The WildSnow access watch can’t help but notice controversy up in the PNW about a washed out road that used to provide excellent access to some of Olympic National Parkâ€™s backcountry. A section of the Dosewallips River Road was washed out in 2002. Instead of simply being repaired, enviro-angst ensued and the track has remained closed to automobiles and likely to stay that way. Thus pushing humans ever farther from convenient backcountry access. That’s of course fine with many wilderness advocates, but not fine with many other backcountry users. We’re of course in the latter camp.
What if they gave a trail and nobody came? To that end, The Washington Trails Association has agreed the Dosewallips road should remain closed, thus ensuring quite a few less people will use trails the road used to access. Good example of a recreation advocacy group being swayed by the whim of environmental winds.
How about some common sense? The road was there for years, and the animals did fine. Fix it, use it, and enjoy it. It’s not like Olympic National Park has an overburden of roads. Far from it. This is one of the most wild and roadless areas you can imagine. Check the Google Map. To worry about one tiny road in this vast region is absurd.
Latest on the Dosewallips repair is a 355 page EIS filed by Olympic National Forest. Naturally, they found an exotic species that doing anything human will impact in some way. Or so they say. While the EIS apparently tries to make it clear the road repair will NOT trigger the Endangered Species Act when it comes to the Sensitive Warty Jumping Slug, we imagine it’s only a matter of time before someone finds a biologist who will say otherwise. (Amazing the power biologists now have.) Our take: Beware, someone might find a Sensitive Warty Jumping Slug the next time they try to repair a road near you.
More access stuff: Near here, ongoing controversy about sharing snow up behind Aspen Mountain ski area on Richmond Ridge is a constant source of amusement to those of us who ski everywhere but there. (Though in fairness, we do know people on both sides of the issue and understand it’s a serious thing to them.) In a nutshell, Aspen Skiing Company has a snowcat skiing operation that uses a combination of private and public land, with necessary permits. Sport snowmobilers and sled assisted skiers want access to the same public land.
According to an insider I recently spoke with, the Richmond Ridge snowmobile access issue has been through some interesting changes. The number of users has increased dramatically. But more importantly, for some time most of the sled skiers stuck with driving on the packed “over snow roads” and hauling their buddies up for petrol powered vert. But as snowmobiles have become more fun to ride in steeper terrain that used to be more appropriate for skiing, the sled crews are combining sport riding with their skiing, thus using up more of the powder in a shorter time.
A while back it looked like sledders might be allowed plenty of access, but recent mutterings from the Forest Service make it look like the concept of open motorized use (snowmobiles allowed offroad on almost all public land, excluding legal wilderness) is being reconsidered for the area in question. Pitkin County, long known for a restrictive take when it comes to land use, is also a player. As a result, the sled skiing advocacy group Powder To The People is calling for a new planning process that will more directly involve actual users of the area, rather than waiting to see what kind of restrictions the ‘crats come up with. Their proposal involves something like what’s been done on Vail Pass so mechanized and non mechanized users have areas to go. We’re not fans of splitting the non-wilderness backcountry pie among different user groups (as the saying goes, he who cuts the cake gets the worst share). But sometimes it’s a necessary evil that can be effective. Perhaps so in this case.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.