This week, President Obama signed the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act, putting an end to years of uncertainty around the fate of the beloved lookout perched high in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington's Cascade range. The legislation was championed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen.
The new law protects the lookout from a 2012 ruling by a judge ordering the U.S. Forest Service to remove the lookout after a Montana-based group charged that the process to restore the lookout violated the Wilderness Act. The new law has also provided a small morale boost for the nearby Darrington community, which has been hit so hard by the SR 530 landslide.
A look back at a unique wilderness lookout
Like a sentinel, the Green Mountain Lookout has watched over the Glacier Peak backcountry for more than 80 years. Originally built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of a fire detection system across the North Cascades, the Green Mountain Lookout once housed a seasonal fire spotter.
In 1968 Glacier Peak Wilderness was expanded to include the lookout.
From fire watch tower to wilderness ranger station. In the mid-1980s as airplanes took over the primary fire detection role, lookouts were used by wilderness rangers who patrolled the forest and provided history lessons to eager lookout visitors. Green Mountain Lookout is one of the few remaining lookouts in Washington to carry on that role today.
An effort to preserve Green Mountain as lookouts disappear. More than 600 lookouts once called Washington mountaintops home. Once aerial fire detection took precedence, many of our lookouts were removed by land managers concerned about visitor safety and the cost of maintenance. In that time, an effort was made to protect the remaining few.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1987, Green Mountain Lookout and five other wilderness lookouts on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest were added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the years following, Green Mountain Lookout was adopted by the Friends of Green Mountain Lookout group to “preserve and maintain” the historic structure. (Read more about the restoration efforts over the years.)
Uncertainty and a legal battle. Since 2010, the lawsuit filed against the restoration of the lookout had obscured the structure's future. But after years of litigation and advocacy for the lookout from a broad range of individuals, communities and organizations, the law's passage this week seems to have settled the issue for now.
The road ahead
From trailhead to summit, the hike to Green Mountain Lookout has been called one of the best view hikes in the state. Prior to the series of massive storms in 2003 and 2006 that washed out the Suiattle River Road, the main access road for the lookout trail, hundreds of people trekked up to the lookout, enjoying lush green meadows, wildflowers and jaw-dropping vistas to nearby peaks.
Once the Suiattle River Road reopens, many more hikers will be able to make the pilgrimage to the lookout—this time to celebrate that an important piece of Washington’s history will remain atop Green Mountain for future hikers to enjoy.
Purchase and print a day pass for trailheads where you need a Northwest Forest Pass. Photo of Beckler Peak trailhead by Eric Jain.
Beginning this month, hikers can purchase and print a day pass for trailheads where you need a Northwest Forest Pass. The e-Pass is a new, convenient option for spur-of-the-moment adventures on trails in Washington's National Forests, from Umatilla National Forest to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie.
All Forest Service trailheads in Washington and Oregon with developed facilities (restrooms and trash cans that need to be serviced, picnic tables, etc.) require a pass. This includes most trailheads in the Cascades and Olympics. (S.)
How the new e-Pass day pass option works: purchase, print and go
- . You will need your car's license plate number and the date you plan to hike. (The form will also ask you which forest you area hiking in, but you can change your mind about where you plan to hike after you print it)
- Print the pass within 2 days.
- Display your pass at the trailhead.
Note: The e-Pass print option currently only applies to single day passes, not to annual passes.
Other pass options: an annual pass, earn a pass with trail work
Annual pass: If you plan to hike on trails in National Forest lands more than once, you may want to consider purchasing an annual Northwest Forest Pass for $30. The pass is available at National Forest offices and visitor centers and via private vendors or online. Passes may also be purchased at the Seattle WTA office or on wta.org.
Volunteer to earn a pass: Volunteers who do trail work on Northwest Forest lands with WTA can receive an annual Northwest Forest Pass by volunteering for 2 days of trail work.
Where the fees go: With massive cuts to the federal budgets of National Forests over the last decade, the fees collected by the Northwest Forest pass help support basic services that keep our beloved trails clear and enjoyable to hike, including: trail maintenance, rangers, trailhead security, and restroom and trash upkeep.
