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Saturday, October 16 - Propane Delivery
The propane truck will be here on Monday morning. Carol at Northern Energy, who has usually handled our arrangements, has been on leave from the office for a while. Some of you may have talked to Pam. In case you have not, the driver will come prepared with delivery tickets for everyone and we will check all tanks. If you have wishes one way or the other, such as service regardless (even if almost full), or don't service even if low (particularly the latter), please let me know and I will advise the driver. Please follow up with the office after Monday to see how your delivery turned out and make payment arrangements if necessary. I know... you're shocked to see me here again. I am sorry for the long absence. I hope everyone hasn't tuned out completely. I like hearing from everyone, so please keep in touch. I will have more news (including my excuses) before too much longer. It was 33 here this morning. I hope everyone is thinking about being prepared for the long, severe winter which is being forecast. I have heard it enough that I am starting to believe it, and am making some extra preparations myself. Actually, I looked into the reasons for these predictions and it is based on some real science, not just wild guesswork, so we'll see. My biggest worry is that a huge snow will not melt down on the pass until much later in Spring than has been the case in the past. We had plowing on the two biggest years for snow, and although they did not plow last year, there was little snow. There will be no plowing this year. Supplies may run low in the Spring for those of us who will be here in Winter (by hiking in). Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Thursday, June 3 - Prospectors
The Bedrock Prospectors Club will have a group camping in the Howard Creek area this weekend. They have a work party scheduled on one of their claims which is nearby. They will have road permits and keys.

Tuesday, May 18 - Propane Delivery
Northern Energy will be selecting a day between now and the end of this month for our Spring propane deliveries. As usual, they would like to hear from each of you with your orders. Please call Carol even if you know you don't need any so that we will know that everyone has been considered. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Saturday, May 1 - Road Improvements
County road maintenance resumed this week. There has been grading and new gravel and clearing of the rockslides. Most of the major pothole areas are gone. It has been a week of crappy weather. Hopefully Spring will be return soon. Thank you, Snohomish County for the road improvements!

Monday, April 19 - Road Conditions
Due to continued melting, the pass was negotiable by pretty much anything 4WD or tall enough on the weekend. Since it was really warm yesterday and is likely to be warmer today, the road is probably passable for 2WD vehicles by now. Downhill would have been OK on the weekend, but climbing the steeper grade on the North Fork side through the deep slush might have still been a problem. It was 66 here in the valley yesterday. This morning has started off about four degrees warmer than yesterday. The potholes are absolutely terrible all along the gravel road and will beat your vehicles to pieces if you don't take it really slow. There are significant new rockslides in the usual places just above the gate. One of them nearly made it all the way across the road with immovable, giant rocks but you can still get around it on the river side shoulder.

This was received by one of the Skyko 4 officers who recently inquired about the county's road maintenance intentions...

Snohomish County Road Maintenance plans to perform spring maintenance on the Jack’s Pass route in the next several weeks, weather permitting. Late season snow has delayed our plans by a few weeks. We will grade the road and make repairs as needed to bring the road up to an acceptable service level. As you know, WSDOT was unable to assist with snow removal on the route during the 2009-2010 winter. As a result there has been no maintenance during the winter season and the road condition reflects this.

Thursday, April 15 - More Snow
Last weekend, the snow on the pass was still a little too deep for a small 4WD SUV. Yesterday, a lower 2WD car had to back out about a mile from the top due to its low clearance. He thought it looked like trucks and SUVs would be able to make it now. Conditions just beyond the pass on the steeper inside slope have not yet been reported. Since there is usually less traffic there, it still sounds like 4WD and chains to me, just in case.

Friday, March 12 - New Snow
New accumulations of snow on top of the pass have been an issue for some 2WD vehicles. At least one was not able to get through. I do not yet know how it is with 4WD or with chains.

Sunday, February 14
We are having a mild and wet (so far) Valentine's Day in the valley. The pass is still easily driveable with no special vehicle requirements.

Monday, January 25
There is new snow, but not very much - just a couple of inches more on the pass. The upper two miles of the road on the Beckler side and most of the first mile on the North Fork side are covered again. I made it over in 4WD without chains, but would not want to be up there without them, unless maybe with good snow tires. Nothing is very deep - just slippery. Going downhill on the inside where it is steep will be risky without traction help when the new snow gets wet or packed down and icy like it was before. The rocks have been cleaned up quite a bit thanks to some great, community help, but there are still plenty of them and more coming all the time. It was foggy through that area this evening too, as is often the case. Otherwise it is real nice in the valley - high 30's until after sunset and probably just below freezing tonight with a clear sky and some nice moonlight. It looks like about three nice days with bright nights are ahead.

Tuesday, January 12 - Still driving in
After all that rain, we have found that the Jacks Pass summit has not been affected by new snow. The snow which was previously high enough to cause some dragging in the center of low vehicles is now packed down pretty low (due to rain and melting). The vehicle tracks have been melting over the entire route. The gravel is visible in most places, even on top. However, it is VERY slippery on some fairly long stretches where it is clear ice, or worse (wet ice). 4WD without chains has been enough from last weekend until now, but with the speed very low for "controlled sliding" downhill in a few places. I would not be here without the chains to make the climb, in case they become necessary. More hazards... After a long stretch of dry, bare gravel between the upper and lower switchbacks on the inside, there is a surprise stretch of old snow and clear ice from the melting where it levels out at the bottom, just before the pavement. There at least, there has still been regular freezing to keep the road treacherous. This is no big deal if you get there with reasonable speed.

The rocks in the road above the gate are the worst I have ever seen them. Those of us who have been past have had to move some to get through in every case. During the wind and rain, more rocks keep showing up. Some of them are too large to move by hand. As was pointed out by one regular, the smaller ones will be a significant tire hazard once they become buried in snow. We need to keep a path through there clean enough to be safe after it snows. I moved a few coming in and will catch a few more going out. Please do the same if you can. Watch out for new falling rocks while you are there. I don't think I would pause for this during the wind and rain. I wish they would screen that hillside. Some of it has been screened in the past - I'm told as an experiment. That part seems to have been successful.

Hiking conditions on the low route have been reported to be good. It looks like we will have that option for a while yet after the snow (or the rocks) finally finish us on the upper route.

Friday, January 8, 2010 - Freezing Rain
Happy New Year, everyone! I have a little catching up to do. Since the driving report from New Year's Eve, we have had a lot more precipitation, but also some pretty warm temperatures. I assumed the pass would be clobbered with new snow, but I know of two successful crossings last weekend. Both required chains and some "plowing" through about ten inches of snow (I presume while also prepared to walk out if things didn't work out). Again this week there has been more rain in the valley which may or may not have affected the pass with new snow. I have no eyewitness reports yet for this weekend. There is an unusual freezing rain advisory in effect for today. This could make driving hazardous regardless of the snow depth, vehicle and tires.

Thursday, December 31
The photos below are from yesterday. There was new snow in the valley and the pass was still driveable with up to 6" on top. There is probably more new snow today. I have not yet seen it or heard about it. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30
snow1 snow2

Wednesday, December 30 - Winter Storm Watch
Watch the weather. Heavy snowfall is expected tomorrow. Today may be our final driving day over the pass.

Saturday, December 26 - Driving Conditions
The pass is quite driveable for this weekend, hopefully until at least Tuesday. Snow starts near the bottom of the Beckler grade (normally a bad sign) but stays thin (no more than two inches) all the way over the top until it goes away at the bottom of the North Fork side. The ground is frozen over the entire route. The tracks are a mix of bare gravel and thin dry snow with occasional icy patches, especially on the concrete bridges. Ground clearance was not an issue. 4WD and chains were not needed, but good to have along in case of a slip somewhere along the way. I carry a shovel too, having seen many others needing them after getting stuck. Had it been necessary to to deal with oncoming traffic or to turn around, more traction help would have been needed in some places, although good tires and 4WD would probably have been enough over much of the route. Even though traction was pretty good throughout, keep in mind that much of this will become very slippery on the higher grades if there is any melting. Chains might be needed to get out after the next snow, which is not due now until Tuesday or later. The rocks in the road are pretty bad in the slide area approaching the gate. Inside the gate, there are a number of treacherous patches of clear ice on the paved road. One in particular comes up by surprise in a long curve to the right not far below the gate. Be slow or you'll end up sideways in that one.

Christmas Day
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
I hope to have more news on pass conditions on or just after the weekend.

Monday, December 14 - New Snow
It was extremely cold here last week. For two or three days, the overnight lows were 10 or below and the highs were 12 to 14. It has warmed up now and there should be new snow on the pass. Driving conditions over the pass are not yet known, but likely to be poor and becoming worse through tomorrow. There are winter storm and avalanche warnings in effect for today and tomorrow. See the weather link above for the details.

Tuesday, December 1 - Full Moon
It was a beautiful day here. Tonight, it is clear and cold. It was below freezing by 6PM. I think we're going down into the 20's. There was a spectacular full moonrise in the valley upriver. I took pictures of the pass today when I brought my car around but since I had to hike in earlier, I got here without the adapter I need to upload the photos. Several more property owners came in today. The road is in great shape. There are no special vehicle requirements.

Monday, November 30 - Plowing Complete!
Sunday I hiked in to wait for the news on plowing from the inside. One of my neighbors hiked in today. On the way in, he found a large king salmon in the road, headless with a bear sized bite out of its middle. All the streams, even the minor ones, are still full of salmon. I was just about to post that there had not yet been news from the county today, but I just got it. Mel wrote to say that they completed the plowing today. The pass is now open! It has been wet all day (unlike the forecast), but it looks like we still have dry weather in the forecast through next weekend to make good use of it. Go for it everyone - I hope you can all make it! Please drive carefully and please travel prepared. We still have cold rain in the valley, so it may be snowing up there. I think we need to assume that after the next major snow event, the road will be closed for the rest of the season. Our sincerest thanks to Mel, Roy and their county road maintenance crew for this much needed help!

Saturday Night - No go... and stolen truck found
stolen truck

After working a little harder on a better fit for the chains, I tried to cross the pass again today. I got within a quarter-mile of the top this time and it was still too difficult and risky. There was too great a chance of a long walk out in the dark. The snow increases in depth rapidly in the climb for the last mile and is nearly two feet deep on top. It was raining lightly and the snow was heavy and slick. Two strong 4x4 trucks with large tires were trying to make the pass ahead of me. They too were dragging and plowing snow in the center. Since they had been there, my Pathjunker was still dragging through it in 4Lo, but the chains were slipping. The snow was too thick for any of us to reach gravel any more. From where they could see the summit, they were unable to finish the trip to the top to turn around (they did not have chains), so there was no way for me to get around them anyway. I backed down for about two miles and they were doing the same ahead of me, but with a lot of difficulty. I left them in my snow dust, thanks to the chains, but I checked with them first and knew that Brad was just down the road too. I hope they got out OK later. I don't think anyone is going to get through until after the plowing which we hope to see see during the next few days. The weather forecast is still looks good for it.

I found Brad here waiting for a tow truck about four miles up to winch out this late model F350, which had snapped off some trees near the edge and plunged another 100 feet or so down this steep bank. It had been stolen and after a joy ride up here in the snow, had presumably been "sailed" unoccupied over the edge here on purpose. The tow truck was here when I got back and they were cabling up. I was able to get around it and assume they got it out but don't know yet for sure.

Friday, November 27 - Pass Conditions
I tried to make it over the pass this afternoon but was unable. It was feeling too risky for getting stuck, even with chains. Someone who had been up earlier in a truck with studded snow tires could not make it through either, and got stuck several times trying. I had to back down for a couple of miles when things didn't work out with the chains. The vehicle tracks are worn down to wet and slushy gravel over most of the lower part of the route except for a few snowy sections. Within a mile or so of the top it gets deep fast and has not seen much traffic. You can see many places where vehicles have been stuck. Only the highest three miles or so needs to be plowed, but it does need it. I may try this again tomorrow, but only after jacking up this stupid car that I hate even more now to see what can be done about making these freaking miserable chains fit right!

There was a lot of Christmas tree traffic today and there will probably be a lot more tomorrow. We have seen days like this when it took hours to cross the pass due to congestion, stuck vehicles and no turnouts. Officer Brad Lammers (USFS) was checking Christmas tree permits at the bottom of the pass. Apparently two weeks ago, someone was stranded in their vehicle near the top for two nights. Search and rescue personnel went up to get them out on the third day after one of them walked out to cell coverage to make the call. This is a good reminder that conditions can be extreme up there and we need to be well prepared.

The weather has changed for the better. Most of the new snow that was expected on the pass tonight and tomorrow is no longer in the forecast. However, the temperatures are cold enough to keep what snow is up there frozen. Where there is melting, the grades are very slippery.

Thursday, November 26 - Thanksgiving Day

Have a nice holiday weekend, everyone!


