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Washout Closes Glacier Creek Rd to Heliotrope Ridge Trail

Posted by Loren Drummond at May 16, 2013 05:10 PM |

On Tuesday, May 14, the Forest Service closed Glacier Creek Road (Forest Service road 39) due to a washout. The road leads to the Heliotope Ridge Trail, a popular Mount Baker hike which WTA crews have worked on the last three years.

On Tuesday, May 14, the  Forest Service closed Glacier Creek Road (Forest Service road 39) to vehicle traffic at mile 1.0 (Thompson Creek) due to a washout at mile 2.7. There is no estimated repair or reopening date at this time.

Closed road leads to popular Heliotrope Ridge Trail

The road leads to the Heliotrope Ridge Trail, which WTA crews have worked on the last three years. Hikers who had Heliotrope in their plans this summer may need to turn to other spectacular Mount Baker hikes, like Skyline Divide Trail, for volcano views and August wildflowers. If the road to the trailhead remains inaccessible, hikers may miss out on one unique feature of the trail, the chance to get up close the icy blue foot of Coleman Glacier.

Because Heliotrope Ridge Trail climbs so close to the volcano's glaciers, it is a major jumping off point to several popular routes for climbers aiming for the summit of Mount Baker.

"It's just terrible news for climbers," says Karen Daubert, WTA's executive director, a hiker and climber who has been up Mount Baker from Heliotrope Ridge three times.

Road's future is uncertain

The Bellingham Herald reports that 18 inches of asphalt had fallen away:

"It's still moving," Jim Mitchell, roads manager for Mount Baker Ranger District, said of the washout.

He said the cause could be heavy rainfall or Glacier Creek, which is running high, undercutting the slope on which the road sits.

"We don't really know how it started yet," Mitchell said.

Citing, in part, a lack of funds, Mitchell told the Herald that vehicle access will be restricted, and that no fix to the road is planned at this time.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest road budget in free-fall

Funds available to maintain and repair roads on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest have been in free-fall the last few years. Road maintenance dollars declined from $680,000 last year to $250,000 this year.

In 2009, road funding for the forest hit $1.4 million and has been heading downward since.

More information

>> Read the Bellingham Herald article.

>> Read about the 2009 winter washout on Glacier Creek Road.

>> Read more about WTA's work on road access to trailheads

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