SIMPSON LOOKOUT SITE ˗ 2022 HIKE ROUTE

HIKE SUMMARY: This hike in the Green Diamond Tree Farm on the Shelton˗Matlock Road in Mason County is behind a gate that is opened for motorized public access during the autumn hunting season. Non˗motorized recreation is allowed year-round, whenever forestry activities are not posted at the gate. Directions are provided for a variable length hike off the mainline forest road. Optional starting points are identified in the summary table below. Hemlock and Douglas fir are the predominant conifers in this 3rd, 4th or later succession forest. Long views are available close to where the trail leaves the road and enters the forest.

Starting PointRound-Trip Distance in MilesMaximum ElevationElevation Gain in FeetSeason
808˗808N Junction6.6 715 
808N4 sign5.4 700October
1330 T Junction4.81240 feet670Othrough December
Sideroad between MP 2 and 33.4 640 

No pass or permit is required. Visit the Green Diamond Company Public Access web page for details: http://www.greendiamond.com/recreation/washington-lands/

GETTING THERE

  • Drive west on the Shelton-Matlock Road from US Highway 101 at Shelton.
  • Pass through the village of Dayton and pass the Green Diamond Resource Company log sorting yard on the right side of the road.
  • At 9.7 miles from US Highway 101, between mileposts 10 and 11, turn right at the tree farm signs. Roads from here to the trailhead are generally well-maintained gravel.
  • Drive a short distance to a T junction and turn left. Pass through an open gate with a Green Dot sign. This mainline forest road is usually well maintained. The side roads are initially numbered in the 1300s, then 800 plus letters.
  • At 2.7 miles from the Shelton˗Matlock Road, park on the second prong of the two-pronged junction with Forest Road (FR) 808N for a 6.6-mile round-trip hike. The side roads are not frequently maintained. FR 808N has lots of potholes.
  •  Drive an additional 0.6 mile on FR 808N to a junction with FR 808N4 for a shorter hike. Park at this junction for a 5.4˗mile round-trip hike to the Simpson Lookout site.
  • Turn left and continue an additional 0.3 mile through a maturing tree plantation to a T-junction with FR 1300. Park here for a 4.8-mile round-trip hike.
  • Turn left and pass FR 1340 on the right. At the next T junction, turn right. Go to the unsigned junction on the left between mile markers 2 and 3. Park here for a 3.4˗ mile round-trip hike to the Simpson Lookout site.

HIKING ROUTE

6.6˗Mile Hike: Start hiking northeastward on FR 808N. Pass a side road on the left, headed north. This section of the hike route is pretty flat, but the gravel road is dotted with potholes that tend to retain water. After 0.1 mile the route turns eastward toward its junction with FR 808N4.

5.4˗Mile Hike: Hike northward on FR 808N. Pass side roads on both sides of the one lane gravel hike route. The elevation gain from the FR 808˗808N junction to the T junction with FR 1330 is 45 feet.

4.8˗Mile Hike: Hike west from the T junction, passing FR 1340 on the right. At the next T junction, turn right on the more heavily travelled roadway. Hike about two thirds mile from the FR 808N and 1330 junction to a side road on the left.

3.4 Mile Hike: Start hiking on the side road (FR 1330 on old maps) between mile posts 2 and 3. At 0.1 mile, pass a side road heading north on the right. At 0.3 mile, pass a road heading downhill and southwest on the left side of the road. The hike route is climbing uphill on a curving one lane road. The border between road and the surrounding evergreen forest is mostly comprised of salal, evergreen huckleberry bushes, and Oregon grape. Clusters of hemlock or cedar seedlings punctuate the border vegetation.

Less than half a mile from the last parking spot, the burbles of a nearby creek break the silence. At 0.6 mile, round a bend and hike parallel to a ravine bordered by taller, older trees.

The trees close to the creek were left standing to protect the water quality and wildlife when the forest around them was harvested.

The road curves around a narrow valley with younger, lighter green conifers, planted earlier this century. The hill top to the west is Simpson Peak. Although it is the highest point in this area, it was not the location of the Simpson fire lookout station. The lookout tower was built partway down the southern slope of Simpson Peak, at 1240 feet elevation.

The route traces the letter Z, from tail to start point, as it climbs the hill. At 1120 feet elevation the Z is completed at a switchback in the road. Look downhill across many miles of seemingly uninterrupted forest land. The landscape to the south spreads before you. Lake Nahwatzel provides the bright patch of blue against the dark green forest to the southwest. The one area of developed land to the southeast is the Green Diamond log sorting lot, which was passed on the driving route. All else appears to be forest!

After enjoying the view, stand at the corner of the road, looking west. A narrow foot trail enters the forest here without trailhead sign or flagging. Follow it about 100 yards, then turn left and go down a steep slope about 10 feet. I don’t know whether this is a natural ravine or a ditch, but I have (happily) not yet found water running through it. Climb up the bank on the south side and pause before continuing up the trail. On a November 2022 visit I noticed a white piece of paper tacked to a hemlock tree on the right side of the trail here. Despite assuming it would mark a Forest Harvest Boundary, I flattened the small sign and was startled to read:

SIMPSON LOOKOUT

What a nice surprise! I knew from previous visits to this trail that the rest of the route to the Simpson fire lookout site is used primarily by bike riders. Their tracks dominate the marks on the ground between here and Simpson Peak. I appreciate that someone within the life span of that piece of paper knew the historical significance of this informal trail.

Continue south on the steeply rising narrow trail. In less than 0.1 mile it merges with a well-traveled bike track descending steeply from Simpson Peak to the north. Continue southwest to the high point on this ridge. There is a notable clearing on the left and a smaller tree˗free area full of salal on the right at 47° 17΄ 32″ N 123° 18΄ 47″. W and 1240 feet elevation.

I have not found any recognizable artifacts of the lookout tower that stood here until 1961. But I have not searched the salal exhaustively; there might be metal attached to one of those logs under the low shrubs. The ridge drops off steeply to the west. Any large pieces of concrete could have been dumped down the hill. Perhaps if I return with a light weight metal detector ….

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