Wednesday, November 25 - New Weather Link
My thanks to one of the county engineers who thoughtfully wrote to provide the new weather link above. This gives detailed forecast data for temperature and precipitation, snow levels, cloud cover and wind right at the Jacks Pass summit. The data showing now is an interesting study. Note that freezing levels are very high this morning with no new snow expected on top until Friday night, when the snow level will once again drop to below the level of the summit. From this it would seem that Friday is now a best prospect for a driving day (before plowing - IF there is plowing), allowing for two more days for melting and before new snow begins. There may also be a good deal of recreational "Jeep" traffic up there to help wear down some tracks. I hope to see pass conditions by the weekend, or to hear from someone who has. I am not suggesting that this be attempted before plowing unless it turns out to be safely passable. Still, I would expect a high 4WD vehicle to be necessary (with chains), while being prepared to walk up to 10 miles, and while willing to be stranded in the valley after new snow. Trust me... sometimes one finds it unexpectedly necessary to walk out of the valley and leave a vehicle stranded there in destructive conditions until Spring. Plowing for next week is not yet a sure thing. I will keep this up to date with any new information I receive through the weekend and beyond as more becomes known about the county's plowing intentions and progress. If I make it to the top, I will try to get some photos online.

Tuesday PM - Plowing Update
I am excited to share this update on the plowing situation...

"Good timing. After some brainstorming and looking at forecasts we’ve decided to schedule grading early next week to clear the snow that has accumulated so far. Of course it’s all dependent on weather but, based on the forecast, it looks like we’ll have the window. We’ll check with WSDOT on your second request."

This was about the possibility of a one-time effort to clear the road before the snow becomes impossible for all of us (even the plows) so that we can get in and out and do what we need to do before the road is closed for the rest of the winter. The weather looks like it may cooperate. This is wonderful news. If this works out, we need to do our best to make good use of this while we can. Roy's final comment is in response to a request for routine clearing of enough of the Beckler Road so that we can count on being able to get snowmobile trailers and the like safely off the highway for some of the expeditions that I'm sure we're going to want to make. They have agreed to talk to WSDOT about this one. I'll share the news when I get it. Thanks Roy!

Please watch for regular updates on this plowing thing. No news means no news, and please... If you go up and encounter their temporary "Road Closed" signs, please respect them. While plowing is underway, it will not be possible to follow the grader in and get around it. They are also concerned about vehicles that shouldn't be there yet getting stuck, making it impossible for them to get out. That would certainly not be helpful to our cause.

Tuesday, November 24 - Plowing News
Property owners will soon be receiving notice from the county that we will probably not be able to get plowing help this year. The route over Jacks Pass is expected to be closed for the winter. It is likely already impassable. I hope we get one more meltdown for a final trip in and out with vehicles, but it may not happen. The primary reason for this is that WSDOT will not be able to help due to resource limitations and the nature of the risk to their equipment (the snow blower), which must be reliable for its priority work on Stevens Pass. Without DOT's heavy duty equipment and assistance, the county does not have the resources to cope with the usual extreme snow and trees down over this road. Funding may also now be a previously unexpected issue.

Because there may have been some confusion regarding the lower Index-Galena road, the SnoCo folks would like for everyone to know...
“The route from Skykomish via Beckler River Road and Jack’s Pass, and the upper end of Index-Galena Road above the washout will not be plowed this year due to the unavailability of WSDOT’s snow removal staff and equipment”. We intend to plow the lower end of Index-Galena Road from Index to the washout at milepost 6.5 as has historically been done.”

This was not meant to be a late notice surprise. This news was meant to go out in September, but was accidentally overlooked at the county. I appreciate that we are getting the news now, rather than later. There is still time to do some good things while the valley floor is free of snow. I'll write more on my thoughts about this later. I think we should continue to be very grateful for the huge effort by WSDOT and Snohomish County that went into this winter maintenance effort for the last two years. I remember it starting out on a trial basis while it was not yet known to be possible. I think we all remember the massive efforts by those crews under extreme weather conditions and the beating their equipment was taking. Much of their work had to be done over and over again before they ever broke through so we could make use of it.

I think the most constructive thing we can be doing now is communicating and organizing to help contain the damage and protect our properties. I have some ideas and will be back with more on this when I get a chance. As always, anything security related will be in private communication only. Those of us who have right vehicles with chains should probably watch the weather and the pass closely for any opportunity we may still get to drive in, in case it may be the last. If you see it before I do, will you please let me know? I will then let everyone know. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has ideas or concerns to share.

We remember! Thanks again!
remember1 remember2
These were taken year before last on the first major snow removal project over this mountain backroad. There had been avalanches 30 feet deep with embedded trees and they cut through those too. The outcome was amazing. The last two years were extreme snow events - the worst in decades. If these turn out to be the only two years for this kind of help, they may well turn out to be the best two.

Friday, November 20 - Stormy Week
The nice weather you see below didn't last very long. There was a possibility of substantial warm rain and high enough freezing levels for flooding this week, but instead, we got a lot of new snow - not in the valley but over much of the higher levels of our driving route. Someone who came in last weekend was barely able to make it out on Sunday with a substantial 4WD SUV and chains. From the weather reports, it would likely have become much worse after that. There has been a lot of high wind, so trees down over the road are also a very good possibility. I have not yet heard from anyone who has seen the pass conditions this week. I do not yet have any plowing news. If anyone learns anything new, will you please let me know?

Thursday, November 12 - Nice day in the valley
niceday1 niceday2
However, please note the winter storm watch in effect for the next couple of days. It was 29 here last night.

Wednesday, November 11 - Yes, that's my car...

...and my son, Andrew ("Dad... you've really done it this time") and his manly Bronco. This was Tuesday evening after I had to leave it there on Saturday - couldn't quite make it to the top in 4WD without chains. When it quit going up, it just went sideways. I was walking back to the cabin (6 miles - after dark) when Dan and Lori came charging up the hill (with chains, of course). I rode out with them. Thanks again Dan and Lori! Andrew and I came back on Tuesday to see if we could haul it out with the Bronco but it wouldn't move without trying to slip lower and yank the Bronco off the road too. Jim Ocheltree and Eric came up from Billboard Towing in Skykomish today. They chained up the truck on top of the pass and backed it down. This was just below the second switchback. Jim is very skilled with that setup and had all the right moves. After his careful preparation, the car came right out without damage. I drove it back to the cabin. By the way, I hate this car. I'm thinking of having it buried here in the snow all winter and then selling it the Spring. That worked out fine for me once before, right BJ?

rescue2 rescue3
It rained heavy all night last night. It was about 34 degrees, so I was worried about the pass for this, but we had only an inch or two of new snow on top this morning (less where the car was). Andrew and I got there first and didn't want to risk much more with the Bronco, so we walked from here to the top to wait for Jim. We found some gigantic fresh hoof prints up there. An experienced hunter who came by later said they might have been elk.

Please remember Jim's capable and willing service when you have towing needs up here. With its hydraulics and winching gear, Jim can do some amazing things with that truck. This was a challenging recovery with some risk of "losing it" over the edge. We all go by Jim's place when we turn the corner onto the Beckler road. Thanks again Jim and Eric! We're glad you are nearby!

Jim Ocheltree
Billboard Towing
Beckler Road at Hwy 2
Skykomish, 360-677-2421

Thursday, October 29 - Pass conditions at 4PM

Tuesday, October 27 - Winter Storm
A winter storm warning is still in effect for today. Snow is expected above 2000 ft., which would include Jacks Pass. There have been reports of slides over the road due to the recent heavy rain, but so far everyone has been able to get through.

Tuesday, October 20 - Propane Delivery
It is that time of year again (unfortunately). Soon we will be fighting the snow again. Northern Energy would like to hear from all fixed tank customers in preparation the winter fillup. The truck will come once for all of us. We are planning on the first or second week of November. Next chance will be Spring after the meltdown. Carol is waiting to hear from everyone. Please let her know, even if you need or prefer no delivery this time. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115.

Friday, October 9 - Tragedy on Silver Creek
There was a tragic fall in the Silver Creek valley last weekend which was fatal to Vladimir Dmytriv. He was exploring with friends and apparently fell from a log while attempting to cross Silver Creek. I knew him but not well, and have heard from one of his friends. I will try to get details on the exact location and the circumstances. I am also interested in learning how things went with communication and for search and rescue personnel until he was found. I believe this happened on Saturday. The search & rescue group arrived at around 2AM Sunday morning. A helicopter assisted later in the daylight with his recovery.

Saturday, September 26 - Lots and lots of fish!
The river is full of spawning salmon. They're everywhere - thousands of them.
The Chanterelles are out. I had a mushroom omelette this morning. Tonight it's a mushroom burger and tomorrow I'll make soup with the rest.
There are quite a few property owners around this weekend. It's great to see you all here!

Friday, September 11 - County Tax Assessor Visit
Next week, personnel from the Snohomish County tax assessor's office will be touring Skyko 3 and 4 and vicinity to document and photograph our properties and update their records. This is a required visit at six year intervals. There will be two teams of two persons each with clipboards and cameras. They will be in a well marked county vehicle, but will be out mostly on foot, especially in Skyko 4. Your courtesy and hospitality will be appreciated if you happen to be here. I assisted with a brief, initial tour last week. They have been here before and remembered most of it. They are primarily reviewing the improved properties (with cabins and structures). I don't think they expect to find things changed very much, and they seem to be well aware of the flood and winter damage. They won't be here long - probably one day only, likely on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 1 - Nearby Forest Fire
Firefighting is under way for a forest fire near Index. The Sky Valley Chronicle story is here.

Saturday, August 22 - Fire in Skyko 4
A fire was discovered this morning on an unattended Skyko 4 property (the property owners know). It started beneath an outdoor fire pit which was thought to be responsibly extinguished, and smoldered underground for a full week while developing into a dangerous root fire. One tree fell and several others were severely damaged. No cabins or structures were affected. Neighbors, other nearby residents and guests were able to contain the fire with buckets and pumps until help arrived. Both the Skykomish fire dept. and USFS firefighting teams and equipment responded. The immediate danger is over but it needs to be watched for a while, due to the nature of root fires. I have photos and will provide more details later.

Monday, July 13 - County Meeting Reminder
The County Public Open House is tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 PM at the East County Senior Center in Monroe, 276 Sky River Parkway.

Sunday, July 5 - Red Flag Warning
A Red Flag Warning is still in effect for Western Washington. The fire danger will continue through Sunday.

Wednesday, June 10
The county public meeting is now scheduled for July 14. See the county website for updates.

Friday, June 5 - Skykomish Centennial Celebration

Skykomish Centennial

Tuesday, June 2
The propane truck will be here tomorrow. The delivery tickets will be printed today based on your orders. There are some additional US Census workers in the area today for a brief, quality control follow-up.

Friday, May 29 - Hot!
It was above 80 today for the first time. Nights are still below 50. Great sleep! The river is up and the ants are out with a vengeance. Actually, I've heard about what their vengeance looks like up here, and I don't think this is it. Let's give them a few more days and then walk across the bridge. "Crunch, crunch, crunch..." Still nothing but sun in the forecast. We had quite the holiday weekend crowd last weekend. Some never left; well one maybe. I meant to come back earlier to say THANKS for the help with the rocks in the road!

Friday, May 22 - Propane
Our propane delivery is scheduled for the first week of June. Which day is not yet known, but it will be during Tue/Wed/Thu. They will probably come once only for the season. If you need service before November, please be sure to advise Northern Energy. They must hear from everyone to print delivery tickets for the driver, and will need to know your current tank level if possible. The truck needs to arrive with enough fuel for everyone and without too much overkill, for weight reasons. I will be here for most days between now and then if you need help with a tank reading.

Rocks in the Road
The rocks in the road just above the gate are now a significant hazard. There are a lot of them, big ones, some in the middle of the road. They are not hard to get around, but they will do serious damage if you miss. Ordinarily, I would rant about how many of "us" have been driving over and around them without stopping to move a few, but I've been one of them lately due to late arrivals or a tight schedule going out. Most of them would be easy to move by hand. I'll go up and work on it today if I get a chance. Please stop and help out on your way in if you can. Maybe everyone can just stop briefly and take care of a few of the worst ones you see left, leave the rest for someone else and move on. Last year, someone "missed" and emptied both engine oil and power steering or brake fluid onto the road, and was of course disabled and stranded until towed. The car had to be left at risk, and a family (with little ones) had to walk the 4 miles back down here for help (which would not necessarily always be here).

I have received an excellent hiking report with trail conditions on the Silver Creek road. It was not yet possible to reach Mineral City. Write for details if you are interested. We're going to have awesome weather for the holiday weekend! Come on up!

Tuesday, May 19 - County meeting postponed
The Snohomish County open house and public meeting which was tentatively scheduled for June has now been posponed until at least July in allowance for the beginning of a State Environmental Policy Act scoping process (whatever that means). Search here for some clues.

Thursday, May 14 - U.S. Census
There will be some U.S. Census personnel in the area on Friday and Saturday, counting cabins and recording GPS coordinates. I will be here.

Tuesday, May 12 - Propane
There is a Winter Weather Advisory in effect for today!

Many of us are low on propane and some are out. We usually get our Spring delivery in late May. I plan to call Northern Energy soon to let them know that I have vacation time this month and can be here to help the driver with the gate and finding all the tanks. I know they will want to be assured that the pass is in good enough shape for the truck (which it is), that the snow is gone from all the private roads and driveways, and that there will not be any problems with sink-holes or mud (after last year's experience). I'll check around up here and let them know. It might be good for all of you who know what you need to let them know. They like to hear from each of you with your orders. Last year I think most of us talked to Carol. Tell her I'm still here and I'll call too, but can't do so until I am out. She can leave me a message if she has any questions or concerns. I suggest the week of the 25th. Northern Energy: 800-683-0115

Friday, May 1

Most driveways should be accessible now. There is a warm wind this morning. It's going to be a real nice day, probably above 70. Rain is back in the weekend forecast. A forest service lock problem was found and corrected again yesterday. Please keep an eye on it when you come through the gate.

