Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hike of the Week : Dosewallips River Middle Fork Trail


This week's trail was a fun one. Not particularly challenging in terms of terrain or elevation, but a pleasant walk in the woods with a rushing river for company.

We had read trail reports that the road "might" be closed 1.2 miles before the big closure from 2002, but that you can cross the stream that made the washout. Well, wonder no more -- it's closed. 


Luckily, despite the huge moraine of scree that made it look like there was going to be a rushing river to ford, it was a pretty small creek, and had a little "pallet bridge" to walk across. 


But then we were back on the packed-dirt road, heading upriver. We had had torrential rain and some big storms over the previous days, so there was a lot of water coming off the mountains. It's a credit to the quality of this abandoned road that it was never muddy and the drainage systems still held up.


There were scattered campsites even this near to the road -- though it wasn't clear if they had developed after the closure of the road and therefore the campgrounds. We started noodling on the idea of making our stuff in and overnighting here... someday.


Eventually we reached the previous "end of the road", a wide spot with room for perhaps 20 cars and some "road closed" signage. Why was the road closed?

In 2002 the Dosewallips River, swollen by a heavy storm, took out 200 feet of the roadway. This grew to 310 feet, about 5 miles from the road's end. The severing of this road meant that two popular car campgrounds, Elkhorn and Dosewallips, can no longer be reached. There is a "FEIS" ("Final Environmental Impact Statement") dating from 2010 with a recommendation to rebuild the road by making a .84-mile, single-lane re-route with retaining walls at a cost of $4.5 million. However, it's doubtful that this will ever be funded.

Some people are thrilled about this -- "hey, you can still camp, you just have to really want it" -- but it's not *really* backcountry camping if you are using a car-camping site, now is it?

Anyway, this is where the river took out the road:
A River Runs Through It (Dosewallips Road, that is) ... image from Ocean in View
We didn't see that, because we dutifully took the little trail detour that WTA built -- a steep switchbacked climb up to the ridge, a brief meander along the ridge, and then a steep downhill back to the old road.


Given that this road hasn't been open to cars for 15 years, it's interesting to see how nature has reclaimed the road bed. (And how WTA has lovingly cut back the trees that have fallen across it.)

As we walked along the road, we caught glimpses of the river through the trees:


... and lots of little waterfalls came cascading down the hill:


But for the most part, the road just kept climbing gently.


We passed the turnoff for the Elkhorn Campground, but decided to keep walking rather than nose around there. Onwards toward the Dosewallips Campground!


We came to an area that had had a forest fire, prompting this week's obsession with finding a nice Smokey Bear t-shirt. Only you, man.


Most of the way was gentle, with the occasional tree to stoop under or step over. No big deal.


And occasionally, weird post-washout stretches that looked much worse than they were.


Eventually we crossed into the national park ... I think. Not sure what else would have prompted this sign. :)


We crossed another post-burn section, with lots of downed trees. 


This is the only stretch where the trail got a little funky.


At this point we had been hiking for just over 2 hours; our goal was to hike at least 3.5 today. The skies had turned a slight ominous color, so we decided to turn back. On the entire way out we had encountered two mountain bikers who left just before us, and 6 guys coming back from an overnight at the Dosewallips Campground.

On the way back we passed a dad with his teenage sons, resting on a log; were passed by the mountain bikers on their way back; and massed a mountain biker with his very barky dog. ("He's friendly. Say hello and he won't jump up on you." Mmmmkay. That sounds unfriendly to me.) But again, otherwise we had the trail to ourselves, and nicer views of the river from this direction.


It's clear that *if* they ever built the new road around the washout, there would be a lot of work to do to spiff up the rest of the road.


Like clearing out some of these massive blowdowns:


Eventually, we reached the spot where we would need to take the trail back around the washout ... it's clearly marked.


Then up into the trees to get around the washout... to be honest, this was the only "challenging" stretch of this trail:


We made it back to the trailhead in just under 4 hours, with 10+ miles of hiking under our boots.

Oh, and this week's photo challenge was to share #YourView, so here's us looking at a waterfall:


along with this week's #bootie of us in a creek crossing in our waterproof boots.


I'm not sure we would necessarily travel to hike this trail again, though we did enjoy it. But it wasn't spectacular, and it also wasn't as challenging as we should be hiking, especially now that the snow is melting. But it would be an easy hike with kids, or a very gentle mountain bike (apart from that detour around the washout).

Dosewallips River Middle Fork Trail

10.8 miles -- one could go longer
1578 feet elevation

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