Park Butte Lookout

Up Highway 20 just before the small city of Concrete is a turnoff for Baker Lake. This area is really popular in the summer for camping and fishing. If you head a little past Baker Lake you find several forest service roads which take you out in the foothills where several really nice trails exist.

Park Butte is my third lookout I’ve hiked to in Washington. They all are a little different. Some allow overnight stays while others do not. Some are open year around while others close during late fall and winter. Park Butte is on the south side of Mt. Baker and offers spectacular views of the mountain through fields covered in fall colors.

The trail starts out meandering through a meadow with little elevation gain. There is a fairly wide river or mountain runoff stream to cross. When we were there, a temporary metal bridge was placed over the river to allow crossing. I just read that it has been removed for the winter. With the recent rains I would not want to try crossing that river without a bridge. That is some fast moving water! Once you cross over the bridge the trail starts a steady climb up to another meadow. The climb is through the forest and occasionally offers peekaboo views over the valley. We had some low clouds so some of the view was obstructed, however I always like the view when you are actually above the cloud cover. It looks like you are on top of cotton balls or marshmallow cream!

When you climb out of the forest, you enter a large meadow that is currently covered with fall colors. The ground cover leaves were a deep red color, which was a nice fore ground against the white glaciers of Mt. Baker. Across the meadow we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Baker. It always seems so strange to be standing so close to glaciers. You can see the creases and blue coloring of the ice.

From the meadow you start climbing again to get up to the lookout. I’ll be honest you can see the lookout from the meadow and it looks so far away. Like crazy far away! The trail winds it way up and around the rocks. You walk parallel to the lookout for quite awhile. It can get a little discouraging as it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress to the lookout. Outside of the view of Mt. Baker there really isn’t much to see on this hike. The landscape is pretty dry and rocky unfortunately.

One exciting part on the trek up to the lookout was the sighting of a black foraging in a meadow. When I first saw the bear I wasn’t quite sure what it was, until it moved! It was a ways away so it was pretty exciting to see! It made the long trek up the hill go by quickly as we were easily distracted by seeing what the bear was doing. This was my first time seeing a bear int he wild on a hike! Pretty cool!!

The lookout was pretty busy so we didn’t stay very long. We moved off to the side to sit and have lunch looking out over a valley as the fog moved in. While we were eating lunch a group of horseback riders came up to the lookout. Never seen that on a trail before! They were pretty funny and immediately broke out their Coors Light to enjoy at the lookout!

It was starting to get kinda chilly so we headed back down. Another lookout hike to check off the list!

Did you know Melakwa means “mosquito” in Chinook??

Living in Washington State we have a deep relationship with several Native American Tribes. Many of our cities carry Native American names that out of towners badly attempt to pronounce. Lake Melakwa is located outside Snoqualmie (Snoqualmie Tribe) and is located within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It is a relatively popular trail located off Denny Creek. The trail is roughly 8.5 miles roundtrip and has an elevation gain of about 2,700 feet. The trail offers a wide variety of landscape as you gain elevation.

I chose this hike as part of our training hikes in preparation for Mailbox as it gains 2,700 feet, which would be our most elevation gain in a hike. It’s a fairly consistent grade so it would help acclimatize the group to ongoing elevation but nothing dramatic. We had a couple new hikers join us on this trip so that added some entertainment as this was a bit, actually a lot, out of their comfort zone.

The trail starts out in the forest and about a mile in, you come across the Denny Creek crossing. In the summer the creek is easily passable as a log is across it that you walk across. This area has a lot of slippery big rocks that families come to so their kids can play safely. They also make for super fun slip and slides! It’s a nice area to go do something different. If you walk up the creek there is a nice waterfall that has a small pool at the bottom.

We kept heading up the trail and came to the talus field. As we climbed Donna kept asking me if we were heading up that and I kept reassuring her no. We weren’t going up that as we were crossing over to the other side but what I didn’t tell her was that we would be going to about the same elevation point! Pretty sure she called me a liar several times as we gained elevation!! I always laughed! At this point I was beginning to question if her friends were going to make it to the lake as we still had quite a ways to go.

After a couple hours we made it to the lake. Every alpine lake here looks different. Each has their own unique valley they sit in and their own unique color. I’ll never get tired of looking at alpine lakes, but apparently some in my group do! Ha! Although we didn’t have the best weather, it was still a beautiful day. The lake was a bit chilly so it was nice to take my boots off and soak my feet in the chilly water. Too cold to swim for sure! We did celebrate with some whiskey shots at the lake though!