Monday, April 27 - Still Melting
Someone just reminded me that it has been a while - sure enough! There hasn't been much news. Commuting is uneventful now. We're still parking on the main road, but the snow is going fast. Probably by next weekend, we can get off the main road and back into our driveways. The County meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 11. I haven't seen any bears yet but I've heard about some. More soon! More sooner if someone sends me some news!

Thursday, April 9 - Great Food (and security issues)


This is Leanne and Henry at the Old School BBQ, just east of Monroe in front of the reptile zoo. I have always wanted to try this place but had trouble finding it open at the odd hours when I travel. Today, I finally made it. This place is real friendly and the food is outstanding! I have been to plenty of Texas BBQs (in Texas) - none better. If you haven't tried it yet, I recommend that you do. I plan to stop regularly.

The pass is all bare gravel now, most of it for a single lane only. Watch those blind corners. There is still a LOT of snow off the main road and around the cabins. Parking still has to be on the main road. For those of you between the Howard Creek bridge and the washout, that section is not yet driveable - still quite a ways to go on the melting and I don't yet know about trees over the road. Maybe some of the hikers will let us know. The Forest Service side of the gate has been vandalized again for illegal access. The rangers have been notified and have probably already secured it. Law enforcement patrols will be resuming shortly. There was one breakin over the winter that I know of. Some of us are starting to watch the neighborhood in shifts during the week. This week, we had a Mon/Tue guy, followed by a Tue/Wed guy. I took the Wed/Thu and the Thu/Fri guy was there when I left today. We can get emergency calls out via satellite phone. Help can easily be inbound before anyone who shouldn't be there can finish the trip out. If you have the flexibility and would like to help coordinate with us in this way, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 7 - Road Repair Progress
Snohomish County has announced the completion of a feasibility study for Index-Galena road relocation as a means of repair. This is an engineering-based study, now published in considerable detail, which includes a recommendation to move the damaged road away from the river, upslope into the hillside. Per the county's website (see link above), the project is still proceeding on schedule. A design report should now be completed in 2010. A public meeting to present information, and to take questions and comments, is being planned by the county for late May or early June of this year. This is a direct link to the published document. With a right-click on this link, you can download and save this PDF locally for convenient review. Happy reading!

Saturday, April 4
Nice weekend weather! No news yet. Will be here for whatever comes in.

Last report was "impassible" during the week. Does anyone know?

Friday, March 27
There were reports of new snow on the ground in Gold Bar this week. The Beckler Road was found plowed on Thursday, but not beyond the end of the pavement, where it appeared that several vehicles turned around, unable to continue. I have not yet heard anything regarding plowing progress or intentions for this weekend. Since a winter storm watch is in effect through Saturday with possible heavy accumulations of new snow, this is probably not a good time to plow, or to commute in if they have, due to the possibility of getting stuck there.

Saturday, March 21 - Pass Open
I just learned that the road was plowed through again yesterday afternoon. It was raining (not snowing), so hopefully the entire route is open again for this weekend.

Friday, March 20
Pass conditions for this weekend are not yet known. The weather forecast is a little stinky again. Yesterday, there was 4" of new snow on the Beckler, so the pass was not attempted. The Index-Galena road above Index was driveable with 2" of new snow. There was about 4" of new in the valley above the washouts. Hiking was more difficult due to the new snow and warmer weather with melting. Snow depth is still about a foot on the unplowed road. Hiking time is two hours or more depending on how hard you work at it. Some have hiked in with chains to try to retrieve a 4WD vehicle that couldn't make it out last weekend after the new snow. No news has come out of the valley yet for this weekend.

Friday, March 13 - Pass Update
The route has been impassable again this week but has now been plowed up to, but not beyond the gate. The depth of new snow on the road beyond the gate was reported to be about 5 or 6 inches. I suspect there will be a fair amount of traffic enroute this afternoon to beat that down. It sounds like chains might be adviseable. Keep in mind that much new precipitation is in the forecast for the weekend. Keep an eye on exit conditions, or be prepared to stay.

Friday, February 27 - Pass Open Again
Cecil's crew found a foot of new snow on Jacks Pass and has plowed it open again. Thanks Cecil, and please thank your crew for us!

Wednesday, February 25 - Pass Conditions
Monday night, the pass was bare and wet. Most of the entire route has been cleared wide enough for passing traffic. Tuesday at noon, there was 2-4" of new snow on top and for at least the upper third of both grades. It did not look like the depth of the snow would be a problem through yesterday, but traction was an issue. It was very slippery, probably requiring 4WD or chains to climb either grade later in the day. Today, there has been much new precipitation in the area. The depth of new snow may be a problem by now. Certainly, traction will still be an issue. A winter weather advisory is in effect, calling for quite a bit of new snow.

Saturday, February 21 - ROAD OPEN
Many reports have come in that the road is in fantastic shape and all have expressed their appreciation for the crew's awesome work. Hiking conditions from the Index side have also been reported to be very good, with a firm lower snow pack and much of the tedious snow gone from the forest on the hillside. Snow damage reports are starting to come in. Please check your properties.

Friday, February 20 - The road opens at noon today.
The Jacks Pass road work is near completion this morning. WSDOT plans to wrap up, change the lock, remove the signs and open the road at noon today. Once again, many thanks to Cecil and his crews for their hard work, and to our friends at  Snohomish County for the arrangements.

They worked long hours at times, and with plenty of challenges. The usual rockpile awaits in the photo on the right.

. .
Cecil regrets that they are unable to plow beyond the Howard Creek bridge due to the weight limit.

Tuesday, February 17 - Plowing Update
Cecil wrote moments ago to share the news that they have reached the cabins. There are still some challenges due to slides and they still have quite a bit of work to do (a few more days). They "just got through." THE ROAD IS STILL CLOSED. Our padlock has been changed at the gate. There will be no access until they get back to us with news that they have finished and have removed the road closure and restored our padlock. It looks pretty good for this weekend. I should have more details and more of their photos online by tomorrow. Thank you Cecil!

Saturday, February 14 - Hiking Conditions
Hiking conditions are reported to be... Two hours enroute, four inches of new snow - about 24" total on the valley floor.
Snowshoes and traction devices were not required. There is a pack of coyotes in the valley.

Friday, February 13 - More Plowing News
Bob is back again with photos of the tree-on-the-bridge problem. I also received a very nice report from a snowcat expedition last weekend. First, here is the latest news from the county about the road clearing project. Cecil and his WSDOT crew are back on the job. They have completed the Beckler pavement stretch and have started up the hill on the USFS gravel portion. They are now making steady progress, but slowly and not without difficulties. In one day, 43 trees had to be cleared. Last weekend, four vehicles had to be stopped which had gone past the "road closed" signs. This has raised safety concerns. Not only can they not operate when there are public safety concerns, they will not appreciate being stuck in there at the end of a day's work when someone gets stuck on the "closed road" behind them. We have been urged to please wait patiently for further news and to PLEASE honor their "road closed" signs when they are in there working. No one needs to drive up there to see how things are going. You can't get close enough to tell. It has been mentioned that vehicle plate numbers will be recorded. They wish to remind us that they DO work on the weekend. Cecil will let us know how they are doing next week, and they will absolutely let us know when the job is complete so that we can then go in. I will not be out of touch when their news comes in. If things are quiet here, I am still waiting for news too. I have backup for this, so there will be no delay in posting the good news here when it comes in. My thanks to our county contacts for keeping us informed, and again to Cecil and his crew!  It sounds like our wait may soon be over - couple of weeks, maybe!

Friday, February 6
There is hearsay today on both plowing and road reconstruction.

There has been new information from WSDOT that the road clearing project (snow and debris removal) is expected to take approximately three weeks. Progress is slow and they are not yet past the Beckler pavement. New snow is expected on the highways and they may have to leave this job at times. We need to be patient. Staying out of their way will help to expedite their results.

One of our property owners has inquired at the state level, having found someone who knows someone at the federal level, who has knowledge that the Index-Galena Road reconstruction project is "going forward with the highest level of environmental review."  This was thought to be the good news, while the bad news was that such a review "will take a maximum time to process - likely at least three years" (before construction can begin). This is not yet out of line with what we have been told all along.

Tuesday, February 3 - Plowing has begun
Cecil and the WSDOT crew are hard at work on the Beckler and Jacks Pass route now. Please watch for news of their progress and PLEASE do not attempt to follow them in. When the road is open, they will let us know. Until then, it is important that we respect their signage and stay out of the way. We do not yet have an estimated time of completion. I understand that it is going slowly due to the compacted snow and ice caused by recreational snowmobile traffic. There is also a good possibility that they are finding trees down that need to be dealt with, as was the case last year. There is no news yet of avalanche blockage, but this too is a possibility. Last year there were two and each of them took days. We need to be patient. Thank you, SnoCo for these arrangements and Cecil and crew for coming!

Saturday, January 24 - Hiking news
Bob is back with another hiking report. The road from Index to the roadblock is plowed and in good condition. There is now about 24" of snow in the valley. It is consolidated with a hard crust and easy to walk on. Snowshoes are not needed or advised. Travel time is about two hours each way (for Bob). The route around the road damage through the woods is often icy and Bob's old snowshoe tracks are apparently NOT the best place to step. Traction devices for the boots will be helpful (like Yak Tracks). There are few signs of any recreational use, and no indications of mischief. There are some new cases of snow load damage to chimneys and at least one trailer.

A significant hazard has been left at the Galena bridge by the recent flooding. A large tree is trapped on the upriver side of the bridge, now suspended mostly above the water line. The superstructure and road surface are not affected. The concern is that this may cause a destructive logjam if not cleared before there is additional flooding. The route in from upriver will probably have to be cleared before this can happen due to the probable need for heavy equipment to handle it safely. Bob has advised one of the County engineers. We will also advise USFS. We don't have photos yet, so if anyone gets any, will you please send me a copy? This bridge provides a crucial, sole means of access to private properties and the Wild Sky Wilderness on the north side of the Index-Galena road. Help!

Bob has been as far upriver as the Troublesome Creek bridge. Since no mention was made of road damage, I assume that the problematic low spots just above us are OK this time. For at least that distance, the road looks good for snowmobiles. There are a few places where the rain has washed the road bare, but adequate snow and ice remains for snowmobile travel. Some work may be needed to condition the burms for crossing where the water washed across the road. The rest of the route over the pass to the Beckler and Hwy 2 is still an unknown.  Thank you, Mountain man Bob!

Friday, January 23 - Plowing hopes
I have asked our contacts at Snohomish County again recently about their plowing intentions. The new Operations Manager is coordinating with WSDOT. We do not yet know the outcome, but it was good news to hear that they are coordinating. WSDOT crews have been (and may still be) very busy. I will post any more news that I receive on this as soon as I get it. If anyone has any hike-in news, will you please let me know for the benefit of all? One concern is that since the warmer weather and rain, we may not have enough snow on the ground at the lower levels now to complete another snowmobile trip. Does anyone know? We also have yet to confirm that there is no new damage to the main road above the cabins due to the recent flooding. From the data we have on river levels at the time of the flooding, I suspect that we'll be OK there. However, there is also the possibility of new avalanche trouble over the road. The earlier news on trees was pretty good from both Ed's snowmobile report, and Bob's hiking report - but there has been much wind and rain since then.

Saturday, January 10
Bob Plaag hiked in yesterday and came out today, and has sent this full report.  Thanks Bob!

I snowshoed to my cabin yesterday, returning today.

Thursday, there was too much water on the road, 2 miles from Index, for me to cross, but pickup trucks and SUVs where having little trouble. Friday, there was still water over the road, but my Civic handled it with no problem. The road has been plowed to the roadblock. There was mud and sand on the road Thursday, about 1.5 miles before the roadblock, but this had been cleared by today (Saturday). Someone had dumped a bunch of electronic trash at the road block, including a TV. I picked up the lighter stuff, but was unable to recover the TV. There is about 30" of snowpack at Skyko 3/4. There were no other (human) tracks visible on the entire route, and no trace of snowmachine tracks at Skyko. Presumably, fresh snow has covered them.

I heard some coyotes howling and backing during my trip out. The snow is deep and soft. I had to use Sherpa snowshows on the entire route, even through the woods around the washouts. It took me 3 hours each way. Snowshoes sink about 6" to 8". There is a slide (maybe 60' long, 1' deep) near the pile of rocks about 1.5 miles downstream of Galena. I've attached 4 photos that the County highway people might be interested in. Closer to Index (maybe a mile upstream from the upper washout), a lot of water had travelled down the shoulder, damaging the ditch/shoulder area, covering some of the road surface with debris, and undermining the pavement at one point where the water finally crossed the road, towards the river. Attached are two more photos.

Also, based on the snow lines, the flood at Skyko 3/4 was not too big, about 4' (=9000 cfs).  Last year's big flood was 6' (25,000 cfs).  The water goes turbid at about +2' (=2000 cfs), and typical winter levels are +0.5' (400 cfs).

I hope that you find this information timely, interesting, and useful.

The first four photos are of the slide area, looking (1) toward Index, (2) toward the hillside, (3) toward Galena, (4) toward the river.
The last two are of the (presumably new) road damage that Bob mentioned.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Here we go again... Please send flood-related news if you have any.

