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Heybrook Lookout
posted by John : March 16, 2008

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The way

I started searching for epic snowshoe partners a week earlier. Right after last week's trip. My normal selection of folks were noncommittal and the few who thought they could arrange it fell through. A post online got few responses, too. Dang.

But then at the last minute a party was forming to tackle a pair of peaks up Highway 2. 4,000+ feet of gain in deep powder was exactly what I was looking for so I signed up. Since I'd be gone all day and heading up toward Stevens Pass Amy opted to take the kids to NanaPapa's. In fact, we'd stay there the night to make it even easier. I packed all my gear and we were 10 minutes from leaving when I got a call from an unknown number.

It was the organizer and this clearly wasn't good. Not enough people had joined up so the trip was off. A quick change of plans and I had gear to take all three kids out for the day. Gone was the ice axe, crampons, and snowshoes, but I had the kid backpack and a bag of SHiBs so it was still good.

We'd already told the kids we were going to NanaPapa's and since we really hate changing plans for the girls we headed west. After settling in my phone rang again. Oh crap: dilemma time. The organizer had joined another party and now I had an invite for another trip. I'd have to ditch the girls, though.

No, sorry. I felt crappy when my trip fell through. I didn't want to do the same thing to the girls so I turned the invite down. (And probably rose in standing with the other hikers who heard about it. Never mind all my gear was back in North Bend...)

The next morning we headed east, but up the bizarro freeway. We're so used to I-90 and its sixteen lanes that when we were down to a two lane road (total, not in each direction) on Highway 2 the girls were asking why we weren't on a big road.

We pulled off the road at a wide spot on the shoulder with a trailhead sign. For a small highway the road noise was insane so we hustled up the first part of the trail and then slowed way down. It turns out the route to the Heybrook Lookout is pretty darn steep. Not Mailbox Peak steep, but still enough to slow us down.

Clara wore her fancy new backpack complete with its own hydration system. Lilly wore Clara's old backpack and Amy's old bladder, but that was quickly ditched as it was deemed to be too heavy.

The woods were nice, but pretty wet. Down low the salal was a deep green and the ferns were just starting to sprout new stalks. As we climbed higher into the denser trees the ground cover got thinner and less vibrant. Tokul strained at the leash, held by Clara, as she desperately wanted to sprint ahead.

We stopped frequently for a variety of reasons: potty breaks, SHiBs (M&Ms), "I'm tired," "I want a stick," "I want to be the line leader." We also tried a new kind of energy bar just for kids. It tasted all the world like a brownie (based on the tiny crumb I was allowed for tasting) and looking at the nutrition stats it wasn't worth much more, but it did get the girls moving.

Near the top the woods opened up with some limited views across the valley to the very peaks I was suppose to be climbing. Good thing I wasn't over there. The summits were clouded in and it looked nasty over there. Turning back to the mountainside we looked up a short, steep pitch and saw the lookout looming over us.

I'm used to lookouts like the one on Granite Mountain. It's one story and no big deal to get to. Or perhaps like the one on Sun Top that's barely off the ground.

The Heybrook Lookout, though, was six stories to the level below the living quarters. Worse, the stairs were pretty open as we climbed. Open enough to freak me out anyway. The girls had no problems and wanted to run to the top. I held Lilly tight and tried to guide Tokul, too, but Tokul bailed and I had to take her back down.

Even on the fully-decked level below the living quarters I wasn't really happy so we stayed only for a moment to take in the views that weren't. The clouds had descended even more so there was nothing to see except the picnic table in the middle of a snow field back down at the base. This, of course, was where the girls wanted to eat even though we had no gaiters or a dry way to get there.

Nonetheless, we forged a way through the thigh deep snow (for the girls) and made it to the picnic table for lunch. And of course once we got there is started raining. Oh well. At least it held off for as long as it did.

The walk down wasn't terribly exciting. In fact, the most excitement came while I was taking off my boots while skiers buzzed down Highway 2 honking at me. The first time I nearly jumped out of my boots (which would have been handy since I was having trouble undoing a knot), the second time I was annoyed, and the third time I took it as a compliment since I was bent over at the waist. (I can dream, right?)

Total distance was only 2.5 miles, but 1,000 feet of gain. Not bad for a couple of little munchkins.

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