Saturday, July 28, 2007

Index-Galena Revisited

Road closure at the Trout Creek-Bluff-View road washout

In November of 2006 the North Fork of the Skykomish River broke through its banks in two locations and ripped up a good mile of the Index-Galena Road . . . also cutting off access to some of the best trails and camping areas in the area. The Index-Galena Road does a 26 mile loop up the NF Skykomish River valley and down the Beckler River Valley to rejoin Hwy 2 near the town of Skykomish.

The closure west of Jack Pass and FS63
. . . short of Garrand Hot Springs

The road is blockaded six and a half miles in from the Index turnoff on Hwy 2 and likewise barracaded by signs from the other end near Jack Pass where eight other road collapses have made access to much of the loop difficult . . . including the very popular Troublesome Creek and San Juan Fee Campgrounds. Property owners with permits can approach from the Jack Pass side but for the section of the road beyond the Index side destruction, there is no way through except on foot.

At the height of the storm the river surged 10-15 feet high
down this section of the road. Flood debris still hangs high in the trees.

On foot means spending a three-quarters of a mile walking up the portion of the river that was a nicely-paved road last year. At points the water is waist to chest high and the current runs pretty swift. A good hiking staff is essential. Of course, there is only one way to sanely ford a river . . . nude.

Just south of the last breech of the road by the river

The river broke through just south of a place I call Bluff-View Campsite . . . which is just on the other side of that raging torrent behind me in the image above. The asphalt I'm standing on is just a short island that got spared before the winter storm flash flood scoured pavement completely for almost a mile. Fording the torrent at the breakthrough is not a good idea because fully half of the river surges through a funnel-bottleneck twenty feet of so wide. The only way around is a recently-blazed portage trail up the hillside and back down on the far side. This trail was used by the property and claim owners to reach their property before the Jack Pass backdoor route was approved by permit only. It now serves as my way across and is a nice under-canopy nude hike.

Headed up the Index-Galena Road . . . All to myself

From the breech inbound, this is National Forest land until you reach a few private property inholdings a little over two miles up at Galena (near Howard Creek) . . . mainly summer cabins. That means no cars for at least two miles (little reason for property owners to walk the long way in when they can drive from the backside) and lots of enjoyable nude hiking . . . except for the deer flies.

Deer flies . . . I hate them. They have hatched a month early and strangely, I have never seen them in this area before. Even stranger . . . they did nothing but swarm around me. No bites and as soon as a breeze came up they lost interest and left.

Bluff-View Campsite as it is now . . . a little bit of the beach eroded and a few of the smaller trees missing (which is good as it really opens up the area to the sun.)

Two images of Bluff-View Campsite taken in late September of last year

There are many great camping areas along the Index-Galena Road above the breech. Bluff Campsites is one of my favorites because of the expansive views over the NF Skykomish River Valley. Lots of sand as well. Sunsets in the NF Skykomish river valley are awesome!

Bluff-View Campsites, looking south

This place would make a great nude camping area as few go beyond the new river channel (just beyond me in the image above). It is accessible with a short one and a half mile hike and some riverbed walking, yet befuddles most people because they can't figure out a way across . . . the portage trail around is not easy to find.

Cable Campsites Unusable

Of the other two campsites inbound, Cable Campsites has been destroyed by the river-flooding. Howard Creek . . . a large campground with dozens of fire rings and tent locations . . . faired pretty good. Though the camping areas are under high canopy there is lots of easy access to the river and sunlight, though little sand . . . mainly river rocks. This is where I camped on a recent foray back up Silver Creek-Mineral City and Poodle Dog Pass.

Howard Creek Campgrounds, a semi-improved campsite,
is in great shape.

The 'beach' at Howard Creek Campgrounds. The South Galena Bridge
over the Skykomish (the access to Silver Creek) is in the background.

My Interactive Map of the area here

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