Hiking during a pandemic has been an interesting process. It has been great to get outside and breathe in some fresh air for sure! With a goal in mind of Mailbox Peak on September 10 we have to make sure we get out every week to build endurance to make sure they all make it to the peak. The downside has been the massive increase in the number of people on the trails. A lot of people who don’t normally hike and don’t know hiking etiquette. With trails being so busy it is really important that we practice safe passing, not stepping onto delicate terrain off the trail and practice leave no trace principles! I really can not tell you how much toilet paper or Kleenex I’ve seen off the side of the trail. Not to mention dog poop bags. This has become a huge issue that will require massive cleanups. It’s really disappointing to see people just have a complete lack of respect for our forests. You can’t have nice things if we don’t bother to take care of them!

Next week I think we will do some exploring at Mt. Rainer!

Melmont Ghost Town

I’m helping a couple people get ready to hike Mailbox Peak in early September so we went down to Carbonado Washington to take a stroll through Melmont Ghost Town.

This is a 5-6 mile out and back path along an old abandoned coal town from the early 1900’s. There are some remnants of some of the buildings. They look like they are made with local stones. The town of Carbonado was a stop for the railway as they transported coal. The town was busy for awhile, boasting a school and post office, however it was short lived and has been abandoned for nearly a century.

At times you will see individuals with metal detectors working in the fields looking for old artifacts. Last time I was there a couple guys had located old plates and cooking items. On the West Coast we have not been good about preserving our history. Many town like this exist with little information known about the history. That’s really unfortunate as there are great stories about perseverance and settlers that will be lost.

This is a nice flat trail that boasts an old steel bridge that reminds me a lot of deception pass bridge. It’s so impressive to think about workers building that by hand. The nuts and bolts on it alone are impressive.

It was a nice day weather wise, so we were able to walk down to the Carbonado river and relax while we ate some lunch.

Next week I’ll be taking them on a longer hike with some elevation!

Wallace Falls

I’ve had a couple crazy weeks at work and have been missing my outdoor time! The weather was suppose to hold out with chilly temps but no rain. Well it didn’t quite work out that way but it is December in Washington so we should be expecting rain. I had hoped to get in some snowshoeing this weekend but in general we are low on snow this year so it would require a few hour drive to find it!

I had a holiday party with one of my hiking groups to get to in the afternoon so I decided on a close by hike for the morning. There were a decent number of vehicles in the parking lot. I’m glad I grabbed my long johns as the wind was quite chilly! We had a steady sprinkle of rain but nothing dramatic.

One thing I love about this hike is the woody trail through the forest. It’s actually called the “Woody” trail. You are surrounded by tall pines and walk along the river. You could hear the tree tops rustling in the wind but no branches fell. The trail has good cover so it was nice and dry. The lower and middle falls are my favorite. The lower falls is short and rolls into a large pool whereas the middle fall is long and lean and sprays everything. The whole trail is only about five miles round trip. On my way down I saw a couple with their jet boil out doing some serious cooking! A bit of overkill for such a short hike but hey everyone has their own style!

I kicked back on a log for a bit and just listened to the trees in the wind. It’s such a relaxing environment to clear your mind and just wash away all your troubles. I could tell I was wired pretty tight so I needed to get outdoors. I felt so much better by the end. The clear air and sounds of nature. Along with a little sweat and elevated heart rate! Does the body good!!

Even made it back in time for a Xmas party with one of my hiking groups. Hanging out with a bunch of people I don’t know was a stretch for this introvert!!! I survived though and had a good time!

We got more snow today so that is awesome! I so want to get out and try my new snowshoes

So much history behind the Monte Cristo Ghost Town

      This hike has been on the bucket list for some time and I bet we’ve had it planned for the past month. There is something about ghost towns that draw my attention. To walk on the same path of settlers, miners or timber workers from the 1800’s is pretty awe inspiring. I took our group a couple hours to walk the nearly five miles to the homestead. When we see the old railroad ties, saw blades, and the still operational train turnstyle it truly makes you appreciate the hard work and I mean hard labor all these individuals engaged in daily to not only get to Monte Cristo but to build and live. Several buildings still stand and have small plaques giving you the history of the building. 

      In modern days Monte Cristo is well out of the populated areas and doesn’t have of today’s “necessities” however back in the day Monte Cristo was a thriving tourist town with dozens of houses/cabins and a hotel. The train brought in goods and people and exported lumber and minerals.  If only you could hear the history theough whispers in the wind. What stories they would tell!

      This is a nice wide trail that really is road size. We say a couple washouts along with way but nothing too bad. We even got to cross a river by walking on a downed tree over the river. Not bad in the summer but it could be a little more dicey in winter/spring with a raging river.  We were a fairly large group of 8 today. All general hikers and one bad ass carrying a 45 pound pack getting ready for a 10 day hike at Mt Rainier!  Weather was good, not too hot but the smoke from the BC fires is still visible. It didn’t diminish the beautiful scenery though!  Wildflowers are out and we even spotted a frog or toad. I don’t know how to tell the differenceūüė¨. 

