Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dirty Harry's Truck

The Damned Truck (Dirty Harry’s Deuce and a half)

Early June, 2010

How many times have I tramped up Dirty Harry’s Road near North Bend to look for that rumored truck? Friends had found it, other hikers posted photographs of it on their web pages yet I met with failure every time I tried.

Until last week – thanks to a friend - we found the truck. We hiked the rocky, miserable road again, ignoring the turn off to Dirty Harry’s balcony, bypassing the crumpled, rusted artifacts from Dirty Harry’s legendary days of gyppo logging along the road – after all, we’d seen those many times before.

It is surprising how close it is to Dirty Harry’s Road and Museum Creek. The mistake we made before was crossing the creek, THEN looking for an old road where the truck can be found. This might have been true once upon a time but that truck has been sitting there a long time and alders have grown, making the snippet of old road difficult to spot let alone follow.

This time we didn’t cross Museum Creek; we looked for a path a few paces below creek. It took us a couple tries to find the path - it is hard to distinguish the path from thick vegetation. So - the easiest way to find the truck – at least for us befuddled geezers – is to hike to the creek, turn around, backtrack a few paces and spot the trail on the uphill side of the road (left).

A much as we enjoy exploring this path does not invite exploration; it’s a mess. Don’t look for flagging – it doesn’t exist. If you miss it, try again. The path is short and claustrophobic with obstacles of small, downed trees, brush and an almost impenetrable wall of crowded cedars.

We did eventually spot a ribbon and knew we were on the right track. You could tell that this old road had been a working road but it has been taken over by alders. We were only a few feet away from Museum Creek. Per instructions we followed the road (easterly direction) to a switchback marked with a large boulder; here the road heads back toward the creek.

The road (if one could call it that) veered into a thicket of cedars and dense brush; a few ribbons guided the way and after a wrestling match with ferocious cedars we spotted the rusting hulk of the Deuce and a half through the vegetation.

There lay an old radiator in the stream, the truck itself still mostly in one piece, the doors riddled with bullet holes, the smashed, headlights, the engine block, the flatbed, the whole mess. Peering into the cab we saw a jumble of leaves and clutter; someone had left a Rainier beer can on the driver’s seat. The windows of the cab are long gone and there are holes in the roof of the cab where daylight trickles in.

At first glance it looks like it had run into a boulder come to rest against near the creek. We don’t know – of course – how the truck got there or why – one can only speculate. We spent a lot of time photographing the truck though photographs can’t capture the mood of the place. It’s odd – it’s almost like the truck doesn’t want to be “found” or perhaps Harry knew he’d come to the end of the line and left his truck there to quietly rust away and slowly disappear over time.

We’ve been hiking for over 30 years and never met anyone who met Dirty Harry, not even Harvey Manning. Last I heard he was in a retirement home – and the old place where he used to live amidst a clutter of aging trucks is gone, likely to become someone’s moneyed “dream home” near the river.

When – and if – you find the truck sit down for a moment in the silence and ponder the man who drove this vehicle up and down cliff-hanging roads and put in roads where others feared to tread. Dirty Harry’s roads are all over the place though they are slowly being taken over by alders. Some day there will be little evidence so if you find a mangled piece of metal along the road or trail, let it be – it has a right to rest.

(I think even Harvey Manning had grudging admiration for Dirty Harry – they were both curmudgeons and they both loved the land in their own, fierce way.)

To find it (or not): Exit 38 (I-90), head toward the fire training center (don’t park outside the gate you might get locked in if you’re late). After parking walk up the road, cross the Snoqualmie River and in roughly 1/3 to ¼ of a mile find the hard-to-miss path on the right-hand side of the road. There is no sign. The path is Dirty Harry’s Road, follow that until you get to Museum Creek and good luck finding the path.

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