We’ve finally been getting wet weather here in Washington. Last weekend it looked cloudy and rainy, so we decided to head up to the fire lookout on Three Fingers Peak in the Cascades. The Cascades aren’t blessed with a nice hut system, but we get a large concentration of remote fire lookouts instead. I’ve been to a few over the years, mostly in winter on ski touring trips. Although usually a pain to access, the views are always incredible, and they have some neat history as well. Three Fingers is perhaps one of the more inaccessible lookouts. To get there involves 8 miles of biking and 8 miles of steep hiking. At the end of all that, you must navigate a snow field, easy rock scrambling, and 3 vertical ladders that lead to the lookout. I’ve always wanted to check it out.
We left early Saturday morning and biked the eight miles amid foggy weather. Although the bike ride is fairly long, it’s on an easy logging road and doesn’t gain much elevation. The trail, however, is another matter. It is fairly steep, and our recent rains have turned most of the path into a rushing stream.
Over a few hours of hiking we encountered a few people who were headed down because they couldn’t find their way in the clouds. Wary of the same fate, we were also excited that there might be room for us to sleep in the lookout. The lookout is tiny, and there aren’t any flat areas outside, so if there are more than seven or so people there isn’t enough room. Eventually we found our way through the fog to the final three ladders that lead to the lookout’s perch. Inside we found three other folks who were happy to share some floor space. Over the next few hours we hung out, checked out the historical stuff inside the lookout, and were even able to catch some great views in a couple breaks in the clouds.
Much to our surprise, the next morning we woke to 5 inches of fresh snow on the ground. I guess ski season isn’t too far away! The snow made the easy (and exposed) rock slabs we traversed yesterday a bit more technical. We gingerly made our way down the slippery ladders, and descended through a completely new landscape.
I love checking out these remote fire lookouts. It’s wild to stay in a little building in such an incredible spot. I’d love to come back and explore the area in the winter. Hopefully that’s not too far away (and will actually happen in comparison to last season)!
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.