      We tried a new spot on the way home too. Dreasnought Brewery serves some pretty good food and some nice refreshing beverages!

      Another great day on the trails today!  Until next time!

      Goat Lake does not disappoint!

      I planned on doing this hike a couple weeks ago but I decided to move it out and give myself more time. ¬†The Goat Lake hike is 10.4 miles. ¬†It’s about 35 miles past Granite Falls and about 35 miles past civilization and cell phone range! The Mountain Loop Highway feels like you drive way further than 35 miles. ¬†The instructions tell you to drive until the end of the pavement plus 3.5 miles, so I did. ¬†I drove to the end of the pavement, which was only a gap of about 30 feet before the pavement started again. ¬†Hmmm….That must not be the end of the pavement they were talking about! ¬†It wasn’t. ¬†Out in the middle of nowhere, where there are a ton of camping spots along the river and a lot of hiking trails to explore, you finally hit the end of the pavement. ¬†It’s for real this time! ¬†Gravel road for 3.5 miles. ¬†Total dust storm. ¬†Although my truck is normally forest green, it is clearly dirt brown now! ¬†The parking lot for Goat Lake is not very big and it was full so I joined the groups that were parking on the road.

      I decided to take Lower Elliot trail out as it meanders through the forest and along the river so you get to listen to the birds and the water!  My favorite!  The first three or so miles is a nice stroll, then you start uphill to get to the lake.  I stopped a couple of times along the way to take some photos.  The waterfall just below the base of Goat Lake is pretty cool!  There was a ton of water flowing done the rocks so of course I had to venture down that side trail!  It alone was worth the hike!

      There were a number of folks camping at the lake, but they are off to the left. ¬†The trail surrounding the lake is for day use only. ¬†Although I only saw a few people on the trail, there were quite a few at the lake already. ¬†I had to scout out the area and see if I could find a place to hang my hammock, because it is National Hammock Day! I found a nice spot overlooking the lake and I could have totally taken a nap if it weren’t for the constant bugs! Not mosquitos. ¬†These were flies, or they looked like flies, and they BITE to the point that ¬†you can feel them biting! ¬†Not fun! ¬†This made for a shorter than planned stay at the lake:( ¬†I packed up my gear and headed back down on the Lower Elliot Trail. ¬†I’ve decided I’d like to try a one night camping adventure, but no tent. ¬†Hammock sleeping, with net!

      It took me 2 hours to get to the lake and 90 minutes to get back down.  This trail is a decent workout.  Enough sweating to let you know you are putting in some good effort!  Once you get out of the forest, you get to walk through narrow trails lined with wildflowers that were over my head tall!  The lake is stunning and worth the hike!  No snow around the lake but you can still see some on the hills.

      Another great hike to check off the list!  Time to start planning a fall hike to Gem Lake.  I bet it is pretty spectacular with the fall foliage!!

      Did you say Ghost Town???

      I’ve been looking for a hike that was out of the ordinary and just happened to stumble upon the Melmont Ghost Town Trail outside of Carbonado, WA.  The trail is partly on county land and partly on school district land as it is a historical site.  Carbonado is on the way to Mt. Rainier and is a very small town.  Like the kind that stood still in time and if you blink you missed it.  So don’t blink because you don’t want to miss this town or Wilkerson for that matter!

      We breezed past Carbonado and headed towards the trail.  You come upon a single lane bridge that starts out as a wooden bridge, but becomes a steel bridge.  It looks like a smaller version of the Deception Pass Bridge.  It is quite impressive!  There is a small parking area just past the bridge, then you walk back over to get to the trail.  You can feel the rumble of the cars as they drive over the bridge.  We stopped for a second just to peak over the side of the bridge down to the Carbon river.  I’m not afraid of heights, but I have to say that was a very uncomfortable feeling leaning over the side of the bridge.  I bet it’s at least 150 feet straight down to the river.

      The trail is a wide path, that leads you to an old mining town.  Apparently it is a ghost town because most of the buildings are invisible!  Actually they were all limestone and wood and have deteriorated so much they are gone or the wood was repurposed for other buildings in town.  We were able to find the old dynamite shed, which was made of limestone, as well as the remnants of a pretty large building.  All that remains is one wall and part of the side.  It’s embedded into the dirt now and covered with moss and ferns and graffiti!  Seriously people, lets respect a historical site.  There is no place for graffiti!! We found a couple of “prospectors” looking for metal on the old town site, which is now just a big grass field.  With their metal detectors they uncovered a fire shovel, pan and some other kitchen looking items.  For being pretty out of the way, I was surprised at the number of people we saw along the trail.  I’m not exactly sure where the trail goes to as we walked over 4 miles in and the trail is only suppose to be 6 miles roundtrip, but we were not at the end 4 miles in.  The trail goes along the carbon river so we decided to take a lunch break there and explore some side trails on the way back.  We found some only steel bands and ties, which may have belonged to the train trestle that once went over the river, but no longer exists.