New Year's Eve
Happy new year, everyone! Ed (the other Ed) sent this excellent, detailed report this morning about their recent snowmobile trip to the cabins. Thanks Ed!

Good Morning Bruce,

I am writing to give you an update on the road as witnessed this past week by snowmobile. Dan Thumlert and myself had the opportunity to head up to Skykomish and venture off into Skyko 3-4 this past Tuesday/Wednesday. The first and most problematic area was the turn-off to Beckler River Road. There was a large berm created by the plowing on Highway 2 which stopped my large 4X4 dead leaving me strung out across 1-1/2 lanes of highway 2 for about 10 minutes. Luckily we were able to flag down a passing truck with a front mounted plow who helped pull us through onto Beckler River road where we could park for the overnight. The owner of the mobile home and towing service there on the Northeast corner of Hwy 2 and Beckler Rd. has maintained a small portion to his driveway but then the virgin snow stars abruptly thereafter. When we spoke to that property owner, he make it clear that he was NOT going to allow some type of Sno Park for daily recreational users. He was easy to speak with and helpful to us though we were able to sense some distaste to how the county handled things last year. The roadway thereafter was in remarkably good condition with only smaller trees with diameters less than 4 inches laying across the road in places. We were able to go around and over most all of the trees avoiding having to cut any altogether. The snow has not been traveled on and is quite deep in places. We only noted around 18 inches around the cabins with roofs and chimneys intact as far as we could see. I am sure that the snow loads have gotten much heavier since then due to another foot or two of snowfall and the rising temps as well. We received another foot of snow on Tues eve which made the trip back over the pass appear as if we had never come across the day before! The snow was fairly light non-compacted powder for the 30-48 inches of depth up and over the pass. Both the forest service gate and the bridge gates were locked and difficult to negotiate unlocking due to temps in the low 20s freezing them up. I do not know the current status of the roads as it has now been a week since our departure. The snowmobiling conditions were ideal and until the DOT gets in there and starts chipping away at the road, they will remain as such. Please let me know if you hear of any changes in road conditions and I will do the same. I hope this finds you well,

Ed Zercher

Christmas Eve - Plowing News
We do not yet have news from the County on this year's plowing intentions. I have inquired and they do not yet know. As you might guess, Public Works crews have been VERY busy plowing Snohomish County. How busy? As of yesterday morning they had plowed 50,000 miles of roadway so far this year. Imagine driving more than twice around the world at the equator - with a snow plow! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 22 - Too Much Snow
The pass is obviously impossible. For hikers, the main road on the Index side is not yet plowed, has no fresh tracks, and only a couple of miles could be done this morning with chains. The snow was about a foot deep there.

Monday, December 15 - Impossible Drive
A low 2WD vehicle made it to the top of Jack Pass today in the tracks of prior traffic on the Beckler grade. However, he was not able to descend on the North Fork side, even with chains, and estimates that 4WD pickups might not make it either (even with chains). Even before it gets worse, it looks like we would need some plowing, some melting, or some courageous, heavier 4WD traffic beyond the pass. More snow (maybe a lot more snow) is expected on Wednesday.Hiking in from the Index side, the road was found to be driveable in the North Fork valley, with about 2 inches (but no way to get there).

Friday, December 12 - Snow Begins
Thursday night was a beautiful crossing - clear, bare and dry with a full moon. This is noon on Friday with about six inches. It was slippery stuff. I needed 4WD on the grades and a 2WD pickup had to chain up. There was probably a lot more new snow in the afternoon. Please send your commuting news if you have any.

Thursday, December 11 - Severe Weather
Snow is imminent and extreme cold is expected for a few days beginning Saturday night.
It is time to start watching pass and commuting conditions. Please help me. Are we ready?
After last year, the late onset has been much appreciated!

Friday, November 14 - No flood complications
Two of the usual problem areas - all clear

The route in has not been seriously affected by the recent flooding. As of late yesterday, there was no significant new washout damage, and no road blockages due to slides or debris. There is minor debris in the road in various places. Thank you, Scheins for the report and the photos!

New from the County this morning:
Project Manager Steve Dolde provided the following information this morning. Check the web site for periodic updates. . .
Road Maintenance did provide emergency flood response this past week at Index Galena MP 3.0.  The crews placed large rock to protect the road from high flow river erosion.  I do not believe anyone has investigated the upper end for any current damage.
Index Galena MP 6.4 – 6.9 is proceeding on schedule with the following basic timelines:
Wednesday, November 12 - Possible Flooding
10 AM:  Index is now in Flood Phase 4. We are not getting valid data currently from the Galena site.
Noon:  Index is near 30 ft.  We have data now at the Galena site, still under 9 ft. (not yet flood phase 2).

Saturday, November 8
The high water has not closed the route in.
Watch for water over the road and debris left behind in some of the usual places by the peak we had on Friday afternoon.

Friday, November 7 - The river is rising.
4:00 AM:  Indexis now at Flood Phase 2.  Weare not there yet.

Wednesday, October 22
I have some news but it is going out privately today as a newsletter. Watch for it in e-mail.

Friday, October 17 - Propane
Our propane delivery will now be on Tuesday.  Northern Energy believes they have heard from all but two of us.
Those will be missed if they remain unconfirmed, because there will not be a delivery ticket. NE has tried to call,
and may have left messages. I will e-mail.

Saturday, October 11 - Cold!
It was 32.2 degrees here this morning - not quite frost but almost!

Wednesday, October 8
Thanks to all of you who have called Northern Energy. Our propane delivery is scheduled for Monday the 20th.

Sunday, September 21
A US Forest Service officer was killed yesterday while on duty on the Olympic Peninsula.  Link to the story

Saturday, September 20 - Gunfire
A law enforcement vehicle was seen in the area last night - whether County Sheriff or USFS is not known. Not necessarily related: There has been a lot of big-bore gunfire in the valley this weekend. This is not a complaint - just information. I don't need to hear from anyone about gun rights. This is a wilderness area. It would be reassuring to some of us if we knew the source - especially since it did not cease until 3AM this morning. This also happened two weeks ago. This is not hunting. It sounds like training to me. If anyone can explain, will you please let us know?

Tuesday, September 16 - Propane

As much as I wish it were not, it is that time of year again. Northern Energy has asked that we get our act together again for "last chance" service in October. As usual, they plan to make one trip for all of us. Please call them to get listed for service if you would like to be topped off for Winter. We may not see them again until May.

Monday, September 15
Sorry I have been so scarce lately. I have been busy and without much news.
Checking around, I found a few things...

Something New

There was recently a good deal of survey work being done on the closed road. We believe this to be part of the study of road relocation options. More recently, this change appeared at the Howard Creek bridge. This is an old structural design (with log supports), and there seems to have been an inspection. The weight limit and reduction to a single lane seems to indicate that there may be some structural issues here. I find this to be good news in that someone is looking closely at the condition of this road above the washouts, hopefully in preparation for improvements.

Impressive Cleanup
In recent weeks, the County has had heavy equipment in here cleaning up asphalt and concrete from in and near the river at the upper end of the washouts. This is described by the County as mitigation workahead of the larger project of rebuilding or relocating the road. It does not mean that construction has begun, or that it is imminent. I consider it more than likely related to the issue of getting permits to do more. This is encouraging.

New Mining Claim

Many of you will recognize this familar rockpile. This is now "Mighty One," a recently recorded mining claim. I have not yet found the public records online, but I presume this to mean that we and our kids are finished prospecting here. My understanding is that there is no concept of "trespassing" here - just a restriction on mining and removal of materials. I have heard an interesting story about the history of this rockpile.

Mushrooms growing in asphalt

Saturday, September 13 - Watch your speed
One of us has received a written warning ticket from Brad for speed in excess of 25 on the gravel road.

Wednesday, August 20 - Bear
A large bear has been seen twice in the last two days on the main road just beyond the North Fork bridge.
The most recent sighting was last evening. It is not particularly shy and seems indifferent toward cars.
P.S. This is a real bear (not a hoax).

Tuesday, August 19
From the National Weather Service this morning...

Friday, August 8
The incident last Friday night apparently involved some uninvited guests on an upper Silver Creek mining claim. When they were confronted by the claim holder, they were apparently non-cooperative and there may have been some gun brandishing. This is an obscure, hike-in-only location well beyond the driveable portion of the Silver Creek road, so those who know of Joe's mining camp (which is well watched) need not be concerned. The property owners up there are quite vigilent. Those whom I have heard from were happy to report that their cabins and properties were not involved, but they were aware of the incident. Please continue to pay "discreet" attention to unfamiliar vehicles in the area.

Wednesday, August 6
Thanks for writing in, upper Silver Creek neighbors! Shortly, I will have a few more details to share on that incident last weekend. Please give me another day or two to sort everything out, and in case more information comes in. Some of the details may not be made public, in which case I will send out a private distribution. I will comment further here by the end of the week in hopes of "closing the issue."

Monday, August 4
Looks like we are in for a hot, dry week!

There was an incident late Friday night involving a property "somewhere up Silver Creek" (outside our immediate community) resulting in an emergency visit by two Sheriff's vehicles. There has been a "suspect" vehicle in the area, but I am looking for more details before I say more. I am hoping to hear from the property owners up there. If anyone knows anything more, please let me know.

Snohomish County is expected to make a substantial contribution to the Heybrook Ridge effort.
This is the Everett Herald story.   Check here for more information.

Sunday, August 3 - Wild Sky Press
This is the cover story in the Seattle Times today.  Here comes the publicity!  Will it help to expedite road repairs?

Monday, July 28
It rained quite a lot in Gold Bar and Index yesterday, but at our end of the valley, we just had some light showers and drizzle through the evening. The ground is a little wet this morning, but it is sunny and drying up fast. There is more rain in the forecast for tomorrow.

Monday, July 21
More fabulous weather!  Not many berries this year so far - too late with the warm weather and too dry, I suppose.  Need some rain (I am concerned about the mushroom season).  Bear hunting starts on August 1.  No other news, really - just here working on my place if anyone needs anything.

Sunday, July 20 - Life Along Hwy 2
I just happened to catch this article in the Seattle Times Northwest Magazine today, which features, among some other interesting and perhaps relevant things, some comments by and about Bill Mercer, the "logger" from Sultan who was recently here to help out with some challenging tree removals in Skyko 4. I'm sure we'll see Bill back. You may want to look him up or let me know if you have still have tree issues. It works out well for everyone if we can all work together to consolidate the work into a single trip for his crew. I know about two trees so far that didn't make "the cut" last time.

Wednesday, July 9
The County vehicles are still in the area. They appear to be doing survey work related to the upriver road repairs of which we were told earlier.

"Here kittie-kittie..."
 Photo by Dan Thumlert

From the USFS ...

Leave Fireworks at Home when visiting the National Forest

Visitors recreating on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are reminded that using or possessing fireworks of any kind is illegal on all federal and state-managed public lands in Washington throughout the year, due to the potential fire danger.

Tuesday, July 1 - County Vehicles
There have been several County vehicles back and forth on the inside road yesterday and today. They do not appear to be work crew related. Maybe this is something encouraging. Does anyone know what they are doing? They have not slowed down for me to ask, and I'm too busy to chase down the road to snoop...

Thursday, June 26
Sunday has been confirmed for the tree work mentioned below. Best to get in touch quickly if you wish to participate.

Wednesday, June 25 - Tree Removal
Bill Mercer of Mercer Cutting in Sultan will be here with a crew in a few days to remove some difficult trees in Skyko 4. There may be room in his schedule for a few more trees. I expect a confirmation on the planned workday(s) shortly. The quote for adding trees to this job will be quite reasonable and the work will be insured. If you need one or more trees removed, please contact Bill or let me know and I will put you in touch with someone involved. I will be back with more details on this when I have them.

Tuesday, June 10 - June Snow!
It was 36 here this morning. We had new snow down to about 2000 ft. I drove up to the Jacks Pass summit (just to see June snow) and
found it for the upper two switchbacks with an inch or two still on top - little stuck to the road. It had turned to rain by the time I got there.

Looking down the Beckler grade from Jack summit

This avalanche was just above
the gate. Meltdown has
a long ways to go

Monday, June 9
Believe it or not, there is a heavy snow warning in effect for tonight that may affect Jacks Pass.

The Russian campers are back, this time for a three month stay. These are good people and well known to some of us now. They are on private property as invited guests of the owner. Roman owns three college track records and has now graduated from St. Peters with an MBA in International Business and Trade. Now a candidate for "professional runner," he will be training here daily for the entire summer under conditions he believes to be ideal. To help Roman improve his times, I suggested that he carry a Dr. Pepper!  He is accompanied by his father, "Uri" (that's how you say it, not how you spell it) who speaks limited English but will smile big and say "thank you very much" (and mean it) if you get a chance to help them out with a ride now and then when they're out (hiking) for supplies. We will see Roman making tracks often up and down the entire length of closed road from the gate to the washout. I consider them quite welcome and appreciate their additional "eyes" around the neighborhood. I will keep in touch with Roman about what he sees and hears in his travels and will provide a means of emergency communication if there is a need.

The Wild Sky Wilderness was signed into law by President Bush on May 8. The links above should still be fairly relevant for news and information. This Everett Herald editorial suggests, as many of us have been hoping, that this situation may help to motivate more expeditious road repairs. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen, while in Index to celebrate, seemed well aware that there was no practical way to do so from on-site in the heart of the new wilderness area.  A more complete story is here.

