Evergreen Mountain Lookout

Photograph by Juli Hill

When I wrote about fire lookouts for the Washington Trails Association magazine in 2008, the Evergreen Mountain lookout was one of only two lookouts that guests could rent in Washington.  I have climbed to lookouts on Kelly Butte, Oregon Butte, Columbia Peak, Desolation Peak, Red Mountain, Mount Pilchuck, and Heybrook but I had never been to Evergreen.  In September, the best season for mountain hiking–no bugs, less heat–I made the trek with a stalwart hiker, photographer, and driver friend.

The drive, in my friend’s high-clearance “Beast,” was as much a challenge as the hike–fifteen miles of gravel road, two and a half hours from Seattle to the trailhead west of Stevens Pass. The last nine miles are very narrow, with creek crossings (on bridges or otherwise), sharp drop-offs on the passenger side (don’t look!) and grass growing down the middle track.  But it was elevation gain, carrying us up to more than 4000 feet.  Driving down, the road didn’t seem so bad, especially since we never met another vehicle, coming or going. (There was one other parked at the trailhead, three young women from Bothell area).

The hike, in September, was gorgeous–a cool, sunny, clear day, ranges and ranges of mountains looking into the Glacier Peak wilderness.  Most of the wildflowers, except for pearly everlasting, were past their prime, but the fall reds and oranges complemented the blue sky.  It’s a one and a half mile climb, with a brief respite in a saddle.  The lookout is undergoing restoration but is listed as available for bookings between August 1 and October 1 most years at www.ReserveUSA.com.  The lookout is classic, an oasis of human presence in the Big Sky.

Columbia Hills Homesteads


As spring approaches, hikes in the Columbia Hills are some of my favorites. Spring and fall are the best times for these hikes as summer temperatures can be extreme, and the hills are exposed to the winds in the winter.

In October 2012 I led a Friends of the Gorge-sponsored hike to the Columbia Hills Homesteads. We hiked down Eight-mile Creek on the east side to see the Lucas homesteads and then came back to the Crawford homestead on Dalles Mountain Road. We saw deer, four wild turkeys, two apples trees in fruit, and a Concord grape vine, planted by the Lucases, still producing sweet grapes. The newer discoveries to me were the Henry and William Brune homesteads and timber cultures. These claims are largely west of the road to Stacker Butte. With help from local historian and hike leader Jim Denton, and with some hiking partners willing to ramble, we found the Skibbe gravesite, root cellar foundations, water troughs, the restored Brune cabin, and stone alignments.

Trails are planned for this undeveloped state park, but for now it’s a great place to ramble and find history. An interpretive panel has been installed at the Crawford complex. A Discover Pass is required for parking.

On a May 2013 hike for Friends of the Gorge, our group discovered the yellow rose bush planted by Mary Lucas in front of her homestead in the 1890’s. This Harrison’s Yellow was likely brought as a cutting from the east and has continued to grow wild here, surviving long past the house John Crawford built for his bride.