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.
Use this forum to report and discuss trails in need of maintenance. This will help organizations like TKO and agencies like the Forest Service get the most recent on-the-ground trail conditions.
Thanks for the info on this alternate access point. I've been missing all the trails accessible from the Herman Creek trailhead. I tried this today after looking at Don's GPS coordinates on a map, and the parking area was obvious when I got there. There's a pullout on the west side of the road with room for about eight cars (or five if people park all spaced out like they were today ) and a smaller pullout a little further up the road. The hike up to the Herman Creek Trail was pretty, too.