Bookmark these pages on passes
Because we have a wealth of public lands managed by different state and federal agencies, the passes, fees and regulations can get confusing. In the links below, we run down all of the various recreation passes for national parks, forests and state lands—from the Northwest Forest Pass to Washington's Discover Pass. Additional information for specific trailheads can be found on many of our Hiking Guide entries.
The recent mudslide on SR 530 has employees with the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest working round-the-clock. In addition to their full-time jobs with the forest, many of them are also volunteering their spare time to help in recovery efforts in the Darrington area.
Officials are still encouraging hikers to avoid snowy, uncleared trails off the Mountain Loop Hwy (like Big Four Ice Caves, Lake 22 and Heather Lake) and keeping roads and resources free for responders and residents. But, the Forest Service and WTA could use your help with some spring trail maintenance on one special, popular trail: the Boulder River Trail.
WTA volunteers needed to maintain a popular Darrington-area trail
Now more than ever, the Forest Service is relying on WTA's volunteer crews to help maintain trails in the Darrington Ranger District. To prepare the trails for spring hikers, the rangers in Darrington have asked WTA to proceed with our scheduled maintenance on the popular Boulder River Trail.
Volunteers needed: We will be heading out to Boulder River on April 29 & 30 and May 1 & 2 to address any damage the trail may have sustained during the winter. This includes annual maintenance, like trail clearing and drainage improvements.
Join WTA as we give back to this community by helping maintain this gorgeous trail. Expect to find old-growth trees, moss covered logs, the roar of Boulder River, and spectacular waterfalls.
Volunteering logistics: Due to roadblocks from slide recovery efforts, the drive time to the trailhead is much longer, so the Forest Service has offered the bunkhouse at Darrington for volunteers to overnight in. Anyone signed up with WTA work parties at Boulder River is welcome to stay one or more nights while you help maintain the Boulder River Trail. Please be sure to indicate in the comments when you sign up if you are planning to stay the night at the bunkhouse.
Other ways to help
If these dates don't work for you, there are many other ways to help out and stay up-to-date with the situation in Oso.
- Resources for helping the community affected by the 530 mudslide.
- Learn more from WSDOT about road access in the area.
- Learn more from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie about trailhead access.
Bookmark the Boulder River Trail for hiking later this summer
Originally built to service the fire lookout on Three Fingers, the trail used to run over Tupso Pass and down Canyon Creek to the South Fork Stillaguamish River. The pass was a site for logging activity in the 1960s and during that time, the trail from Tupso Pass on was abandoned. Now, the trail is a great way to explore this lush river valley with a huge waterfall at the end.
Please note: Unless you are volunteering, please stay off the trail for now. We'll let you know when it's a good idea to explore Boulder River and experience the impressive falls at the end of the trail.
In a voice vote on the House floor Monday, the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 908 / S. 404) passed and is on its way to President Obama’s desk for signature. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen championed the House bill to save the lookout. The Obama Administration threw its support behind the lookout earlier this year and is expected to sign the bill.
Last week the bill to preserve the Green Mountain Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness unanimously passed the Senate, led by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. The lookout was threatened after a U.S. District Court judge ordered its removal back in 2012.
Good news for Darrington and mountain lookout fans
Passage of the bill into law provides a small morale boost for the Darrington community, which has been so hit hard by the Highway 530 landslide.
“In the days after the tragedy occurred, members of the community and the mayor of Darrington asked for support on issues important to the region," said Rep. DelBene during her floor remarks. "One of their requests to our congressional delegation, to Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressman Larsen and myself was for our help to pass this bill."
“… The Green Mountain Lookout represents a significant piece of Pacific Northwest history. It deserves to be protected for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy for many years to come. This bill can’t undo what’s been done but as the mayor of Darrington told me, it can be a piece of good news and a victory for inspiring a community that’s been through so much.”
