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Redwic
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Redwic
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 8:30 pm 
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PROLOGUE:
I had visited nearly 40 Washington fire lookouts this year that are still standing at their officially used locations.
I did not post photos or write trip reports for some of those visits... but I plan to post some in the near future.

Here are some sneak previews from a few of my favorite lookout trips this year not yet written about:
The highest point of Puyallup
The highest point of Puyallup
Mmm... Strawberry...
Mmm... Strawberry...
Don't jump off beyond the lookout!
Don't jump off beyond the lookout!
I think I see a snowy goat!
I think I see a snowy goat!
This visit was monumental to my goals!
This visit was monumental to my goals!
The Green Mile (or was it 17 Miles one-way?)
The Green Mile (or was it 17 Miles one-way?)
Miners must love this lookout!
Miners must love this lookout!
Satus. Don't hate us.
Satus. Don't hate us.
Signaling a shared experience
Signaling a shared experience

One important thing to me was to be a member of the Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA) before finishing this lookout list, regardless if I was first, second, fifth, tenth, etc. to complete the list. I joined the FFLA early this year and have really enjoyed sharing correspondence with several members of that great organization during recent months. In fact, for each of my final ten Washington lookouts visited, I took photos and made a video... and proudly wore my FFLA hat each time.    smile.gif

Anyway, entering this past weekend there was only one fire lookout in Washington still standing at its officially used location which I had not yet ever visited: Three Fingers Lookout

With great weather forecasted for Sunday (August 3, 2014), I decided the time had arrived to finally make an attempt of Three Fingers.
------------

As a result of committing to a friend's party months in advance, I did not end up arriving at the road closure along Forest Road 41 until after 7:30 PM on Saturday night. I started hiking/biking at 8:00 PM, arriving at the Three Fingers TH near Tupso Pass shortly after 10:00 PM. After taking a snack/water break and locking-up my bike, I continued via headlamp up the trail until reaching Saddle Lake. Knowing that other people were somewhere along the route (as indicated by several different parked vehicles and bikes I had seen earlier that evening), my goal was to get close enough to where people were camping to find out useful route beta for current conditions.
Never too late for a hike!
Never too late for a hike!

I bivied next to my backpack for approximately 2.5 hours. When I woke up, I noticed a small salamander had slithered under my bivy sack and presumably had rested with me. I continued on my way, taking time for short breaks and water replenishments. I arrived at Goat Flats by 4:30 AM on Sunday morning, instantly noticing someone bivying near the trail. I continued walking until finding a nice unused campsite in a small grove of trees, protected from wind and surprisingly mostly bug-free.
Three Fingers near sunrise
Three Fingers near sunrise
Near sunrise at Goat Flats
Near sunrise at Goat Flats

I rested in my bivy sack for an hour until I awoke and noticed the person I had passed earlier was now awake and having breakfast. I walked over and said hello to the solo mountaineer, and nearly at the same time we asked other, "Are you going up or coming down?" We were both heading up towards the lookout, so I asked her (Ariana) if she would mind if we went up together, as I rationalized to her that it never hurts to have an extra set of eyes to scout terrain and potential routes. She agreed, and we were on our way from Goat Flats shortly after 6:00 AM.
Ariana's nice photo of peak
Ariana's nice photo of peak

My "extra set of eyes" notion was correct right from the beginning, as we followed a path through a large snowpatch that took us to the north side of the ridge right away. Having reviewed route descriptions, this path (despite being well-defined) seemed incorrect so I walked across the ridge crest and scouted the terrain. I soon noticed a very well-defined trail approximately 200' below us and informed Ariana of the news. This is just one example of how having an extra person helped the success of this trip. As the day continued, we would ultimately each help each other with several critical sections of the route; our varying skills & experience complemented each other very well for this trip.
Our view towards Tin Can Gap
Our view towards Tin Can Gap

After dropping down to the actual trail, the route to Tin Can Gap was straightforward. Then the real "fun" began. We hiked up a steep path to a steep upper snowfield that had a moat. Although there was a set of tracks skirting across the top of the snowfield, we both felt that the early morning icy conditions would make the moat a better/safer option for us. The moat went well until rounding a corner. We passed a large snow slab in our way which was easy to climb around; we would later find out from other people that the snow slab broke off the previous afternoon. We then were faced with a super-steep rock climb/scramble, much of which had wet rock. Ariana was totally in her element on this terrain and she would later claim it was the most fun part of the entire route.
Secure the crampons!
Secure the crampons!
Moat: Not as good as we hoped!
Moat: Not as good as we hoped!
Lots of steep, icy snow!
Lots of steep, icy snow!

