when he is here. We are dealing with new office personnel this time, so it is important that they hear from each of you. I have spoken with Tara about this and will be coordinating with her via email from here. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Update: The propane truck will be here on Wednesday, 9/19.

Saturday, May 19 - The pass is open!
 Thank you!
I just received this photo with the welcome news on Saturday evening. Some trees over the road have been cut sufficiently to get through and are still partially obstructing. As we expected, there are some massive rocks in the road in the slide area, but it is passable. I was about to pass along what I was told by someone else who was enroute to try... that if he was not back by now, we should assume the pass is open... or that he is very stuck and will want you to show up anyway!

Monday, May 14 - Still no-go...
Someone who drove up the Beckler side yesterday made it to the top, or near the top. There was still too much snow there to continue. It appeared that no one has tried. This is someone who knows the area well and thinks it will still be more than a few more days. The river rose through today, but not quite as high as last week, and is now coming back down.

Saturday, May 12 - Sorry... not yet
With the weather like it is, I'm sure everyone is wondering. I'm still on the job and I'm sorry to say that no vehicles have been seen in the valley yet—through Saturday afternoon. Nights have been cold again (low 40's), and the river has been dropping. Today looks good for the beginning of at least a week of improved melting. Watch the river level. The higher, the better!

Saturday, May 5 - Update on the pass
Someone who checked on the pass today was able to 4x4 to within a few hundred yards of the top. The snow was still 2-3 ft. deep there and solid going down the back side. His estimate... two or three more weeks of melting. The county was rumored to have considered plowing last week, but thought the snow to be still too deep for it. I've been thinking maybe the 21st after looking closer at how long it took to melt down from similar known conditions over the last few years.

Wednesday, May 2 - Another helicopter visit
Who was in the helicopter, and what were you doing here? Hughes 500, green & white colors, directly over Skyko 3 & 4 shortly after noon today. A quick turn overhead and then it went back downriver. Sheriff's Dept? Routine visit? Missing persons? Crime in the neighborhood? FS logging support? I think not the latter, due to the turnaround directly over the cabins and private bridge. Not likely a check on the snow still blocking the pass - didn't go far enough upriver. Someone knows. How about an explanation? This is now the second visit in a couple of weeks, and I know it's not cheap!

Tuesday, May 1 - Snowy pass update
I heard from someone who drove up the Beckler side yesterday—thank you for your report!—and made it to the final bridge, which is approaching 2/3 of the climb. He then hiked over dense snow to the top. The snow in the road was described as initially 2-3 ft. deep, increasing to 3-4 ft. deep over some final distance to the top, and very compact - easy to walk on. His thought... it may be June for driving in this year unless May is exceptionally warm or there is plowing. The melting can be surprisingly fast, once it warms up and stays that way, but now we are back into more of this cold spring. Notice that the river has been running lower again. When it starts running strong in dry weather, something is melting up there. I am still watching the road, but all of the vehicles I hear have turned out to be airplanes. I also check for disturbed debris in the road in case I miss one. There was a low flying helicopter overhead about 10 days ago.

Wednesday, April 25 - Driving in (not)
Many have been asking, due to the nice weather, so here is what I know and assume. We had a lot of late snow this year, even more on the pass weekend before last. It has been a very cold spring. Night before last was the first one out of the 30's that I know of. I don't expect the usual meltdown. I think it might take longer. I don't think there will be any plowing because the county is asking too and has scheduled some work for June. Last weekend someone made it about half-way up the Beckler side before getting stopped in a 4WD truck. There has not yet been a vehicle seen in the valley. I am here to watch the road and will post with whatever I can find out as soon as I spot an arriving vehicle. Same goes for hearing about it from anyone else, or if someone lets me know how it works out after an attempt is made.

Last year I drove in on May 19th. It looked like it could have been done a few days sooner, but on the 10th, it was still impossible. The year before, I was first in a little before now after walking out to bring my Jeep around. I plowed through too much snow on the downhill grade knowing I would not have to climb back out for a while. Most years, we can drive to the top on the Beckler side sooner than we can make it all the way, due to recreational traffic that goes only that far. The inside grade takes a little longer because it is well shaded with little or no traffic. Don't forget there may be trees down in the road to be cut or dragged. It hasn't been a bad year for that but I would be surprised not to see at least a few. There will be some very large rocks in the road where pavement resumes. They were there before we stopped driving in last year. Clearance between them is a little tight, but can be improved by dragging one or more out of the way. One of them may be large enough to require heavy equipment.

Monday, February 26 - After the Storm
  more photos
The snow was even more impressive this morning. It is at least two feet deep in the clearings now, even after being somewhat compacted by the rain for a while. The temperature has been 33 around the clock, and a lot of clingy new snow has really loaded the trees. It is beautiful today with some blue sky and sun breaks. Tonight it should be spectacular in the nearly full moonlight. Then I want it all to go away. It would be a miserable snowshoeing trip out of here right now—probably four hours of it. I once spent six hours getting here in six feet of amazing powder, and have hated those things ever since.

Sunday, February 25 - Winter Storm
Most of the snow here came in before the storm warning was in effect. It peaked at about 18" with a foot of new powder on top of the old, crusty stuff. Through the morning, it has been mixed rain and snow. It has warmed up to 33. This afternoon, it is snowing heavy again. You know what they say... "be careful what you wish for."  It looks like I won't be walking out of here anytime soon.

Saturday, February 24 - Real Winter
  Real winter finally got here.

Friday, February 23 - Very Cold
 The temperature has been dropping, but it never made the teens, as expected. It was in the mid to low 20s over the last few nights. Last night was the coldest at 20. The snow started coming in heavy at noon today.

Sunday, February 18 - Hiking Conditions
The weather was recently stormy with possible high winds. There were signs of it on the road up from Index, but not along the road above the washouts. The road was clear of snow for driving to the trailhead. Beyond the washouts, it was snowy all the way—from a couple of inches at the bottom to about five or six inches at the cabins. It was crusty but not supportive, so a little tedious nearing the end. I chose the riverbed route through the washouts. The river was a little high for it, so there was a lot of detouring and rock hopping with some occasional splashing. It probably took a little longer than the hillside would have, but I wanted to see how it would be under these conditions. Total hiking time was 2:10.

Friday, February 9 - Mild Winter
I am nearing the end of a one month stay and will come back when there is some real winter to see. Except for the possible flooding last weekend, it has been pretty boring, with days on end of cold rain in the low to middle 30s—never stormy. One snowy day was scenic, but it was all washed away by the next day.

Sunday, February 4 - Flood Watch
 It was uneventful here. This was at the worst of it.

Friday, January 5, 2018 - County road project update
 Good news!
Wednesday of this week, Snohomish County posted public notice of the road relocation project. Leading to this, funding has been approved. Project work will continue through final permitting and construction planning. Contractors are expected to be identified this year, with work to begin in 2019. Expect two years of construction.

County Road Project Website
Funding Update - October
Funding Update - New!

Monday, December 25 - White Christmas
Merry Christmas everyone! It is a white Christmas, which is bad news for the pass. Approaching from the Index side for the hike may now be challenging too. Clearing is due with extreme cold for tonight, which will make for good hiking conditions tomorrow. There will be a carpool and group hike-in opportunity. Let me know if you would like to get in on that.

 Saturday, December 16 - The party may be over
This unusual, extended opportunity for driving in may soon be finished. The dry weather is ending and there may be new snow accumulating on the pass today. Depending on temperatures, it may become significant during the heavy rain which is now expected from Sunday through Tuesday. Actually, the party is far from over. You'll just have to walk in for it soon.

Friday, December 15 - Pass Conditions
  This was seen yesterday at the worst of it, which is on the steeper, less traveled, North Fork side of the pass (near the top). This 4WD SUV had no difficulty getting in and out. Since the last stormy weather, there have been some massive rocks in the road in the slide area near the end of the pavement. The available driving lane there is a little tight and may be of some concern when it gets slippery. I am not yet aware of any vehicles that could not make it through. If you have one wide enough to be concerned about it, I suggest having a tow strap along. You could probably pull one of them clear enough to widen the opening. They are not going to budge by hand. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, December 13 - More news soon
I am just coming up for air from a busy technology project, and I know that we are long overdue for some news here. Some of it that is appearing late will be dated so that it makes sense chronologically, and to include it for historical reasons. Sorry for the delay—as I think most of you know, I am always happy to answer email inquiries when I am falling behind here. There have been more than a few of those lately. This is just a heads-up, in case you are tuning in for some of the usual updates at this time of year.

Saturday, December 9 - Update on driving conditions
What is it with these Outbacks? The new snow did not hit quite as hard as expected last week. The weather has since dried up nicely while remaining cold enough not to melt it back down very much. Yet another Outback made it in this morning and back out again this afternoon. It was a "dragging bottom" kind of thing, and parts of it were reported as icy. I assume that 4WD rigs with better clearance will find it passable now through the dry weather until there is more new snow. Regardless, I am still planning to enjoy the hike. With the river this low and the valley free of snow, it is easy and fast, not to mention the pleasantly shorter, worry-free drive to the Index side. On a good day for hiking, my total commute takes only a few minutes more than the longer driving trip around.