Larsen: an historic save, a first step for recovery
Before the House voted, Rep. Larsen, cosponsor of the bill to save Green Mountain Lookout, also stated:
“The Green Mountain Lookout is one of few surviving fire lookouts in the West, and is only one of six such lookouts within a Wilderness area. It was also an early warning station during World War II to alert citizens to possible aerial invasion.
“The communities in nearby Darrington and Oso are recovering from last month’s tragic landslide that killed dozens of people and shut the communities off from much of the outside world. First responders, FEMA, and other federal agencies have been extraordinarily helpful in recovery efforts.
“Passing this bill invests in the longer term economic recovery of the region. Many people in these communities rely on outdoor recreation and tourism for their livelihoods. Part of that economy is based on access to historic and beautiful locations like Green Mountain Lookout. With the summer recreation season coming up, protecting Green Mountain Lookout sends a message from Congress to these communities: We’re with you.”
Washington representatives defend Green Mountain
What you can do
Please take a minute and thank our legislators for their tremendous support for the Green Mountain Lookout.
- Thank Sen. Patty Murray on Facebook or on Twitter @pattymurray
- Thank Sen. Maria Cantwell on Facebook or on Twitter @CantwellPress
- Thank Rep. Suzan DelBene on Facebook or on Twitter @RepDelBene
- Thank Rep. Rick Larsen on Facebook or on Twitter @RepRickLarsen
This month we're working in several locations that need some special attention and we'd love to have your help! Join us for a day full of safety, fun and work, and make your mark on the trails you love.
Southwest Washington - Vancouver Lake 1/2 day
WTA is offering a series of morning events to make it easier for youth and families to join trail stewardship projects. Join us for a 1/2 day work party in a regional park on the west shore of Vancouver Lake. Visitors to the park enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking and biking in the park on trails that WTA helps maintain.
We hope to see lots of families, but the young at heart are welcome too! We'll be working on the 2.5 mile muti-use trail that connects the lake to Frenchman's Bar Regional Park.
Olympics - Dry Creek
Come help WTA work on a trail that heads out of Lake Cushman and leads to a traverse below Dry Mountain. The winter on the Peninsula has left the trail a little worse for wear, but it's nothing we can't fix with your help! We've got work to do logging out, repairing tread, improving drainage, and brushing.
This is a great opportunity to hone a variety of trail maintenance skills, and at the end of the day, you can explore a scenic trail near Lake Cushman that winds through lush rainforest and along rocky mountainsides.
Northwest Washington - Sharpe Park
Despite their relatively short length, the trails at Sharpe Park need some major repair in order to get them up to standard. Join us as we work at this unique location, home to the largest undeveloped waterfront on Fidalgo Island.
We'll be rebuilding sections of rooty and rocky trails. In addition, expect to do a bit of general maintenance on some of the park's more popular, established trails. So come for a day of trail work near Anacortes, and afterwards, explore this little-known gem on Fidalgo Island.
Puget Sound - Evans Creek
Alternative Spring Break for Teens
April 16, 17, 18
Our work parties at Evans Creek this week are geared towards students between 14- 18 who are on spring break. Bring your friends and enjoy the outdoors while you spend a day learning about the world of trail maintenance. You can earn community service hours for school too!
The Evans Creek Preserve in Sammamish, just 30 minutes from Seattle, is home to many diverse ecosystems that provide wildlife habitat to a variety of species. Teen volunteers will help WTA build a brand new trail system this spring, so you can return with friends year after year and say: “Yeah … I built that.”
Senators Murray and Cantwell helped pass legislation that would preserve the Green Mountain Lookout. Photo by HikerJim.
Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to preserve the Green Mountain Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness. The legislation, championed by Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, would protect the lookout after a U.S. District Court judge ordered its removal back in 2012.
"The Green Mountain Lookout is more than a hiking destination," Sen. Murray said on the floor of the Senate today. "It’s part of the Pacific Northwest’s heritage. It’s a cherished historical landmark. It’s a place where parents have brought their kids for generations, to appreciate the splendor of the great outdoors in the Northwest. And it’s a place that has been a vital source of tourism-related income for the people who’ve been impacted by this deadly landslide that has struck this region."