Once above the scramble section, we were atop a rocky ridge. At first, we thought we could scramble down the other end of the ridge to join the obvious path down below. But after some scouting of the terrain, we realized that downclimbing rocky ledges near the first steep snowfield was the best option. Then we had another short section of steep snow to traverse before reaching a nearby saddle; although the bootprints in the icy snow side-traversed this entire section, we knew a fall there would be fatal and we both opted to soon climb over the section and into the safety of a moat. From there, we did some easy scrambling-walking to the saddle where the obvious path was awaiting us.
VERY STEEP! Don't slip!
VERY STEEP! Don't slip!
This stuff is steep, too.
This stuff is steep, too.

The route then went around the south side of the ridge until reaching another saddle attached to the top of the Queest-Alb Glacier. The moat was not yet open so we followed a path up the rocky ridge, leading to a rope tied to a tree and leading into the moat below. We both went down into the moat but soon found that a section of the moat was not yet melted out enough and we would find ourselves dropping a minimum of 10' vertical trying to get through. So we backtracked and went all the way up to the top of the ridge again, this time walking down onto the top of the glacier and joining bootprints traversing across the top of it and leading down to a saddle.

Once at the saddle, the route went back to the south side of the ridge and we soon encountered another large snowfield. This snowfield was not as steep as the others and was easy to traverse. On the other side of the snowfield we started following a well-defined trail switchbacking up steep meadow slopes. It was here where we encountered the person who had made the bootprints seen during the trip; he had left his camp near Tin Can Gap early that morning and was on his way back. He told us that three guys had spent the night in the lookout, too, who were still up there.

We continued on the south side of the ridge, passing some minor icy snow slopes along the way. Then the trail turned uphill and alongside a rocky ridge, leading to the last large snowfield. This snowfield was steep but manageable. It seemed to take forever to ascend but the lookout building peeking through the pinnacle ahead of us was a great motivator. Once atop the snowfield, we encountered the three guys who had spent the previous night in the lookout. After a brief conversation, they continued down the mountain while we had a brief snack/water break.
What a trek this is!
What a trek this is!
Yet another snowfield!
Yet another snowfield!
The lookout is in sight!
The lookout is in sight!

We then did some easy scrambling and walking until reaching the infamous three wooden ladders leading to the lookout. A lot of people make a big deal of the ladders because they are old & slanted but I thought they were no problem at all. Then, at 10:50 AM, we reached the summit lookout. We gave each other a high-five for the successful trek.
Me, ascending the ladders
Me, ascending the ladders
Ariana climbing the ladders
Ariana climbing the ladders
At top of ladder system
At top of ladder system
Ariana nearing the top...
Ariana nearing the top...
At long last!
At long last!
A homestyle lookout!
A homestyle lookout!

Personally, this was a major accomplishment for me; not only because of the amount of effort & skills needed to reach the lookout but also because this marked my completion of the "Washington Lookouts" list on the SummitPost.org, FireLookout.com, and Peakbagger.com websites. I became the first person to accomplish the feat of seeing all of the fire lookouts that are still standing at their officially used locations in Washington. At the time of this list completion, there were 93 known lookout sites with structures still standing at their officially used locations (out of 700-800 sites that Washington once had). I also liked that my journey came full-circle; my first lookout ever visited was right across the street (Mount Pilchuck).
Pilchuck LO - Year 2000
Pilchuck LO - Year 2000

Ariana and I each took some time to sign the lookout register and take photos, and I even made a short video. We each really enjoyed the moment. We then headed back down to our packs which we had left near the top of the snowfield. After another snack/water break there, we began our descent of the snowfield. The descent back to the glacier seemed to go by quickly.
A first one & a last one!
A first one & a last one!
Thanks, salutations, & all that jazz
Thanks, salutations, & all that jazz
All smiles for a team effort!
All smiles for a team effort!

