As I wilt in the heat today, it’s hard to believe what a bleak spring we had. Even a Winthrop day in May was grey and mild, as hard as it can be to believe!
I spent all spring missing the sun and Vitamin D. I know If this year’s mild, wet spring means no fires this summer and fall it will all be worth it, but I was pretty upset, especially with multiple trips to Eastern Washington in search of sunrays instead greeting me with grey and 50s (or for one Walla Walla wine weekend in April, snow!). A May jaunt dogsitting for the in-laws in Winthrop had me hoping to get some serious miles in.
After a disastrous attempt at walking all three dogs the prior afternoon, I decided to take just my pup Schooner for a solo hike to Lewis Butte. While still a bit wary of solo hiking, I figured even with the grey skies I wouldn’t be alone on the trail, especially with Hwy 20 recently opened again. My dog stays on-leash on all trails for now, but at some times of year well-behaved dogs can be off-leash here–be sure to heed any signs. The lot was fairly full (the trailhead on Gunn Ranch Road is also for Riser Lake’s trail), but you can continue further for the Rendezvous Wildlife Area for more parking if needed.
From the main parking lot, you actually double back to (carefully) cross the road. Signage was wonderful on the trail, and between that and my Gaia app I had no problems navigating the many trails about. Flowers were trying their hardest to burst through, in a normal spring the trail would have been awash with color. I was grateful enough for the lupines (according to my Seek app, both Silvery and Coastal Bush), balsamroot, and biscuitroot around me.
Lewis Butte used to be an out-and-back, but now there is an option for a loop, which I elected to do. At the first fork, I went left, making a clockwise loop. Left means fewer switchbacks going up, but more down if doing a loop. The choice is yours! I was impressed at the views of Riser Lake below me, with the modest blanketing of flowers around. However, the clockwise loop soon veers sharply to the side, making me double-check my map a few times to be certain. To the delight of my greedy pup, various animal scat was everywhere, even if the only animals I could presently see were birds.
I saw a few people on the Rendezvous trail, but followed the signed fork for Lewis Butte and more solitude. While I love a loop, I can see why most people do an out-and-back avoiding this area. However, there was only a bit of steepness here as I ascended towards the top. Of course, this is when the grey around me turned to sprinkles and clouds, completely obscuring the view. I popped my pooch’s rain coat on and soldiered forward.
With the sprinkles turning to fat drops, I didn’t spend a ton of time at the top. I also felt a little guilty leaving the other two dogs at home, even though I had walked all three that morning! That’s the beauty of solo hiking though, is you are free to spend as much or as little time lollygagging as you’d like. The beast, however, is only having selfies (if you don’t have pictures of yourself hiking, did you really hike?! [I am 100% joking, but I’ve seen people say this with total seriousness…].
I can see why this is a ‘butte’ and not a peak–it was incredibly flat at the top. If I were lollygagging, I’m sure this is quite a picnic spot. But, down Schooner and I went, hitting the switchbacks early on. The trail was getting a bit more crowded, and once about a half-mile down, the rain stopped and sun started trying to emerge (of course). Besides the flowers, another sign of spring was present just off-trail of a skeleton of some animal. Glad to have my inquisitive pup leashed, we moved on, letting the site be undisturbed for others to enjoy.
I made it back to the car in what felt like shocking time. 128 minutes by my Gaia! I felt a little more confident about solo hiking with my pup, and hoped it meant this would be the first of many adventures together.
Distance: Out-and-back is 5.0 miles according to signage and WTA. Loop is 5.1 according to signage, but I clocked in 5.3 on Gaia.
Elevation: 900 feet by WTA, I clocked 974.
Parking: Discover Pass
Bathrooms: Trailhead for Lewis Butte/Riser Lake had pit toilets, but I’m sure they are subject to seasonality.
Best Beer Bet: Old Schoolhouse Brewery and Methow Valley Ciderhouse right in town are my go-tos (Lost River Winery is great too!)