"One little glimmer of hope"
The congresswomen underscored that the bill, if passed, would be a morale boost to a community devastated by the deadly SR 530 landslide.
Sens. Murray and Cantwell, and Rep. Suzan DelBene recently visited the town of Darrington and have been pressing for federal support for the community. While there, the legislators met with the mayor and other local officials.
"... after we finished sort of our official meeting, the mayor took us aside and told myself and Senator Cantwell and our congresswoman Suzan DelBene that the one little glimmer of hope that he thought he could provide to this community was passage of this Green Mountain Lookout bill," said Sen. Murray.
“This is a significant step forward towards saving a community treasure for the residents of Snohomish County. This scenic lookout is a destination for locals and tourists, historians and outdoor enthusiasts,” added Sen. Cantwell.
Next steps for Green Mountain Lookout bill
The Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Act (H.R. 908 / S. 404) still needs to clear the House before President Obama, who already announced his support for the legislation, could sign it into law.
The bill will now go to the House, where it could be taken up as soon as next week, according to Rep. DelBene. Reps. DelBene and Rick Larsen, who originally introduced the bill to protect Green Mountain Lookout, have been championing the House version of the bill.
What you can do. Please take a minute and thank the legislators for their tremendous support for the Green Mountain Lookout.
- Thank Sen. Patty Murray on Facebook or on Twitter @pattymurray
- on Facebook or on Twitter @CantwellPress
- Thank Rep. Suzan DelBene on Facebook or on Twitter @RepDelBene
- Thank Rep. Rick Larsen on Facebook or on Twitter @RepRickLarsen
Watch the video
Ask anyone who has driven Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road (FS 56) what their experience was like and they’ll probably tell you about the car-swallowing potholes and tire-sucking mud. Others will talk about the time their car axle broke or multiple tires went pancake flat—in one trip.
Soon those experiences will be a thing of the past.
- The long-awaited paving project on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road will begin in early May 2014 and continue over the next three summers.
- The project should be completed in August 2016.
- Ten miles of the Middle Fork road will be paved from the end of the current pavement at the Mailbox Peak trailhead to the Middle Fork Campground.
Paving the Middle Fork means better access for hikers, is a win for the river and fish
Each year, more than 100,000 hikers and other recreationists venture to the Middle Fork to hike, camp, kayak and fish all year-round. The Middle Fork Valley—in the backyard of North Bend and only a 45-minute drive from Seattle—is incredibly scenic, with jagged peaks, towering old-growth trees and a raging river along the road. The Middle Fork is the main access road for a number of popular hiking trails like Mailbox Peak, Granite Creek, Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Trail and Taylor River—to name just a few.
By paving the road, hikers will have easier and safer access to their favorite places. In addition, water quality in the Middle Fork valley will improve due to a decrease of sediment run-off that currently flows off the dirt road and into streams. Old road culverts (those metal pipes that run under roads to allow streams to continue flowing downstream) will also be replaced and made more fish-friendly so trout can migrate upstream.
WTA sees this project as a win-win for hikers and the environment.
How will construction impact my trip to the Middle Fork?
Prep work for construction such as road surveying and flagging will begin on April 14, 2014 and construction will continue through August 2016. See the details and map below if you plan to hike the Middle Fork during this time.
2014 ROAD CLOSURES
The Lake Dorothy Road, which some people use as an alternative to one section of the Middle Fork Road, will be closed to all public traffic. (See map.)
Closures on the main Middle Fork Road will begin May 5, 2014 and extend through October 31, 2014 as follows:
Eastern Intersection of Lake Dorothy Road (Upper Couplet) at Valley Camp to Middle Fork Campground
Road Closed: 12:00pm Monday — 12:00pm Friday
Road Open: 12:00pm Friday — 12:00pm Monday (Up to 60 minute delays may occur.)
Note: The Mailbox Peak Trail and all trails beyond Mailbox will be inaccessible when the road is closed.