During this time, the sun and high albedo of surrounding snow really roasted us. Fortunately, the snow had softened since the morning and the four people who had descended ahead of us made great tracks, so our efforts crossing the top of the glacier were fairly straightforward. For the final snowfield prior to Tin Can Gap, we opted to go the steep snow route rather than do the super-steep & wet rock climb into the moat. The snow traverse seemed to take a very long time but step-by-step I am certain it was better than the alternative option.
Gorgeous weather & views!
Gorgeous weather & views!
Ariana ascends very steep slope
Ariana ascends very steep slope

Once we were finally off the snow slope and near Tin Can Gap, we packed our crampons and ice axes. I finally got enough cell phone service to send a text message out to several people, as well as make one phone call to a peakbagging acquaintance. The rest of the hike to Goat Flats was straightforward. I waited for Ariana as she packed her camp gear and then we walked down the trail together. Getting to Saddle Lake seemed to be quick but the final few miles back from there to the trailhead seemed really long and monotonous. My favorite part of this hiking section was taking a break under the shade of old-growth/second-growth evergreen trees. We reached the trailhead and our respective bikes by 6:00 PM. After one more high-five, we each rode down Forest Road 41, with me arriving at 7:00 PM and Ariana arriving at her vehicle nearly five minutes later.
------------

EPILOGUE:
This lookout journey has been fun, enlightening, and educational. However, I cannot claim to have completely done this on my own. Many experiences and plans were shared with several friends along the way. Most of my ascents this year have been solo trips, and I really lucked-out with weather, conditions, and health on several of them. Some of the trips were gnarly goals that most people would not opt to do. Puyallup Ridge as a 21-mile, 10-hour Winter ascent? That's me. Strawberry Mountain as an day-long snowshoe using a new approach? You betcha. 55 miles roundtrip in less than 26 hours for Miners Ridge? Yep.

Visiting so many lookouts in such a relatively short amount of months this year required a lot of determination, motivation, and good karma. It also required the good nature of my wife and daughter, who allowed me to make many trips and who heard about lookouts seemingly every 1-2 days while in pursuit of this list completion.

I encourage other people to visit these great lookout structures while they still exist. Do not take for granted that a fire lookout will still be standing in the future; as I have learned firsthand, some can disappear relatively quickly and without notice.

If my completion of this lookout list inspires even one person to want to visit lookouts, then this entire journey will have been worth it.

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"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Paul M
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Paul M
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 8:33 pm 
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Congratulations Craig on becoming the first to complete this unique list. You have done a lot to research and promote the interest in visiting these historic structures and it is only fitting that you have become the first to visit all of the remaining standing lookouts in the state (as of 3 August 2014 that is).

This will be an interesting list for those that follow as over time the number of still standing structures will likely only diminish. It is a shame and a real loss of history as some of these obscure locations continue to fade away into time.

Congrats again!
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Chief Joseph
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 8:38 pm 
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Nice! Glad I did 3 Fingers later in the year when it was more melted out.

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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mehitabel
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mehitabel
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 9:03 pm 
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That looks like a really fun list and a great accomplishment! Which were your favorites?

--------------
toujours gai toujours gai
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iron
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iron
getting old
PostTue Aug 05, 2014 9:48 pm 
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congrats on your accomplishment. finished with a nice one!

--------------
man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 10:00 pm 
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Redwic wrote:
The Green Mile (or was it 17 Miles one-way?)
The Green Mile (or was it 17 Miles one-way?)

The No Trespassing Sign looks like it was installed by good looking professionals.

But yeah, congratulations on your list. And for getting 3 Fingers!

I enjoyed the captions on your photos.
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FiresideChats
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 11:39 pm 
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Well played! An inspiring achievement. I enjoyed poking around on the Washington map at firetower. Neat stuff!
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Redwic
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Redwic
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PostWed Aug 06, 2014 1:47 am 
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anelson wrote:
Which were your favorites?

There is a lot of variety in Washington for lookouts, which is a good thing. Something for everyone!

Personally, I love the views from Copper Mountain LO and Three Fingers LO. I love the alpine terrain of Alpine LO and Miners Ridge LO. I love the tall towers atop Moses Mountain and Gold Mountain. I love the bizarre appearances of Ned Hill LO and Meadow Butte LO.

FiresideChats wrote:
I enjoyed poking around on the Washington map

It is pretty amazing to think that over 750 lookout sites have been in Washington... but saddening that now there are less than 100 remaining. Perhaps by bringing more awareness and interest to the lookouts, some will get saved along the way which could otherwise disappear without much fanfare.