I have not yet elaborated on the County's recent news regarding road repair progress and intentions. I know that most of the property owners have this news. If you do not, feel free to write for it and I will summarize privately. I thought it might show up on their website, but I do not see it there yet. Recently, we have seen two Snohomish County Sheriff's vehicles in the area. We don't know why they were here (or we're not telling), but it was good to see them here. I had a visit with Brad Lammers (USFS law enforcement) at the gate last weekend. It's always good to see him here too. Officers, we appreciate your visits!

Kayakers have been seen going by on the North Fork and in Silver Creek! It is good to see some of that determined recreational use. I heard from a climbing group who were also in touch last year. They had a scenic and successful backcountry trip from near here on Memorial Day weekend. They sent some nice photos and a full hiking report. I'll be back with more of that after I check on their preferences. There have been a number of bear sightings nearby since Memorial Day weekend. I think that pretty much wraps up the recent stuff I have been planning to post. As always, your contributions will be much appreciated.

Sunday, June 1 - Fishing Opens

Friday Update - Road News
Snohomish County has come forward with some new information today about their intentions and progress with Index-Galena Road repairs. Some of you will see this in a private distribution. This may be available soon on the County website (see link above). I am currently without the time, but will summarize within the next few days.

Friday, May 30 - Propane
The propane deliveries were completed on Thursday for those who requested service. Many thanks to Steve Griffith, who took the day off to help, and to Northern Energy and their drivers.

Memorial Day - Fishing
There was a Fish and Wildlife official in the area this weekend, watching for illegal fishing. There have been some known difficulties with poaching in the area. I have his contact information if anyone wants to report anything. Fishing opens on June 1 with the usual "closed waters" which are upriver from here.

Sunday, May 25 - Propane
Great weekend - now LOTS of residents! Someone has offered to meet the propane truck if no one else is available. Since he must take a day off from work, it would still be good to hear from someone who may plan to be coming up anyway.

Saturday, May 24
The sunshine is finally back this morning, just in time. I checked the road to the washout this morning - don't see any incoming hikers yet. It is still fairly quiet - a few neighbors but not too many. A young bear chased a car down the road yesterday like the forgotten, family dog. Maybe there was some Dr. Pepper in the car. Two of us who were previously planning to help with the propane truck will now have conflicts this week. Can someone else who is planning on service help us with meeting the truck at the gate one day this week? Please let me know...

Thursday, May 22
The County road crews were here today with several machines. All of the paved road down to the washout is nicely cleaned up and appears to be complete until repair activities are resumed. Some of us have resumed our regular drives down that way. Please join us when you have the opportunity. We have ways to contact the Sheriff's office if you see a need. The gravel road has been filled and graded in places, but does not yet appear to be complete. I would be alert for dump trucks and graders on the pass Friday if you are commuting, in case they are still working.

Sad News:  Joe, our regular propane truck driver, died suddenly from a heart attack last week (at 41, I believe). This was quite an upset for Northern Energy. They are still scrambling to recover from the hard winter (everywhere), and now this. We are still in their sights, most likely for next week.

Wednesday Evening
The lower roadway is partly cleaned up, and the upper roadway is a bit more cleaned up too. It may have been the late-day start, or there was perhaps no chainsaw on-hand. The entire "inside" road is still navigable, but still trashy for the lower couple of miles. I assume that we may see the County road crew back tomorrow. I heard nothing more from anyone on the propane situation through today, so I assume it is off for this week. I will check on that from within cell coverage tomorrow. The "kids" who were camping down the road last weekend cleaned up their campsite nicely - well, mostly. Thanks guys! I found a shotgun shell, but it was a different type than what was used on the destroyed vehicle further down the road. There are still plenty of obvious reasons for the public road closure. Permit holders, please drive carefully. Those who must still walk in, welcome too - stop by and say hi! We are not hostile in here. The river looks great. The weather looks awful. The holiday weekend forecast is promising!

Wednesday Update
A grader just went by. I assume the County road crew is here for the pre-holiday weekend cleanup on the lower road that was mentioned earlier.

Wednesday, May 21 - One of us made the news
It was "one of us" who made this 911 call this morning after discovering the "bad guy" on their property. It is bizarre how this occurred while we were discussing our mutual intolerance for crime (up here, specifically) in e-mail at the time that it happened. This "bad guy" was lucky the cops showed up quickly. Believe me, one does NOT want to go uninvited onto some private property around here.

Monday Update
The propane truck will now be able to reach all properties. Will someone who is expecting service please check with them on Tuesday to see when they plan to be here and let me know?  I can meet the truck at the gate anytime this week. After I know the day, I will get in touch with the driver to work out a plan for meeting at the gate. Thanks.

Monday,  May 19 - More vandalism, raccoon party, propane
The entire road to the washout is now navigable, but still a mess - not yet cleaned up by the County. In addition to the vehicle damage reported earlier, a "commuter vehicle" which was left near the washout by one of us has been totally destroyed by rocks, handguns, rifles, shotguns and beer bottles. The owner is aware of it and I am waiting for news regarding possible Snohomish County Sheriff's Dept. involvement. Several of us made an effort on Saturday to greet and talk to some young, walk-in campers down the road who were using guns. No trouble really, and they were polite. We just didn't want them to think that we were impolite. We would feel terrible if they had a medical emergency for some reason, perhaps due to the mix of guns and alcohol, if they didn't know we were up here to help. Some engineers are here to assess snow damage to a neighbor's cabin - great to see! I just learned that squatters were in a close neighbor's cabin for a while just before the big snow, or possibly for shelter sometime early during the big snow. It was a polite visit, except for one broken window. Most of the damage was from the raccoon party inside after they left. I believe the propane truck can reach everyone now. I will double-check today. Please let Northern Energy know if you are planning on service. We will need to arrange for a time to meet them at the gate.

Saturday (old news)
Please consider this avalanche warning if you travel. Some of the route we use is considered to be the type of "backcountry" of primary concern.
There is a significant risk NOW and we have had prior avalanches on this route.
My thanks to our County engineers for this reminder.

Friday Evening

The river is pretty busy with the melting snow. It is just in the process of turning from green to brown. Most of you know what that means for level. The hydrograph at the Galena bridge still shows an upward trend, but I suspect it will level off after sundown. It is just about right for great sleep - noisy but no worries! I expect to have a very interesting bear story for you shortly.

Bear Story
My friends stopped to see the commotion on their way out today, and sent me the photos. This is near an occupied, unimproved campsite up the road above the locked gate, just above the bridge over the river where the pavement runs out. When the occupants approached their car, this bear was reaching into a partway open window. It wanted a pop bottle out of the car, which somehow, it got. It ran to the nearby tree and looked like it was about to climb, but didn't. When it was gone, my friends went to the tree (dummies), only to find that the bear was still very nearby. They made a lot of noise until it left and then stopped by the Ranger Station on the way out to report it. Their concern was that the bear did not seem to have any fear of the people in the area. The rangers will check it out and consider a relocation for the bear.

Oh come on... you guys really expect me to print this? OK... straight from the horse's mouth...

    The rangers said... "Oh no... it must be the infamous Dr. Pepper thief!"
    "We have got to do something about this before we all run out of Dr. Pepper!"

Just got a few more details:  This bear smashed the windshield - not out, but there is a big, shattered "paw print" in it. The bear pulled the Dr. Pepper from between the two front seats through the partway open side window, which was not damaged. I guess the broken windshield was just attitude! It is hard to tell from the photos, but apparently the bear was quite large.

Friday Update - Still Melting
My friends George and Marty stopped by in a Subaru and George enjoyed the challenge, so he charged through the last of the snow between the entrance and the Skyko 4 gate with no trouble at all. I can get into my driveway now. I still need to check that pileup on the other side, but with any kind of a decent 4x4, I'm sure you can do the same thing on the other side and then everyone will be able to make it to their driveways. I forgot to check peak temperature today, but I saw it go by 73. I'm sure it was at least 76.

Friday, May 16
First bright, sunny, clear, warm weekend of the season - bright moon too!
There are still plenty of "natural" beer coolers in the shade.

What are you waiting for?

Thursday Update - It's melting! It's melting!
That's a new one. I've never done a melting report before - just high water, broken roads and snow. It made 70 between 2:30 and 3:00, then started back down again due to the shade. Soon, you'll be able to make the bridge. You cannot yet turn left into Skyko 3, or right into the short side of Skyko 4 on the other side. Otherwise, all private roads and driveways are already accessible once you get through these thick spots at the center points. I suspect it can be done by tomorrow afternoon, especially after someone beats it down a little trying, or by plowing through with 4WD.

Thursday, May 15 - It's here!

I still cannot get into my driveway.  It is not yet possible to drive into Skyko 4.

Wednesday, May 14 - Says the National Weather Service...

Tuesday, May 13 - Vandalism
Someone has come around the washouts during the last couple of weeks to entertain themselves by vandalizing a Ford pickup that was parked on this side by one of us who had hoped to be able to depend on it. All the windows were smashed out and all the tires were slashed. We know who it belongs to and he is aware of it. Hopefully that road will be cleaned up soon so we can start watching that area closer like we have in the past. I'll talk to our friends at Skyko 2 when I get a chance to see if they know anything. They do pay attention as best they can.  Didn't some vandals disappear up here sometime in the past?

Monday, May 12 - Propane is delayed
The propane delivery has been called off for this week. We were unable to get a vehicle from the entrance to the Skyko 4 bridge. Even if we had, most of the private roads and driveways are still impossible to reach. Those of us who need fuel immediately will cope until everyone can be reached when the truck comes up. Please continue to advise Northern Energy of your needs. We are now hoping for next week if there is adequate melting by then.

Sunday, May 11 - Mother's Day
I met a group of day hikers (more like explorers - no packs) not far beyond the Howard Creek bridge on Saturday afternoon. We talked for as long as they would. They were basically turning around at that point, and seemed very surprised to encounter a vehicle on the inside. I think I would rather know that everyone does expect to see our vehicles in the area. Today I declined to let an unpermitted vehicle in at the gate. There was no problem - they understood when all was explained. None of this concerns me, really. It is just an observation that the "curious" are on their way. We need to keep an eye on things, but that is nothing new. It was snowing on Jacks Pass today for the top couple of hundred feet - nothing serious. The weather forecast is awesome for later this week. Steve "the Bear" made the kids and me a great breakfast at the Baring Store. If you haven't tried it, I recommend that you do - especially for breakfast. It is a fun place with a lot of character. I will be back at the cabin tomorrow.

Saturday Update
We are hoping to salvage some propane deliveries for Wednesday by counting on more melting between now and then, and if necessary by shoveling and charging through the snow with trucks or SUVs with chains to beat down some reasonable tracks for the propane truck. If we can thin it out and expose some ground, the melting will be fast. We still have piles of snow two feet deep or more from the main entrance to the private bridge. Who will come help? My vehicle is not right for this. I have an old Pathfinder with 4WD but no chains.

Saturday, May 10 - First bear
We were met by a large bear just above the North Fork bridge on the way in yesterday. It ran off before I could get the picture, but Dan and Lori came in later and it was back. They got some nice photos but we have no way here to transfer them for posting. The main road looks dry beyond Howard Creek, but the debris (as mentioned yesterday) is significant. There is plenty of dry ground around the properties, but still plenty of snow too. I don't think we will be able to get a propane truck into the driveways this week without more melting, or days of shoveling. My tank is flat now too, but I would have to be filled (and can be reached) from the main road. I will take a closer look today at some of the other locations.

Friday, May 9 - County road cleanup - Propane delivery
One of our property owners from "down the road" has asked the County about their intentions for a post-meltdown cleanup. Much of the road down there will still be inaccessible to vehicles after melting due to sizeable, fallen trees and debris. The County has replied to say that they plan to come up this month and expect to have the road cleared between Howard Creek and the washout by Memorial Day. One of our Skyko 4 residents has arranged for a Northern Energy propane delivery on Wednesday, the 14th. If you know you need fuel, please call Northern Energy at 800-683-0115. Talk to Carol or Pam and let them know how much you think you will need. This is not a "service everyone" rescue trip like we had last year. You need to place your orders individually. I will be checking on road and driveway conditions this afternoon, and can do so again Tuesday/Wednesday if necessary.

Wednesday, April 30 - Wild Sky clears Congress
The Wild Sky Wilderness Act now needs only President Bush's signature, which is expected in May.
This Seattle Times article echos what we already know about the road.  Will this speed things up?

