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Tag Archives: Lookout Mountain

We joined Lindsey and Little Bear for a hike to Lookout Mountain, the site of a US Forest Service fire lookout. I wonder what came first – the mountain’s name or the fire lookout? The trail is only 1.3 miles but it gains 1100 feet up to a high point of 5518 feet overlooking the Methow Valley. Distant views were hazy with lingering smoke from prescribed burns. One of these days I will get there on a day with bright blue skies and snow-capped mountains but not this time.

This was the third time I’ve been to Lookout Mountain this year. And each time some clouds obscured the views allowing only peek-a-book scenes of the mountains all around. Each time I started in a different place too – the first time in Smith Canyon, making it a longer hike, the second time at the trailhead and this week – more than a mile down the road from the trailhead due to a road closure to protect mule deer. It’s always up, up, up though.

We started with sunny skies but fog had formed in the valleys below us and as we went uphill, so did the fog, sometimes completely obscuring any view and other times revealing bits and pieces of it. When we got near the ridge top, the trees were covered with ice crystals and the temperature was rising slowly. As the air warmed, many of the crystals loosened their grips on the needles and branches and began to tinkle to the ground making a magical sound. They would fall in waves and then stop. We were careful not to stop under any heavily laden trees.

Fall is certainly past its peak and winter is beginning to take over the landscape. However lots of color reminds us of the season just past.

Here is how it looked in May.

Last week the dogs and I joined Lindsey and two of her dogs for a hike from her place in Smith Canyon up to Lookout Mountain. Before we left her husband asked if we were going straight up and she said no. That’s a good thing.

She said the whole hike should¬†take about five hours. It is four miles and nearly 3000 feet elevation gain. It took us 5 hours and 45 minutes. I am slow. There is an easier way to get to Lookout Mountain. You can drive most of the way to a trailhead and then walk maybe a mile on a steep trail but we wanted to do the whole thing and I’m glad we did.

Smith Canyon is an oasis of green right now with lots of spring growth. At the bottom, balsamroot is in full bloom. In the canyon, maples and serviceberry and other shrubs are abundant under big pines and douglas fir trees. At the top of the canyon we reached Alder Pass and the road to the trailhead. Lindsey told me that this route is the OLD Twisp Carlton Road, before there was a bridge at Carlton. People would drive up Libby Creek to Smith Canyon and then to Alder Pass and down Alder Creek to get between Carlton and Twisp. What a difference from today’s Twisp Carlton Road that follows the meandering Methow River.

We walked about a mile on the dirt road to the trailhead and then the last stretch to the mountain top. It was a rewarding hike with great views of much of the Methow Valley. It would have been an interesting spot to watch last summer’s fires unfold. Unfortunately the sky was a hazy white that only got worse with a prescribed burn near Mazama.

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