      The steel bridge over the river is so precise. When you try to figure out how men built that in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, you realize just how impressive their building skills were.  It is so intricate how all the steel bars lace together to hold up the bridge guides.

      After the 8 mile roundtrip hike we headed back towards town and stopped at the Carbonado Saloon.  If you ever venture that way, you have to stop here and go into the bathrooms.  Checkout the artwork!  Hilarious!  After the saloon we stopped in Wilkerson, which is only 2 miles down the road and ate lunch at the Pike and Shovel Restaurant.  They serve their burgers on metal baking pans.  I had a black and blue burger with onion rings.  OMG, the best burger ever!!!!  Wilkerson is also a very small town, but they are apparently famous for the annual Handcart races, which are the little cars that went on the rail lines.  It’s the last weekend in June if you are ever in the area!

      So many gems in this great state!

      Trekking out Boulder River

      I’ve seen this hike on WTA.org a few times and what caught my attention was the photos of a waterfall. I seem to chase great waterfall hikes and this one lived up to the photos!!  The hike is posted at 8.6 miles round trip through the forest, along the river back, and up along the hillside overlooking the river. The forest is covered with so many varieties and color of moss covering the ground and the trees. This must be an old growth forest. Many of the trees seemed to reach up to the clouds and were well over 6 feet in diameter. One of these large trees had fallen and was blocking the trail. Three great guys from Back Country Crosscut Crew were sawing it to clear the trail. Sawing it with old school large hand saws!  Awesome guys!!  The  trail is well marked, with lots of thick mud and several stream crossings. With all the rain we’ve had lately the water was just running out of the hillsides. Along the trail you get to see 3 large waterfalls and a number of small ones. The large falls are gorgeous. Heavy flows of water cascade down the rocks to the river. The trail has a few hill climbs and descents but the forest is so peaceful we didn’t mind.   

      We did run across a ferocious field mouse who challenged us on the trail. He bravely stood his ground then in a split second charged me. I was able to quickly maneuver out of his way so he ran past us and down the trail. Thank god!!  I don’t like mice so I was glad we were able to part companynwith no injuries or screaming for that matter!ūüė≥

      At 5 miles we decided to turn around as the trail was getting very narrow and overgrown. Not exactly sure where the end was but another hiker told us we got close as the trial end in an old campground. Round trip the hike was about 10 miles for us. Nice sunny day to end March. Spring is on it’s way!!ūüĆ∑ūüĆ∑

      Skagit Valley Eagles

      Every January I venture up past Concrete along the Skagit River to see the eagles. ¬†A few years ago it wasn’t uncommon to see dozens of eagles sitting in the trees or swooping down to steal a salmon out of the river. So impressive to see such a majestic bird in flight so close. Over the years, the numbers have dwindled significantly. ¬†Now you might see a handful off in the distance. ¬†The eagles seem fewer in number and maybe have moved north up to the Nooksack river. I might have to venture up there next time.

      We are experiencing an unusually snowy winter this year in Western Washington.  Normally we only get a day or two of snow in the winter. This year it seems like we have a snow storm every other week!  On the positive side, the snowpack is full!  This means great runoff for the rivers and lakes in spring and summer. It also provides for the great beauty of our rolling hillsides and Cascade mountains.  Set against a beautiful blue sky it reminds us of what a beautiful state in which we live and play.

      Frozen Franklin Falls

      What normally is a 2 mile roundtrip hike in the summer, became a nearly 8 mile roundtrip in the winter because of all the snow! Nestled along I-90 near Denny Creek, Franklin Falls is well worth the hike. ¬† ¬†The trail takes you meandering through the calm forest and along with river. ¬†It is so peaceful! ¬†Dotting the riverbank are several small summer cabins that are currently covered in snow! ¬†Now that I’ve seen the falls in the winter, I do want to come back and see it in the summer!

      Fall in the Snoqualmie Valley

      You don’t have to go far to see the ¬†beautiful fall colors in the PNW. Although we are known as the evergreen state, we still have a wide variety of deciduous trees that are spectacular in changing seasons. This year we experienced a lengthy time of yellows and orange colors before the leaves fell. This river leads into Snoqualmie Falls, which is probably one of the most photographed falls on the west coast.

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