Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

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VanMarmot
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Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by VanMarmot » July 24th, 2011, 8:13 am

Between work and our recent less than welcoming weather (“Juluary” any one?), two weeks had slipped past without a hike. I needed something long, new (or mostly new), and without snow (enough already with the white stuff!). My wife and I had recently enjoyed a hike up Sedum Butte via the PCT and so I thought about something involving Mowich Butte. Looking at the Green Trails Lookout Mtn (# 396) map, I noticed a green dotted “trail” connecting road CG 2000 to a “road” (NF 406) leading to Lookout Mtn. Since Green Trails also shows the rapidly reverting Sedum Ridge Trail as a green dotted line, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a similar “trail” to Lookout Mtn. But if that worked, I could do a long loop around Lookout Mtn, Little Lookout Mtn, and Mowich Butte. It would involve a lot of walking on dirt roads but, as it turned out, this was much better than I would have thought. Following Loraine’s directions to the old Sedum Ridge TH, I then continued on CG 2000 and then CG 2070 to park where the PCT crosses CG 2070. I headed S on the PCT through cool, lush vegetation (the day was already starting to warm – yeah!),

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past the start of the Snag Ridge trail – which starts strong but fades as it climbs to Road 41,

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over a very robust “foot bridge”,

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to – surprise! – a junction with CG 2000. I could have continued on the PCT but instead went up CG 2000 to its intersection with another road and the “trail” up to NF 406. Turns out this trail is either a really wide trail or a fairly narrow road. It’s washed out where it joins CG 2000,

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and didn’t look very promising going up,

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but soon it settled into a very good track that went all the way to the S end of NF 406.

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There were still a lot of flowers out including Cat’s Ears, one of my favorites.

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NF 406 is also a wide trail/narrow road

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from which I could catch a glimpse of Adams,

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Hood,

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and, eventually, the S side of Lookout Mtn.

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I’m not promoting road building, but NF 406 is almost more of a trail than a road, wanders pleasantly through a forest, provides some good views, and is, near as I can tell, about the only way to explore the ridge SE from Lookout Mtn since there don’t seem to be any “real” trails in that area. Just past Lookout Mtn, NF 406 connects with Road 41 which, although gravel, is more of a real road.

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Still, I had it all to myself (the one car I saw all day stopped to ask if I was OK – I guess walking is a sign of distress if you’re driving?), the sun was shining, my tan was building, and there were occasional views to relieve the tread. The beargrass was still flowering heavily in places, with only a few of the heads having been grazed thus far.

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Just past Mowich Camp – a bare dirt spot in the trees – Road 41 is blocked by berms and trenches (the Green Trails map says there’s a gate but, no, now it’s tank traps). From there it’s a short distance up to the old lookout site at Mowich Butte, with (until the trees grow back just a bit more) views of Rainier,

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Adams,

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and St. Helens.

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From the Butte, I continued E on Road 41 to a point where it comes within 100’ of the PCT, then went XC briefly to join it. This section of the PCT is all downhill, is shaded, and crosses a few sources of cool water – the perfect way to return to the TH on a hot, sunny afternoon.

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Despite being on roads, this was a pretty enjoyable hike – starting and ending on the PCT helped redeem the “hiking” experience. This route, roads and all, is about the only way you could circle the Rock Creek drainage since there aren’t any real trails in this area. All told 19 mi and 3600’ gain.

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Splintercat
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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by Splintercat » July 25th, 2011, 1:27 pm

Interesting loop, Van -- maybe I missed it, but is there a route to the top of Lookout Mountain?

Tom

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by pablo » July 25th, 2011, 1:42 pm

Great report, I have always wondered about the part of the route you took following those mysterious dotted lines on the side of Lookout Mtn. I figured they were just map noise. So maybe the other dotted lines in the area can be traveled as well. Is there any way of getting a larger image of your GPS track?

I'm guessing it was too late to visit the summit of Lookout Mtn. - I've never been there but the views must be fantastic as the summit seems to be fairly clear. Looks like you had no shortage of views where you were.

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by VanMarmot » July 25th, 2011, 1:49 pm

Splintercat wrote:Interesting loop, Van -- maybe I missed it, but is there a route to the top of Lookout Mountain?