Monday, April 21 - Break-in found
Sometime during this winter, and during significant snow, someone hiked in here from the Index side, broke into a Skyko 4 cabin, stole some things, and packed most of them out the same way -- for all those miles, and all those hours. That's pretty gutsy. One item was either too cumbersome to carry all the way (or they were about to get caught with it), and was left behind on the main road where it was later found. We now know who owns it. This is the only break-in this year that I know of, so far. I presume that few folks remain around here who are that incredibly stupid, but somehow, this one got by us. Keep your eyes open, everyone. I think the word is getting around. I don't hesitate to photograph "strangers" that I see in the area. If it's you and you don't like it, well I'm sorry. Please talk to strangers on the trail. It's friendly and appropriate, usually nothing and often rewarding. It can be a great deterrant to the "inbound" and/or helpful in a subsequent investigation. If they're up to no good, they'll prefer to be ignored and may feel empowered by not having been closely seen or spoken to. Let's not help them in that way. We continue to find more snow damage. I'll be getting some new photos out today to someone who has not been here who will find a caved in roof and plenty of snow inside. The pass is in great shape. Please, come check on your places. I made a midnight crossing last night with a full moon. Drove with the lights off for a while - very cool (plenty bright). Did you know that at this time of year, when there is a full moon, you can see it in your rear view mirror (close to the horizon) for MOST of the way up on the Beckler grade? That's how straight that road is! I stopped twice to try to figure out what I kept seeing behind me before I knew what it was. I'm just glad it wasn't Brad (our USFS cop), coming to get me for driving with my lights off! He has a way of showing up along that road just when you least expect him.  <=== attention bad guys

Saturday Afternoon
We are having an occasionally sunny day. The trees have shed their snow. I have seen others drive in, so assume there is no problem with the pass.

Saturday, April 19

It's quite pretty in the valley this morning (if you can still stand the sight of snow).
Everything is covered with fresh, new powder. Since it has been so still, every twig is loaded.
I took these in the early morning before the trees started to shed. It looks like it will all be sunlit very soon.


Friday Evening
Snowing resumed this afternoon. The trees are loaded again. It is below 29 and snowing pretty heavy at 6PM with an inch or so new on the ground, and rising.

Friday Afternoon
The snow has turned mostly to rain and the new stuff is sliding off the trees. Those who just drove in found about 6" of new snow at the top and suggest that reasonable vehicles won't have any trouble, even if it gets a little worse.

Friday Noon - Still snowing
It has has been snowing all morning. It is currently snowing about as heavy as I have ever seen it snow here. The temperature has dropped to 28, so the snow is accumulating. I heard from someone who will be inbound this afternoon, so I should be able to post something on road conditions over the pass later today.

Friday, April 18 - More snow

I drove in Wednesday. At that time, the entire route was bare gravel. The potholes are a little tedious in places. It rained all night and this morning it has been snowing in the valley. For a while, the snowflakes were unusually large. At 8AM, the temperature is 29. Driving conditions over the top are likely deteriorating. If anyone drives in, will you please stop by and let me know how it was up there so we can let the others know? If anyone really needs me to, I can drive up there and check things out. We're probably back into 4WD with chains onboard, just in case.

Friday, April 11
Wild Sky Wilderness approved by the Senate

Tuesday, April 8 - Prospective Buyers
I am sending a distribution today from a prospective cabin buyer. This has reminded me that I heard from Roman Zhmurenka again back in December and neglected to post his news, and his request. Some of us became acquainted with Roman, his dad and friend Mindy as the "Russian campers" on the nearby property of a friend last summer. Roman was training as a runner and really valued his stay here, and his results. You can see the news of his new college recordhere, and some of his other accomplishmentshere. Roman wanted me to ask if anyone knew of any unimproved (and inexpensive) property that he might be able to purchase. You can write to me if you know of anything, or if you need an idea of his budget, and I'll put you in touch. I suspect we will see Roman back this summer, running again on this quiet, mountain road. Hey Roman, check out my time to cover three miles on snowshoes (see January 30). That's probably some kind of a record too!

Friday Afternoon
Raining over most of the route, snowing at the Jacks Pass summit (but not sticking).  2WD passable.

Friday, April 4 - Silver Creek Trail

Crossing Cascade Gulch

Time to go to work!

Skip and friends have returned from a successful trip up the Silver Creek trail to their property Monday through Wednesday. After three miles of difficult snowshoeing over seven hours, they found everything still substantially buried in snow. Remaining (since the flood) log bridges along the way were still intact. They consider the "slide area" quite dangerous but passable if skillfully handled.

Thursday, April 3 - More Plowing
WSDOT made a trip over the pass yesterday with a grader and replowed it. They found about two feet of new snow since they previously had it cleared and some narrowing near the top, but otherwise consider it still passable. If there is more new snow to worsen the currently marginal lane width, they will consider another run with the snow blower. Thanks again, Cecil and crew!

Monday, March 31
Thank you to all contributors for your reports with the weekend news on area conditions. If there are more, please keep them coming.
I see a chance of snow in the forecast for tonight, and one more slight chance for tomorrow, then MAYBE it's over for this year!

Sunday, March 30
 Photo by Lew Peterson
There were periods of new snow throughout the weekend. These were exit conditions at mid-day on Sunday, whereas the tracks were well worn down at the time of entry on Saturday. As you can see, the new snow has been crowding the single lane from the edges and passing conditions are not what they used to be. I would not go without 4WD, chains and a shovel until these snow showers have ceased for the season. And as the road clears up with the melting, we still have some tree hazards. Something to drag or cut them with might save your trip. I noticed recently that there are several small to mid-size trees leaning well over the road which seem to be supported by the tall snow banks. It looks as though they will settle into the road as the snow melts down.

Saturday Update
There was at least one known successful round trip for today. It was snowing heavy on the pass during the morning hours with about 14" of snow to drive through. Others were seen coming in during the afternoon hours after more clearing, so it seems that the road is still passable for capable vehicles.

Saturday, March 29
An update on road conditions since the snow seems to have quit on Saturday would be appreciated.  Does anyone know?

Friday, March 28
 Photo by Bob Plaag *
This vehicle and one other were known to cross the pass on Thursday and Friday. The Civic was marginal but was able to make it with chains. The other was a large SUV and was OK with 4WD and no chains. They had to stop and do some shoveling to pass each other. There were about 8" of new snow on top. This photo was taken at 11AM on Friday. There is likely more new snow since then, and so far no more news.

* I can assure you that Bob knew where he was going, and was well prepared for the 10 mile hike if it didn't work out!

Monday, March 24
I know of several who made it in for the weekend. There was some success with some of the needed repairs. The weather was spectacular on Saturday with easy driving. By Sunday, the precipitation had returned and there was new snow on the pass. Again, 4WD became necessary to complete the climb to the top while driving out.

Noon Thursday
Bob made it out in the Civic. A Samurai made it in. It's sunny in the valley now.
I think it's fine to come in, but keep an eye on the pass if we get more precip. and you HAVE to drive out.

Thursday Update - Been there
There is snow on the road starting at Troublesome Creek. I made it to the top, but had to use 4WD starting about halfway up - no chains. There is 6" of new snow on top and it is still snowing. The sky cover looked pretty thin up there. I don't think it will get a lot worse today. It should be warming up soon. There is a 2WD Civic outbound now with chains. I will check with him when he makes it to the other side. Then we will know if the entire Beckler grade is clear.

Thursday Morning - Road concerns
It is snowing lightly and we had showers all night. I am concerned about the road and will drive up to check on it today.

Wednesday Afternoon
It's real nice here today - sunny and above 40. Two more cars made it in, one a 2WD Civic. The road is in great shape with a couple inches of snow on top.

Wednesday, March 19 - Weekend Weather
One of our County engineers wrote this morning to offer this useful link (also provided above for long-term use) to a digital point forecast for the precise location (and elevation) of Jacks Pass. It looks a little tedious to interpret, but is probably worth getting used to at times like this when we still have the potential for intermittent issues with snow-related, poor driving conditions. We know that the weather can differ greatly between locations no more than five miles apart around here, especially with this kind of elevation change. Note that currently... this chart shows a significant potential for enough snow ON the pass to strand cars here during the upcoming weekend. I'm not trying to discourage anyone. These places need attention, but please keep a close watch on the weather and those pass conditions. And, as I have suggested before, it is advisable to come in prepared to stay or walk out in case the road closes behind you. This can be caused by snow OR trees (unless you are prepared to move them). Even as good as the driving conditions were last weekend, I am only here because I was equipped and willing to walk out. And PLEASE everyone, when you complete this route and get back to communications having found something that everyone needs to know, such as too much snow, almost too much snow, walls of the "snow tunnel" shifting into the road, trees in the road, etc... will you please let me know so we can get the news out. When you find it routinely passable, that's great to know too - others may be wondering and waiting for that news. Thanks!

 Pictures are here from the drive in last weekend.

Melting continues

"Hello... just looking for food. What do you want?"
That's funny... me too!

Tuesday, March 18 - Chimney Repairs
If you are a property owner in need of help with chimney repairs, please watch for a distribution from Alisa, who has someone coming up next weekend. If you don't see the distribution but need it, let me know. Thanks, Alisa! I was hoping we could get some coordination together on this. I did not visit "all" properties to look at the chimneys. If, from what you have seen, you think yours may also be at risk, let me know how to find it and I'll take a look.

Monday Update
Someone who left this morning wrote from home to say that it was snowing heavy on the pass when they went over, with about 4" new on the road. They had 4WD and got out OK but had to stop to move one small tree. I guess Winter is not over yet. Towing gear and chainsaws, 4WD and chains - probably all still advisable for this crossing until the occasional snow stops coming back. Here in the valley it's still raining and we're up to 33 now. And no... I don't have two cars stuck in the valley now. A kind friend took my CRV out yesterday. It will be down there somewhere if I have to walk out.

Monday, March 17
We have had icy rain overnight and today. The treetops are white again here, so I suspect there is some new accumulation up on the pass, which of course will have changed the driving conditions I last reported. I went out looking for damage yesterday. It was not hard to find. Some of you will be hearing from me shortly.

Sunday, March 16
Some trailers were destroyed.

Many sheds and outbuildings are down.

This kind of chimney damage is typical.

Saturday Evening - Back at the cabin!
Well, that beat the heck out of 6 hours on snowshoes! The drive in was trivial. It sure is nice to see the lights on at Skyko 3 and 4 again! The neighborhood was pretty busy today. There were quite a few here well ahead of me. It was time consuming to get packed in and set up, due to being parked in the road. The snow is still pretty ornery between here and the car, but our foot trails are getting better fast. You will have to see that road to believe it. I stopped for a few photos which I will add later. The job Cecil and his crew from WSDOT have done for us on the County's behalf is just absolutely amazing. I brought 4WD but did not need it. There were no traction issues anywhere - just bare, wet gravel with some occasional slush. At least 40% of the route is cleared wide enough for passing. Nothing stopped those guys. You will see plenty of the challenges they encountered along the way. We think that some additional plowing was done since my last report. Although the entire route is routinely driveable, please watch your speed approaching those curves. A lot of it is still narrow and there are many blind corners in single-lane situations with real potential for a head-on with no way out if the closure rate is too great. Property owners are finding some damage. I won't say that it's not significant in some cases, but I'm not yet aware of anything catastrophic. I will try to check as many places as I can get to with my one dry day in the forecast tomorrow. The satellite system is fine. I will keep a close eye on e-mail if anyone has any questions. I could use a gas run to Skykomish, so if anyone has any hesitation about crossing, let me know and maybe we can travel together.

The Friday Update below was pre-written for the anticipated outcome. Cecil now adds that they have wrapped up on Friday for now, but they had some equipment problems, and some new snow has left the plowing somewhat less than complete. They may come back on Saturday for more plowing, but the road is open and we can go in. Please be alert for their crew in case they are working (probably with a grader) on Saturday. Driving conditions are less than ideal. 4WD vehicles are recommended. They have not yet plowed the lower 2.5 miles from the Galena bridge to the washout. We are not yet sure if they will. Speculation on the meltdown there is maybe four weeks to go before it becomes driveable (if not plowed).

Friday Update - The road is open!
The WSDOT crew has finished their FANTASTIC work, removed their equipment, replaced the County gate lock and collected their temporary "Road Closed" sign on their way out (the more permanent County signs will still be there). They urge cautious driving due to blind corners, extensive single-lane areas with minimal turnouts, and tall snow banks with some potential for "tipping out" (drive in the middle and don't delay). Don't forget that trees may still fall, and we may get new snow. Vehicles should still be suitable for extreme winter driving conditions, and under some circumstances, you might have to walk out or await improvements (be prepared).

Please keep in mind that the County road in the upper North Fork valley is STILL CLOSED to the general public. The gate will remain locked. A special road use permit is required (please have it with you). Hopefully, our next road maintenance news will be to report the County's progress on additional repairs this season so that they can bring the road back up to public safety standards and reopen it.

THANK YOU, Cecil and Roy, for keeping us informed, and especially to everyone from WSDOT and Snohomish County who has worked to secure funding and approvals, communicate and coordinate, drive, dig, plow, repair equipment and plow again to make this happen. I hope to tell you their whole story later. There were long, hard days of work for mere yards of progress on occasion. This was a very challenging project which came right on the heels of a tiresome stretch of work on Stevens Pass.

See you up there!

Friday, March 14 - Still Waiting
Early morning:  The WSDOT crew is headed back up there now to finish up.  Hopefully they won't be hampered by too much new snow. They will call me as soon as they are out and I will then be here right away with the news.

Watch those blind corners!

More than just snow!

Still For Sale

"The Slide"

OK, now...  just PUSH!

Past the cabins!  Guess he's goin' fishing!
Photos courtesy of Cecil Rench and the WSDOT crews (our heros) - Thanks Guys!
P.S. The road is still closed (please wait).  More news soon...

Thursday, March 13 - The road is still closed.
WSDOT has reported today that they believe they are on schedule to open the road tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. Please check back for the final word on this and PLEASE do not try to go in before they open the road. If the "Road Closed" sign is still there, they are still in there working and we are still locked out at the gate.

