To shake off some backpacking rust, I was thinking of backpacking from the trailhead for Tomyhoi / Yellow Aster Butte and camping in or near the Winchester Mountain Lookout (Mount Baker area). I would be taking a dog with me and it would be just for 1 night and during the week.
Anyone have any idea how often that lookout is used by campers? Also if it were taken, are there somewhat flat spots I could pitch my tent in that area? The one thing I'd rather not do is set up camp at Twin Lakes as it would feel like I did the backpacking effort just to camp with car campers.
We hiked up to Winchester Lookout on a cool, cloudy early evening last August. No one was there when we arrived and we stayed for maybe 20-30 minutes. On the hike out a family was on their way to stay in it. I'd imagine the ideal is to show up in the early evening so you're not dealing with visitors too long. No water up there unless you find some snow. Sorry, it's all I got!
Yellow Aster Butte looks like a great place to camp. Tougher hike. We saw a bear on the way up there in mid-September. I think you can camp near some tarns.
I slept in the lookout last year on a Sunday night with my dad. We had the lookout to ourselves. One guy with a dog showed up right at dusk and camped outside the lookout, didn't even ask to come in.
Caveats: I would echo the comment that the trail to Winchester will have a steep snow finger until late summer. High Pass also has steep snow that lingers late. Also, I would not want to walk the road from the YAB trailhead -- brutally sunny and rocky and dusty. That said, without a high-clearance car, I would not want to drive it either.
You could always set up a tent at Twin Lakes, try for the lookout, and if it's occupied or if the snow is too treacherous, go back down to the lakes. The lakes are quite nice.
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