Saturday, December 2 - Driving Conditions
I took my Jeep out of the valley on Thursday, finding pass conditions marginal at the time with about six inches of new snow. Another 16 inches appeared in the forecast by the weekend. An Outback was still able to make it in on Friday, but then had some difficulty getting out today. We may soon be talking only about hiking conditions. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, November 24 - High Water Event

Thursday, November 23 - Happy Thanksgiving!
It appears that for tomorrow, we will not see the usual amount of snow on the pass, with driving complications from Christmas tree gathering and holiday weekend, play in the snow traffic. There may still be snow, but with at least 4WD and enough clearance for both the snow and the high water, we should not yet be shut out.

Wednesday, November 22 - Flood Warning

Tuesday, November 21 - New Howard Creek bridge opens
Snohomish County and their contractors are wrapping this up now, and the new Howard Creek bridge will open for traffic this afternoon. A few minor. cosmetic items in the plan will now wait for more appropriate weather next season.

Friday, November 17- Pass Conditions
 ← A thousand words!
It should still be 4WD passable for the coming weekend. I made the climb in 4WD without chains, but encountered a 2WD county vehicle which had not been able to make it to the top without chaining up.

Sunday, November 5 - First Snow, Bridge Progress
  more photos
It was white in the valley on Sunday morning. The photo was taken near the top of the pass. By afternoon, the road was bare gravel again. It has been recently graded. The Howard Creek bridge is nearing completion. It should be finished in the next week or two, hopefully before the snow gets serious.

Monday, October 23 - Brief Flooding
The river rose rapidly overnight on Saturday and spiked at 9 ft. early Sunday morning. The whole route was passable today, but it looks like some new damage is getting started in this recently repaired area. At about 7 ft., the river runs over the road just above the North Fork (10 mile) bridge. Here, there is some minor new erosion on the downriver side of the road (also recently repaired).

Wednesday, October 4 - Propane Deliveries
Our propane deliveries will be made today. The salmon have been here for a while and are very busy doing their job. The new Howard Creek bridge is behind schedule for September completion, but progressing and still intended for completion this season. There is a lot of truck traffic on the pass. The river information links above have been updated. Check out the all new Snohomish County Flood Warning system and river level data formats. Nights are getting cold!

Thursday, September 21 - Propane Reminder
Our propane delivery is not yet scheduled. I was told that few of us have contacted Northern Energy to confirm the orders. If you have an account, please make the call if you have not yet done so, even if you do not need service. This is now an annual event planned for September, and it is getting late in the season. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115 (Rebecca).

Friday, September 8 - Propane Time
It is time for our annual propane delivery. Will each of you with fixed tanks please get in touch with Northern Energy to confirm your order (whether yes or no), and with what you know about your quantity? If you would like for me to check on your current fuel level, let me know.

Friday, August 11 - Repairs Complete, Campgrounds Open
All of the flood damage repairs upriver appear to be complete. County road maintenance crews and equipment have cleared out. The road closed signs at Garland have been moved to the shoulders and turned out of view. The campgrounds are now open and a campground host is present at Troublesome Creek. The road remains closed at the Howard Creek Bridge construction site, which is well beyond the campgrounds.

Wednesday, July 12 - Howard Creek bridge construction

Construction began Monday on the Howard Creek bridge. This will persist until November. Road repairs are continuing upriver. The campgrounds may open for a short season later in the year.

Saturday, July 1 - Howard Creek Bridge Closed

The Howard Creek bridge is now closed. Construction will begin on July 10th. Repairs are underway at all points upriver which were damaged during the most recent flooding. These areas are passable with some lane restrictions. From Garland inward, the road is closed/restricted to local traffic. The campgrounds remain closed and are posted "not open for public use." There have apparently been incidents of evictions by the County Sheriff. Correction: Apparently the road is cloosed, or is it cloased? Whatever... you just can't go down there with hevicles.

Wednesday, May 31 - Road Cleanup
The county resumed work on the gravel road yesterday. Today, they are here on the lower paved road with a sweeper. The entire route should now be in great shape.

Friday, May 26 - Road Maintenance
The gravel road over the pass has been graded to about 90% complete. County crews and equipment have cleared out until after the holiday. Most of it is greatly improved, but there are still some nasty potholes at the low end of the North Fork side. The paved road has not yet been cleared of rocks and debris. It is navigable to all properties and still posted "closed, local access only" beyond Garland. The campgrounds are not open. After one brief thundershower put in a final word last night, the weather is now going to be perfect for the holiday weekend. Friday people, best of luck with the traffic!

Friday, May 19 - The pass is open

This is the last of the snow, just approaching the top and starting down the back side. Anyone should be able to make it. Watch for rocks and debris in the road. The potholes are awful in a few places on the Beckler side. Let the season begin!

Wednesday, May 10 - No-go over the pass
I stopped here at just under a mile from the top. I might have been able to get to the top, but the inside grade with almost no prior traffic was clearly going to be a big problem, especially for climbing back out. It still needs to melt for another week or so. Nights have been cold, especially at this altitude. I doubt if this will still be a problem for Memorial Day weekend.

Who left the ferns? Thank you for that, but I don't recognize the unsigned note. If you'll send me an email, I have a comment!

Tuesday, May 9 - County road project news

No, they are not plowing the pass. This is an announcement of road reconstruction progress. In response to the environmental assessment and public comment, the FHWA has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). An Environmental Impact Statement, which would likely have added to the timeline, will now not be required. The FONSI is published and available on the county project website, in the Monroe and Skykomish libraries, and at the Snohomish Co. Public Works customer service counter in Everett.

The road reconstruction project will now proceed with final design planning and permitting. Construction is expected to begin next year (with two years of construction expected). The Howard Creek bridge will be under construction this season. During construction, the road will be closed to vehicles from Howard Creek to the washout.

Sunday, May 7 - Jeep Traffic
A Jeep was seen here in the valley today. It was lifted and winch equipped with oversized tires. This can be done over any amount of snow, so I am not necessarily encouraged. The new tracks may be of some help, and this may mean that any obstructing trees have been cleared. The driver showed a passing hiker some photos from the top of the pass where the snow looked about three feet deep. It was apparently still deep enough over much of the inside grade to be of some concern for his climb back out. I will wait at least a few more days before making the trip around to see how it looks.

Saturday, April 29 - Meltdown Status
There have been two recent reports of attempts to climb the Beckler side of the pass. The first of these was stopped at an elevation of 1700 ft., leaving almost 1000 ft. more to the top. The second made it in 9.8 miles from Hwy 2, which is a little over three miles from the top. At that point there was a stranded truck off the road. Historically, when we can first make it to the top, we cannot yet make it safely down the back side. The snow there is deep and well shaded, and usually not yet tracked by the play in the snow crowd, having had no reason to risk starting down that steeper grade. Generally, the first ones to make it through will have had to cut through new trees that were found down in the road. We have a long ways to go yet. Thank you for these reports!

Tuesday, April 18 - Last of the snow (in the valley)
The snow is all but gone. There are just tiny patches of it remaining where the largest piles of it used to be. The rain will have it all wiped out very shortly. The hike is now easy all the way. The river is running too high now for the streambed route. The high route I described earlier is excellent, well marked and well traveled. It takes about 1:30 to make the entire distance. We know of at least one cabin breakin over the last few weeks. Fewer than the usual number of trees are down. I have no news yet of snow depth on the pass, but there should still be a lot of it. On the 7th, someone who drove up the Beckler said it was not possible even to reach the end of the pavement. We still had snow on the valley floor here too, at the upper end. We had a lot of snow this year and a lot of it came late, so I think it will be the usual wait for later in May. If I see any vehicles come in, I'll get the news out. If you make it over the pass or try, please let me know how it looks.

Friday, March 10 - From the snow to the rain

Winter was apparently extended. It rained heavy all night. The river is trending up, but not like it would be without the big white sponge. The snowpack is beginning to recede slowly at the edges.

Thursday, March 9 - One more to go... ??

Will this be the last of it? It is raining here now and this fluffy white crap is beginning to settle. It has a long ways to go. They say 49 in Index tomorrow. At one degree per mile, I say 39 here at most. Now come the avalanche warnings.

Wednesday, March 8 - Still snowing in March

I don't think snow in March is all that unusual. I think we have had late snow in April some years. I came up to watch it snow, but this is getting ridiculous. There has been more every day, starting soon after a time of rain made me think that Feb 28 would be the last of it. Yesterday it snowed heavy all day and never let up. New pictures wouldn't look any different than the last ones I posted. The trees were loaded then, as much as they can be, and they still are. Snow clumps have been bombing the cabin roof relentlessly through the night, making it hard to sleep. Some of them are large and heavy enough to shake the place. I have noticed that we get these under two conditions—when the loaded trees after a still snow are shedding it due to warming or wind, and when there is ever more new snow and they just can't hold any more. It has been much of the latter until now. At mid-morning today, the snow has let up and the shedding now continues. It is 33, as it has been every morning for a while now.

Snow depth on the ground is a nuisance, but not that impressive—about two feet. Temps are running 33-35 around the clock, so it piles up, packs down a little, and may be melting slowly from beneath. There is no overnight freezing to improve the walking conditions. I will be waiting to see what these next few days of warmer temps and rain in the forecast may bring. I fear just a lot of deep white slush to slog around in for a while longer yet.

The river remains low enough for good travel (rock hopping) through the river bed along the wiped out road alignment. The distance over the main road has best been managed lately with snowshoes and cross country skis. I have seen both come and go. Someone once told me that when the rain begins at a time like this, it takes quite a while for the snow to become saturated enough to start releasing it back into the river. I am going to try watching for that over the next few days.

