Icicle Ridge Lookout (Jun 1, 2013)

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icicle_ridge_lo_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Chiwaukum Mountain
Area: Leavenworth
Reference: Day Hiking Central Cascades
Stats:
10.7mi, 4700' gain (round trip)

This was a return trip to Icicle Ridge an the lookout for me. The first, and only other visit to the former lookout site, was in May 2006 with a friend. I had good memories of that trip and had always wanted to return. This looked like a good time.

I was ready for a trip that was steeper than I've done in a while. I figured this was a good one to visit. Trail all the way to the lookout site...well as long as it wasn't under snow. Recent reports put the snow level quite high up the ridge. Better yet, there were reports of good flower activity going on. I wanted to do this trip solo. I knew I likely wouldn't have the trail to myself but I was feeling like I needed some quiet time to do a trip at my pace.

I was up early and on the road early, 5am. A couple of stops (food and gas) and I was at the Fourth of July trailhead and moving by about 8am.

The first part of the trail is easy but it doesn't last long. The two lower creek crossings of Fourth of July come up quick and then from there...the grade picks up making for really efficient elevation gain. The trail for the most part is in great shape. My only "complaint" (if that) is that the stinkbush (I don't know what it is but in small doses it smells nice...in bigger doses the aroma is hard to take...for me) is overgrown in lots of places and crowding the trail out. The trail fairies need to take some loppers up this trail and cut back the brush. In one spot it was bad enough that people have cut a switchback to avoid the schwacking. There are also several trees down across the trail. Two big enough thy hare crawlers (to get over them). One, about 3.25 miles up the trail has clocked a switchback and it's impossible to crawl over it. There is a well beat in new trail cutting the switchback now. Really, other than a bit of brush and some downed trees the trail is in good shape.

The first three miles is steep with reasonable tree cover. The flower show down low is still going strong (lupine, balsam root, mariposa lilies, queens cup, etc). I found myself taking my time heading up but before I knew it, I was gaining elevation pretty fast and I hit the upper burned area (burned 2001). After the 3mi mark, the feel of the trail changes. Gone are the flowers from down low, present are the ghost trees still standing (some falling) from the older burn. One in this upper burn area the views through the silver snags and over to the Enchantments is stunning.

I pretty much had the trail to myself. Not another soul in site. I kept thinking someone would catch up to me but it didn't happen. In the upper burned area I could finally see the ridge I was heading up towards and with the ridge in sight, I could see south to point 6906 and up to my left the highpoint and site of the former lookout. When I was here in 2006 it was a month earlier in the year and I remember a lot more snow. In the distance I could hear the sound of a grouse. Hmmm, I wonder where it's at. Close... Eventually I rounded a turn in the trail and about 20 feet in front of me...a male grouse grousing about. He turned...looked at me... OK...buddy...step aside.... I moved toward it slowly and it flew into a nearby tree and several times showed me all it's beautiful plumage. His display...lost on me... Must have been another female in the area :)

Continuing up, I hit snow at about 4.75mi from the TH (6450'). It was pretty much consistent from there all the way to the ridge top and to the lookout. Easy enough at first to find the trail on the other side of the snow patch, when more consistent it was just easy enough to head straight for the ridge. From the ridge top I headed left, west, to the old LO site. It's not that far, if I could make the ridge then easy enough to head over to the LO site. There was definitely less snow than my previous trip. Seems like there is also less visible of the old LO. I remember a couple of pieces of wood hanging from the former LO site. While the anchors are still visible, those remnants of wood are gone (maybe buried under the snow?).

Still not another soul in site. Strange... I'll take it though. I found a nice perched and pulled out lunch. It was late, 12:30pm, and I was getting hungry. After lunch and snapping a few photos I headed back down. Only when early at the point in the ridge where the FOJ trail heads down, did I see my first other hiker. A couple of hellos exchanged and I continued down. Another small group followed the hiker. In all, I say only about a dozen other hikers the entire day. Nice... I did figure I'd see quite a few more.

The upper reaches of the trail, in the burn area, look like they are still recovering from the snow melt. I was surprised to find yellow bells blooming. Not many but it looks like the area hasn't been snow free all that long.

I took my time on the hike down and out. Not really in any rush to get anywhere. The early start helped. Some nice surprises along the trail on the hike out, Tweedii blooming down lower and just before reaching the trailhead, I spotted my first saprophyte of the year, a western spotted coralroot, right along the edge of the trail.

Great hike. No special gear brought or needed (ice axe or snowshoes).

More info on the lookout: This former LO was established as a camp in 1914, replaced with a D-6 cupola in 1929 but was then destroyed by a fire in 1966.
 
Icicle Ridge Lookout Slideshow

icicle_ridge_lo_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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