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DAY 1: Hicks Butte and Lookout Mountain
The original plan was to do Mount Adams on Independence Day weekend but due to a number of different situations that idea fell by the wayside so we decided to settle on doing a couple of other lesser known peaks in the state of Washington. Many of these peaks are in logging areas and often are overshadowed by either peaks on I-90, higher peaks up north or the Teanaway Region to the east. However in this region are decent mountains that contain great views even if they are not that high or in a logging area. TheMaintainanceMan (Bryan), Aaron, and I decided to explore this area to check out these summits.
Our first round was on July 4th and for the first set we did Hicks Butte and Lookout Mountain south of I-90 in Easton. This hike; roughly 12 miles and 4500 feet of elevation gain, started on the Granite Creek Trailhead. A huge part of the gain started here with 2200 feet in a little over 2 miles to really wake us up to the mountains. Luckily it was fairly cool and pleasant on the way up. Once up on the ridge stay on the trail until we got to an open spot and then bushwhack up to the summit of Hicks Butte through first a logged area and then up a number of open fields to the summit of Hick Butte. The views from Hicks Butte were very pleasant toward some of the local mountains but that was where we got our first view of the fog and rain that would persist on the mountains for the next few days.
After summiting Hicks Butte we decided to continue to Lookout Mountain. on the way to Lookout Mountain we crossed a number of clear-cuts and then ascended a ridge. There were a number of good views from the ridge but as we moved closer to Lookout Mountain we noticed that the clouds were really beginning to invade the top of Lookout Mountain. The temperature was also dropping quiet dramatically as the clouds were moving in. By the time we were on the ridge heading to Lookout Mountain the ridge was totally encased in clouds. This is a shame because there were a number of areas where we could tell that there were good views.
After taking the trail all the way to the top of the ridge just before Windy Pass we took a boot-path heading to the summit of Lookout Mountain. On the way we passed by a number of snowfields that were remains of cornices from the winter. For the most part we were able to avoid many of them and then we hit an open field as we made it to the top of Lookout Mountain. The fog though gave the summit of Lookout Mountain a very interesting misty feel to it and made the final summit rock look more dramatic than it really was. Add on the stiff wind from the pending storm coming in and we getting quite cool up there. Unfortunately we were fogged in for most of time we were on the summit and were only able to see peek-a-boo views. After 30 minutes on the summit, it was time to head back down to warm up.
We noticed on the way back down the cloud level lowered quiet considerably and that the cloud layer was lower than the summit of Hicks Butte. Thankfully we got the summit earlier in the day. In some ways though the clouds blowing in kept us real cool throughout the day so that on the way down we staying strong despite going quite a distance. Soon we were back at the car and heading off to see some fireworks.
DAY 2: Kelly Butte and Colquhoun Peak
The very next day both Bryan and I were a little tired. So we decided to do two easier mountains. I had always wanted to see Kelly Butte and Colquhoun Peak is located fairly close by. None of these mountains are very difficult to do but after the first day we just wanted to get a small hike in on some new mountains that many people have not been to.
Bryan also wanted to go back to Kelly Butte to see the progress made on the lookout tower from the time he helped put the roof on the lookout. Currently the Kelly Butte Lookout is being restored and now the trail leading to the lookout is also restored. On the way there we were going to see if the old route was still available to head up. There is a nice easy Class 3 gully that actual has a fixed rope to help assist hikers up the gully to the top of the route. We decided to head up that way for the thrill value instead of taking the trail up to the mountain. It was a fun climb up that gully and a quick way to knock off 200 feet of elevation. Once off the rope it was a trail hike up the steep open slopes of Kelly Butte. Most of the elevation is gained early here on this mountain. Once over this steeper section we entered a field which of course was covered in fog. Bryan remembered this field being home to some great berry bushes. Unfortunately it was too early for any berries to be ready. More reason to head back here in late August/ early September.
Once of the field we were back in the open and climbing to the summit lookout. The fog was thick so we did not notice the lookout until we were almost on it. Once at the lookout we noticed that the lookout was looking in much better condition and that the volunteer had done a great job with the repairs. Unfortunately the stellar views of Rainier were not available today, which means that I will have to head on back there sometime with my wife to get the great views. That will probably be in late August and early September. We stayed for an hour to see if the views would break out but to no avail. So after that we decided to head down for our next mountain.
On the way down we saw a number of interesting wildlife. We first saw a nice hawk flying above the rocky ledges of Kelly Butte. We then saw a marmot that was playing on a rock that was close by to us. Our last bit of wildlife was a group of mountain goats that were perched on the ledges of Kelly Butte. It was great to see so much wildlife on this heavily logged area of the Cascades.
Onword we went to Colquhoun Peak, another peak that was home to a lookout tower. Colquhoun Peak is only a couple miles from Kelly Butte and is home to a very short and steep trail to the mostly forested summit. Unfortunately it stayed cloudy on this peak as well but at least below the summit we able to manage a couple shots from some viewpoints. Once we were on the mostly forested in foggy summit we did not stay long. The trip up this one mile roundtrip and 600 feet of elevation gain was a mere 15 minutes up and 8 minutes down.
We did go on and try another peak called Pinnacle Peak. But the beta we had on the peak was wrong and after doing some exploration we decided to save it for another day in the mountains. Overall though it was a decent weekend in the mountains even if three of the four summits we were on were capped in cloud. I want to thank Bryan for helping plan these adventures and Aaron for heading with us the first day. It was awesome enjoying some of the lesser known treasures in the Cascades.