I had hoped to enjoy this moon phase in a snowy valley. It can be like daylight, but the cloud cover has remained dense, so no such luck this time. There was barely enough light getting through to be of any benefit. One dark night I was awakened to the sound and vibration of feet thumping onto the deck. It was 3 a.m. and they were coming fast. My first thought was that there would soon be banging on the door with some kind of an emergency. It had not yet happened. As I rolled out of bed to investigate, there was a brief screeching of wild animals nearby to explain it. I assume there was a chase across the deck and then a fight for survival. I was hoping to figure out what it was in the morning from the tracks, but there was too much new snow, and no other clues. Such is cabin life in the deep, dark, scary forest.

I have learned some useful things about proper deck construction here. (1) It must not share the cabin's main support. It should have independent support. This is because snow loads that accumulate from leaving the roof will compromise cabin support when they crush down the deck. (2) The decking should clear the outside wall of the cabin—enough for drainage. There is no overhang wide enough to spare the lower cabin wall from rot due to rain pooling, splashing and snow melt. And (3), something new... after all the above, you still need a superficial structural connection between the deck and the cabin floor. This will telegraph the footsteps of an approaching "guest" in a useful way, but it may sometimes cost you come sleep.

Tuesday, February 28 - Lots of new snow.
This is how February is going out. When it all came in, it was 33-34 here, but it piled up fast. This morning it is 30 and the trees have not yet begun to shed it.

Tuesday, January 24 - Vehicle Tracks
I have been around the neighborhood some. It is not so difficult now that the snow is dense and mostly frozen. Someone has recently made it in over the pass in a 4WD truck with gigantic tires. This is not a suggestion. The snow is probably ten feet deep on the pass. I just know that some of you with a similar capability may find this interesting. This should mean that obstructions will not currently be an issue—not that you should be on this route without a chain saw, or alone, or without a winch. Early this morning, it was 31 degrees here. As it remains clear and dry, the next few mornings should be colder. I expect very good snow conditions on the main road for a morning hike over the next few days if anyone is interested. I expect guests on Wednesday evening who will be able to give me an update on how it worked out during the warmer, afternoon hours.

Monday, January 23 - Hiking Update

Effective with the fair weather today, hiking conditions are better than I expected. While the river has been very low (2.5 ft. @ Galena), I have favored the walk straight through on the old river bed. Currently (3 ft. @ Galena), there is too much water in the longer, first washout to do that easily. I had not yet been on the "high route" this year, so it was a good day to check it out. There have been rumors of improvements—clearing and better flagging, possibly by county personnel while here on the road project. Even with a lot of snow on the hillside, it was the better way to go. It was easy enough that I will now favor the high route around the first washout unless the river is very low.

The high route begins in the switchback on the gravel road just above the I-G road closure. Conveniently, you have already covered some of the distance along the washout, and the elevation gain is much easier on the road than it ever was on the old trail. After a short ascent from there to higher ground (easy to see), the trail runs straight and level on a wide, natural bench (now well cleared) until you cross the main vertical stream. Most of this route is well marked with new flags of wide, yellow and black caution tape. It is also fairly well traveled. Currently, the best stream crossing involves a slight descent, after which the trail runs level again for some distance at a lower elevation. Reaching the end of the most obvious new flagging, a large tree is down over the trail, pointing more or less in the best direction for a descent back to the middle road section. This part of it is also flagged and will usually have tracks to follow. It is not necessary to go around that tree and continue contouring as may be indicated by some older trail flags.

The second/short washout was more of a tossup. Two of us split up here. I thought it easiest to go straight through on the river bed. It is a much shorter distance for dry route finding than through the longer washout, and you can see all the way through it to begin with. Many have been doing it this way, so the old trail around it is in poor condition from having had little use. When the river is up, it is not easy to find a dry crossing at the end of the bypass trail (possible, but messy). My time through here was better, but with trekking poles for quick, stable rock hopping. The rocks are often slippery. Early morning is best for the firmer snow on the main road and for the lowest water, but there will be more ice and frost on the rocks. My total time around the first washout and through the second one was about 40 minutes. That's about double the best time in summer.

Earlier I mentioned the snowmobile tracks. They have had some use during very soft snow conditions, so there are still plenty of deep boot prints. Recent rain has packed down the snow and it was cold enough (barely) for good support out of the tracks early this morning. My partner (heavier than me, with a heavier pack) favored his MSR snowshoes and I had an easy walk in boots with little punching through. We finished the trip (at a lazy pace with much fascinating conversation) in three hours. Alone, I would have done it in 2:30 at the most. In the warmer afternoon, I suspect it would have taken much longer (without snowshoes).

Saturday, January 7 - Sled Tracks - Better Hiking
Some kind neighbors who arrived today on snowmobiles extended their travel downriver to the end of the road to make tracks for us. Thank you, guys! This should greatly improve hiking conditions until there is significant melting or a lot of new snow. Sledding conditions over the pass were reported as awful due to the frozen offroading vehicle ruts. Much new snow would now be a welcome improvement up there.

Sunday, January 1, 2017 - Real Snow - Happy New Year!
That winter storm was pretty wimpy here—disappointing, actually. There was wet snow for a while and then rain. For a few days, the temps held between 32 and 34. I had guests at mid-week who came on cross-country skis and had a pretty miserable trip. Yesterday, the temps went down and some real snow fell. This morning, there is a lot of new white powder. It is dead still and the trees are loaded. This is what I came to see.

Tuesday, December 27 - Winter Storm, Hiking Conditions

This winter storm isn't doing much here yet. There is just a little new powder on top of the crusty old base, which is about a foot deep. The temperature is 32 here. My inbound hiking time was two hours in the early morning yesterday. With the river below 2.5 ft. at Galena, it is easiest to come straight through the mostly dry river bed on the old road alignment. The rocks become well buried in snow before you finish the second washout. There, I went where the deer went, since they seem to know what they are doing. The road was then snowy all the way, but firm enough for shallow boot prints over most of it. Someone has been on cross country skis over much of it. There are very few trees to step over, and none yet to climb over. I hope to see some new snow today, even though it is already a real nuisance.

Wednesday, November 30 - Snowy Pass Conditions

The pass has been snowy enough since the weekend to require four-wheel drive and some clearance, preferably with chains and shovels on board. Today, we have double the snow base that was there on Monday morning. It is still snowing and becoming marginally passable (with the right gear and courage). Some of us are planning final supply runs between now and the weekend. Judging from the forecast, we may be finished by then. Another 18 inches are expected by Monday.

Tuesday, November 15 - Crime Update
  Have you seen this canopy? During or just prior to last weekend, it was stolen from the vehicle while the property owner was away on a hike. It fits a small Chevy ZR2 or comparable. It was not in prime condition, so I wonder if it may have become shelter in the wilderness. About two weeks earlier, another property owner reported the loss of a truck load of firewood. Near that time, a vehicle was seen prowling along the road after dark, spotlighting some of the cabins. Earlier in the season, there was an isolated cabin break-in. The cabin was occupied for at least a few days. Aside from the damage for entry, there was no vandalism. Food and supplies were used.

Monday, October 31 - NEPA EA Comment Deadline

I have drafted formal comments which I will be finalizing for submission later this evening. If you would like to review them for ideas, or to to be included as a co-signer, let me know and I will send you a copy. I'll be watching email. If it is late and they are already gone, we can send an amendment—until midnight, I suppose.

Monday, October 24 - County Road Project

Updates have arrived on the county road project website in followup to the October meeting, and related to the presently open comment period for the recently completed NEPA EA (critical to the road project's timeline). We have one week left to submit comments. The comment period will close on October 31. Please especially note the following resources...

Concise Project Fact Sheet (new) - Excellent!
Project Flowchart (timeline) (new) - Encouraging!

NEPA Environmental Assessment - Tedious, but necessary.

Comment Form - Use is optional, but... I intend to post my comments here before the end of the week. These will be my opinions and input alone, but you are welcome to review for ideas. If you agree and wish to sign on with me rather than comment independently, let me know before the deadline, and I will handle my final submission accordingly.

Saturday, October 22 - After the unflood
The flood threat for mid-week resulted in a peak river of just over 7.5 ft. here. Index made it to Flood Stage 2, but it was not a big deal here. Water ran high and strong in this San Juan area for a while, dragging new rocks into the road. Some of our commuting local property owners have shoveled one lane clear again. Road conditions overall are unchanged.

Tuesday, October 18 - After the Storm

I have toured the road upriver to the end of the pavement. Water over the road in the San Juan dip originates from the upper drainage, not from the river. It can run high like this during wet conditions when the river does not yet threaten the road. Currently, pretty much anything can be driven through it. As seen below, the water carries new rocks into the road here when it runs fast—also not yet serious. When this is noticeably wider along the road, it is much deeper and the extent of the rocks in it will be unknown.

I see no new compromises to the previously damaged areas, and no significant debris in the road. The river has not yet run high enough for that. Surprisingly in this weather, there were a few cars at the Blanca Lake trailhead today, so I assume the pass to be clear of tree problems. There has been no significant wind here. Rain was constant through the stormy weekend, but not heavy. On Monday, the rain was frequently heavy, but not constant.

There will likely be changing news about these road conditions after the next flooding, which is now due tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15 - Storm Watching
What storm? It rained. The river peaked at under 6 ft. yesterday - not a big deal. There was high water over the road in places for a while. I still need to go up and check out the debris situation, but will probably wait until after the next storm wave which is due this evening. Then the potential for high winds will be something more to be concerned about. Although, I do not see as much wind in the forecast for here as is expected over Puget Sound through about Woodinville.

