Green Mtn LO (Jul 28-30, 2017)

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

Last summer I did a wonderful weekend trip to Green Mtn LO as a lookout host. This year I got the chance to do it again but this year the plan was to also get some work done on the lookout. The work...get the outside of the lookout in shape by scraping, sanding, caulking, priming, and painting.

With my 9/80 work schedule it seemed ideal to do the trip on a three day weekend. Steve was game and he would hike in with me on Friday. Dani was also game but she wouldn't arrive until Saturday.

In case anyone is curious...this lookout is normally shuttered and locked. It is only open if it is manned (and this past weekend...the manning is done by volunteers). This lookout is not available to the public on a first come first serve basis and it is not open for reservations. I'd make one request of all visitors...please cherish this historic lookout. There are few of the structures left and they need our love and attention. If the lookout is closed (shuttered and locked) please respect this.

Steve and I arrived at the trailhead at about 9am. We had made good time getting from my house with a side trip to pick up supplies that we needed to haul to the lookout. Since we were helping with the restoration we needed to haul up to the lookout some caulk, paint brushes, and sandpaper. Thankfully the heavier primer and paint had been hauled in earlier in the week. Since we were sanctioned volunteers we had a Forest Service radio so just before starting out hike we radioed into PS Dispatch to let them know we were on duty.

The trail in the forest is looking pretty darned nice. The saprophytes are going gangbusters. We spotted plenty of coral root, pinesap, fringed pinesap, pinedrop, and candystick. The trail does while not steep, it really efficient at gaining elevation. A few switchbacks in the forest make way to open swtichbacks in the flower filled meadows. The lower meadows are beyond peak for flowers. The meadows are high though. We could hear but not see other hikers on the trail. These meadows are south facing so warm...but thankfully the day was still early and we'd escape most of the heat.

We continued up the trail which goes back into the trees before leveling off as it crossed the basin, with a flowing pond, before heading steeply uphill again. The upper meadows were crazy colorful. The amount of flowers in bloom were so dense it looked like the hillside was a watercolor painting. Valerian (white) and lupine (blue) were prolific.

The pond in the basin was our last water source. I asked Steve if he wanted to stop to tank up our extra water bladders with "dirty" water. Our overnight packs were already a bit heavy and when he said he'd hike back down to get water...I didn't resist.

From the pond to the lookout the trail climbs steeply gaining 1246' in 1.2miles. There are several switchbacks in the open meadows before the trail hits what I call the "wow spot". It is here that we found finally see over the flanks of Green Mtn to the east into the heart of the North Cascades. But this spot fools me each time, you think you are on the ridge and almost there...but the lookout is still a dot on the summit and there are still some even steeper swtichbacks higher up.

Finally though...we reached the lookout. I dropped my pack, pulled out the lookout key, and started opening the lookout to the visitors. Steve emptied his external frame pack inside the lookout and we packed into it all the empty water bottles and water bladders we had. The goal was to haul up enough water to supply us the rest of the weekend without another water trip down to the pond. Steve graciously hiked the 1.2 miles back down to the pond and hauled almost 30lbs of water the 1246' back up to the lookout. Wow...

While Steve was fetching water, I pulled out some the prep tools (sandpaper, scraper, caulk) and started working on the lookout. A crew had been in about a week prior and made tremendous progress on 3 sides of the structure (the east side just had the catwalk installed but doesn't have a railing so us volunteers are not yet working that side). By the time Steve returned from his water trip, it was about dinner time. We had some dinner, invited a hunter into the lookout for dinner so he could escape from the bugs (biting black flies and mosquitoes) and enjoyed watching the sun set as the tree of us chatted away the remaining sunlight. Then it was time to settle into the lookout for the night.

Saturday morning came way too early! We couldn't open the shutters on the east side of the lookout so thankfully that blocked the early morning sun. But finally, about 6:30am, it was time to get up. After breakfast it was time to get more prep work on the lookout done. At about 10am we saw Dani and Tom on the ridge below the lookout (Tom hiked in with Dani but then after lunch headed over to scramble up nearby Envy Pk). After lunch it was finally time to get the primer out and start painting! We got most of the north and south sides primed and a bit of the west side before it finally got late and was time to have dinner. Steve would have continued working until it was dark. I think it was sometime after 6pm when he finally stopped work on the west side and had some dinner.

Saturday was a busy day at the lookout. I was trying to keep a tally but finally lost count. There must have been about 60 visitors to the lookout that day. Crazy. It's a beautiful place and I understand the draw.

It seems that the crowds really thin at the lookout at about 4:30pm and that was true this day. After dinner, Dani, Steve and I enjoyed as much as we could of the views. The bugs were hungry though. Bitten up by the flies and mosquitoes we retreated to the lookout and watched the last sliver of sun disappear in a spectacular sunset.

Sunday...well we were all up about 6:30am again. We spent the morning packing up out things and cleaning up the lookout. The lookout seemed strangely quiet today though. We had a fraction of the visitors from the previous day. I knew it would take a bit of time to shutter the lookout. Dani suggested heading to Nutty's Junkyard Grill in Arlington for a late lunch/dinner (was more like dinner) so at about 10:15am we had the lookout secured and we started hiking back down. We reached the trailhead about 12:30pm. We called dispatch to notify them we were out and headed down the dusty Green Mtn Rd back down to the Suiattle River Rd. We reached 530 at about 3pm.

Overall a great trip even with the heat. There was just enough breeze to keep up comfortable. The bugs...well those are getting bad. Both the mozies and the biting black flies are hungry. The breeze helped a bit during the day. Being up on the summit also helped. People camped down in the basin I'm sure got eaten alive.

Note: Just after getting home that evening I heard from a friend that drove by Suiattle River Rd and mentioned it was closed...blocked by fire trucks with a visible smoke plume he estimated to be two miles away. Turns out this is a new fire right off the Suiattle River Rd at Big Creek. Crap... Fingers crossed this fire gets contained.
Green Mtn LO Slideshow

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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