--------------
"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Snowdog
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PostSat Aug 09, 2014 9:20 am 
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I am thankful I did this when the road was still passable.
It's a plenty long day trip without the added road biking!!
up.gif
Congrats on your accomplishment!

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'we don't have time for a shortcut'
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SergioNapelo
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PostSat Aug 09, 2014 8:12 pm 
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Congratulation!
I want to go to Three Fingers LO again!  It is a beautiful place!

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"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains.   From where shall my help come.   My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!" - David, King of Israel 1,000 BC
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gratenate
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PostSat Aug 09, 2014 11:08 pm 
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Did this years ago and it was one of my favorite trips, except for the Marlboro smoking pair that collapsed upon reaching the lookout and wheezed all night long, and except for the wind whipping the contact from my eye as I crossed the narrow spine linking Goat Flats with the lookout, otherwise it was one of the best campsites ever.

I don't remember it being as far then either as we just hiked in, spent the night and hiked back out so must be another "saved by the road wash-out" place now.

--------------
Nate

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Redwic
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Redwic
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PostSun Aug 10, 2014 12:42 am 
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I just uploaded a compilation video showing the final 10 fire lookouts I visited to complete the list of Washington lookouts still standing at their officially used locations.

The video is now a part of the original posting.
The video can also be found on YouTube: http://youtu.be/rTl0fnEPJrA

ENJOY!!!

--------------
"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Redwic
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Redwic
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PostSun Aug 10, 2014 12:48 am 
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A couple of people have asked me to include the list of Washington lookouts still standing at their officially used locations.

Here is that list, in order of estimated elevation, as of my completion date (August 3, 2014):

