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Sourdough Mountain

...from Diablo Lake Overlook - Grueling is the hike. Awesome are the views. Supreme is the experience. One of the most challenging trails in the North Cascades, the arduous haul to the historical lookout atop Sourdough Mountain is worth every ounce of sweat you'll expend. And you'll expend plenty. A mile straight up and 5.5 on the ground-can you say steep? But a priceless panorama of craggy, spiraling, glacier-hugging, cloud-piercing, unbelievably breathtaking peaks are the payoff. And directly below is an added dividend-Diablo Lake's surreally turquoise-tinted waters.

From the lowly trailhead elevation, waste no time heading for the heavens. In thick timber switchback relentlessly, gaining 3000 feet in the first 2 miles. As you approach the North Cascades National Park, the grade eases somewhat, but it's still a bear. Thinning forest provides sneak peeks of surrounding peaks, a much needed enticement to push on.

At 4 miles (elev. 5000 ft) Sourdough Creek's cascading waters are a welcome sight, as more than likely your water supply is nearly spent. Hop across the energy-recharging creek and begin reaping the long-anticipated rewards of this hike. Traversing subalpine forest groves and sprawling meadows bursting with wildflowers, finally start enjoying your journey.

In-your-face views of Ruby Mountain, Pyramid Peak, and Colonial Peak and its massive glacier knock what little breath you have left right out of you. Diablo Lake's turquoise waters twinkle 1 mile directly below. One last set of switchbacks is all that's left between you and the lookout.

Reach the broad summit ridge of Sourdough Mountain and dart across lingering snowfields. Behold nearly the entire North Cascades kingdom before you. To the north are Mount Prophet, Hozomeen Mountain, Ross Lake, and the wilds of British Columbia. At nearly 9000 feet, Jack Mountain dominates the eastern horizon. To the south it's Colonial Peak and company, while the Picket Range commands your attention to the west.

The fire lookout was constructed in 1933 and is listed on the National Historical Lookout Register. It's still staffed in the summer. With Old Glory flapping defiantly in the mountain breezes, it is a sentry post bordering America's wild backcountry. Beatnik poet Philip Whalen worked a couple of summers on Sourdough as a lookout back in the 1950s. Talk about the ideal work environment! Linger long and rest up for the knee-jarring descent.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 22, 2012
  • Attribution-No Derivative Works
    by johnmewing
    • Camera: Canon CanoScan 8800F