September 20-22, 2014


Arriving (photo © Norm Buckley)

Mortar, waiting for the trip to the lookout.

Mortar, waiting for the trip to the lookout.

This trip came about as part of a grander scheme of getting 180 lbs. of mortar to a lookout 6,850′ above sea level. MANY persons were recruited for the task (though some refused to participate) which meant I was lucky to mostly travel mortar-free, but I did have my batch of painting supplies and I did paint until sundown. Many thanks to all of those who participated in this caper. Because of you all, I made it up there! And if you, dear reader, ever want to feel particularly proud of yourself and especially connected to a place, volunteer. On with the story…

Did you say you wanted a challenge? Well you came to the right place! Let me tell you how to do it…

Start by biking a washed out Forest Service road for 8.8 miles and gaining the first 1,000′, all with a 35# pack on your back. Next, hike a typical (or worse) Mountain Loop trail (rocky, rooty, muddy, and just generally crappy) 4.5 miles to Goat Flats where, along the way, you will gain the next 1,800′. If you are smart, make a group decision here to call it good for the day. This will be okay by you because you will be exhausted. Set up camp, have a sponge bath at a tarn, take some pics in the fading light, eat dinner, and head to bed. If it is a windy night, there will not be a lot of sleep.


Goat Flats sunset


The infamous Three Fingers ladders.

Morning will come too soon and so will the wake up call. Eat breakfast, break camp, hang your tent in a bear bag (you won’t be needing it at the lookout), and keep heading up, first 1.5 miles and 1,000′ to Tin Can Gap on good trail, then the final 1.5 miles and 1,070′ on snowfields, glaciers, rock, trail, and precariously placed ladders. Keep in mind, if you did not bring your ice axe (with the knowledge of how to use it) and crampons (especially if the snow is icy), you will travel no further than Tin Can Gap unless you are looking forward to becoming a Search & Recovery (note that I said Search & Recovery, not Search & Rescue – there is no rescue for that which is just a body). Now, having actually attained the lookout, you will think it’s time for a little summit siesta, but wait -there’s no rest for the weary because there’s work to be done!


Stirring paint

Paint the outside of the lookout while your Crew Leader fixes window glazing and performs other maintenance tasks. Be extremely careful to look at the ground with each and every step you take lest the next one be your last one. The day (what is left of it by the time you have hauled your fat bottom up here) will slip by and soon you will take note of the setting sun. Work will continue right up to (and a bit through) sunset, then it will be dinner time followed by bed time. You think you might like a look at the stars but you are reminded that tomorrow you will be heading out – ALL the way out, so you will simply focus on getting some rest. Note I say rest, because another windy night, even though not as loud in the lookout as you thought it would be, plus roommates will = more not-a-lot-of-sleep. The price we pay…

Again, morning will come too soon and so will the weather. Your anticipated third day of no rain will not materialize so just wait for the showers to blow through and the rocks to dry. Why not make yourself useful and clean up the inside of the lookout? There’s a broom over there in the corner. Your Assistant Crew Leader will go through and inventory supplies while you set about cleaning – put the log books away, consolidate the trash so it can be hauled out, and give the joint a good sweeping since clearly it’s been awhile. At 11:00 a.m., after the showers have passed, it will be time. Head down – ALL the way down, including the bike ride back down the road. Lookout to TH time will be 8:20 and it will come none too soon because you will have Absolutely. Nothing. Left. To. Give.


Heading out

My thanks to Brian for starting the job, to Jeff & Co. for hauling mortar and tackling the masonry job, and all the others we enlisted along the way to pitch in and carry materials up (so that I didn’t have to), but most of all, my extreme thanks to Arthur and Norm for having unending amounts of patience with my slow self and getting me up there. What a fabulous place.


Queest-alb Glacier

A final note to any of you who visit this or other lookouts. Please remember that many of these special places are cared for solely by volunteers. Many are located within Wilderness boundaries and so all tools and supplies must be packed in and all trash must be packed out. With that in mind, please respect these special places, clean up after yourselves and haul out your own trash. People like Arthur, Norm, David, and all the other CLs (of The Everett Mountaineers, The Mount Baker Club, and other organizations), along with those they enlist the assistance of, are there to maintain the place, not to be your personal housekeeper. Practice LNT even here.

3fingers-9543 9547 9549 9553

Lookout maintenance masters Norm and Arthur

For information on assisting with further maintenance of the Three Fingers Lookout, email ThreeFingersLookout@gmail.com.

View the full set of photos on Flickr. View Norm’s photos on Flickr as well.

For a fabulous account of a recent trip to the Lookout, read 2 days. 36 miles. One epic adventure in the wilderness of Washington. (It’s Siddharth’s story that inspired me to start blogging again.)


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