Tom
From where I was, on the SE side, it looked like you could just walk up a grassy, moderately steep ridge to the top. But the map shows a road on the W side leaving Road 41 and going up to a "radio facility" of some sort. I passed on Lookout because I wasn't sure I had time but I'm guessing the view from up there (at over 4000') would be great.

Bruce

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by VanMarmot » July 25th, 2011, 1:55 pm

pablo wrote:Great report, I have always wondered about the part of the route you took following those mysterious dotted lines on the side of Lookout Mtn. I figured they were just map noise. So maybe the other dotted lines in the area can be traveled as well. Is there any way of getting a larger image of your GPS track?

I'm guessing it was too late to visit the summit of Lookout Mtn. - I've never been there but the views must be fantastic as the summit seems to be fairly clear. Looks like you had no shortage of views where you were.

--Paul
Thanks! The different maps for this area (e.g., USGS, NGS Topo, Green Trails, etc.) all seem to have a different take on what a "dotted line" means - from trail to big road - so I was compelled to go out and see for myself. If you PM me your email, I'll send you the gpx file itself.

I didn't make time to hike up Lookout but I'm guessing that, at over 4000', the views would be great. There's supposed to be some kind of "radio facility" up there - there's a road on the W side - but I couldn't see anything from below, so I'm guessing you wouldn't have a 360 view blocked by giant towers a la Mt. Defiance.

Bruce

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by justpeachy » July 25th, 2011, 2:22 pm

I drove as far as the road berm on Road 41 and hiked up the old roads to Mowich Butte a few weeks ago. I had read in several places that there were mostly unobstructed views up there, but the best I could get was peeks through the trees. I never saw the site of the lookout tower that used to be up there. It looked like you would have to bushwhack off the path (the old road) to get to unobstructed views. It looks like from your pictures your views weren't any more open than mine.
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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by pablo » July 25th, 2011, 9:26 pm

Bruce,

Looks like you landed on part of an old named trail, 'Green Leaf Trail', according to the 1953 Lookout Mountain USGS 15' topo. That's pretty neat. To the west of Lookout Mtn there is another named trail, 'Washougal Trail' that does not appear on the 24k map but does on the 100k map, I'll have to visit that. Here's the snippet of the Lookout Mountain 15' topo - I like the look of that Snag Creek Trail representation as the upper part seems to match what I found although it is pretty much overgrown (click on the image for the big print version) :

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by VanMarmot » July 26th, 2011, 6:05 am

justpeachy wrote:I drove as far as the road berm on Road 41 and hiked up the old roads to Mowich Butte a few weeks ago. I had read in several places that there were mostly unobstructed views up there, but the best I could get was peeks through the trees. I never saw the site of the lookout tower that used to be up there. It looked like you would have to bushwhack off the path (the old road) to get to unobstructed views. It looks like from your pictures your views weren't any more open than mine.
I looked at your other TR and what you would have needed to do is keep going straight along the old road (then trail) along the ridge. The tread gets less obvious about 100' from the old lookout site - you have to look carefully for the tread and duck & weave around a few bushes - but you eventually pop out on to an open area about 50' in diameter. From there you have the views of Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens I put in my TR.

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Re: Lookout Mtn / Mowich Butte Loop 23-Jul-2011

Post by VanMarmot » July 26th, 2011, 6:58 am

pablo wrote:
Bruce,

Looks like you landed on part of an old named trail, 'Green Leaf Trail', according to the 1953 Lookout Mountain USGS 15' topo. That's pretty neat. To the west of Lookout Mtn there is another named trail, 'Washougal Trail' that does not appear on the 24k map but does on the 100k map, I'll have to visit that. Here's the snippet of the Lookout Mountain 15' topo - I like the look of that Snag Creek Trail representation as the upper part seems to match what I found although it is pretty much overgrown (click on the image for the big print version):
Pablo,

Cool - thanks! It looks like the Green Leaf Trail became a small road (but not a bad trail). It looks like the Snag Ck Tr comes out in the back of Mowich Camp - which isn't much of a "camp." I haven't hiked it yet but it sounds like it's going the way of the Sedum Ridge Tr - genteel deterioration...

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