Mount Adams: 12276 feet, Yakima County
Slate Peak, 7440 feet, Okanogan County
North Twentymile Peak, 7437 feet, Okanogan County
Mount Bonaparte, 7257 feet, Okanogan County
Mount Fremont, 7181 feet, Pierce County
Goat Peak, 7001 feet, Okanogan County
Mebee Pass Lookout, 6960 feet, Okanogan/Skagit County
Hidden Lake Peaks, 6890 feet, Skagit County
Three Fingers, 6870 feet, Snohomish County
Salmo Mountain, 6828 feet, Pend Oreille County
Columbia Mountain, 6782 feet, Ferry County
Moses Mountain, 6774 feet, Okanogan County
Tyee Mountain, 6654 feet, Chelan County
Winchester Mountain, 6521 feet, Whatcom County
Monument 83 Lookout, 6520 feet, Okanogan County
Green Mountain, 6500 feet, Snohomish County
Sullivan Mountain, 6483 feet, Pend Oreille County
Oregon Butte, 6387 feet, Columbia County
Grizzly Mountain, 6381 feet, Ferry County
Copper Mountain, 6265 feet, Whatcom County
Table Rock, 6250 feet, Columbia County
Nason Ridge (Alpine Lookout), 6235 feet, Chelan County
Miners Ridge, 6208 feet, Snohomish County
Buck Mountain, 6135 feet, Okanogan County
Sourdough Mountain, 6120 feet, Whatcom County
Desolation Peak, 6102 feet, Whatcom County
Tunk Mountain, 6054 feet, Okanogan County
South Baldy, 5961 feet, Pend Oreille County
Tolmie Peak, 5939 feet, Pierce County
Mount Spokane, 5883 feet, Spokane County
Strawberry Mountain, 5863 feet, Okanogan County
Thorp Mountain, 5854 feet, Kittitas County
Shriner Peak, 5834 feet, Pierce County
Sugarloaf Mountain, 5814 feet, Chelan County
Dodger Point, 5760 feet, Jefferson County
Omak Mountain, 5747 feet, Okanogan County
Lookout Mountain, 5699 feet, Skagit County
High Rock, 5685 feet, Lewis County
Jumpoff Lookout, 5670 feet, Yakima County
Clearwater Lookout, 5660 feet, Garfield County
Granite Mountain, 5629 feet, King County
Evergreen Mountain, 5587 feet, Snohomish County
Lynx Mountain, 5520 feet, Ferry County
Lookout Mountain, 5515 feet, Okanogan County
First Butte, 5491 feet, Okanogan County
Gobblers Knob, 5485 feet,Pierce County
Timber Mountain, 5474 feet, Pend Oreille County
Park Butte, 5440 feet, Whatcom County
Kelly Butte, 5409 feet, King County
Red Top Mountain, 5361 feet, Kittitas County
Mount Pilchuck, 5324 feet, Snohomish County
Burley Mountain, 5304 feet, Lewis County
Sun Top Mountain, 5271 feet, Pierce County
Aeneas Mountain, 5167 feet, Okanogan County
Quartz Mountain, 5162 feet, Spokane County
Funk Mountain, 5121 feet, Okanogan County
Signal Peak, 5100 feet, Yakima County
Cornell Butte, 5096 feet, Okanogan County
Mount Leecher, 5020 feet, Okanogan County
Indian Mountain, 5014 feet, Pend Oreille County
Big Butte, 5009 feet, Asotin County
Mount Leecher Crow's Nest, 5000 feet, Okanogan County
Red Mountain, 4965 feet, Skamania County
Puyallup Ridge, 4877 feet, Pierce County
Keller Butte, 4811 feet, Ferry County
Cody Butte, 4764 feet, Ferry County
Whitestone Ridge, 4762 feet, Ferry County
Gold Mountain, 4686 feet, Ferry County
Watch Mountain, 4664 feet, Lewis County
Armstrong Mountain, 4587 feet, Okanogan County
Diamond Peak Patrol Tower, 4320 feet, Pend Oreille County
Satus Peak, 4182 feet, Yakima County
Johnny George, 4090 feet, Ferry County
Tower Mountain, 4000 feet, Stevens County
Whitmore Mountain, 3949 feet, Okanogan County
Whitmore Mountain L-4 Cab, 3880 feet, Okanogan County
Spokane Mountain, 3869 feet, Stevens County
Knowlton Knob, 3852 feet, Okanogan County
North Mountain, 3824 feet, Skagit County
Franson Peak, 3786 feet, Ferry County
Meadow Butte, 3620 feet, Klickitat County
Wellpinit Mountain, 3464 feet, Stevens County
Ned Hill, 3464 feet, Clallam County
North Point, 3320 feet, Clallam County
Lookout Mountain, 3114 feet, Spokane County
Pyramid Mountain, 3100 feet, Clallam County
Steliko Point, 2586 feet, Chelan County
Mount Constitution, 2407 feet, San Juan County
Lorena Butte Lookout, 2160 feet, Klickitat County
Heybrook Ridge, 1701 feet, Snohomish County
Okanogan Post Office, 800 feet, Okanogan County
Darrington Ranger Station, 540 feet, Snohomish County
Goodman Hill, 480 feet, Pierce County
------------

LIST NOTES:
-> Whitmore Mountain and Mount Leecher each have two lookout sites appearing on this list. The reason is because both peaks have two lookout sites at distinctly different locations which cannot be seen from ground level between one lookout site to the other. Hence, in each such case both distinct lookout sites must be visited.
-> Individual locations which have more than one standing lookout structure near each other (such as Mount Bonaparte, North Twentymile Mountain, Funk Mountain, Monument 83, etc.) are each shown on this list as a single lookout site.
-> The Okanogan Post Office and Darrington Ranger Station lookout sites are included on this list because despite the rooftop firewatching platforms no longer being present the lookout buildings are still standing and intact. These two lookout sites appear in the "Fire Lookouts of the Northwest" book, and as such are generally accepted by many lookout enthusiasts, and are considered the simplest visits of lookout sites on the entire list.
-> The Lorena Butte Lookout, despite being located on private land and moved from its original location, is still officially used for emergency purposes. Such usage included the Satus Pass wildfire of 2013 among other incidents.

I was informed this list as complete and not missing any items via e-mail by Ray Kresek of the Fire Lookout Museum (and author of the "Fire Lookouts of the Northwest" book) during Summer 2014.

--------------
"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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RodF
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PostSun Aug 10, 2014 4:41 pm 
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Neat goal, congratulations!

Interesting list; one question:
Redwic wrote:
North Point, 3320 feet, Clallam County

Lookout has been gone and only a communications tower has stood there for many years?

--------------
"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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raising3hikers
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PostSun Aug 10, 2014 5:02 pm 
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good job for seeing your goal and going after it!

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Eric Eames
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