Friday, October 14 - County Meeting and Open House in Monroe, October 12th
We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of the election day storm that destroyed the road. Over this time, Snohomish County has been planning road reconstruction and coordinating with multiple agencies for approvals and funding. Somewhere in there has been the matter of justification. The project is expensive (currently in the high-20's). The intent to rebuild has always been there, and much has been spent already getting to where we are now in the process. Where are we now? You can see it in the county's timeline information. Potentially, construction can begin in 2018. It is likely that construction will take two (plus) years due to the short season and the possibility of environmental restrictions. Much of what had to happen before construction can begin is now behind us, but some things still need to fall into place as expected in order for this timeline to hold. This meeting and open house presentation by the county was all about that.

Snohomish County personnel were there with presentations of project details in their various areas of responsibility. The Forest Service was also represented. All were informative and available to answer questions. From a planning standpoint, it seems in a very high state of completion, perhaps lacking only some of the final construction process details. There were detailed maps and diagrams demonstrating the almost mile-long section of intended replacement roadway. Each known challenge was depicted with its planned solution. Kept to a necessary minimum for both cost and environmental reasons, the one required 180 ft. bridge was depicted in a beautiful rendering of its 3D architectural model. Aesthetics, fish and wildlife passage, recreational use of the immediate vicinity—all were considered. The logistics of getting it there (semi-complete with on-site assembly) are understood.

There have been similar meetings in the past. Why this one and why now? A few weeks ago, county personnel were here to post both ends of the washouts with signage announcing road reconstruction intentions, more specifically the completion of the required environmental assessment (EA)—and this scheduled meeting to present the project plan and to gather public comment. That this EA has now been completed and published is a big deal. What is it? There can be no construction here until the "environmental impact" of the project is understood, documented and signed off on by all who must agree to its findings. This requires years of study and work. Subsequent to the availability of the published EA, there is a necessary opportunity for public comment. Effective with public notice in September, the time for accepting comments is now open. This primarily accounts for the timing of this meeting. You could not get through the door without being asked for your input, either in writing via prepared forms, or verbally to be recorded by a court reporter. The comment period will close on October 31.

All are invited to read the EA. It has a purpose. Why should we then comment? Are you a stakeholder in favor of the project? Have the environmental concerns been well addressed? Do the benefits of the project outweigh the environmental impact of the project? Is the environmental impact of the project not necessarily negative, but even positive? If you haven't read about mitigation, you'll find it very interesting. For each case where there may be environmental damage caused by construction (a tree is removed), there must be "mitigation" to offset the damage. This doesn't mean you will go plant one tree somewhere else. A more beneficial ratio of environmental improvement must be offered in exchange for the expected environmental consequence of the project. I believe this ratio is currently at a 12x mitigation benefit that must be "given back" to the affected environment. One example is to remove asphalt and destroyed culverts from the river. Where opportunities cannot be found in the affected area, they can be offered somewhere else. These are my own summaries, by the way. If you see errors that need correcting, please let me know.

Snohomish County, Index-Galena Road Project  It's all here!

Thursday, October 13 - Storm Watching
This is good reading!  Cliff Mass Weather Blog

I am here to see these storms through and will post related news from the valley if I can. My power won't go out, but there is always a risk of loss of the satellite connection. Cliff Mass is all over this one. It is potentially a 50 year historic event.

Tuesday, July 19 - New rocks in the road

There was clearly a brief high water incident in the San Juan dip that pushed some new rock debris into the road. Don't let it catch you by surprise. Most can drive over it. It can be shoveled clear by hand if you don't have the clearance or the tires for it. There is no obvious new road damage.

Monday, July 18 - High water, possible new road damage
There was heavy rain in the Cascades today. There may have been some flash flooding in one or more of the problem areas that were recently cleared. In the San Juan area, high water and new debris in the road were reported and thought to be impassible at mid-afternoon. I expect to have more news on the final outcome and possible photos by mid-day tomorrow, or whenever the rain lets up and the high water recedes.

Monday, June 6 - Road Cleared
As promised by the crew, the final slide area was minimally cleared for one lane today. There is road damage affecting both lanes here. Concealed by the rocks until now, there is a raised edge (incoming) that may do a number on your tires if you don't take it slow. I believe that if there had not been an immediate temporary repair in this area after the first of our multiple, recent flood events, both lanes would be gone. County response was amazing, and I think it was a worthwhile project, in spite of the subsequent floods that caused additional damage.

The Garland slide has now been cleared for both lanes, and it appears that work will resume tomorrow on the San Juan hump. The entire route is navigable for all vehicles to the lower road closure at the washouts, but it remains posted at Garland as you see here. The campgrounds are now posted as closed for the season. I'm just guessing, but that may relate to the now known condition of the road as it pertains to public use standards until repairs have been made.

I forgot to mention earlier that we have had at least two Sheriff's deputy visits over the last few days (over the rocks). Our infamous (known to be everywhere, all at the same time) FS lawman, Brad Lammers, retired in Sepember and it seems that he will not be replaced. Some percentage of that FS law enforcement budget is apparently now allocated for this coverage by the Sno Co. Sheriff's dept. Good to see you here! We have your number. Yes, I can manage 911 from here. It would not be the first time.

Friday Afternoon
The road crew is now ahead of the previous schedule I was given. The big tree has been cleared, so they can now get to the final rock slide. They don't know if they will make it through there today, however. They have a short work day here because of the commute, and they have had a setback with a mechanical problem. I'll go up later to see how it turned out, in case it becomes "clear sailing" for wimpy vehicles (or wimpy drivers) for the weekend. Watch for updates.

1:00 p.m. Friday - A first county vehicle just rolled through here, presumably to see how the road looks over the rest of the route downriver. That may be good news. With all their equipment up there, I doubt if they drove it in over the rocks. I'll stay out of their way for a little while longer and then head up there to see how it turned out. More soon...

4:00 p.m. Friday - No such luck. Sorry about that. It was a county mountain man in a county man vehicle. I talked to him. Their mechanical delay persisted until after hours today. They are waiting for a tow. The final rock slide area (Bear Creek) will be cleared on Monday. See you then. Have a good weekend. It's gonna be hot! It's already hot. The sun hit hard today and everything was still wet, so it has been humid.


Friday, June 3 - Nice weather, hot for the weekend
If anyone would like some help getting in here for the weekend, let me know. Getting over those rocks can be done, but not safely for all vehicles. Good clearance and sturdy tires are required. Improvements could be made, but those of us with indifferent vehicles have not taken the time. If you would like to coordinate, I can meet you there to see how it looks and for a possible shuttle the rest of the way. I can do the same from the other end if you would like to hike in, but that may be difficult if you have a load of supplies. For reference, some vehicles that have made it in without damage... 2WD pickups, 4WD just about anything, including a couple of Subaru Outbacks, Toyota Rav4, 4WD Honda Element (almost too tall), and a bicycle.

Thursday, June 2 - Road clearing continues
I talked to the crew today. They expect to be here for another week or so, and it will be most of that before they make it through that monstrous tree to the final problem area near Bear Creek. For this weekend, we still have that last rock pile to cope with, and the big tree (see below). The road is still posted closed. The current crew is here for the cleanup. After they have finished, there will be a multi-jurisdictional assessment of the road for repair planning.

Wednesday, June 1 (Part 2) - Road clearing is underway
A great first day of work! A lane has now been cleared through the rock piles at Garland and San Juan. The Bear Creek area has not yet been touched. That will still be a showstopper for some vehicles. At the far left edge of the first photo, you can see our old route (the scenic route). I guess I'm going to miss it. You don't want to know where we were driving in the second photo.
Thank you, Snohomish County! When you come back, don't forget to bring the world's largest chainsaw...

Wednesday, June 1 - Road clearing has begun
Work began today on clearing a lane through the slides on the lower paved road. I will check on the outcome and post an update after they finish work today. Most of the gravel road over the pass has seen some new gravel and grading, and is now in pretty reasonable condition. On my last trip over it, most (but not all) of the ruts and potholes were gone.

Monday, May 23 - Campground Opening Delayed
The FS concessionaire for reservations now reports that the campgrounds will remain closed until at least June 16th.

Temporary Closure:  5/23/16 - We apologize for the inconvenience but recent storms have made the roads inaccessible so we have been notified by the Forest Service that Troublesome and San Juan Campgrounds will have to remain closed until at least June 16th.

Sunday, May 22 - Road not yet improved
My latest news after the weekend is that the lower road has not yet been improved. This is in reference to the damage and debris that makes it only offroad passable with appropriate vehicles, and still with some risk. I have heard nothing new about the timeline, or whether improvements can be expected in time for Memorial Day weekend. There is now little time for that, and no heavy equipment has been seen in the area. I assume the Forest Service will know sometime this week whether campground access can be expected. Access to the campgrounds, if Troublesome Creek is included, will cover all of the affected parts of the route.

Wednesday, May 18 - Road work update
I heard from someone at the county this morning that their crews have been here working, but so far just on the gravel road over the pass. That apparently needs to be first, or at least can happen while planning for the paved road repairs may not yet be complete. When it begins, there is a lot of work to do and it may be ongoing through most of this season. I still do not have a planned starting date, and I do not yet know if we can expect a lane to be cleared on day one. Also unknown is whether some of this work may block all access. The full width of the road is involved in some of these problem areas. I hope to find out so that plans might be made to strand a vehicle on the inside for possible shuttle trips to and from any complete blockage.

