Green Mountain LO (Nov 1, 2014)

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green_mtn_lo_coverConditions: day trip
Gear: microspikes, ice axe
Map:  USGS Huckleberry Mountain
Area: Darrington, WA
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 8.7mi, 3317' gain (round trip)

So this return trip to Green Mtn LO was a long time coming. My last trip up there was in 2000 but between then and now there were two major washouts of the Suiattle River Road (the 2nd one made access to Green Mtn much more difficult) and a lawsuit which resulted in the scheduled removal of the LO from the summit. The good news...Suiattle River Road was repaired and finally in late October 2014 full access to the Suiattle River TH was restored. The other bit of good news was that special legislation was passed by both houses of the US Congress protecting the LO which meant that it would stay in place. I love lookouts...I really, really love them. Green Mtn LO holds a special place in my heart because I visited it a few times before the flood and because it's one of those special structures out there in the great wild places that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The official opening of the Suiattle River Rd was last weekend. I tried driving to the trailhead in my Jetta but the road is just a little too muddy for my low clearance car. This time around the plan was to get a group of friends and hike to the LO site. Matt was the organizer. On board for the assault of the LO were: Matt, BarbE, Elle (Snowdog), Lindsay (Marmot), Gabriel, JimK, Gwen, Alexei (Magellen), Tom (GeoTom), and me. The plan was for three of us (me, Tom, Alexei) to head in a bit early than the rest of the group since I had plans in town later that evening. We got about a 45min head start on them.

The advance team met at the McCollum P&R and then carpooled up to the Green Mtn trailhead (3460'). We were the first in the parking area which is almost near the end of the road and by about 7:45am we were hiking up the trail. It was light out but just barely. The dense tree cover down low made the forest a bit dark. Surprisingly it wasn't all that cold. The NOAA spot forecast for the LO was 35F and light winds. We were in light shirts and it was just fine. I'd brought rain pants thinking the brush down low would be wet but it turned out to not be a problem...everything was frozen.

The trail starts out in the trees/forest down below. Lots and lots of shrooms all over the place. I had done lots of trail work many years ago with WTA on this trail and bits and pieces of the trail did look familiar. The trail all the way up to the LO is generally in surprisingly great shape. If anything it could use a bit of brushing when it melts out early next year. Eventually the trail pops out of the trees into those beautiful meadows that I remember. We were starting to hike above the clouds hanging down low and the hillsides were full of that great autumn color with the wisps of clouds occasionally drawn over them. We would see a dusting of fresh snow above us. We'd each brought microspikes and ice axes. We never did use the ice axes. The deeper snow that had fallen recently had largely disappeared. About 8:40am we say a sign...we were crossing over into the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

At about 3mi (9am, 5375') we reached the high point on the trail before it drops down to the small tarn on the map. Here the trail is a bit rutted and was pretty icy in spots. The trail drops about 160' to the tarn (slightly frozen over this early in the morning before popping out in the open for good. The morning was clear and we could see the slightly snow dusted slopes of Green Mtn and the lookout perched at the top.

The trail does a long series of zigs and zags up the south side of the mountain. Glacier Peak slowly came into view. Completely cloud covered in the valley but the tops of all the peaks and nearly all of Glacier Peak were above the clouds.

I think Alexei was more anxious to get to the LO (if that's possible) and he lead the way up the trail setting a nice pace. At about 10:10am (4mi, 6092') Tom and I finally hit the southeast ridge and we could see the snow covered peaks to the east (Dome, Sinister...). Wow! From here the trail stays on the ridge the rest of the way to the top (10:20am, 4.35mi, 6460'). A fellow compulsive hiker, MidLifeHiker, that I'd previously run into on Carne Mtn also arrived at the LO at the same time we did. We had nearly perfect 360 views...Dome and Sinister to the east, Buckindy to the northeast, Mt Baker and Shuksan to the northeast. and Glacier Peak to the southeast. The lookout is currently locked and shutters. While it would have been nice to just peek into the inside, I was just thankful it had been spared removal.

The four of us had the lookout to ourselves and then up came Izzy the pooch followed closely first by Lindsay, Gabriel, and Elle and then soon afterwards by Matt and Barb. We stayed a bit longer, snapped some group photos and then it was time to head down. On the way down we rain into Jim and Gwen. Then a nice surprise right after that...Eric (cartman), RichP and their group and then David and Lauren (Opus and fourteen410). Our group had no idea the others had the same idea. Nice bumping into friends on the trail and nice that the Mountain is finally accessible for day trips!

Our group of 3 was back down to the tarn by about 12:10pm. Then it was back into the meadows now full of wet brush (temps had risen). A bit lower we bumped into Hulksmash (my second sighting in less than a week) before we were back in the forest. We were back to the car by 1:35pm. The lot by then was full. I counted 16 cars in the lot and a few further up the road towards the roads end.

The road up to the Green Mtn trailhead is in pretty good shape. There is only one minor slump. The biggest issue was the really slick mud at nearly every sharp turn in the road. Come next year I should be able to get the Jetta up to the trailhead. However, for now, best to leave the road to cars with a bit more clearance and at least AWD.

On the drive back we slowed down along the road to see if we could find the Huckleberry Mtn trailhead. Once of the new stretches of road is now sitting on top of what was the former trailhead. The sign is there...perched right along the side of the road. Looks like there will be room for a couple of cars in a wide spot near the trailhead.

NOTE: Green Mtn LO is locked. I believe it will revert back to administrative status which means that when not staffed it will be locked. It will NOT be available on a FCFS basis to the public as an overnight shelter. If you are planning to overnight in this area the LO site is pretty small. Best to camp down lower near the tarn in existing/established campsites.

More informaton on the lookout: The lookout was first a camp established in 1919.  Then, in 1933 and L-4 cab was built. It was staffed off and on into the 1990's. I've heard that the restored lookout will be an administrative lookout which means that when not staffed, it will be locked.
Green Mountain LO Slideshow


(click on map to view a larger version)

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