Northern States late summer 2009 Trip Report
© September 2009 Adam Helman
(Click on any image for enlargement.)


This journey is part of my long-term goal of finishing the eleven western state's 414 county highpoints.
After a July trip there were 36 counties remaining.

A separate report for every county highpoint is available. Hence this trip report to a considerable extent serves only as a linking mechanism between the various stories. Exceptions are topographically prominent drive-up peaks (or nearly such), excursions that bide my time before the next county-based climb and generally due to rainy weather.

Mount Olympus is the most significant effort, and is timed for near the trip's end to accomodate the other people I'll be joining there.

Note: All coordinates use the WGS84 datum.

Blue Glacier
The Blue Glacier is crossed
to reach the Mount Olympus summit.
(Don Nelsen photograph.)

Trip Details

Monday, July 27 - To Utah

I consider 600 miles as sufficient effort for a driving-only day. Nephi, Utah is along Interstate-15 at just the proper distance; and I stay at a most modest place that won't be seeing my shadow again: the room has spiders in most corners and in the bathroom.

I could have driven farther this afternoon. However there is no need to since as-is the distance for tomorrow is only about 420 road miles.

In the room I enjoy a lot of fresh food from home, including an assortment of vegetables in addition to "Moroccan fish" - marinaded salmon filet with chick peas, tomatoes, bell pepper, and chili pods - best served cold. There are also grapefruit and apples. However as apples last longer I save them for the next several days.

Tuesday, July 28 - Idaho, Kelly Mountain

I time my departure such that passing through Salt Lake City is after rush hour, arriving at my first planned Idaho venue at only 3 p.m. It is early enough, and the climb sufficiently brief, that I do it now rather than wait two days, i.e. after my joint effort with Dean Molen (see below). This plan "saves" a day which then can be applied later in my trip to increase flexibility by raising the number of feasible options.

My hike to Jefferson County's twin possible highpoint contours is described in this trip report.

I drive to tomorrow's trailhead and enjoy a nice meal before total darkness. It will be an all-day affair.

Wednesday, July 29 - Combined County Effort

Dean Molen and I combine forces for an assault on the highpoints of two adjacent Idaho counties - Madison and Teton. Details are provided in this trip report. A long day.

Garns summit Piney Peak
Summit of Garns Mountain
with Adam. (Dean Molen photo)
Piney Peak coming from
Garns Mountain. (Dean Molen)

Thursday, July 30 - To Montana

An odd sound on starting my truck has me concerned. It disappears, and I drive on Interstate-15 across to Montana, stopping in Butte's Toyota dealership for the standard maintainance.

By 4 p.m. I am heading south to the "trailhead" for Table Mountain. Remarkably, I am unaware of its over 4,000 feet of prominence until days later. A nice cell phone signal at my parking spot is surprising, and I have an extended dialogue with Bob Bolton.

Friday, July 31 - Table Mountain

Details of my ascent are described in this trip report.

Still late morning, I proceed through Butte and east on Interstate-90 to Big Timber and Exit 367. Jim Perkins awaits my arrival, and we feast on gargantuan restaurant meals in preparation for a joint climb of Mount Douglas in the Beartooth Range.

I have the fried chicken, ordering sausage gravy as a side dish. Jim has a large omelet, and orders a stack of pancakes as well! I enjoy one of them with maple syrup and butter. My baked potato also goes well with the gravy. Overstuffed, I don't quite finish the meal - one which also includes "all the fixins". However I take with me the small amount of leftovers in a container so that nothing is wasted.

The Forest Service approach road is far too long to be solely dirt. It is thoroughly unwelcome - and yet we arrive with plenty of daylight, having taken about 1 1/2 hours from town.

A half-pound, three inch tall slice of mixed berry cream pie was ordered take-out, to be eaten at the trailhead after I repack my gear for an overnighter. I have this delight when Jim is already in his tent for the night, reclined in a foldable chair with the flies only a minor annoyance.

Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2 - Mount Douglas

Details of our ascent are described in this trip report by Jim, and in this trip report by myself.

It is a large effort for just two days, especially as we climb the mountain nearly twice in order to find a doable route.

Jim now has only one county to finish Montana. We part on great terms, and I even get a fresh package of eight Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip pecan cookies.

Monday, August 3 - Rest Day

This is an intentional rest day. The highly tedious drive out to pavement is made less burdensome by nibbling on one of those cookies with the radio going.