Monday, May 16 - No road work yet
As of Monday evening, there has been no county presence here yet that I am aware of. Nothing has changed with the lower road damage and debris. There has been some grading on the Beckler side of the pass through the worst of the potholes. The improvements are spotty and appear to be incomplete. It looks like a tree crew has been through there and that work appears to be mostly complete.

FS 63 is now closed to vehicles at the intersection of FS 65 due to heavy washout damage. Blanca Lake hikers are advised to expect two additional miles (four miles round trip) after parking on FS 65.

Thursday, May 12 - County road work
The county road work has begun (upriver). They have been on the FS 65 gravel for the last couple of days, working their way in. Hearsay is that they expect to be at the rock slides on Monday. I will be watching for it.

Monday, May 9 - Update on road conditions
I have just been over the route again. Nothing has changed with the rock slides. The FS has done some clearing of trees along the road on the Beckler side of the pass. The ruts and potholes are still pretty bad in many places. Someone has cleared a nice path through the rocks that roll into the road in the slide area between the end of the pavement and Garland, as well as some other debris here and there along the way between the slides and the cabins. There have been some new arrivals over the last couple of weeks, but others have turned around at the rocks without trying. Getting through is still treacherous.

I have no news from the county yet regarding a schedule for clearing and repairs. Repair preparations may be holding up the arrival of heavy equipment, since there is significant road damage to be dealt in addition to the usual cleanup. I assume that when they get here, it will be for both jobs, not just to open the route to a compromised road that should not yet be open to the public. It is posted as "closed, local traffic only" from the Garland corner inbound.

There was some excitement here in the area yesterday involving a search mission for a missing hiker on the Blanca Lake route. The outcome was good: KOMO News - Search crew finds missing hiker...

Thursday, April 21 - The pass is passable.
I walked out this morning, picked up the Jeep and brought it around over the pass. The tracks were bare on top, but the snow was still deep on that shady, untraveled first stretch of the inside grade. Since it was a downhill run, I was able to make it through in 4-Lo. By tomorrow, those tracks should melt down to bare gravel. I cut through a few trees along the way after that and then crawled over all the rocks, just as some of us did a few times before winter. There are three significant rock piles - Garland, San Juan and Bear Creek. It is a mess with a lot of rocks and debris to negotiate, but the entire route to the upper washout can now be driven (more or less). There is still one very large tree that you have to go under. You can see it in the photos above.

Wednesday, April 20 - Snow status on the pass

I do not yet have the rest of this story. It looks like someone tried to drive through, but I'm waiting for more information about the condition of the grade going downhill around the corner. The tracks are often first cleared to the top in this way by "play in the snow" traffic that does not venture down the hill. Remember that the rock slides will still be impassable for most at the bottom of the hill, both in the Garland area and on the San Juan hump. Now that the pass is near clear and known to be unobstructed, hopefully the county will soon be making plans to come in with some equipment to clear the road. A small chain saw would be useful to clear just a few smallish trees down over the road on the remainder of the route.

Wednesday, April 6 - Trek to the pass
I made it up the road all the way to the top of the pass today. There is still plenty of snow from the low end of the two last switchbacks. It is more than waist-deep in the high spots on top, and a couple of feet (above the knees) where it is more packed down in the old vehicle tracks. There are no recent vehicle tracks. I think it would have to be done flotation style—not likely possible with chains. The snow is pretty firm.

The road damage and rock slide areas around Garland and below are pretty much just as they were in the previous reports and photos. After the snow melts down on the pass, they may still be rock-crawling, offroad 4WD negotiable for some vehicles with the right clearance and tires (as was done by some of us just before winter). Some of the rocks may need to be moved around. There are very few trees down in the road—nothing that a good pruning saw can't get through.

Monday, April 4, 2016 - Road reconstruction update
I'm back on-site with at least good intentions to check out the road situation upriver when the weather clears up again. It is a 10-mile round trip (on foot) so I'm going to have to get motivated. If I go, it will just be to see how things look around the flood damage that was only 4WD, rock-crawling passable just before snow clobbered the pass. I have no illusions about driving in before late May or even June. What I might have in mind for an earliest trip over the pass would be a supply run with a cart for the last five miles, which is mostly a downhill run. This cannot be done from the other direction. It may be nearly as problematic with debris in the road from upriver as well.

Now the really exciting news. The county has posted and is mailing their spring update on road reconstruction planning and status—a full color brochure with maps, photos and timeline projections. It indicates that funding has been established and that construction is projected to begin in 2018. I can easily call that "just" two more years at this point. Keep in mind that there will probably be two years of construction. That means 2020. We've been hearing this possible completion date for a while now. I still find it very encouraging that they are now putting it in print (as their current projection).

This document and other county updates are available here.

MP 3 repairs are complete and both lanes are open. There will be some finish work later in the season. Hiking in from the Index side of the washouts has been quite reasonable - usually under two hours.

There has been sad news about the loss of a treasured neighbor and friend, Ron Waltz (Skyko 3). Ron recently required emergency treatment for a life threatening blood clot and did not recover from surgery. I don't think Ron ever failed to call on me when he was here. He shared some great stories and was always willing to hear mine. We agreed on a good many things. I have known him to step up more than a few times with offers of help for neighbors and community. Ron was still a practicing physician. He and Katie enjoyed their cabin here when they could. I think we will still see Katie around. Let's give her a helping hand, just as Ron would have for any of us.

Friday, March 11, 2016 - Road, pass and trail conditions
Welcome back! Oh wait a minute - I'm the one who's been lost! Well, then thanks for tuning in again. Had there been any real news, I would have been here. I have been concentrating heavily on my tech projects through the winter, often from here via satellite. It will soon be time to start talking about pass conditions. It still requires hiking all the way up there to check it out, so that's probably not going to happen. Keep in mind that we have more than the usual problem of the meltdown this year. When the pass opens, it will still be impossible to drive in beyond the flood damage and debris at about five miles up—unless possibly by 4WD offroading over the rubble. I might walk that far one of these days to see if that even looks possible. If I see anyone come in or hear about it, I will try to find out how it looks and will post the news.

I know nothing yet of the county's intentions for cleanup and repairs. It was no surprise that it needed to wait until spring. The last of the damage came very shortly before significant snow. If I had to guess, I would say that it will be a lot easier for them to prioritize this work than it would have been in the fall when there was new flood damage everywhere. Repairs are going well at MP 3. Both lanes are being fully restored. Getting through during construction (to hike in) has not been a problem.

As has been mentioned before, the river changed course during the recent flooding and the landscape has changed for the hike through and around the washouts. It is mostly a change for the better. When the river is low enough, it is possible to walk straight through on the dry river bed, avoiding the hillside trails completely. I experimented with this a few times when conditions were marginal for it. I was able to get through, but it sometimes required rerouting around some high water spots with a brief scramble up onto the hillside. It appears that when the river level is above 3 ft. at Galena, this may not be the ideal route. I have been through there at 3.25 ft. and stayed with it just to see if it could be done. The trail would have been better—except... the trail is a mess. Because I stayed on the low route most of the time, I haven't seen it all yet. What I have seen made it seem more worthwhile to keep messing around in the river channel, even with the detours. The snow (and sometimes thin ice) made it really interesting at times.

This is not all good news for the hiking proposition, for what few (hopefully) remaining years we have left of it. The attractiveness of this new route when it is dry enough is going to keep a lot of foot traffic off the trail. Less travel on it means less trail to find. I have seen this effect already, especially when there was snow on the hillside. Everyone was going a different way—none of them right.

I just got news that someone from the FS has been up on the pass earlier this week. They were stopped about three miles from the top where there was still at least a foot of snow on the road. That's all for now...

Wednesday, December 30 - Hiking Conditions
   It is possible to drive through at MP 3
subject to construction activity during working hours. They are now rebuilding the riverside lane.

So far, the hike is difficult and slow due to the new snow. There are deep boot prints on several routes (not all good), and some of them are mine. The usual trail around the washouts has not yet been established for any appreciable distance. The dry river bed on the old road alignment was tempting and useful at times, but got me into a few time consuming predicaments. The snow is deep on the main road and not yet well enough traveled for good support in the tracks. Snowshoes would have been useful. My travel time without them was almost four hours.

Friday, December 11 - Access remains difficult
   Today, as requested.

Thursday, December 10 - No more flood
I checked the road upriver today. There is no apparent new damage. The slides are all still navigable—for man vehicles, as before.

Wednesday, December 9 - Flood watching (still)
The weather is awful. I liked it better yesterday. It's 43, but there are back to back windy ice pellet showers that turn the ground white for a short while. Last night was interesting, and short. The river ran mostly just under the level where the rocks roll, but it would occasionally speed up a little, causing them to rumble again and wake me up. It is reassuring to know that I won't likely sleep through a big change that might become dangerous. Above flood stage 2, there are usually logs colliding with the bridge support. Those are a pretty good alarm clock too. You should have heard this one land. I was outside when it happened. It would have been more impressive from inside the cabin. These low frequency sounds seem to come from all around when inside. Outside, the roar of the river overwhelms them more.

The temperature is dropping now in the afternoon. That means trouble for the pass and the navigability of the slide areas. Yesterday, the forecast showed 25" of new snow on the pass by the weekend. Today, those numbers have been reduced. I'm skeptical about the improvement after seeing these icy showers here in the valley today.

  Midnight... This is even better!

