Aaron and I hiked to Park Butte Look Out last weekend. This is a busy place! At 10am, we pull into the very last spot in the large parking lot and consider ourselves lucky. After all the parking spots have been filled, hikers park on both sides of Forest Service Road 13 for quite a way, perhaps 1/4 mile. Our rough estimate is that about 75 cars parked at the trailhead on this sunny and warm Saturday in August. Most groups of hikers were two or more. Add to that a Washington Trails Association workparty at the look out and a pack train of mules and horses transporting supplies to another workparty, and one can easily imagine the constant hum of foot traffic on the trail. Imagine also, every hiker with a bright smile, rosy cheeks, moist brow, and lungs full of autumn-tinged alpine air and you have imagined a perfect day for hiking on the southern slopes of Mount Baker in the north Cascades of Washington State.
The first section of the trail winds its way through Schrieber Meadows, which was bursting with ripe mountain blueberries. We found out that it is very difficult to walk and pick blueberries at the same time! In this area, much of the trail is elevated on wooden walkways to protect the sensitive meadows beneath.
The Washington Trails Association maintains a ladder bridge across Rocky Creek. The creek is the color of milk chocolate from the sediment it carries on its way to Baker Lake.
Did you know that a female mule is called a molly? That’s what the leader of this back country pack train told me. They were bringing supplies to a trail crew up ahead. I didn’t catch his name, but his molly’s name was Emily and she was lovely.
The elevation gain from the parking lot to the look out is 22oo feet in about 3 3/4 miles. The last push to the look out is pretty steep and a little eerie if heights aren’t your thing. The 360 degree views are fabulous. You can sleep in the look out on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis. The work crew, who were painting the look out, trumped hopeful backpackers the day we were there. But there were plenty of other camp sites nearby; either at Cathedral Camp or at a small tarn, where I went swimming.
After descending from the Look Out, we walked over to a small unnamed tarn, had lunch, washed off trail-dusty legs, soaked feet, and I took a refreshing dip!
This is Cathedral Camp where backpackers can find many campsites and a pit toilet. Unfortunately, there is no water nearby. The above tarn is the closest water source. There were many tents there when we started down at 4pm and backpackers were still arriving! Bring your earplugs if you plan to camp here!
This was a stunningly beautiful hike. Between the mountains, wildflowers, blueberries, sunshine, tarn, and pleasant company, the only thing we were missing was our overnight backpacking gear.