Driveway Butte (Jun 23, 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: 8.6mi, 3013' gain (round trip)

It's been about 4 years since I last did this hike. Dani suggested the trip and suggested breaking the trip up (due to the long) driving out the day before the hike and camping at Klipchuck CG. Sounded like a great idea to me. No need to get a super early start, we just wanted to arrive at the campground early enough to beat the weekend traffic so that we could snag a site. It worked out well. Dani pitched her tent (I was planning to sleep in the back of the 4Runner), we reserved (paid for) the site, and then we headed into Winthrop. Even on a Friday...Winthrop was busy. After an early dinner at East 20 Pizza we headed back to Klipchuck CG for a quiet evening of reading.

It was nice to not wake up at the crack of dawn to start the long drive to the TH. Instead, we slept in a bit, then packed up camp and drove into Mazama for coffee. Steve was driving out that morning and we'd meet him at the TH at 9am. We had time to kill so a good cup of coffee was really appealing. After coffee we drove back to the Driveway Butte TH (2979') arriving about 8:40am to find Steve had arrived early. I was looking forward to sharing this hike with two good people who hadn't hiked it before. It was about 9am when we finally headed up the trail.

The trail starts out on a south facing slope which melts out early, higher up it can hold snow into late June (early July) but reports on WTA said the trail was snow free to the LO site. I was not looking forward to that first bit just on that south facing slope...it's steep and there is little tree cover. Even at 10am was we had left the slope and were headed into the upper basin, it was warm. The balsamroot that was blooming on the slope the same time 4 years ago was completely wilted. Darn...it would have been nice to see that color.

About 10:30am we arrived in the upper basin area that had burned in the 2003 Needles Fire. The canopy of the old trees is cone and opened up by the old fire. We could see the old lookout site clearly through the trees.

Looking at the USGS map it looks like the old trail crosses McGee Creek a lot lower than the current trail does. The current trail heads higher and ends up circling around the basin which seems to add some mileage to the trip. I don't think any of us saw any evidence of the old trail and I'm not sure if the fire was the cause of the new route. Any evidence of that old section of trail is long buried under the charred fallen snags of the 2003 fire. It looks like that old trail continues over the west side of the butte and then continues down to Rattlesnake Campground (below and off towards Deadhorse Point). I often wonder about these old trail...are they still travelled, what do they look like?

We arrived at the top (5982') about 12:15pm and then stopped to have a nice long lunch. Lots of great views from the top. We could clearly see Goat Peak PO to the east. Lots of darker clouds swirling to the west too.

There is very little snow left at the old lookout site now and almost certainly the small patch I did see is gone by now. Other than some minor trickles of water at the trail crosses McGee Creek, this trail is dry.

We stayed up at the top for probably an hour. The whole time tucked behind some rocks (it was a bit windy). Finally it was time to leave. We hit that open section of trail on the south facing slope and sure enough...it was pretty warm. All of us were really surprised to see several groups of hikers with huge overnight packs heading uphill on this open slope late in the afternoon. Yikes.

Great day. I really, really like the idea of breaking this trip up into two days. The car camping idea was perfect.
 
Driveway Butte Slideshow

driveway_butte_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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