Tuesday, December 8 - Flood watching (again)
The river is rising, but not very fast in the early morning. It was 41 here this morning. It rained all night, but it may still be snowing in most of our watershed. Things will change today as the temperature goes up and the heavy rain continues. At 2 p.m. the river has passed 9 ft. The boulders are rolling on the river bottom and the whitecaps are hitting the lower edge of my cool new log. I fear that darkness will prevent what would have been the best of the photos again.

  Midnight... This is good!

Monday, November 30
It has been clear with very cold nights. Frost in the valley is so heavy it looks like snow, which is very cool at night with the bright moonlight. The slide areas have remained impossible due to ice. I know of only one successful crossing on the holiday weekend by an especially capable vehicle and driver. We need to see county equipment, or warmer weather, or to move an awful lot of rocks which will be very difficult while they're all still frozen together.

Monday, November 23
The log was frost free this morning. There is some cloud cover and the overnight low was just above freezing. This looks promising for improvements at the rock pile by mid-afternoon. Let it rain (but not too much)! It did warm up and rain, and there was a brief time of improvement. Clear, cold weather is due for the rest of the week. It doesn't look good for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Sunday, November 22
My new log tells me this morning that the frost problem up around those rocks is going to be nothing but worse today. I learned yesterday that the sun never gets there, so I don't see any point in wasting gas on another trip upriver today. Digging into those rocks with tools would be a tough proposition. They would have to be brought down a lot for quite some distance to clear a safe lane, and now they're all stuck together with ice. I think it would be days of work, not hours. Index calls for a high of 45 today. We won't make that here—not even close. The only hope I see coming is the rain in the forecast for tomorrow. If we see it as rain here (not snow), that might do the trick. If not, the temperatures are going way down after the rain and the ice problem will get worse. That just leaves wondering if/when the county will be back with some equipment. The road damage photos are now here. Maybe I will hear about their intentions during the coming week. I assume they are still busy with a lot of other storm damage priorities, not the least of which is MP 3 down there in the real world.

Flood Photos      Road Damage

Saturday, November 21
It has been cold—not above 33 yesterday. It is 31 this morning and probably colder upriver. Ice on the road has further complicated things in the rock slide areas, making it necessary to climb over more rocks. There is not yet reasonable access for ordinary vehicles. Update: Someone who came in this morning, offroad prepared and capable, said there was "no way" to cross those rocks safely because of the ice. They made it past Garland, but not beyond San Juan, and hiked in from there. I have been up there to see it and the problem now is a heavy layer of frost on the rocks. Where there are no rocks, there is black ice sloping to the edge where there is nothing to stop the slide.

  This is at MP 3 on the Index side early on Friday. Later in the day, there were signs of repair activity here. I have nothing official on this yet.

  There is a lovely layer of frost on top of my new log. Yes, of course it is my log. I found it! You can see where it came to rest on my rock at this end, after which I had my own private flood stage 4+ while the rest of you were just under flood stage 3. At the top of the roots, it is pinned against the bridge. It is quite well wedged into place at all points of contact. What an odd bit of luck.

  Floods do strange things. This deck on a high bank was pried up and left that way by a log that was pulled over a fulcrum at the river's edge.

Helpful Neighbors
Someone wrote to remind me that mice are edible. I knew that! I'm not there yet. Another neighbor left an award-winning DVD movie in plain sight that I had never seen before (big mistake). There is more to that story. I know what my family is thinking... "How did he ever find it if it was in plain sight?" Well I did, and I can tell you now that crime doesn't pay.

Friday, November 20
Highway 2 is still closed above Skykomish due to storm damage, with no estimated time yet to reopening. All of Skykomish was still without power this morning. I hear that you'll have the whole road to yourself after Gold Bar. It is fortunate that we have not been cut off at the Beckler Road corner. So far, a Jeep similar to mine made it all the way in, and a 4Runner made it all the way out. Some others (rock wimps) have driven in to Garland for the hike. There are your test cases. No one has come yet from the Index side that I know of.
    Not for wide vehicles.
This still takes some serious rock crawling, but it can be done. The man vehicle had already been over this one, but I had to spend about an hour improving it for my rig. It takes 4-Lo with at least my clearance and I have recent BFG all-terrains, slightly oversized. I haven't been up to the Garland rock pile yet, but I know I can make it out, possibly with more work of the same kind up there. The loader you see pictured below was left at Garland after the last cleanup, but it has now been removed. That is disappointing because they apparently had to take it out for other priorities before running it again here (not surprising). I am no longer stranded, and you can see what we're up against if you really need to get in here. Clearance is very tight by the way getting through this tree. I met some other property owners this morning who made the drive over the pass and parked outside of the Garland rock pile. They now have my Jeep for the day, so I can't make any more pickups until further notice. It is, however, an easy five mile walk from Garland if you can't make it over the rocks. I still think that's the way to go, vs. the longer trip from the Index side that requires off-roading on that saturated hillside trail and possibly some wading.

I actually hate this Jeep. It drives like a squirrely piece of crap on the highway, probably due to the short wheelbase and solid axles that make this possible. I guess I shouldn't be complaining. A couple of months ago I was doing 60 out on Hwy 2 and the whole drive shaft fell out of it. That was exciting. Has anyone seen it? I never could find it. You should have heard the noise. I thought the whole transmission was coming out of it, and maybe me next. I coasted safely off the road up to the railroad tracks near Baring. It was a hot day. It was stuck in the sun and I wanted to take a nap in the shade while waiting for the tow truck. I thought maybe it could be moved in front wheel drive if I put it in 4-Hi. It worked—so well that I just drove it all the way home that way. It never drove better. My son fixed it and I'm back here with it, but I still don't like it. If you want it, let me know. I want a 4Runner!

No, this is not an accident scene.
This is just to show how "not stranded" we are.
    Not for tall vehicles!

Thursday Morning, November 19
I just got news from SnoCo that MP 3 has been mostly wiped out. This is about halfway between Hwy 2/Index and the original closure where we ordinarily park to hike in. There is new damage in that area too from one or more of these last three events. There will be complications with hiking in from the Index side—at least the possibly of almost four miles further (double). SnoCo has requested that we avoid approaching this area until its status can be fully determined and they have a response in place. I'll try to find out how the Skyko 2 residents are coping.
Photos courtesy of Snohomish County Public Works - Road Maintenance

I hear from Skyko 2 that they are walking through here and getting picked up or dropped off on the other side. They live there and have this need. It doesn't change what has been requested of us. Parking vehicles there is likely to be a problem. Possibly encouraging is that someone I consider to be very capable (and well equipped) is now enroute to check out the FS 65 route. If he succeeds and we connect at this end, I'll get the news out promptly. I have not yet had the time to prepare more flood photos. Those continue to be "coming soon."

Thursday Evening - Good news!
The guys I mentioned earlier who have been trying to make it in over the pass have arrived. They made it all the way in, which means they cut their way through all those massive trees. Don't bring the Buick! This was a man vehicle, and I assume they chose to drive over most of those rock piles. I'll be going up there in the morning for a look and will post more news and photos. What I think this means for now is that hiking in from the Index side is not recommended (see comments above), while you can probably depend on a worst case of the five mile walk from Garland—maybe better. We'll know more tomorrow.

I finished checking all of the cabins in Skyko 3 and 4 today. For most, there is no damage to report. We were not as windblown here as it was down the road. I found a couple of trees down in Skyko 3. The damage is minor and those property owners have been notified. Passing Howard Creek going towards the washout, it turns into a war zone pretty fast. My friends and neighbors Travis and Laureen cleared a path over that route while I was doing other things. They were also a big help with the rocks and trees when I went upriver on Wednesday morning just after the flood.

Wednesday Morning, November 18
I will be back later in the day with more of this story and more photos. The river looks low enough to make the trip upriver to check on the road, but there will likely be some tree problems to clear up before I can make it to all the trouble spots. I'll be back as soon as possible with that news and will then check the other cabins and properties downriver.

Wednesday Afternoon
Good news and bad news. The road upriver is intact. I cut my way out as far as the damaged area near Bear Creek. New damage there and lots of rocks in the road, but passable. Soon after that, too many trees in the road larger than any chainsaw I ever heard of. Hiked up to check on the rock slide areas and found both the San Juan and the Garland locations very covered with rocks. Not impossible to condition for a rock crawling trip out, but many hours of work. Don't put yourself through that trying to get in unless you are prepared to deal with massive trees in the road. Best bet if you plan to come that way is to plan on the five mile walk from Garland. That would be after dealing with unknown numbers of trees in the road over the pass. If anyone plans to hike in from either direction, I can spare you a few of those miles if you would like to coordinate. If you're coming just to check on things, I can do that for you. All of the Skyko 3 cabins are fine. I have not yet been to Skyko 4. More photos soon...

   Can I borrow it? Where did it go?

A dozen more trees to cut between here and Garland. Some are much too big.

Tuesday, November 17 - Flood Stage 2.999
Highest water was well above Halloween and Friday the 13th.
Just under Flood Stage 3 at 1 p.m. Index went to Flood Stage 4.
    This photo corresponds with the peak. I now believe it was accurate.
I was awakened by sustained, very heavy rain. The temperature rose ten degrees overnight—five more later in the morning. The Galena gage shows a very steep rise in the river beginning from a low of 4.4 ft. The flood watch is now a flood warning. I had hoped to go upriver this morning to see how the repairs turned out, but the river went through 7.5 ft before daylight. That's about when it runs over the road just above the North Fork bridge (1/2 mile from here). We reached flood stage 2 at 10:30. At noon, we passed the high water marks of the last two storms, "Spooky" on Halloween and "Unlucky" on Friday the 13th. There is new debris in the river to show for it. Last time I checked, Cliff Mass had the peak of this storm at around noon today, give or take. That doesn't mean highest flood water though. There have been windy spells this time, so there may be some falling tree problems to find when it's all over. I sure wish the stock market looked like this. Then I could have a new roof. I may have the only indoor rain gutter in existence.