CCC Trailhead to Middle Fork Campground
Road Closed: 7 Days a Week - July 28, 2014 to September 26, 2014
If you missed some of the fun that the environmental and outdoor community had with April Fools' yesterday (besides our own post about a whole new crew of WTA trail experts), here is a quick recap to enjoy over a cup of coffee.
Mount Rainier: how well do you know your volcanoes?
Mount Rainier National Park tried to pass off Mount Baker as Mount Rainier and a magnet as The Rainier Dart (Dendrobates foolerae), a rare species of frog found in the park.
High Country News: Hippos spark management debate
"Nation's most fearsome invasive species wreaks havoc on Western waterways."
This fine piece of April Fools' journalism looks into the classic tensions around an unusual invasive:
"The hippo takeover has been swift and thorough. The Yellowstone, Snake, and Columbia Rivers now support breeding populations, and, after a juvenile was sighted in the Gila River last month, scientists believe it’s only a matter of time before the creatures arrive in the main stem of the Colorado."
REI tortures everyone who has ever wanted to actually buy that adorable tiny model tent
In a whimsical mashup of the tiny house trend, the ultra-light trend and your obsession with those tiny display model tents, REI released the Gulliver 3-season tent. For your head.
Craig Romano: Best Hikes with Cats
Washington guidebook author, Craig Romano, released his latest hiking guidebook, essential for the cat loving hiker. What the author says you'll find in this April 1 release:
"You won't find Dog Mountain in this book, but the Kendall Katwalk, Cougar Mountain, and Panther Creek are all in it!"
Outdoor Research's a gaiter for your beer
"The Crocodiles Gaiters, the limited-edition Crocodile Coozy is built with a waterproof, breathable upper and super-durable base."
Green Trails Maps maps the mountains of Kansas
You know you've always wanted to hike the mountains of Kansas, and on April 1, Green Trails made it possible.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy: eau de thru-hiker
The ATC released a new perfume in its online store, so you don't have to go days on trail without a bath to get that very unique and sought-after "hiker scent."
Chaco takes the barefoot trend even further
Chaco riffs on their classic Z sandal with the Barefoot Z, which "features a new Paleolithic design with a GroundTouch footbed that has been millions of years in the making."
And a few others:
- Yonder, an app for the outdoor community, released Yinder, a dating app for dirtbags with flip-phones.
- Camelback takes a note from Frank Herbert's Dune, and creates an April Fools' filtration system, the "Closed Loop Hydration System". Think of all the weight you'll save hauling water.
Have your company support the wild places you love to go. When you give through an employer program, it's kind of like you're in two places at once. Photo by j. brink.
In recognition of Earth Day 2014, Washington Trails Association is partnering with EarthShare Washington and 35 other environmental non-profits in Washington state to issue a challenge to Washington companies:
In 16 days, raise $50,000 and volunteer 1,000 hours to benefit Washington environmental charities and make a REAL impact on our environment.
How the challenge works
Through this crowdfunding model, business and employees use the easy online tools provided by EarthShare Washington at EarthDayCorporateChallenge.org to create teams and recruit clients, colleagues, and friends to donate money and volunteer hours to their teams.
Where does the money go?
Funds raised through the Challenge are distributed to 36 conservation nonprofits vetted by EarthShare Washington. Fans of WTA may also specify their gifts for Washington Trails Association.
Give back to the places you love this Earth Day
If your company prides itself of supporting community sustainability and supporting a greener, healthier planet, then the challenge is a great way to put those values into action.
Washington companies know that Washington's wild lands and recreational opportunities are major positive factors in employee recruitment and retention.
We live in a special place that attracts bright, innovative people from around the world, and Earth Day presents a singular opportunity to come together across your company and give back.
Team leaders needed!
Engaging your company to participate is crucial to the Challenge’s success.
Four easy steps to have your company take part:
- Recruit a team of conservation heroes at your workplace.
- Register your company’s team using the Register Now button at EarthDayCorporateChallenge.org.
- Set goals for your team: a dollar goal and a volunteer hours goal.
- Take a break and congratulate yourself! EarthShare Washington will contact your team leader with practical tips for a successful Earth Day celebration.
Daily prizes for donors!
