What a weather window! Early December in the PNW is reliably dismal. But not in 2018, apparently. We’ve had several bluebird days back-to-back since Monday. Initially, my friend Eric, had planned on heading up to the Park Butte fire lookout on Monday, but ended up scrubbing the day due to family obligations. Instead, we gunned for Wednesday.

My alarm roused me at 0315 this morning, which, for anything besides hiking or getting after an outdoor objective, is FAR too early. Knowing the forecast and the zone I was bound for, my eyes popped open and I hit the road. All my gear loaded the night before (not my first rodeo), made my bed-to-drive time stellar.

I posted up at the meet spot in Sedro-Woolley a few minutes early and had a brief moment to stare at the crystal clear night sky, full of stars even with the surrounding light pollution. Headlights arced across my windshield as Eric arrived in the mountain truck. A quick repack and we were on the road. The drive went smoothly and both of us were impressed by the drama-free forest service road that led us to the trailhead.

0545 hrs. Official start time. 25 degrees. Headlamps and crunchy snow underfoot. It was a beautiful, still morning. We cleared the trees and entered the sub-alpine zone just as the sun crested the nearby peaks of the North Cascades range and began to warm us. With less than a mile to go, Eric went ahead as I stopped several times to unpack my camera, snap a photo or two and repack everything. Worth it.

I made it to the Park Butte lookout at 0815 hrs and enjoyed a banana, dried mango, and an Aslan Dawn Patrol. I don’t always day-drink, but when I do: it’s in the mountains, generally after an alpine start.

After a half hour or so, we geared up and mostly skied down to the treeline on our snowshoes. In the light of day, the final treed section of the trail coming up revealed its true steepness. With my narrowed headlamp vision on the way up, I had no idea it was that much gain at once. Overall, the hike was moderate, but well worth the nominal effort.

We hit the tailgate at 1010 hrs. Not a bad round trip time for 7.5 miles and 2,200′ gain in snow.

10/10. Would hike again.