Monday, March 10 - The road is still closed.
WSDOT reports today that they are now working in the North Fork valley and downriver beyond the cabins. This means that they are past all the major slide and avalanche areas. The width of the clearing is still a problem in some areas and there are some safety issues with blind corners and tall, steep walls of snow. They plan to widen the path while working their way back out. Until they finish, the road is closed(both during and after working hours). The locks have been changed at the gate. We cannot get in. If we park there and walk, neither can they. Our lock will be reinstalled when their work is complete. They hope to finish by the weekend, but the possibility of another week has been mentioned. PLEASE do not circumvent the "Road Closed" sign at the end of the Beckler. We're almost there. Let's respect their awesome committment and considerable effort by staying clear as they have asked for just a few more days.

I'm leaving some homework for my "scientist" neighbors (you know that I know who you are):
How long would we be waiting for that mess to melt down naturally before we could drive in?
July?  September?

Honda CRV


Thursday, February 28

January 15

February 25
These guys have been working hard!  Please don't hamper their efforts by following them in.
There will be news when the road is passable and they are safely out.

Sunday, March 9 - Still plowing. The road is closed.

There was no official news from WSDOT or the County last week, but we know that they are still working hard to clear the Jacks Pass route. They have made it most of the way through to the other side, past at least one of the two avalanche areas, beyond the gate and through the original slide, probably stopping in that vicinity for the weekend. The road was "accidently" explored on the weekend, but they have asked that we stay out until they finish. The "Road Closed" sign is meant to be honored. It is important that we not hamper their efforts by following them in. There are no turnarounds and it is not possible to park and walk in without being in the way. I suspect that if somone were to do that now, they would be unable to continue their work when they return. When they are ready, they will remove the "Road Closed" sign and let us know. As mentioned before, they plan to plow all the way down beyond all the cabins to the washout. I would guess that we are within a few days and looking pretty good for next weekend. This is some really impressive work! Please help them by remaining clear until they are finished.

Saturday, March 8 - Hiking Conditions
This news is from the hikers who went in Wednesday and came out Friday: Snow depths were reasonable on the hillside, but snowshoes were still necessary on the main road (carrying heavy packs). Temps were still below freezing at night, 40 or so in the daytime causing mushier snow but still fairly well compacted and walkable with snowshoes. Closing comments: "What a beautiful river valley with the sparkling water and snow and all the squeaky clean granite rocks!"

Tuesday, March 4
I do not yet have any updates from the County or WSDOT on the road situation for this week. Last week, Cecil Rench (WSDOT) sent a very nice summary of their considerable and ongoing efforts to clear the Jacks Pass route. The County then echoed their intention to look at the slide situation after the WSDOT crews succeed at reaching it. As we know from Ed's report (below), there are some major issues along that route. I am sending Cecil's report to my distribution list today, in case any of you did not receive it from the SnoCo distribution by Tina last week. Thanks again, Cecil and Roy for your updates, and for all that you and your crews are doing. Some property owners are planning to snowshoe in tomorrow and will return on Friday. I hope to have news from them by the weekend.

Wednesday, February 27 - Snowmobile Trip
Last weekend, Ed, Dan, Ryan and Larry made it in over the pass on snowmobiles. Traveling as a group for safety, they worked together for hours to fight their way past slides and trees, and when almost there, paused for a photo of my poor, stranded car. Thanks guys! Ed tells their story below. Their first-hand report went to the County and the WSDOT crew who we believe are working now to attempt to clear the road. I will be back with more news from them as soon as we can get it.

From Ed Zercher...
Yes, we did make it over Jack's Pass last weekend. The journey was nothing less than the four of us expected as we started the morning pulling onto Beckler River Road only to find a measely 100 yards of a single-lane plowed road. After finding spots to park our rigs, the next challenge was finding our way over the 8 foot snow barrier created by a local plow. Once we were able to get rolling on the main road up to the pass itself, the road showed only early season signs of plowing with approx 3 to 5 feet of untouched snow in most places. There were no signs of any attempts to go beyond 5 miles by any travellers....snowmobile or otherwise. We encountered numerous areas of smaller downed trees and several larger trees that we were able to burrow under and squeak our machines through. Most trees were less than 10 inches in diameter and were able to be cut by hand saws (though we broke all 3 of our saws by the end of the trip). The item that we expected to create an obstacle (the mud slide) was virtually absent to the naked eye while two significant avalanches....or snow slides proved our most formidible opponents. We spent about an hour at each slide removing enough trees and rolling off ice boulders to visualize pathways we could cut into the terrain wth our shovels. The deepest of the slides was likely 30 feet high and 60 feet across at the base. I hope that you are able to get an idea of their mass from the enclosed photos. Though the trip took a gruelling 5-6 hours going in, we made the trip back on Sunday in just over an hour. We marveled at our previous day's work and all agreed that the trip could now be made by a modestly capable snomobiler!

Thanks for the report, Ed!  Thanks for the photos and for making the trip, guys!

Hikers made it in also, reporting "the usual" hard work, messy conditions and safety concerns, with total time one-way still at around three hours. Please do not go alone. Time of day (due to temperature), choice of locations for walking, and whether with or without snowshoes, have all made a big difference. Cross country skis have been suggested, but are a little harder to carry through the forest on the high bypass. The lower one still involves wading, which will keep you cold for hours going in unless you stay dry with waders. Very early morning is by far the best commuting, due to the firmer snow. The old snowshoe trail is not necessarily the best place to walk.

Monday Update - They are plowing!
This just came in from one of our property owners...
Great news!  We can confirm that WSDOT is working on Jack’s Pass with the snow blower.  We were out at Beckler River yesterday and spoke with the driver on his way back out for the day.  He advised that he had made it about of the way to the top of the pass.  It was his intention to be back again today and the expectation was to reach the mud slide either today or tomorrow.  Let’s hope Sno County is ready to move forward with immediate action on the mudslide since they should be able to reach it shortly!
Thanks for the news, Dan and Lori!

Monday, February 25 - Plowing may resume
There was some news on Friday that WSDOT may be planning to resume work on Jacks Pass very shortly.
I hope to have more details sometime this week.

Wednesday, February 20 - Hearsay Day
The County sent news today that WSDOT will be unable to resume work on Jacks Pass until after a period of maintenance for their equipment due to its' exceptionally heavy use this year. The delay is apparently a week or more, depending on what they find. To me, this news was not disappointing, but welcome reassurance that we are still in their sights and that they do, apparently, plan to resume work when they are able. I sent back our thanks for the encouraging news. Now, to share the recent hearsay...

Les made a trip up there and back last weekend and sent over a pretty thorough report on conditions. Thanks, Les! To summarize, the snow pack was still DEEP and the commuting was still hard work and considered hazardous for traveling alone. Depending on time of day, melting conditions (especially at the lower end) aggravate things, whereas the early morning freeze made much of the route (on the road) more or less "walkable" without snowshoes. Getting through the forest is still an ordeal, due to the depth of the snow, and avoiding it requires troublesome wading; but it's getting done - both ways. Cold water drenching, losing the trail, and falling unexpectedly through deep snow are hazards to be considered (and have all been experienced). Travel time was between two and three hours. Snowmobilers have apparently made it in over the pass after a long, hard trip (5 hours or more), and reported not only the extremely deep snow that would be expected, but worse in some places due to avalanche deposits with trees down and snow depths up to 20 or 30 feet.

It's a hearsay machine. Please send me your parts and supplies for it if you have any!

Thursday, February 14 - Valentine's Day
Someone from the County has recently replied to an inquiry with information that the Jacks Pass route is still not passable, and likely will not be anytime soon due to this year's "severe" snow event. No surprise there. The County website was updated yesterday with similar news, suggesting that we may still be "several weeks" out. I hope they can still get there, even if when the snow is over for the year, because the meltdown would take a very long time without plowing. And, that slide still needs to be cleared. Someone may be planning a snowmobile trip. It has been recommended that the Skykomish Ranger Station be consulted for news on the suitablility of pass conditions for that. I'll see what more I can find out. I have no more recent news from hikers.

Saturday, February 9 - Trail Conditions
Bob is back from a Thursday/Friday hike to report that trail conditions are "not too bad" (for a mountaineer) with the snowpack now about 4 feet deep. With snowshoes on the main road, Bob's commute was under three hours. It rained and snowed in the valley, and the river has been rising. Bob used the high walkaround. I suspect that the low one is now impossible without serious wading. Cody reports "no one else around," and there are no signs yet of heavy equipment (or snowmobiles). The road from Index has not been recently plowed, and chains were required from Skyko 2 to the roadblock. Thanks, Bob!

Tuesday, February 5
We have one or more hikers going in Thursday morning, returning Friday afternoon. Let me know if you want to be involved and I'll hook you up.

Sunday, February 3
Before adding new photos, I am working on the structure of the content here a little to speed up the front page. It just keeps getting longer, and longer, and longer... Watch for links to more of the photos, with fewer of them right on the front page - likewise for some of the older content. You may download and save any of these photos, but keep in mind that I scale them way down for web performance - some more than others. I can replace any of them for you with full-quality originals if you will write to request them with the title or image number. They will work better that way for prints or "wallpaper" on the PC. Busy day - more soon...

Saturday, February 2
All of the photos that I had for you of individual cabins have gone out in e-mail . If you have asked for full-quality originals to print, I will get those out later. I will be out for a while. This evening or tomorrow, I will try to get more of the pictures of the entire area from this trip posted here. It was still snowing when I left, and more is expected. The news from Skykomish has been interesting (check for recent press). Cody may have been going back in today. I will check with him next week to see if there is more news. The meltdown will be something to fear. Let's hope it will be slow and in dry weather. If the rain brings it out, we may have serious flooding. If the County plows through, some of us closest to the river may want to consider evacuating some things that we value. I have heard nothing yet about floods in the forecast, but with this much potential for "rain on snow," I think we should keep a close watch for it. This is just my own concern at the moment after seeing how much snow is up there. At the very least, it is going to be one incredibly soggy mess when it starts to melt down.

Friday Evening - I am home
Sorry for the blackout this morning. The generator ran out of gas last night and the satellite dish was loaded up with snow again by this morning - not that both couldn't be fixed, but I thought it best to get moving for the trip out today. I finally got off the property at 9:30 and made it back to my car at 2:30. It was still a very tough trip - five hours total. Snowshoing conditions varied from horrible to decent depending on the location. I opted for the low route out around the lower washout. That was almost a mistake. There has been enough melting that the river is a little harder to deal with now. I fell off the log that might have spared me some of the earlier wading, so I just jumped in to get on with it. At this point I was carrying the snowshoes because there was still some climbing around on logs to do. Back on the trail, I plowed through a lot of snow (above the knees) and then crossed the river too soon, so had to cross it again, and again (each time a little easier than the last). The poles were necessary for stability to stay upright in the river, so I just heaved the snowshoes to the other side. All that made for pretty cold feet (no waders) arriving at the car. I was happy to see that it wasn't too buried in snow. The road was well plowed to the end, and thoughtfully, right up to the car. Thank you, SnoCo RMD! I still have cabin photos for some of you, and will try to get more photos from this trip posted here tomorrow.

Thursday Afternoon
I spent about three hours out in the neighborhood today, testing the snow and practicing for a possible trip out tomorrow. The snow became light rain and snow mixed this afternoon, so it's a little slushy on top and very hard work, but possible to get around (only on snowshoes) - and very slow. The postholing here (with snowshoes) is still 12" or more with an occasional 6" break. I got pictures of a lot of your places on my side of the river. I went up on the bridge when I got back from the tour on this side, but it was almost dark so I did not make it over to Skyko 4 (sorry). I will try to get back with some photos before I shut down. At the moment, I am hoping for some freezing tonight to help firm up that slushy top surface. If it turns out that way, I will probably head back in the morning with an early start. I would like to stay longer, but I fear that would be risking even worse exit conditions. A lot of new powder on top would make it harder, and so would a big meltdown. Colder nights are expected in the next day or too, but that won't help if the powder piles up again. I do have to get back sometime. and there has been no promising news from the County. I dare not ask, because I know they have their hands full out there. If you don't see any news in the morning, I am probably on my way out. If I make it, I'll be back online in the evening with an update. If you don't see it, please bring snowmobiles and come find me! Don't take that too seriously without asking around - I will have a handheld satellite phone with me.

Thursday, January 31 - Happy Birthday Dad!  (80)
The precipitation has not let up, but it turned to rain in the early morning hours for a while. That caused the trees to shed a lot of snow bombs, which made sleeping difficult. Now we are back to constant light snow with occasional heavy showers and the trees are loading up again. The new stuff is wet, which with the earlier rain has made for a top layer of snow which is more dense - not quite slushy but almost. It won't hold my weight yet without snowshoes. I'll try those out later today. If it would freeze overnight without much more new powder on top, the walking would probably improve a lot. The snow is not appreciably deeper around here than it was when I arrived, because it has become more compacted. There is a lot of it on rooftops and I'm sure it is getting heavier, so I am concerned about loads on some of the shallower roofs. I will try to get some more photos online today. If I get to any of your cabins, I will send those pictures to you directly.

