Driveway Butte (Jun 14, 2014)

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driveway_butte_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Robinson Mountain, USGS Silver Star Mountain
Area: Mazama
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 8.9mi, 3005' gain (round trip)

One of my goals, though a loose one, is to hike to more former or current lookout sites in 2014. I tried hiking up the butte two years ago but didn't make it. I was hiking solo, it was about a month earlier in the year and it was a heavier snow year. The upper crossing of McGee Ck didn't look ideal. At best if I punched through I'd get banged up. At worst...I didn't want to think about it... So I turned around. This year I'd seen a recent TR saying the trail was nearly snow free. Looked like it was time to hike to the top.

I got an early start leaving the house at about 5:30am. I like early starts. The trail is quiet. I beat the rush of the crowds. I get to the top first that day. I'm a heat wimp to so getting most of the gain done early is appealing. There is lots of time to explore when I get an early start...

It's a long drive from home, about 3 hours, but only about 30 minutes longer than the original plan. I reached the TH (2970') and was hiking before 9am. Nice...

The first .13mi is flat, then at the junction (trail coming up from the CG) the moderately steep trail starts heading uphill. The first switchback is at about .6mi (3450'). From here the trail alternates from being out in the open on the south slope of Delancy Ridge to being in the trees. The trail down low is really nice right now. There are several stretches of waist high arnica that cover the hillside. Down low the arnica (and balsamroot) are at about peak, won't last too much longer. The last switchback in the trail down lower is at about 1.6mi (4070') and then the trail does a long traverse heading for the upper reaches of Indian Creek. Then a couple of minor switchbacks at about 1.9mi (4545') and then the start of the burn area at 2.37mi (4850') and then steepish trail eases up once you are the saddle area (between Pts 6607 and 5545).

Once on the back side of the ridge, the balsamroot and arnica give way. There are some paintbrush and glacier lilies going on higher up. I'm guessing this open area higher up peaks with flowers in a few weeks. There was some lupine starting to bloom but most still looked like it was a few weeks from peak bloom.

The trail continues a more gentle climb to the upper reaches of McGee Ck. The stream crossings were all pretty minor. The "big" stream crossing is at about 3.8mi (5256'). The trail up to this point looks to have been recently cleared of any fallen trees. After this main creek crossing there were some trees down but it's pretty much minor stuff, easy enough to step over. Only two were big enough to do a slight walk around.

The trail rounds the head of McGee Ck and heads for the SW slope of the butte. The once at about 4.23mi (5520') the trail heads steeply uphill. It's faint in some places but it's marked with a few cairns to it wasn't too hard to follow.

I reached the top, the old lookout site, at about 4.5mi (6982') at about 11:45am. I dropped my pack and explored a bit. I found lots of bits and pieces of the old lookout, actually two lookouts that used to be here. The more typical square lookout with it's 4 corner concrete foundations. I also noticed what looked to be some older pieces of timber buried closer to the highest point. I wasn't sure what these were. It looked like part of an old structure. I found out when I got home that this was from an older slant walled structure. These timbers were all that remained of that first lookout.

I went back to where I'd dropped my pack. It was a bit windy and chilly at the LO site so I dropped behind a rock and found a nice spot for lunch. I had views down across the Methow Valley and Goat Wall and then in the distance, clearly visible, was the still standing lookout atop Goat Peak. I had the old lookout site to myself, did I mention this was a benefit to an early start, and then it was time to head down, it was chilly after all. On the way down and out I counted 11 other hikers. Not bad. But, I was glad I didn't have to share my solitude at the top with anyone else. I spent lots of time on the hike out looking for morels (none) and looking for interesting flowers. I did spot what I think it called an alpine lewisia. Nice...another new flower for my "bucket list".

More information on the lookout: This site is the home to two former lookout structures. There is the more typical square lookout (an L-4), on a tower,  built in 1938. There was also an older, slant-walled cupola cabin (built 1931) on the site. Both structures were destroyed in 1953.

Notes: Some mucky spots along the trail. Looks like others have tossed logs braches into the muck to help with crossings. I have to wonder if this is counter productive because it just tends to keep the wet spot from draining and drying out. Some downed trees higher up, but nothing bad. Wildflowers fading down below, looks to be just starting higher up. The trail is completely snow free all the way to the old lookout site.
 
Driveway Butte Slideshow

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