  You thought I was kidding? This thing has been on KIRO TV news. Speaking of which, I'm sure you all know that Chris Legeros lost his life to cancer recently. I was very sad to hear that. I hosted Chris twice here for flood damage and lifestyle related news stories. I was hoping for another after the main road reopens (if I live that long). Chris was a real gentleman and fun to work with.  Chris Legeros, KIRO TV News

Highest water here so far was just under flood stage 3 at 1 p.m. Index made flood stage 4 and sustained it for a couple of hours. The rain and wind have since been diminishing.

Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.
There has just been a sudden, catastrophic change and the river is now well above Nov. 2006 flood level here. My property is flooding and the river is running over the Skyko 4 bridge deck. I may have to get out of here.

Still here. Don't know what's going on with the gage, but the river is pounding the Skyko 4 bridge deck at mid-span. It has never been that high before that I know of.

We had a catastrophic surge between 1630 and 1730. I believe the worst is over. The water is starting to recede on my property after almost reaching the cabin floor. There are not so many scary noises coming from the bridge. The river is absolutely fierce and running sustained just under the bridge deck—still splashing over the top. My hope is that the logs can now escape under it. I have been preparing my new home (the Jeep), just in case. The water came up so fast, I was barely able to get it off the property and up to higher ground.

I'm staying in the cabin again after watching the river drop a little more, also reassured by falling temperatures and the rain having stopped. I got out earlier for some photos soon after what I thought was going to be our worst case for today. Then at 4:30, all hell broke loose. I tried to get some pictures when it began, but it was too dark. I'll try to get some of the others online soon. To picture what happened after dark, raise the sustained flow of the river to the underside of the bridge deck. There was no daylight between the river and the bridge. The plume that we're used to seeing only at the bridge support was then very wide and breaking through the fence over the top. Logs that ordinarily only hit the bridge support were crashing into the whole center section of it. The sounds were entirely different.

I just heard that Hwy 2 is closed from MP 31 to 59. Looks like Gold Bar to Deception Falls, which includes both Index and Skykomish. Both lanes; water over the road and fallen trees.

Tuesday, midnight.
You are not going to believe what I just found. I've been charging up my 10 million candlepower lantern so I could watch the river through the night. I just went out for a reassuring look at the bridge in hopes of getting some sleep. The river has dropped a lot. A massive log has become trapped between the bridge support at the near end (almost to my property) and the support on the far shoreline. It spans the entire river. It was invisible under the water until the river dropped below it. It dammed up the river right here at the bridge! It explains everything. Watch for an amazing photo here in the morning. This is probably good news for the properties I was most concerned about downriver. Those of us above the bridge may have been the only ones so severely affected by this. See you in the morning. I'm calling it a day.

Monday, November 16 - Good news!
On my way up to see about the snow on the pass this morning, I met up with the incoming county road maintenance crews and equipment. Repairs are underway now in this tight window between storms. Thank you SnoCo (again), for the very impressive response!

Saturday, November 14 - The road is ...
... still there. I would not exactly call it passable—more like 4WD rock-crawlable. I made it all the way through after moving a thousand of the worst rocks. I had almost finished when I met an incoming property owner who was able to report that the rest of the route over the pass was clear, sparing me that trip. Thanks guys! And for the help with the rocks! The first incoming slide area (Garland) is not much of a problem. Most of the trouble is on the San Juan hump. There is still high water at the base of that, but it is not currently too deep for most vehicles. With another couple of hours spent moving rocks there, one lane could be cleaned up enough for any vehicle. One lane is destroyed in the Bear Creek area which was temporarily repaired. I'm sure it would have been worse without that repair. One lane is still solid there, but it may go in the next flood if this doesn't get some help. I am no longer stranded here. More rain is coming, so this may not be over yet.


Friday's Peak
For historical purposes.

Friday, November 13 - Storm Watching

The river was impressive at first light this morning. The rain has been heavy and constant. Temperatures have been rising overnight, which may be adding "rain on snow" to the problem. We have been upgraded from a flood watch to a flood warning, and the wind threat seems to have been reduced. The boulders began to roll here when the river passed 9 ft. at Galena. It passed 10 ft. into Flood Stage 2 at 9 a.m. Based on the last similar situation, Index should be at Flood Stage 4 by 11 a.m.

Note the above new link to the Cliff Mass Weather Blog. I should have done this a long time ago. This is an excellent place to read good science about our significant local weather events. Cliff Mass is a renowned atmospheric scientist and the author of The Weather of the Pacific Northwest (Amazon source). In the past, I served as an atmospheric research pilot in specially equipped airplanes for Cliff's dept. at the University of Washington—Atmospheric Sciences. We regularly carried UW science crews into weather like this for data collection offshore west of the Olympics (and other places in the world). It was fascinating and often tiring. I could tell you some stories...

Hint:  With this frequently changing news, some of you will need to use your browser page-refresh button to see the very latest.

Thursday, November 12 - Here we go again...
More and possibly damaging heavy rain is on the way, this time with the added threat of high winds.

Friday, November 6 - Road fix complete

The county road crew appears to be finished (for now) and the equipment is gone. The road is posted "Closed - Local traffic only," not fully blocked or gated. A single lane has been cleared through the two major slides. The damaged area has been cleaned up and improved with what looks like a temporary repair that should keep it somewhat protected from further damage. All debris has been cleared from the rest of the paved road. I believe this is what we will be getting by with until next season. Time may be getting short until the snow closure.

River gage upgraded
The Galena river gage performed well during the recent flood, but has since become unreliable. It had some outdated and difficult to maintain components. Repairs were completed today with an upgrade to a next generation sensor which will be easier to maintain going forward.

Wednesday, November 4 - Road work begins

Good news! This was seen yesterday. Heavy equipment was seen arriving in the area today. By this evening, the road was graded clear all the way through. Repairs are beginning and may continue for a couple of weeks. Please be aware of a possible "road closed" situation. I do not yet know what our official status is for vehicle access, or whether that is even possible during construction. As I learn more, I will post updates. My thanks to all of you who have contacted me with your observations, and to our county personnel for their very prompt attention to this!

Sunday, November 1 - Flood Damage, Road Problems

The road has failed and is breaking up at the above location, which has not been a problem before. The offending drainage is a small one compared to the others. This is 0.4 miles below Bear Creek. You can still get through. Below are the two areas I reported as "holding" before. The first is on the hump just below the San Juan campground. The other one is just below Garland near the old county gate location. All are passable with 4WD and reasonable clearance (with good tires), or by moving a lot of rocks.


The high river hasn't caused any of this damage. All of it resulted from excessive drainage from the uphill side of the road. I checked all Skyko 3 properties to the bottom and found no damage. There are no problems with the gravel road over the pass or on the Beckler.

If anyone is thinking of a winter supply run before the snow, I suggest doing it soon. If that Bear Creek area doesn't get an emergency repair before the next similar incident, it may wash out completely. That would leave us with three miles to go, possibly with carts (or sleds) from the other side of the damage. Wouldn't that be fun? I will report this to the county on Monday.

Saturday afternoon, Halloween
    Galena peaked at just above flood stage 2.

  Index peaked exactly two hours later at just above flood stage 4.

These are upriver just above the North Fork bridge (not passable) and downriver at the washout. Road? What road?

Saturday, Halloween - It's getting worse
We are now above flood stage 2 and rising. Index is at flood stage 4. At this level, you can hear the boulders rolling on the river bottom.

Friday, October 30 - Heavy Rain, Rising River
The river rose sharply this morning, more so than I remember leading up to the 2006 flood. There was quite a sudden change in the noise level and then this debris in the river and the sound of logs colliding with the bridge support. The color of the water was darker than I have seen it before when running at this level. I assume that one or more logjams must have broken up and come suddenly downriver to account for all of this. After the rapid rise, you can see where it tapered off slightly at about noon. The good news? No more dead, stinking salmon in the valley! We had the worst smell of it this year than I have ever known before. There were a lot of dead fish and the river remained low for quite a while in warm temperatures with a stable atmosphere. For a week or so, it wasn't much fun being here.

Friday afternoon update
The river spiked again to just over 7.5 ft. and has since been coming back down. There has been a break in the heavy rain. The road in the valley is mostly unaffected. The river has not yet crossed the road just above the North Fork bridge, but it was close. Here, just above the San Juan campground, there is water over the road (but no debris). It was passable (says the Jeep). This water comes from the uphill drainage that flows out of the second "fix" shown below. We had an avalanche blockage here once in the past.

These engineered fixes are holding. Good job, county guys! I drove to the end of the pavement and have not yet been over the pass. I expected no trouble, and since I got back I have seen one vehicle come in, so that pretty much confirms it.

Wednesday, July 29 - Drowning victim recovered
The drowing victim's body was recovered today and was seen being airlifted from the valley. There is an excellent photo of the location in this FOX News article.

Monday, July 20 - Fishing Closure, Drowning at Bear Creek
There was an apparent drowning at Bear Creek falls yesterday.
This is the relevant KOMO News article.

