The first time I hiked that route this year, ( I think it was June 25th, could have been in July, though, I've hiked it a lot) there were fresh tire marks, so for some reason, possibly to remove the tree that was across the road, or maybe to do some spraying, it was used by a vehicle with dual rear tires. Also, that's not paint on the sign, it's a scorch mark from the fire. You can still make out the number if you examine it closely. Here's a close-up of the same photo:
As for distance, you are correct in that it is farther - by about a quarter mile - compared to starting at the regular TH, the one by the bathroom. But not if you have to park on the frontage road when that TH parking is full - as it often is.
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