This is Part 2 of Karen Sykes Lookouts article. Find out more in her first Fire Lookouts article, which published yesterday.

There is another option to consider for lookout seekers – hike to the sites where the lookouts used to be. These sites often offer heralded views; many with views that defy description.

Most books that describe lookouts and lookout sites are out of date through no fault of the authors. The best resource to find out whether or not a lookout is standing or accessible by any means is to contact the land-management agency (national parks, USDA Forest Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Hiking-related websites are also useful such as Washington Trails Association .

As is too often the case for lookout buffs, Round Mountains’ lookout has also bitten the dust. However, the views are still grand at Round Mountain and there’s an essence about a lookout site that lingers years after its demise. The Round Mountain lookout was destroyed in 1976.

The Round Mountain trail is in the Clear Lake Recreation Area, east of White Pass. Getting there involves driving a four-mile forest service road to the trailhead. Carry plenty of water for this hike; there is no water otherwise and on a hot day you’ll need it. Most of the trail lies in the forest but on a summer day that can be a blessing. About a half-mile below the summit you’ll come to a signed trail junction: here the Round Mountain trail continues (right); the Round Mountain lookout is straight ahead.

The footings of the lookout soon come into view and when you top out you’ll be rewarded with views of Clear Lake and Rimrock Lake (Kloochman Rock can be seen above Rimrock Lake).

Rimrock Lake

The lookout site is a good turnaround and there is even some shade beneath a fringe of evergreens nearby. Take time to look around; find a USGS benchmark on a nearby rock near the summit. A path continues along the ridge to more rocky outcroppings with views including the aftermath of a forest fire which can’t be seen from the lookout site. There are also unobstructed views of Mount Rainier, the Goat Rocks and Mount Adams.

mount adams

The lookouts and sites we hike today often necessitated a first ascent of a precarious peak such as Three Fingers in the North Cascades. If not for an early ascent by the late Harold Engles and Harry Bedal there wouldn’t be a lookout on Three Fingers. Engles was the district ranger for the Darrington Ranger District for many years. We had the privilege of hiking with Harold when he was 89 to the Green Mountain Lookout in the 1980s. Then the Green Mountain road was open and you could drive to the trailhead (not possible today as the Suiattle River Road is not open that far).

On that hike Harold barely broke into a sweat and climbed in oxfords, slacks, and a white shirt. No ice axe, no trekking poles, no fancy clothing for him. When we got to the summit an orange rolled out of his pack and out of reach. None of us dared venture off the summit to retrieve it but it was a casual walk for him. I still remember the sharp tang of radishes he brought from his garden, the dirt still clinging to their roots.

On that hike Engles talked about that ascent to Three Fingers with Harry Bedal and remarked that Harry was tough. It was the city germs that killed Harry, not the mountains or the climbs according to Engles. On their ascent in search of a suitable lookout site Engles and Bedal hiked through a stream, toting home-made candle-lanterns called “bugs” by old-timers. There was no trail. Later, the summit was blasted to level a spot to construct the lookout. The lookout still stands and is reached via a series of ladders leashed to the cliffs.

Getting there (Round Mountain):  From White Pass on US 12 continue east about 12-3/4 miles, turn onto Road 1200 (right), then right on FS Road No. 1200-530; continue to trailhead. The road is in good condition other than a couple of dips where passenger cars should exercise caution (drive slow). A Northwest Forest Pass is required. You’ll also need to fill out a permit to enter the William O. Douglas Wilderness (available at the trailhead).

Additional information:  The Round Mountain trail No. 1144 is 4.9 miles (one way) with 1,400 feet gain. The trail to the Round Mountain Lookout Trail No. 1144A site is another half-mile one-way with an additional 500 feet of gain (per the Naches District trail guide). The Green Trails Map No. is 303 (White Pass). For additional information about Round Mountain call Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest at 509-653-1400.

For additional information regarding the Fremont Lookout and others in/near Mount Rainier National Park visit the parks’ website:  www.nps.mora .

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