Sunday, August 5, 2018
Today was the last day of our trip and we had to drive home to Portland. But before we headed south we squeezed in one last short hike: Evergreen Mountain. We packed up camp at Beckler River Campground and headed up to the trailhead. We had an unfortunate encounter with a local about a mile from the trailhead. A HUGE pickup was coming down as we were driving up. It was a narrow brushy stretch and it was clear he felt he had the right-of-way, so I backed the car up a bit and partially off the road into the brush. It was enough room for him to pass if he was willing to go in the brush a bit too. He approached and stopped and seemed reluctant to proceed. He was making hand gestures that didn’t make any sense. Finally he gunned it and as he passed he shouted “learn how to drive, you idiot!” Since he was being the road hog with his huge rig this really made me mad.
Anyway, the drive up there is along a winding cliff-hugging road with views of the mountains. Looking through old hiking books, this road seems to have an interesting history. This is from 100 Hikes in Western Washington (1971):
Until the forest fire of 1967, this was a long day’s hike from the valley, but now a road built to salvage the burned timber has pushed far up the mountain and made the trip an easy afternoon.
This is from 55 Hikes Around Stevens Pass (2003):
Built in the 1960s to access marginal high-elevation timber, the Evergreen Mountain road far exceeded the value of the wood that was cut. Subsequent repairs consumed even more money until the road blew out massively in 1990. Displaying a remarkable willingness to keep repeating the same mistakes, in 1998 the Forest Service took money intended for watershed rehabilitation and instead used it on yet another attempt to keep this road open. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, but gravity can be defied for only so long… The Forest Service will not be able to keep spending the kind of money it would take to keep road 6554 open over the long term. Sooner or later reason will prevail, the road will be decommissioned, and the original trail from Rapid River to the lookout will be reopened, a longer but more rewarding and far less costly hike.
The road was in good shape for our visit and we had no trouble reaching the trailhead in our Outback. A sign at the trailhead noted that the 1967 fire was “inadvertently set by loggers” and that it burned up the south face of the ridge within several hundred feet of the lookout. We set off up the trail, which is a lot steeper than it looks in this photo:
Although we were met with mountain views right away, unfortunately smoke had rolled in overnight and the skies were incredibly hazy:
Looking back down the trail. That’s the Beckler River valley beyond:
Entering the Wild Sky Wilderness:
The views got better as we climbed. Damn smoke!
There is a fire lookout up here. It was built in 1935 and was staffed until the road washed out. Now it is part of the rental program, but hauling your gear (and heavy water) up that steep trail would not be fun:
There was a hunter up there but otherwise we had the place to ourselves. Oh, except for the mosquitoes, which were absolutely horrible. We could tell the views would be nice on a clear day:
We could barely see Glacier Peak through the smoke:
The same view in 1934:
Same view in 1934:
Looking back along our route and down the Beckler River:
That same view in 1934:
Looking northwest, which had the least amount of smoke:
The trail keeps going along the ridge for a little ways, but we didn’t explore. In the 100 hikes book it says “If a longer hike is desired and transportation can be arranged for a one-way trip, an old and sketchy trail continues along Evergreen Ridge, then drops to some small meadow ponds, beyond which maintained trail descends to Rapid River Road.” I see this trail shows up on old topo maps, so it must have been abandoned after the road was built.
Between the smoke and the bugs we were not inclined to linger so we headed back down:
Back at the trailhead looking up at the mountain:
Someone had been car camping at the trailhead when we arrived but they were gone when we got back. Their trash wasn’t, though:
Amazing how they went to the trouble to bag most of it up, then stashed the bag in the bushes!
Despite the trashy end to our hike and the smoke and mosquitoes, I’m still glad we hiked up there. It’s always cool to visit lookouts!