Every weekday of the Earth Day Corporate Challenge a prize will be given to one lucky donor (some days more than one) from companies like Columbia Sportsware/Mountain Hardware, KAVU, REI and Patagonia.
About Earthshare Washington
Founded in 1987 by local environmental organizations, EarthShare Washington brings people together to build and share resources for the environment. Through education programs, an award-winning website, environmental fundraising, sustainability workshops and collaborating with businesses, EarthShare Washington helps employees connect with and volunteer for leading environmental nonprofits.
This summer, WTA is adding some true trail experts to our backcountry volunteer crews. We'll have specially trained animals helping us with logouts, brushing, and even in-camp duties like kitchen patrol! Because they're experts, they'll get orange hard hats, but don't worry, you don't have to take orders from them.
Tree Felling Professionals
Volunteer Vacations like those on the Olympic Peninsula and other locations where we're building bridges and puncheons will get a boost from specially drafted teams of beavers.
We'll be sending each beaver crew out three days in advance of the trip. They'll fell trees WTA scouts have previously selected and marked, so that when our human crews get out there, the trees will be ready for peeling and placing!
Each of our teams works seamlessly together, as they have prior building experience working on their own dams and lodges.
Specialized Brushing Crew
The voracious appetite of Washington's white-tailed deer made them the perfect candidate when we were looking for an advance guard of volunteers to brush trail.
Frequently, crews on backcountry response teams (BCRTs) are slowed down by overgrown trails, so this year each backcountry trip will be led by a team of three deer as they make their way to the destination. They'll also clear the camp area of ground cover and low-hanging boughs.
Elk will also join the teams in particularly brushy areas.
Measure twice, cut once
In our effort to comply with leave no trace, we're doing away with marking utensils! No more pencils or pens that may or may not work depending on weather conditions, and no more flagging that could blow away in high winds.
WTA is now relying on the natural slime from banana slugs to mark our measurements for everything from lap joints to notching -- even the beaver crews rely on the new measurement methods to precisely fell the trees we'll use for on-trail structures.
We've already dispatched our crews for the season, as time is a concern for them.
Yoga Instructor/Life Coach
Stiff muscles from a day (or five) of sleeping on the ground can be hard to wake up to. Fortunately, this season, each backcountry trip will have a certified yoga instructor on deck to wake you up right. Practice a sun salutation to limber up, then get down to the business of breakfast.
On trail, your yogi transforms into a positivity professional, who will be a source of encouragement if your energy flags toward the end of the day. And of course, they're always ready with a pick-me-up from our signature WTA chocolate box.
Batteries in the backcountry are counterintuitive. They're heavy, and don't you normally head into the woods to escape all the technology that surrounds you? But wake-up time can come early on a backcountry trip, so how can you be sure not to miss breakfast without your alarm clock?
New this season, each backcountry location will have a hired pika, who we've trained to squeak with increasing frequency and urgency until everyone is up and stretching with the yoga instructor.
Particularly stubborn sleepers will be personally visited by these little guys, and cute as they may be, that squeak is LOUD up close. Best to rise and shine as soon as you hear the morning reveille.
With raccoons and other critters getting curious about poorly stored food from other backcountry visitors, we decided to beat a potential problem to the punch. With specially trained bears, we've got a handle on late-night raids from hungry animals.
We've trained these bears to patrol the camp perimeter, keeping raccoons and other little critters out of our food stores. In return, they get access to snacks! Don't worry about mass destruction, these bears have been trained to open the panniers delicately, and only take snacks marked for them.
Our guards are relatively solitary -- they'll be patrolling the woods and keeping camp safe, but you probably won't see them around camp much.
It may surprise you that marmots have a taste for waste. They're remarkably good at keeping the area around the toilet trench clean, a quality often overlooked because of their whistles and antics in alpine meadows.
But their surprising knack for cleanup hasn't gone unnoticed at WTA. We've posted a clean-up crew of marmots at each Volunteer Vacation latrine site for the 2014 season.
This is one more way that WTA is helping hikers and volunteers comply with Leave No Trace in the backcountry.