In September 2008, summer finally arrived in the North Cascades. The cool and wet of August was replaced with warm sun - too nice not to be outside. It was the perfect time to climb Three Fingers, so my friend Douglas and I made plans to hike up to the old fire lookout on the south summit, and spend a night in this precarious perch. I had begun my summer with a fun night of night photography in the Hidden Lake Lookout, and I was excited to bookend my summer with another night of night photography in and around the Three Fingers Lookout. Thanks Douglas for joining me on the spur of the moment and putting up with my all-night antics!
Below are some photos and more detailed information from Douglas and my gorgeous 2-day end-of-summer adventure.
TRAILHEAD: Three Fingers/Goat Flats/Saddle Lake Trail No. 641. To get to the trail, drive 17 miles up the Tupso Pass Rd. No 41, which branches left off the Mountain Loop HWY 6.5 miles east of Granite Falls (the turnoff is unmarked until a small HWY 41 sign about 100ft down the road, so make sure to pay attention!) NOTE: Goat Flats and the lookout are quite popular, especially in the fall when the route becomes more straightforward. If you want to spend a night alone in the lookout, your best bet is to go midweek.
ROUND-TRIP DISTANCE: 16 miles (at a relaxing pace with a few short breaks it was a little under 5 hrs up and 4 hrs down for us, but it takes most people 10-12 hrs round trip)
TRAILHEAD ELEVATION: 3,020 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 6,854 feet (used to be 6,870ft before 15 ft was blasted in 1931 to make room for the fire lookout cabin).
THE LOOKOUT: When Darrington District Ranger Harold J. Engles and trail foreman Harry Bedal decided to construct a lookout in 1931, they picked a high rock spire overlooking thousands of acres of old-growth timber on the Snoqualmie National Forest to the east of Seattle, Washington. This high rock spire was the south peak of Three Fingers. All the materials for this gabled L-4 cab had to be lifted the last 1,000 feet via a windlass made from telephone wire. The top 15 feet of the summit block was blasted to make room for the fire lookout cabin. The only way to get up to the lookout was (and still is) via a series of ladders on the final exposed summit perch.
The Three Fingers Lookout was staffed for only ten years and abandoned in 1943. It was restored in the 1980s, and is maintained by volunteer hikers and kept open to any hikers who can get there. It is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.