Stafford Lookout

Janet wanted to go for a hike. I was free. The avalanche danger was dropping but still concerning. We looked for a spot with low danger. That brought up a trip we did back in December 2010. The old Stafford Lookout site sits atop the ridge just above the junction of the main NF Teanaway River Road and the Stafford Creek Road. The junction is only about 1.2 miles from the end of pavement and plowing spot by 29 Pines Campground. The route goes up Standup Creek and is quite a bit longer. The summit is only 3784' but has some very nice views on a clear day. This was supposed to be a clear day. That fit all our priorities. I med Janet and Steve in North Seattle at 7:25 am. The park & ride was almost full. Much more crowded than I have seen on a weekend. I guess the good weather brought out a lot of skiers and other snow lovers. We headed east over Snoqualmie Pass with a stop in Cle Elum. We reached the end of plowing at 9:20 am.

I was very surprised to see only two snowmobile trails. There were also three or four cars. The road is groomed for snowmobiles and they usually turn out in great numbers until early spring. This is still winter. And it would be mostly clear. It was about 9:40 when we started out. The groomed road was hard enough for us to carry snowshoes. We put on microspikes. It was just below freezing with little wind. Not bad at all. We walked almost half a mile when Janet thought she had left her phone visible in the car. Not in her pack. Steve went back to get it. He returned with the phone and we continued on to the junction with the Stafford Creek Road. There were no new tracks on the road. Definitely time to put on our snowshoes. We sank in 3 or 4 inches but it was still pretty easy walking.

It is about .90 miles to the road up Standup Creek. All the fresh snow made for great scenery. Where the Teanaway Road was freshly groomed the Stafford Creek Road had no new tracks. It looked much more natural. The creek runs right along the road. One log had icicles all along it. We had a lot of sunshine on the Teanaway Road. The Stafford Road was much more shaded. Shaded and much cooler. We reached the Standup junction at 11:13 am. Not a blazing pace so far. We took almost an hour and a half to go 2.1 miles. On the other hand, it does not get dark until after 6:00 pm now. We had lots of time.

I stared out ahead to break trail up the Standup Road. Steve led most of the Stafford Road. We had more sunshine here. With the uphill and sunshine we shed a few layers of clothing. As I climbed it became clear there were some changes since 2010. Selective logging has brought much more sunlight onto the road. It looked to be recent as there were still some snow covered slash piles. It might be around freezing but the snow was getting deeper and cutting a trail while sinking 4-8 inches with every step was tiring and heating me up. I looked forward to shade to cool down. The road is never steep but gains elevation consistently. Some years ago the road bridge over Standup Creek was removed and replaced with a hiker bridge. I was curious if the snow would be up to the handrails. It can be challenging to cross on a tall narrow pile of snow high above the creek. We arrived at the sight and that is exactly what we found.

I could see it was slightly undercut as well. The snow was wider at the top than bottom. Best to walk right down the middle. I went first and it went just fine. Once across we took a short break. The deepest soft snow of the day was just before and after the creek crossing. The road was narrower as it climbed higher. We started to find trees down across the road/trail. High on the uphill side and low on the downhill. On each side of the trees were voids. Snow did not fill in here and a snowshoe could sink in very deep. The road is in forest and we saw no signs of recent sliding onto or across the road. That part was good.

About the time I was getting worn out, the very deep soft snow became more consolidated. Effort dropped considerably. At the worst I was sinking in up to 10 inches deep with each step. Wet snow fell on top of the snowshoes. Worst of all, at about 32 degrees ice was sticking to the bottom of the shoes. A two pound snowshoe suddenly weighed four pounds. This to stopped as we climbed. The road goes about a mile in from the Stafford Road then switches back at the creek crossing and goes about a mile back towards the Stafford Road. As usual, each time I felt I was nearing the end of the road I'd round a corner and see another long straightaway. We reached an open viewpoint looking down on Staford Creek and I was sure we were at the end. Not so fast. It was just another five minutes or so and we reached the real end. Views down the valley to Miller Peak opened up. Now we just had about a short 140' climb to the top.

Getting up the cut bank was the hard part. Then we just climbed up soft snow to the old lookout site. It was all snow covered but part of the old guy wires were sticking up. That's all we saw of the old lookout. This point is a fairly low 3784' but has surprisingly good views. Mt. Stuart and the Stuart Range are hidden but higher peaks in between. All other directions have great views. We could see Jolly Mountain to the west. Down the valley Hawkins Mountain was in the clear. We had some white clouds overhead but the sky was mostly still blue. I could see part of Iron Peak. 7036' Earl Peak is right down the valley of Standup Creek. We had a great view of the summit. As usual I could see forested Tarzan Butte. It is a small peak but I seem to always have a view of it. To the right of it was Teanaway Butte. The car was a short 1.5 miles down the valley but 4 more snowshoe miles away.

We arrived on top at 1:30 pm. There was a light but steady cold wind but we stayed on top  until 2:13 pm. All the effort was worth it for 43 minutes of great views and bright sunshine. Dropping down to the road went fast. We now had a pretty good trench in place. Our descent was much faster and much easier. We were back down to Stafford Creek Road by 3:20 pm. It did not take long to hike on back to the Teanaway Road. We decided to take a break where the Teanaway River is right below the road. Sitting in the sunshine along the river was very nice. We had seen nobody and heard no snowmobiles all day up to this point. Now several snowmobiles went by. Then more. Then two snowmobiles pulling long trailers. Steve was standing up and saw over the snow berm to the "Search And Rescue" logo. They were heading up the valley. That is a very bad sign. I really appreciate the work done by these volunteers. Unfortunately, there had been some kind of accident.

We soon headed out the last mile. Snowshoes gave way to microspikes again. Much easier walking with the light spikes. As we hiked out we met more snowmobiles and some SAR skiers heading in. A helicopter was now circling overhead. Really not looking good. We came out to find vehicles form Kittitas County SAR, King County SAR, and law enforcement. We picked up that there were deaths in an avalanche down the valley. Reality set in. We had had a great day in the mountains but nearby things turned out terribly for others.

This was a great trip. Great solitude, sunshine, and untracked snow. Add in terrific summit views and good company. This is what days recreating in the mountains should be about. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the accident victims.

Getting Ready
Earl Peak
Groomed Road
Tarzan Butte
Stafford Creek
NF Teanaway Road
Snowshoeing Road
Big Tree
Stafford-Standup Roads
Untracked Snow
Sinking In
Catching Up
Recent Logging
Very Snowy Bridge
Crossing Bridge
Standup Trailhead
Logs Across Route
Here Comes Janet
Getting Overgrown
Almost There
Miller Peak
Stafford Creek Valley
Janet Ascends
Steve On Top
Hawkins Mountain
Iron Peak
Looking Up Valley
Neat Cloud
Earl Peak Again
Koppen Mountain
Steve & Janet
Nice To Have Track
Recrossing Bridge
Descending Standup Rd
Into The Sun
On Groomed Road
NF Teanaway River
Almost Back
Crowded Lot

View From Stafford Lookout Site Stafford Creek Valley Janet Crosses Standup Creek Bridge
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018