Lookouts: Granite Mountain

I’ve been to this nearby lookout many times over the years, but the first time was my favorite. It was late September and Seattle was nestled under a chilly layer of clouds. I started hiking up in the shadows before entering the foggy layer. I was a little disappointed because I thought the lookout would be in the clouds. I wouldn’t see any views but I was looking forward to seeing the fall color anyway. To my surprise as I climbed I discovered that the cloud layer was not so thick and suddenly it was all pure blue skies. I was on top of the clouds and it felt like I was on top of the world.

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The comforting red and gold of the Cascades in the fall.

It was my first fall hiking experience in the Cascades and I was in love. It felt like being in an airplane up there above the clouds. The air had a crisp coolness that refreshed me from all the climbing. And the yellow, orange and red color of the foliage popped against the bluebird sky.

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Blazing leaves reach toward the sky like fire.

When we got to the lookout my dog Nali, then only 6 months old, was hesitant to go up the flight of wooden stairs to the lookout. I picked her up and she whined. Apparently my dog was afraid of heights. What kind of adventure dog is afraid of heights?

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Red blueberry bushes dominate the upper reaches of the trail.

I was greeted by a couple dressed in forest service khaki and the most amazing smell, so out of place that I almost didn’t recognize it. It was chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. The woman handed me one and my jaw dropped. It was still warm and it melted in my mouth. I was completely blown away by this simple gift. It was officially the best day ever.

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First glimpses of the lookout from the colorful meadows.

I discovered that the couple were volunteer rangers just up there manning the lookout for the weekend. They showed me the Osborne fire finder and how they lined it up to determine the coordinates of a fire. I lingered above it, matching up the mountains etched in the metal with the ones I saw out the windows. The space was cozy with a cot and blankets, a desk and chair and that all important gas powered oven.

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Mt Rainier rises above the clouds on my first trip to Granite Mountain.

This past weekend I returned to Granite Mountain. It’s the same time of year that I made that first visit and I had high hopes when I woke up to a marine layer in Seattle. But the clouds didn’t stretch its fingers past the foothills under the unseasonable warm sun. And the lookout was locked up, no cookies this time. But it was a beautiful day so Nali and I climbed up the rocks to find a nice lunch spot and looked to the north. Jagged brown peaks pierced the blue sky as I spotted Glacier Peak and Mt Baker, more interesting, at least to me, than the views of Mt Rainier to the south.

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Granite Mountain Lookout perched above the blazing foliage.

I’ll never get a repeat of that first hike to the lookout. But there is still comfort in returning to a beloved trail. I know exactly what to expect and where the hardest part of the trail is. I know that the last push to the top is easier than it looks but will take every last bit of energy out of me. I know that when I get about halfway up I will wonder why on earth I would ever succumb myself repeatedly to this leg torture of a trail. And I know that as soon as I hit the meadows I will forget all of that. Most importantly, I know that I can make it to the top and that the hard work to get there is worth it. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a warm chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at the top.

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The last push to the top rewards you with stunning views to the north.

I haven’t had another cookie experience like that one on my first trip to lookout many years ago, so I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up. But you can create your own cookie experience with a recipe for my favorite version of the universally loved snack. Share some with strangers at the top to make it their best day ever.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Recipe:

1 1/4c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4c softened butter
3/4c brown sugar
1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 3/4 c chocolate chips
1 c quick oats

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Beat in egg.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture and milk.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips and oats.
  6. Drop onto baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes.
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Granite Mountain Lookout.

Hikes featured in this post:
Granite Mountain

1 Comment

  1. This is great! And in all my years hiking in the Cascades since the….1970s…I’ve never been offered a fresh cookie on a mountain top, lucky you! I had a similar experience on Granite Peak my first time up in terms of the weather. It was a freakishly warm and dry Thanksgiving weekend about…2001? 2002? We climbed above the clouds and looked west, knowing we were above it all while the Puget lowlands dwellers were engulfed in gray. We called a friend who bailed on us to gloat. 🙂 These days my knees aren’t so happy with that trip, but maybe next season.

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