Evergreen Mtn LO (Dec 31, 2009 to Jan 1, 2010)

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evergreen_mtn_coverConditions: Winter Backpack
Gear: overnight gear, snowshoes
Map: USGS Evergreen Mountain
Area: Skykomish
Stats: 6.71mi, 4650' gain (round trip)

IAnother year has come and gone. I was wondering what the new year would bring. Dicey and Franklin were tossing around and idea of spending New Years Even in a lookout. Seemed like a fun plan to me. But which one? We tossed around lots of ideas and after lots of research settled on Evergreen. Some lookouts are administrative meaning they are always locked. Some lookouts are rentals meaning locked unless you rent them and get the key. Some lookouts are just shuttered meaning the shutters are pulled down over the windows for the winter but the lookouts are "open" as long as you can get to it and get inside. Evergreen is normally a rental but with the road issues...it had temporarily reverted to just "shuttered" for the winter. So...Evergreen it was.

I figured with both my knees scoped they should do fine...I'd find out how wrong I was on the way out... :(

Evergreen was a short drive being as the route was just off Beckler River Road and it was "short" (yeah...whatever...)

We packed heavy knowing it was just a one way trip for the day. The plan was to eat good food...tacos for dinner and back and eggs for breakfast.

We started late (afternoon) from the Beckler River bridge following the flagged trail near the fire circle. Easy trail soon changes to a skim coating of snow on salal...then ice on steep rock. The route basically goes straight up. Early on I was doing OK but the knees were sore....ugh... I'd done Evergreen many years ago...I'd forgotten how steep the route was.

At the second logging road (overgrown) we headed straight up (no trail) and the ground was finally covered with enough snow. Then more up following a ridge. We found more flagging...

We stopped for a break (food) at a big turn in the road and finally put on snowshoes making out way through gaps in the trees. The route had us constantly crossing over the roads (cutting switchbacks in the road on the way up). Finally...one last bit of road and we were finally at the trailhead (the summer one). From here, the route is directly up the ridge.

It was getting late, the sun getting awfully low in the sky, and the wind had picked up on the ridge. Carla and Franklin plowed on ahead to get a head start on digging out the LO door. The ridge is covered in larger trees and drops and climbs a bit on the last stretch. I arrived at the LO just in time (Carla and Franklin were ready to come back and find out where I was), the LO was open and Franklin was ready with a broom to brush all the crusted rime ice off that each of us was covered in from head to toe.

We piled inside, shut the door, and piled on the layers...it was cold inside!   Carla pulled out the LO register reading accounts of past visitors. She read from it as if Santa was reading by the campfire.

Franklin got the stove fired up and it was time to get the fixings for the tacos heated up and it was time to pull out the hooch. Several varieties made an appearance (mulled wine, whiskey and port). Oh...and time to string up the solar powered Christmas lights I'd decided to surprise the group with :)

Carla continued reading from the register most of the evening. Most visitors hiked in from the summer trailhead a mere 1/2 mile away instead of the 4600+ vertical we did with big overnight packs.

We all stepped outside during breaks of the storm and I think I heard some howling going on...

We all stayed awake until midnight, making crank calls to friends down below. We were paid back early the next morning by Yana calling very early to wish us good morning. Yes, there is cell service at the LO.

Carla sprawled out on the floor of the LO while Franklin and I had plenty of room on the oversized bunk. Franklin thankfully placed himself next to the broken LO window blocking the little big of cold air seeping in. Then, finally tired and bellies full...sleep...

We slept in on the new day, and when awake had another awesome meal (bacon and eggs). Then time to pack up and tidy up the LO. We left a couple of full fuel canisters behind and then "locked up" the LO and started the hike out.

It was cold and windy again, snow at first changing to rain at 4300'.

The trip out wasn't the most pleasant...for me... It wasn't bad at first but the knees were sore and they were letting me know they weren't happy. Every step painful. Eventually the ice changed to a skim coat of snow on vegetation. I have to admit, I was embarrassed by the pain induced curse words coming out of my mouth. The last 1000 of descent back to the car seemed like it would never end. I gave up trying to walk downhill. At first I would traverse the hillside looking for a nice fat tree 10-15ft downhill...then sit...and then veggie glissade using the tree to stop my slide. Then repeat again, and again, and again. Eventually Carla and Franklin who had raced downhill and dropped packs, came back up the hillside to where I was, and graciously took my pack. I was never so glad to see the car in my life.

Happy to be back at the car, we cranked up the heat, warmed up the fingers and toes, and started talking about how great a trip it was and how we needed to do this every New Year's Eve.

Back at home...later that week...I called my surgeon. Time to make some hard decisions. It was time. Yes, finally I was ready to do what the doc said I needed all along...bilateral total knee replacement. I made the appointment with my doc, we discussed the "situation" and schedule the surgery for a few short months away...March 30, 2010.

I have to say...this was a GREAT trip and my knees sure picks an awesome trip to go out on a bang with!

More information on the lookout: The current structure is a L-4 cab, built in 1935 and was staffed into the 1980's. The lookout was restored in the 1990's, and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. It is available to rent (locked but if rented, you pick up a key) thrugh the Recreation Rental program.
Evergreen Mtn Lookout Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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