When my friends and I journeyed up to Goldmyer back in January 2015 and were stranded by flood waters, we had no idea it would turn out to be such a grand adventure and that we’d end up meeting so many amazing people. It’s humbling how many folks read our story and shared it.
In the week following, I stayed in communication with ACI construction, the team responsible for the Middle Fork paving project, as well as Seattle Mountain Rescue to determine if and when I could safely retrieve my Jeep. It remained stuck on the north side of a very large washout about 10 miles up the Middle Fork Road. High water and debris during January 5th’s flooding event undermined and damaged one of the two newly installed culverts at the washout, so driving across wasn’t safe and road repairs would likely take a while.
Bill Davis from Seattle Mountain Rescue passed on my contact information to Don Stonack, the chairman of Northwest Wilderness Programs (NWWP), the non-profit stewardship who owns and manages Goldmyer Hot Springs. Don told me he needed to get up to the Hot Springs to take his regular caretakers back in with supplies and to also bring back the relief caretakers. His plan was to gain access to the road and clear enough debris to get his two trucks up and hopefully my Jeep back down.
When I talked to Don by phone it was apparent he’s had many years of experience digging his way through the Middle Fork. He told me if I could get a few friends to help that he’d allow us free Hot Springs access. Are you kidding!? I didn’t even have to think about saying anything but yes. He finished the chat by joking “don’t go inviting all of Seattle now, just you and maybe 2-3 of your friends” and I heard laughter in the background. I couldn’t wait to meet him!
Brian, myself, and our friend Scott, who helped us communicate with search and rescue during our ordeal, all headed out to North Bend for the second chapter in the Goldmyer adventure. We met up for breakfast with Don, the regular Goldmyer caretakers Phillip and Willow, and 3 other members of the NWWP: Dick, Nicole, and Loren. After breakfast we reconvened at Valley Camp to squish everyone into Don and Dick’s two big Ford trucks.
We crawled our way through the Middle Fork potholes while enjoying some laughs and good conversation. We couldn’t believe how much lower the Snoqualmie River was running. What a difference a week makes! The only caveat to us gaining access was that we could not drive across the culverts since they hadn’t yet been tested for integrity and were plugged with several feet of debris. Instead, we cleared out trees, moved rocks, and filled in holes to make it possible for us to drive around.
With 9 of us out there it didn’t take long to make progress and I was amazed at everyone’s efficiency. These guys obviously knew exactly what they were doing and were pretty experienced clearing the way. Some of the tree debris required some extra effort as it was buried in a few feet of silt, rocks, and clay.
Once we had large holes filled in and a safe path to work with, we helped guide the trucks through. It was a rough and bumpy ride but they made it pretty easily through the debris and around the bridge.
Finally across and reunited with the Jeep, we all hopped in and proceeded up the road in a caravan of 3 vehicles. We were really curious to see what sort of conditions we’d find on the road to the Dingford Creek Trailhead. We had no idea if there had been additional washouts or slides other than the two we were trapped between last Sunday night so we proceeded cautiously.
When we finally reached the washout that had stopped us last Sunday it was apparent in the light of day with flood water receded that we had made a wise decision that night. Don told us this area is called the Moore Property and that he was nearly swept away trying to cross this very same area years ago in high water. Now dry, we could see the washout had a deep trough and a steep drop into and out of it.
Don and Dick decided to take their longer wheelbase trucks up and around the wash so they wouldn’t drag a winch and I instead went straight across. As if we needed more proof that crossing this would have been a very bad idea, one of my tires dug into the soft silty debris at the bottom and despite having a 4-wheel drive Jeep, we had to throw down some more rocks for traction. At least this time there wasn’t several feet of rushing water!
Once past that spot there were only a few more small areas where we got out to quickly move some debris. The rest of the road was reasonably passable and we finally arrived back at the Dingford Creek Trailhead.
The Goldmyer crew unlocked the road gate and we were able to drive right up to the Hot Springs, a rare and exciting experience! Once there we said hello again to the relief caretakers who remembered us from our first visit. They had been a little concerned if we had made it out when they found out about road conditions and we all swapped stories about the whole crazy adventure.
It was nice this time to have more daylight to really see the property. We were honored to spend the next few hours enjoying the Hot Springs and learning a lot about the NWWP, the caretakers, and the wonderful crew of people all involved in making Goldmyer such a special place. I applaud the work and effort the NWWP puts into keeping this private land accessible to the public. We are all very lucky to have such a place in our own backyard and it commands our utmost respect.
After a nice soak in the springs we walked out with Dick, who told us a lot about the history of the land. Many of the old growth trees on the Goldmyer property are 700+ years old and tower over your heads. I can’t imagine the stories they have to tell.
We said our goodbyes to the caretakers and started the long drive back out to Valley Camp. With all of our handiwork the drive out was easier and faster and before long we arrived back to the road gates. Somehow though, the adventure didn’t stop there because once back at Valley Camp the relief caretakers found themselves with a dead car battery, compounded by a corroded battery terminal. Everyone pulled together to figure out a solution and within 30 minutes they were able to start their car and head home, finally bringing the adventure to an end.
When we planned our visit to Goldmyer on January 4th, 2015, I never would have guessed it would turn into such an entertaining adventure and truly memorable experience! We meet some incredible people involved with Valley Camp, the Seattle Mountain Rescue, and of course NWWP and Goldmyer. They’re all amazing and some of the best wilderness stewards I’ve ever met! The Middle Fork finally reopened to traffic in May, more than four months after the flooding.