Please take note of the danger of these sometimes inviting "swimming holes." We are a long ways from any source of emergency services, and that's after what will usually be an extensive delay in getting the call out.

Due to extreme low river conditions, there is an emergency closure to fishing on the North Fork and all of its tributaries. This is a partial (hoot owl) closure in effect from 2 p.m. to midnight every day until further notice.

Saturday, February 7 - Pass Driveable
The pass is still driveable on Saturday morning. There is deep water over the road at the San Juan dip (marginal for some vehicles). Lots of rocks and debris, but still possible to get through.

Friday, February 6 - Busy River

Wednesday, December 31 - Passable
Yesterday a tall 4WD truck and a Subaru were seen on the lower road. Snow on the pass was reported as about a foot deep. That it was well frozen was probably helpful, at least for the Subaru. Our overnight lows in the valley have been in the middle 20's - not in the teens as were in the forecast.

Saturday, December 27 - Snowed in (or out)
First thing this morning, it was snowing heavy in the valley. At mid-morning it is mixed rain and snow. Forecast new snow for the pass today has varied from 5" to 15" and is currently at 10". Yesterday the route was still good with about 50/50 bare gravel tracks and thin, slushy snow near the top. I assume that a lot of new snow is piling up now. Here, just below the San Juan campground where the high water was seen earlier, we are driving over a shallow rock slide. It is probably risky for some tires, but a lane could be cleared with a shovel without too much difficulty. There were no other issues out of the ordinary until the new snow today. I talked with a sheriff's deputy along the way who had just patrolled the area.

Monday, December 22 - Route Deteriorates
On Saturday afternoon, the entire route was still in great shape. There were signs of some recent county or FS maintenance. A grader was seen parked up there overnight at midweek. The lower road was clear of rocks and debris. At the summit there was a minor amount of slushy snow remaining. Then on Saturday night, there was a wind event. New trees were found in the road that had to be cut away for an exit, and there were so many new rocks in the slide area that only the shoulder was driveable. We then called off a route evaluation by our propane vendor that was scheduled for Monday morning by the district manager and a safety officer of the parent company. Propane deliveries are now off until spring or summer. New snow is expected on the pass this week. I expect either to see it or to hear about it shortly after Christmas. More news then...

Friday, December 19 - Propane Crisis
The propane situation is now a crisis that is likely to be permanent. I am dropping out of the planning except as it relates to my own property. I will probably make changes to eliminate or substantially reduce any need for propane; or come up with some way to tanker my own refills. Northern Energy (now Amerigas owned) appears to be dropping out. Doug's RV in Startup now has a delivery truck, knows the area, can make the trip and has considered it. We had a possible trip for tomorrow in the works, but the price is too high for some. I have just been informed that he is now declining until we can work as a group so there will be adequate volume at an appropriate price to justify all required deliveries in a single trip. That is not likely to happen now until summer, if ever. As far as I know, we have four winters to go, best case, until the main road opens. Until then, it's going to be no propane, or costly propane, or winterize the place and stay home. Some of us can probably make do with portables, just as many of the others always have. Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, December 18 - Route Conditions
The route is still open and reasonable for all. There is still just a trace of new snow on the pass. We were missed for the most part by the heavy rain and high winds that were in the forecast for last week. Landslides were a possibility too. We had none of the above, and no new trees came down over the road that I am aware of. I haven't checked all the properties, but don't really see the need. It's not even trashy around here with branches like it usually is after any significant wind.

Propane Situation!
Propane people... neighbors with fixed tanks that have been serviced by Northern Energy... we have a serious problem. I have been working on this for a while now and there may be a possible fix. We may have very limited time to get something done about a delivery before spring. To the best of my knowledge, Northern Energy is not going to be able to make it - at least not in time. Only a few of us will have a real problem with this before June. If you think you are one of them, please get in touch with me via email and I'll explain what is going on.

Sunday, December 7 - Pass Conditions
The pass is now any vehicle driveable. Warmer weather and rain will persist this week so unless there are new high water problems, it should remain open. I'm going to see if I can get the propane truck scheduled in.

Friday, December 5 - A Rare Visitor

Road Conditions, River Gauge
Driving in has still been possible after the freeze last weekend. I chose to hike in but there have been a few vehicles in during the last few days. All have been 4WD SUVs. It appears that two or three inches of new snow hit the pass during that last weather event. The tracks near the top have been reported as no longer bare, but packed snow and ice - slippery, but with no ground clearance problems. 4WD was adequate without chains.

Wednesday, the county maintenance crew returned to complete repairs on the Galena site river gauge. You can see it working at this new link. They have an all-new system for this, so the links above have been changed to the new ones. Note the enhancements on the parent site. Their driving report on Wednesday is still my most recent. At that time, there were still some patches of clear ice on the paved road. Warmer weather and more rain has moved in since then. Watch for wet ice (the worst kind) in case it has not yet melted from the road. There is now a freezing rain advisory in effect that applies here until the warm front gets a better hold on things.

Friday, November 28 - Road Conditions
At 2 p.m. Friday, all snow had been washed from the pass by the warm rain. This high water over the road is just below the San Juan campground. I got through it but probably shouldn't have. I heard my exhaust go underwater. The lower picture is another story.

This is just above the North Fork bridge where the road was wiped out once before. I walked into it with poles to check depth and make sure the road was still there. I didn't get very far before I realized it wasn't going to be safe to continue. Temperatures were dropping and I knew the river would be going down, so I decided to wait it out here. By 4:00 the rain was turning to snow here in the valley. Shortly after that, it was possible to drive through. The snow was sticking after 5:00 and the pass will probably now have a few inches of new snow that will stick around. Now the freezing begins.

The river was higher than what you see below when I got here on Friday (it was dark). The lower bridge footing was covered with a standing wave that was running partway up the other one. The highest water would have been earlier.

About the failed river gauge at Galena... I have talked to the county tech who maintains it. There has been a failed sensor and replacement now requires a different type of device. There are some challenges with its physical fit and programming of the output. They are still working on it and we will be keeping in touch regarding pass and road conditions for the required maintenance visit when they are ready.

Thursday, November 27 - Thanksgiving Day
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I have revised yesterday's information about the imminent change to freezing conditions. It begins sooner now (late on Friday) and drops to colder lows through the weekend. Some new snow may arrive on the pass, but the ice on the road is what really worries me.

Wednesday, November 26 - High Water, Road Conditions
Rain has continued on the pass and these are now slightly improved conditions.

My thoughts on prospects for the weekend (revised) ...
Conditions are now such that we can probably expect the pass to remain open until the next significant snow. However, there is now extreme cold in the forecast. Freezing will begin late Friday with a low of 12 on the pass by Sunday and low 20's or teens here in the valley. I expect a serious problem with ice on the road, including the lower paved road which is still likely to be very wet when the freezing begins. We had some extensive patches of ice on the road during the last freeze. These are going to be impossibly treacherous over much of it, possibly most of it, if this turns out the way I think it will now.

Tuesday, November 25 - Pass Conditions
Snow turned to rain on the pass Monday evening. Accumulations on the road near the top were greater than what I saw on Saturday, but the road at both ends was more clear at the lower elevations. There were bare, wet gravel tracks through most of it. 4WD may have been optional, but I used it near the top. There was a still a good deal of slippery climbing. At the top, the ruts were narrow through deep enough snow to catch the bottom of some vehicles with low ground clearance. My stock Jeep Cherokee with slightly oversized tires was clearing it. Freezing levels are higher this morning and still going up. I assume these conditions will continue to improve through tomorrow. I am watching it in hopes of a propane delivery truck on Wednesday. The river is rising and I'll be watching that through most of this weather event also.

Saturday, November 22 - Weather, road conditions
Time to go back to work... Snow hit the pass Friday night for the first time this year. This is later than usual. At mid-day Saturday, there were about 6" on top and it was snowing. There was more snow than had been in the forecast. Traffic was still keeping the ruts down to bare, wet gravel at the time. The route was snowy all the way to the pavement and slightly beyond at both ends. The worst of this weather system is due on Sunday. Up to 18" of snow has been forecast for pass elevation, but it has been up and down with fluctuations in the snow level, which seems to remain close to that level, but mostly above it. A winter storm warning remains in effect for elevations just above this. I think we may get quite a bit more than what remains in the forecast because it will be snowing heavy from just above this level. Hopefully it won't stick for long as the snow level is expected to go quite a bit higher later in the week. I plan to check on it again by mid-week after this weather system is through with it. I am not yet finished with it and will chain up if need be. I will post any updates that I hear from others in the meanwhile.

A propane delivery is in the works, but it will now have to wait until pass conditions are acceptable for the truck. I will keep them up to date on that and plan to accompany the truck when it comes in.

County vehicles and equipment have been on the lower roadway during the last few days. Of all things to see, even a sweeper went by. I do not know what they were doing here. I have seen a Sheriff's vehicle patrolling here several times during recent weeks (good to see). The rocks in the slide areas are pretty bad right now (even after the county vehicles). They are almost to the point where there is no way through them without running over a few. I think I'm going to have to stop and remove some on my next trip. If you come through and can do the same, it would be appreciated. They will soon be snow covered if they aren't already and I assume that 4WD and chained up vehicles will be coming in for a while longer this year.

After the recent wind storms, I toured all cabins and no tree damage has been found. Only a very few trees went down in the road over the pass and were soon cleared. Some are still there except for the minimal, cleared driving lane.

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 county 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

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.

Tuesday, 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.