Middle Fork Road: the final season?

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MiddleForkValley

For many years there has been talk of paving the notoriously bumpy and little-maintained Middle Fork Road, a dirt road running 12 miles north from I-90 at exit 34 east of Seattle, with the 5-mile Dingford Creek Road at its end. And although I hadn’t noticed at the time, apparently there was agreement last summer that this paving project will kick off in early 2014, about a year from now. For two years starting then, the road will be closed during weekdays much of the time, and closed altogether for periods of up to 8 weeks while they’re upgrading the bridges. At the end of the process, in 2016, the Middle Fork will be easily accessible by anyone in any type of vehicle, and the drive to the end of the road (just before the Dingford Creek Road) will take 15-20 minutes instead of an hour.

We’re big fans of the Middle Fork valley, and for all of the same reasons we’re not fans of paving the road. The Middle Fork’s appeal is simple: it’s the only place with 30 miles of Seattle you can simply drive to that offers true wilderness – we routinely spend hours there without seeing another human being. Those days will be over when the road has been paved. The bad road and the dicey history of the valley of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River have kept crowds away for years, but the dicey history is history, and a nice smooth paved road will draw away many of the Subarus and Volvos that currently crowd the nearby trailheads at Mount Si, Little Si, Rattlesnake Ledge, and Twin Falls.

We’ve been going to the Middle Fork Valley regularly since Jamie was a little pup in early 2010. It’s our default destination on weekends, a place to get some exercise with the dogs and get away from humanity for a while. It looks like 2013 will be the final year that it offers this experience, though, so we’re going to make the most of it. There are some things I still want to check off my Middle Fork life list, such as spending a night under the stars on top of Bessemer Mountain, and this is the year to do it.

Here are a few of my favorite photos of the Middle Fork and Dingford Creek roads in recent years:

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And here are a dozen photos along the Middle Fork Road from two weeks ago, the last time we were there:

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Although it was logged long ago, you can still find a few old-growth trees in the Middle Fork Valley. Here’s one near the Rock Creek trail. And there are large numbers of stumps remaining from the original forest, such as this whopper along the CCC Trail:

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There’s one silver lining in the plans to pave the road, from my perspective: we’ll be able to drive it in either of our cars. That means we can finally do a one-way hike we’ve been wanting to try, hiking up to Snow Lake via the Rock Creek trail out at the end of the Dingford Creek Road, then down the Snow Lake trail to the Alpental ski area near Snoqualmie Pass. A fun long day to look forward to in 2016.

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4 Comments

  1. That’s a drag — we loved taking the dogs up there (it was the crappy road so nice, we took your dogs there twice). More than making the existing area more accessible, I’d worry that it’s the first step to development.

    Anyhow, we may have to get out to you guys sometime before 2016 and enjoy it one more time before all the rubberneckin’ tourists get there.

  2. That would be great, Tom, Sammies are standing by. We just got back from an enjoyable couple of hours out there this afternoon. During which we ran into one person, an Irish guy who has clearly spent even more time exploring the Middle Fork Valley than I have – learned a couple of new places from him to check out soon.

  3. Great pictures of the road and the valley. Like you I spend a LOT of time in the valley and wish the road would not be paved, but there are compensations. I will enjoy the absence of clouds of dust settling on the plants and everything else for half the year when the road is dry. I’m also hoping that if the road looks better then folks will be less likely to throw trash around, which happens too much.

    Kepler — no “development” will happen in the Middle Fork, unless by that you mean trails, picnic sites, and toilets. The land is all publicly owned and will not be logged and no houses will be built.

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