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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.

The views were outstanding. Even the dogs were impressed. Maybe they were just impressed because it had been so long since they could get out and about. Any way you look at it, blue skies, changing colors, a smidge of new snow and fresh air all combined to make for a beautiful day.

The alpine larches have changed colors and they were so stunning, I am giving them their own blog post.

 

These last couple of weeks I’ve been very lucky to share so much time in the mountains celebrating summer with dear friends and our dogs. On Wednesday Kim and I took our dogs up above Harts Pass and did an afternoon amble around a basin below Slate Peak. It’s a wonderful wildflower walk with lush green meadows and meandering streams. We climbed out of the basin to visit the lookout and take in the 360 degree views of the North Cascades. My dogs got to be in snow again in August. Last year I could not find any for them late in the summer. It is my goal to find snow for my dogs every month of the year. Luna loves snow. It’s a great relief to see it lingering into late summer once again. What a gorgeous day!

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.

Trying to get in one hike per week is not always easy. Everyday life and work gets in the way, of course, and then there’s the weather. Friday I was planning a mountain outing and the weather forecast was for extreme thunderstorms and lots of rain. I cancelled my plans and was glad of it. We were lucky to have lots of rain, thunder and lightning and wind. Other places also had flash flooding and 80 mph winds that pushed down trees and knocked out power.

I managed to get some work done on Friday and changee my hike to the other side of the valley and headed for Tiffany Mountain, elevation 8242′. It’s a long drive up Boulder Creek from the East Chewuch Road, 22 miles from Winthrop to the trailhead. The valley had scattered fog from the rain the day before and puffy white clouds appeared up high. The Freezeout trail to Tiffany is three miles, one way, with a steep part to start, then a gradual grade and finishing with another steep part to get to the top. The elevation gain is 1740′. This area is great for wildflowers but Luna and I were a couple weeks early for the main part of the bloom. We may have to do it again!

Looking up at the mountain I could always see white clouds behind it. At the top, looking down the other side towards Tiffany Lake, all I could see was cloud – no view of the lakes or even towards the Okanogan. The clouds were piled up against the ridge. It was mostly sunny for us with a few sun blocks off and on. The temperature was comfortable and I needed my windbreaker at the top where it was breezy and cool.

Fog in the river valley before I left home.

This area is part of the Tripod fire from 2006.

I have to confess – I saw this piece of wood from a long ways away and was convinced it was a grouse.

 

I think these are dead whitebark pines. Whitebark pines are in decline around the west for a variety of reasons. You can learn more about them here.

 

The ‘easy’ part of the trail, with the summit in view. In a couple of weeks, the meadow will be ablaze with wildflowers.

 

From the top, looking south along the ridge. The Okanogan and Conconcully are on the other side that is covered in clouds.

 

And looking northwest; down to the right in the mist, way down, is Tiffany Lake. I did get a glimpse of a pika in the rocks and heard their high-pitched calls

 

Ladybugs clustered on lichen covered rocks near the summit.

 

Good Luna – look at the camera!

 

Even with several tries, I never did get her to look at the camera with me!

 

Heather is just starting to come in to bloom

 

Close-up of a whitebark pine

 

I learned a long time ago from a botanist that flowers like this are commonly referred to as DYC’s – darned yellow composites.

 

Asters – another member of the composite family

 

Sedum lanceolatum, maybe. Definitely a sedum.

 

Luna and I took a side trip to look at First Butte Lookout. Only five miles the sign said. Five rough miles. Now I’ve seen it and don’t have to wonder about it anymore.

 

Always have to remember to cool my feet after a good hike.

 

And the reason I picked a hike on that side of the valley? Ken was playing music with his friend Bill at the Methow Valley Ciderhouse! A cold glass of Howling Wolf Cider really hit the spot!

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