Evergreen Mountain

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:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Although we were met with mountain views right away, unfortunately smoke had rolled in overnight and the skies were incredibly hazy:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Climbing up:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking back down the trail. That’s the Beckler River valley beyond:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Entering the Wild Sky Wilderness:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Almost there!

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Mountain harebell:

Mountain harebell

The views got better as we climbed. Damn smoke!

Evergreen Mountain Hike

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:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

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:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

We could barely see Glacier Peak through the smoke:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking north:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

The same view in 1934:

Looking east:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Same view in 1934:


Looking south:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking back along our route and down the Beckler River:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

That same view in 1934:

Looking northwest, which had the least amount of smoke:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

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:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Back at the trailhead looking up at the mountain:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

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!

Johnson Ridge and Scorpion Mountain

Saturday, August 4, 2018

With better weather in today’s forecast we decided to hike the Johnson Ridge Trail out to Scorpion Mountain. The trailhead is at the end of a gravel road:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The hike starts out on old road in a recovering clearcut that – based on historical Google Earth imagery – dates back to the late 1980s. It is surprisingly steep and this stretch is a slog:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

At 1.3 miles we crossed the wilderness boundary. Frankly, I had never heard of the Wild Sky Wilderness before this trip:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

As we climbed up towards Sunrise Mountain, we got a glimpse through the trees over to nearby Evergreen Mountain. The white speck is the lookout:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

We also got a nice view of the some of the surrounding mountains:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The trail passes right over the top of Sunrise Mountain, which is nothing more than a patch of bare ground surrounded by trees:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

If you move around Sunrise Mountain a bit you can get some views. Here is Glacier Peak to the north:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

I believe this peak to the south is Mt. Fernow.

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After a VERY steep descent from Sunrise Mountain (apparently the trail-builders didn’t believe in switchbacks) we continued along the ridge, passing through meadows and forest:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Some heather was blooming:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain, our destination:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The last stretch of trail traverses a meadow. Wow!

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain view

The trail reaches an unsigned junction. One way descends to Joan Lake but we turned left and headed up to Scorpion:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After four miles and 2,000′ elevation gain we made it!

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The mosquitoes were amazingly abundant here. We put on long sleeves, bug spray, and headnets to protect ourselves. There are not 360-degree views from the summit due to the trees, but if you move around you can get views in most (not all) directions. We sat down at a spot with a view to the west and north, surrounded by lupine, heather, and valerian wildflowers:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Glacier Peak again:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

I wandered around getting pictures of other views. Looking southwest:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Looking south:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Looking northeast:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Joan Lake, far below. We did not make the side trip to visit that lake because we didn’t want to regain the elevation we’d lose hiking down there, plus we knew the mosquitoes would be even worse down there:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After an hour on the summit soaking up the awesome views, we’d had enough of the bugs and we started heading back. Trekking back across the meadow:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The last bit descending steeply back to the trailhead on the old road through the clearcut was a punishing descent and we were glad to get back to the car. We enjoyed a relaxing evening at our Beckler River campsite:

Beckler River Campground

Beautiful hike! Even with some clouds, we still had very nice views. The Washington Cascades are way more rugged and spectacular than the Oregon Cascades. What a treat!