Wednesday Night - Cabin Life
I spent at least four hours yesterday (while hiking) regretting the decision to come up, but not a minute today. I slept like the dead - nine hours to my usual six. There were occasional interruptions due to snow bombs from the trees - otherwise nothing but the sound of the river. Well, almost nothing - I woke up a few times wondering why the gunfire - It was the trees cracking and falling "out there" somewhere. I am alone in the valley, so otherwise it is extremely quiet. I boiled snow to make coffee this morning - the tap water jug from home is empty, and I can't get to the river. I had to do a lot of snow shoveling today, but the scenery was fantastic, and the weather mild (still snowing). I'm just back from a hot shower in (old, stored) river water, with 40 gallons left in insulated storage - fueled to 120 entirely by scrap cardboard. It will last for three days. Dinner is on the stove now - Chanterelle mushroom soup from the freezer which I thawed overnight (yes, I did learn to find them, thanks to Cody). Firewood is low (a few Presto logs left), but it's 70 in here. I have a chainsaw but my logs are under a mountain of snow. There is no "visible" firewood anywhere. I have propane heat for backup and a variety of combustibles in the fireplace - Presto logs (used sparingly), what was left of the charcoal, scrap lumber, and I am experimenting now with pellets. I have an "almost finished" pellet stove installation, and a pallet of pellet fuel stored here. I have not yet started on the furniture. The trouble with the pellet stove is that electricity is required, and generator gas is running low. I have never been more grateful than I am now that Northern Energy was willing to come up here and take care of us. There is plenty of propane in the tank. I can talk to the world, thanks to satellite technology. Of course, that requires an occasional trip up the ladder under these weather conditions. I was SO glad that I left the ladder up last time, because it would have been a real ordeal to put it back this time (for cleaning the satellite dish). I just got tired of stepping over it inside the cabin. I made steps in the compact snow today up to "ground level" from the front door, and shoveled my way into the outhouse and the generator shed. I learned this:

If you store your shovels in the outhouse, and it gets buried four feet deep in snow, you get to shovel your way in with a plastic dustpan and the ash scoop from the fireplace, while bending it into uselessness for anything else. Then (after using a propane torch on the lock), you get your real shovel out of the outhouse (if you did not burn it down, or even if you did) and finish up around the place with that one.

That's when I got the generator and the satellite/internet system back online. My real shovel is now on the porch, where it will stay. Leave it there please, or return it if you borrow it. I spent some time when I got here last night packing a trail around the cabin before I got out of the snowshoes. Just getting around the property is a real ordeal otherwise. Now I can go out (as long as I stay on that trail) without gearing up for it. I HOPE to get around on the snowshoes tomorrow, after some much needed rest today, for some photos of some of your cabins. I would like to go over to Skyko 4, but as you can see from the photos, I don't think it will be safe to cross the bridge.

Got the batteries all charged up... It's movie time!

Wednesday, January 30 - Extreme Snow!
I am back online after shoveling my way in to the generator. I will check on e-mail shortly and will be back soon with photos.

These are from the hike in yesterday, which took 6.5 hours. The snowshoing was miserable, and got progressively worse all the way in. As you can see, our old trail is gone and there was at least 24" of new snow on top of the old, firmer snow pack. It was easier to walk beside the old trail than in it, where the snowshoes would sink deeper in the powder fill. If you try this, start early and bring an LED headlamp. Don't come without snowshoes and trekking poles. The poles spared me a lot of falls, and made it possible to get back up when they didn't. For safety reasons, I suggest not coming alone. Why so long? Under these snow conditions, the snowshoes were sinking too much - no less than 6" in the beginning, and never less than 12" up near the top - more at times. When my bad knee started hurting again (2 miles to go), the only way I could make any progress was to lean forward and push both poles in ahead of me, testing for how deep the next step would be, then step up between them. I could have crawled on my hands and knees all the way faster than that! Falls (didn't have many, but a few) were time consuming. It is very hard to get back up. It was usually break time anyway. More later...

Just above the lower roadblock, about to leave the road
for the high trail.

Typical trail conditions (waist deep). If you follow me, don't laugh.
I lost track of the trail many times. Better yet, don't follow me.

Between the washouts, back on the main road for a while.
Tolerable only on snowshoes.

Out of the forest (and where I should have turned around).

Looking ahead with three miles to go. Finish or go back?
After the next mile or so, I was past the point of no return
 (in daylight back through the forest).

Last picture I could take in daylight - approaching the big
rocks. I was so glad to see them finally (1 mile to go), but
they followed me for a while. Every time I looked back,
they were still there (because progress was SO slow)!

This morning.

Neighbor's cabin

Tuesday, January 29:    Made it in!
Hiking conditions are dramatically worse than last reported - 6.5 hours on snowshoes - finished after dark. All is well here. The snow is impressive - probably 5 feet of it now. Can't stay long, not too much battery left - can't get to the generator yet - too worn out to shovel - had to clean the sat. dish to get here. Need some rest and will check back tomorrow with more of the story and some photos.

Monday, January 28:    I am planning to hike in tomorrow morning.  Would anyone like to go with me?

Sunday PM Update - New speed record!
These are some cell-phone shots taken today by Michael, who adds his report that it CAN be done (if you hurry) in just over an hour and a half. Sorry Les!
Thanks for the photos Michael, and my thanks to everyone who is helping to share the news. More snow is coming so things may worsen again.

Sunday, January 27 - Hiking Conditions
I have received three different commuting reports within the last few days, indicating that our hiking time is now down to between two and three hours. "Hercules" among them made the outbound, downhill run all the way to his car in two hours flat. This is down from about four hours (with snowshoes) and six hours (without) in the beginning. These times include the detours on the hillside which are still hard work, but on beaten-down trails which are fairly easy to follow. The snow pack in the open is still above 30 inches, but you can walk without snowshoes in our packed down "trench" which is about a foot deep. When you leave the trail, you won't believe how hard the last several hundred feet can be to the cabin door. Snowshoes are still advised anyplace in the open which has not yet been well traveled. Since these reports, there is probably new snow, with still more in the forecast for the next few days. I will be going through it again within a day or two. I will report back with the latest and some new photos.

Friday, January 25 - They are plowing!
There was news today that WSDOT has begun plowing over Jacks Pass. They are believed to be a good ways in, but not yet all the way to the gate. Since there was no more news by the end of the day, this is probably all we can know until next week. The road is not believed to be passable and is probably closed. Weather developments and crew workload will dictate what more they can do and when. I will be watching this closely beginning Monday (from within the area) and will promptly post any new information as soon as I can get it. Until then, please - let's not get in their way.

Sunday, January 13

This is a slightly wider angle view of the area than Bob's photo below. Bob got to his viewpoint in about four hours. I got to mine in about 10 minutes. As you can see, it was a very nice day "down" there. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of some dry enough weather to help the road crews get all caught up so they can help us.  Back soon...

Friday, January 11

The snow pack measures 38 inches deep in the open. After new snow, our trail could still be followed, and "experienced" commuting time on snowshoes was down to about three hours. There are cross-country ski tracks on the road, but not all the way to the cabins. No snowmobile tracks have appeared yet from above. A salmon head was found in the road, in the snow (with no animal tracks), appearing to have arrived by air. A bald eagle was seen in the area. The road from Index to the roadblock has been plowed. Thanks to Bob Plaag for the recon/report and the photo!  Bob, I didn't make up the flying salmon story - that was Cody's find a couple weeks ago (which I forgot to mention then), so I just threw it in. Your eagle sighting reminded me, and might explain it!

More news from the County

After hearing from other (extended area) property owners, I have had an additional discussion with the County about the variety of needs for plowing beyond us to the lower roadblock. If or when they are able to get past the slide, they do plan to plow all the way down to the roadblock. WSDOT is still very busy but it seems that plans are in the works for their assistance with the plowing at a time when their workload will allow. The County will then further assess the slide to see if something can be done about a way through it.

Monday, January 7 - News from the County
I learned over the weekend that someone at the County may have been led to believe that we were not especially distressed this year about winter access. I wrote at length to clarify the issues and the circumstances as I currently know them. They are considerable, relating to stress, physical strain and cost, commuting hazards and safety issues, divided families, extreme difficulty of resupply (impossible for some), security and asset protection, failing roofing (snow loads), fallen tree possibilities, and stranded primary vehicles. It's about much more than just recreational access (just in case that's what anyone was thinking). Supplies have been literally "dragged" in for miles, sometimes after dark because the days just aren't long enough - and in one case temporarily abandoned in the road to be recovered the next day because the trip was just "too much." Nevertheless, the valley continues to be routinely occupied while decidedly inconvenient and costly, and while not particularly safe. MANY of us are affected. They have indicated that they do understand and have provided this update...

WSDOT plans to clear the road (they have the snowblowers at Stevens Pass), but their timing is not yet known (they are very busy). After the snow is moved, the County will make the trip to assess the slide. They are still strained for resources but may be able to employ a contractor. They will keep us informed.

I replied to suggest an excellent contractor with considerable experience in this area, and to remind them that it would be enormously useful to have the snow removed even if they cannot yet deal with the slide. If anyone sees anything happening from the outside while we wait to hear, will you please let me know? I know that some have made occasional visits to the Beckler side with very capable 4x4's, just in case things have improved. I think the Jeep clubs have been up, but they are an extreme case and do not seem to pack the road into a driveable condition for us. If you find a temporary "Road Closed" sign at the bottom, it would be adviseable NOT to go around it, because they may be up there working (likely the reason for the sign), and there would probably be no space for bypassing, resulting in the need for a lot of "backing out."

Saturday, January 5 - Dear Snohomish County...
There was no news from the County this week, which is a huge disappointment since we know they went in with a plow one week ago. I have no clue what their intentions are with regard to the snow OR the slide. We have had a week of warmer weather with rain. Is there still too much snow to move? Are they still overloaded with urban flood damage? We have no access to our properties, and we have not been told when we can expect this situation to improve. I think it is well past time to be hearing something more from the County about their intentions.

New Year's Day
Happy New Year, everyone!  The photos here are from our recent trek out.  We'll be back (if we're not already)!
 Click on photo for more.

New Year's Eve
It was a beautiful day! The snow was deeper, but due to more compacting, snowshoeing conditions were better. By far, getting around on the snow shoes was easier than "postholing" without them. With a clear night ahead and possible freeze, the surface may firm up even more for tomorrow morning. It should be a lot warmer in the afternoon, so may then get miserably slushy. I would walk early, if at all. It may become windy, making the trees hazardous. There is more to the story and I have a few new photos for tomorrow, but first - time to party!

Sunday, December 30 - More snow!


We got here on these Friday night (well after dark). They were both necessary and aggravating. It was stormy for most of Saturday night with windblown snow grains and ice pellets. All day Sunday we had a beautiful, heavy and quiet snowfall. The trees are loaded again and may be hazardous. More have been found over the road since we came in. We tested the snowshoeing today and think that the base, while higher, will be firmer and easier to walk on tomorrow. It is still extremely difficult to get around without snowshoes. We know of others who walked in on Saturday without snowshoes. They could not turn back due to imminent darkness and the four mile hike took six hours to complete.

Saturday, December 29 - Back on site!
I like to see the extremes up here, so yesterday we launched this experiment. Andrew was also anxious to try out his new (old) Bronco. It's got all the "right stuff" for off-road and snow (we hope). We started out on the Jacks Pass route and turned around about 2 miles up, but found a very encouraging surprise. The County snow plow had been through on what looked like a first pass inbound. We turned back, but we think it was still up there working. I have nothing official from the County, and we don't yet know how far they got or what their plans are. It was exciting though, to see that the plow had been through. I do NOT believe that the road is open or passable. It was posted "Road Closed" at the end of the Beckler pavement (all plowed). Chances are, they will have to return during the next work-week before the route will become useable (if they are coming back).

We are very grateful to Bob Plaag for joining us. Bob is a very experienced hiker and knows our trail well, which I had not yet been over. I successfully put that off for almost 14 months. At least I am no longer a fake. We drove up the Index side to the road block, which earlier in the day required chains for Bob's 2WD vehicle. By the afternoon, when we returned to hike in, the I-G road had been fully plowed up to the roadblock where we parked (a bit later in the day than we should have). With packs and carrying snowshoes, we were back on the road inside the washouts after 45 minutes, and still fairly dry. That was the easy part! After about 3:45 MORE, we had finally covered three more miles to the cabin on snowshoes (4:30 total time).

Does snow make dust? That's what Bob left us in... (Andrew and me = wimp): his snow dust! Kindly though, he waited from time to time to make sure we had not become cougar food. The last 2 miles (2 hours) were in darkness. That had not been the plan but it was doable and reasonably "cool". Why so long? The snow was DEEP and nasty, even with premium snowshoes. It was exhausting and very, very slow. We were "postholing" even in the snowshoes up to our knees at times. We probably wouldn't be here yet without the snowshoes. We (Andrew and I) must now stay here to recover. Bob is long gone. I twisted a knee in the last 30 feet of the trek in my own yard - glad it wasn't sooner! The worst of the snow was at this end. It is tough to get around on the property.

The satellite system was not working when we got here due to snow accumulations on the dish and transmitter. I climbed up to fix it this morning. We took some pics yesterday and a few more today around the property. I wanted to get around the neighborhood for some pictures of some of your properties, but I can't get through the snow yet with my knee hurting. I am not yet aware of any damage, and Bob did not mention seeing any down the road. We could hear trees falling in the forest during the night trek. Through the night, the cabin was regularly attacked by huge snow bombs from the trees above. We are hoping the snow will pack down a little for an easier hike out. For now, we are content to stay! I will post some new photos soon...