Park Butte Lookout Backpacking

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Where: Mt. Baker Wilderness

Mileage/ Elevation Gain: 7.5/ 2200

5 of us headed out from Seattle early Saturday to do an overnighter near Park Butte lookout. I had not been this far north yet and was excited to see Baker up close and explore the area. We typed “Park Butte Lookout” into Google Maps, but apparently should have crossed checked those directions. It got us very close to our destination, but told us to go left at a fork vs. the right that we were supposed to do. So it took us about 25 minutes down a long road and we realized it wasn’t right and had to back track that 25 minutes again, whoops. Couldn’t tell the other half of our group what was going on because of no service. We arrived to the parking lot and cars lined the side of the road very far. It was about 11 and many people had already gotten started with the day. This always makes me a bit nervous just for finding a spot to camp. We got all the gear together and hit the trail. WTA was doing trail maintenance (thank you, thank you, thank you volunteers!) near the beginning and at the lookout that day. I would love to volunteer with this great organization sometime. The beginning of the hike was pretty easy and then eventually started to climb more. What was killing us was the hot, hot heat. We took many breaks along the way to adjust for this. Eventually you get to a fork that continues onto the lookout or to railroad grade camp and high camp. There are many established campsites along here. Always stick to established campsites to reduce use on meadow lands and other fragile places. We chose to look for campsites at Cathedral Rock first as I heard that was nice. We climb up about 20 more minutes and then got to the cut off for Cathedral Rock. We looked in the area and there was a large clearing right when you walked to it that was large enough to fit our 3 tents. We looked around the area more but everything else was taken. We took the last spots at this campsite. We slowly unpacked, ate lunch and tried not to overheat. We were all feeling a bit tired and tried to nap, but the sun was beating down so strong that I was dripping sweat just laying there. Mosquitos were not a problem here, but flies and bees were quite the annoyance. After relaxing we came up with the game plan to try to swim in the lake that was a bit higher up and then make dinner at the lookout and catch the sunset there. We climbed about 20 minutes and got to the lake. It wasn’t big enough to be a swimming lake and it was starting to get windy up there too so we opted out of the swimming. We did spend about 30 minutes filtering water here as this is the only water source this high up. After that we climbed another 25 minutes or so to the lookout. There were 3 people staying in the lookout and another couple +dog at the top also catching the sunset. We made dinner, enjoyed each other’s company, captured the golden hour and took in the glory that is Mt. Baker. We made our way back to our campsites after this, made some hot toddies, hung the bear bags and said our good nights. I’ve really had a hard time sleeping in the backcountry. At first I thought it was my paranoia of bears, but now I come to realize that I’m super uncomfortable in a mummy style bag and toss and turn until I physically cannot stay awake anymore. Not fun. My dream would be the Nemo Sleep System, but my pocket book says otherwise. Will have to deal with being a constrained worm for now. The next morning we woke up, ate, packed up camp and headed out. The hike down was a breeze with it still being rather cool. We made it back to the car in no time and made our way back to Seattle, after grabbing coffee first of course.

Mt. Baker is a gorgeous area. I can’t wait to explore more of it and hopefully summit it someday!

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