High Rock Lookout, Gobblers Knob
Oct 21, 2006
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Gobblers Knob
- Region: Mt. Rainier -- SE - Longmire / Paradise
- Agency: Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
- Avg Rating: 2.20
Still a bit bitter since my rainy visit to the Rainer area two weeks ago, I chose to return on a much nicer day and take in some of the views I had missed. Instead of one long trip, I had made a plan to climb several smaller mountains, giving me the option climb until dark or until too tired, whichever came first. The drive S was very foggy in the AM but started to burn off just after getting on Hwy 706.
Stop #1 was Highrock Lookout. Skate Creek Rd (FSR 52) was well marked and easy to find. It’s paved for a few miles then at another marked turn turns to gravel. Just follow the signs and after about 13 total miles from Hwy 706 you’ll arrive at Towhead Gap and have a view of the lookout. From here it’s an easy 1.5 mile jaunt to the top. For the most part the trail stays in the woods and only at the very end do things open up. At one point I jogged past a group of Boyscouts and they thought I was some kind of superhero. One even asked how long I had been a “professional”. Haha, thanks kids ;)
Once on top, I had great views of Rainer and Adams. The lookout is in decent shape and I went inside for a minute to get out of the October winds. Outside the lookout are some impressively sharp drop-offs, an old hand-cable and an old supply shed just below the summit.. This has to be one of the more unique lookout positions in the state. I jogged back to the TH eager to get started on the next peak.
3 miles RT, 1420’ gain, 1:10 car-to-car.
This next trip taught me a lot about attention to detail. After a long 13 miles of forest road, I got back on 706 and headed E towards the Nisqually entrance to MRNP. Just a few cars in line and while paying for my day-pass, I noticed on the update board that Sunrise Rd was closed. I verified with the ranger and realized that some other peaks I had planned on would no longer be part of today’s itinerary. Turns out Sunrise Rd closes October 10th of every year, so those peaks will have to wait until next year. Anyway, I got my map and began driving into the park. Stop # 2 was Gobblers Knob Lookout.
I knew that the road I wanted to turn onto would be on the L side, and very soon after entering the park. But what was the name? I pulled out the park map and caught a glimpse; Oh yeah, Westside Road. Soon I was there and immediately after turning onto the road I noticed a sign stating that the end of the road was in 3 miles, and Round Pass was 7 miles away. Since I hadn’t given this hike much planning, I just figured the TH was at the end of the road and Round Pass was some other destination. Assuming I was in for an easy 5 mile RT and 1800’ gain, I was bummed to see that, after a real look at the map, Round Pass was actually the “new” TH. So basically 4 miles of road and 1500’ separated me from my 5 mile, 1800’ hike. Pausing shortly, I decided that I might as well do it now as it was unlikely the road would ever be repaired. A study of my Green Trails map showed me the road has been washed out since 1990.
So there at 2800’, I saddled up and crossed the gate. A couple hundred feet of good road and I saw what all the commotion was about. The washout was pretty impressive. Logs, boulders and crushed culverts littered the area and made it obvious that the creek has decided where it wants to go, road or not. This washout is actually a culmination of a creek coming down Mt Wow’s E side, Fish Creek and Tahoma Creek. The first mile or so involves crossing several different frothing channels, via foot-logs, boulder-hopping and large jumps from one side to another. In the middle of all this, a faint remnant of the old road can be seen, riddled with 6 foot deep trenches and rushing, milky water. After crossing the last channel, I reconnected with the road, which from here on up, was in great condition. If one could manage to bring a bike to this point, it would certainly be to their advantage. I had seen two bikes in the woods; The owners must have given up on the idea prior to seeing the better stretch of road.
The road walk was long and lonely, but offered distractions along the way. The first thing I noticed was a trail heading off into the woods. I briefly entertained the idea of this trail offering a more direct route to Round Pass, but I believe this trail only connects with the Wonderland Trail. Next thing up was Tahoma Vista. The road here was nice with rock shoring and an old parking area. I walked out to the vista but since 1990 a good deal of growth has done well at limiting the view. An old stone staircase led to an abandoned log-style restroom. The entire hike offered a kind of ghost town appeal that I find pretty entertaining.
Finally, I reached Round Pass. A brief hike to the other side led to the Marine Memorial, which was dedicated to the 32 Marines who died on December 10th, 1946, when their plane crashed high on the South Tahoma Glacier. The plane and their bodies still remain on the mountain. It was a cool memorial with a now overgrown view of the mountain and the glacier where the plane lies. I had wanted to see this site for some years now so it felt good to finally make it.
Another incentive for bringing a bike; Round Pass has it’s own bike rack.
So, after 4 miles of road, I was now on trail. Nice trail at that. Seems like it is still maintained; Not brushy, functional bridges and water-bars. Not even any standing water after our recent bout of rain. A raking of the trail bench to clear the thick layer of pine needles and this trail is in A+ condition. In a few minutes I was at Lake George, which is home to a neat Patrol Cabin as well as an overnight shelter. The trails are still well marked and I continued on towards the lookout. Having not seen a single soul this entire time, I was starting to wonder if I would see anyone at all today. Then, just a couple hundred feet below the top, I ran into two groups one their way down. Another group was up on the lookout and I enjoyed a seat on the porch as the windows and door had been boarded up for the winter. A group of birds dive-bombed me and then waited patiently for a hand-out as I enjoyed my lunch. Great views from this lookout. Although the extra mileage of the road cost me another trip or two for the day, I was happy I had done it and got a chance to see the memorial and the lookout.
Not much to report on the way back. I passed another soloist and a group of two heading up, and helped some guys ferry their bikes over foot-logs on the last washout crossing.
13 miles RT, 3180’ gain, 6 hours car-to car
Total for the day: 16 miles, 4600’ gain and 7.25 hours