At Big Timber I organize stuff and have a sizable meal at the convenience store after filling on gasoline. Included is both a polish sausage dog and a pizza - but not a savory one - it is topped with cherry pie filling and icing! I enjoy it, plus another pecan cookie, with a pint of lowfat milk.

Ater returning to Butte, I backtrack some 50 miles south on Interstate-15, and eventually camp at the trailhead for my next effort.

Tuesday, August 4 - Tweedy Mountain

Details of my ascent to the Beaverhead County highpoint are described in this trip report.

I drive back north, passing through Butte enroute to the nearly abandoned village of Elkhorn. Two miles away I camp at a backcountry road junction.

Wednesday, August 5 - Crow and Elkhorn Peaks

Details of my ascent to the twin possible Jefferson County highpoints are described in this trip report.

I take a room in the Helena Motel 6.

Thursday, August 6 - Rain Day

There is precious little driving to my next venue. Furthermore, I have already explored the state capitol complex, including its museum, on a previous journey. However I do desire a filling breakfast instead of Raisin Bran and milk in the middle of nowhere.

Remarkably, there is no Denny's in Helena. However a superior "analog", i.e. a family restaurant serving breakfast 24 hours, is at-hand (Sandy's). I order this spinach cream omelet, and it comes with French toast instead of just toast or muffin. I really enjoy the meal since there is nobody to talk to: there is only the food to concentrate on rather than conversation.

Hot chocolate comes with a refill, and I conclude with a chilled slice of coconut cream pie to which I add a Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip pecan cookie from the car since cream pies typically have too much filling relative to crust. However they are vastly better than cheesecake in that regard.

I drive west on US Route 12, and then briefly south on Interstate-90. A thunderstorm cell is passing through, and I wait in my truck cab for nearly two hours before driving the approach road for Mount Powell of the eponymous county.

Then, while on the dirt road grid I abandon the effort and as described in this trip report. This is the first county highpoint which will now wait for next summer.

sign sign sign
No trespassing onto Montana
State Prison land.
No tobacco on Montana
State Prison land.
Archery hunters receive
special treatment.

I drive west and stop briefly at Missoula, considering if I should attempt Peak X, its highpoint, tomorrow. However the forecast is still shabby from the radio, and I don't even have a map. So I continue west, along Interstate-90, and camp, now for the third time, at my favorite spot as described here.

Take Exit 47 along Interstate-90 in Superior, Montana. Proceed south along the frontage road on the west side of the freeway for 1.2 miles. Turn right (west) onto paved Cedar Creek Road and drive 2.8 miles to a broad, spacious gravel pullout on the right side. The coordinates are (47.15719° N, 114.91161° W) at 2,974 feet. This pullout has a decent signal on my cell phone network.

Friday, August 7 - To Washington; Moses Mountain

The weather is horrible. I even hydroplane along parts of the freeway as I drive into Idaho and eventually eastern Washington. Weather does not improve until Spokane. It was not a time to be driving - AT ALL.

Summit boulder at Moses Mountain.

There is plenty of time now that Powell County was nixed. I use the time to drive Moses Mountain, a peak on Indian lands with over 4,000 feet of prominence.

Passing through Grand Coulee the town I stop at the same gas station as last month to enjoy this delectable barbecued chicken on-a-stick - with challah (Jewish egg bread). A second stick is saved for this evening. YUMMY.

The summit shack atop
Moses Mountain...

These instructions will get you to the top of Moses. It is 33 road miles from Grand Coulee Dam along Route 155 to a junction at logical mile marker 61.1. This junction is also 3.6 miles beyond (north) of a named pass, and has the coordinates (48.32582° N, 119.15322° W) at 2,655 feet.

Turn east onto BIA56 at this junction ("BIA": "Bureau of Indian Affairs"), and drive 5.2 miles on good dirt until the junction with BIA61 at (48.34707° N, 119.06988° W), elevation 4,720 feet.

BIA61 is rough, and has sandy sections. Consider using both high clearance and four-wheel drive. It is 4.2 miles along BIA61 to a tall summit tower. Park.

... features this spartan interior.

The highest ground is atop a room-sized boulder some 40-50 feet north of the summit lookout tower, and has a benchmark affixed. I obtain (48.37189° N, 119.06126° W) at 6,798 feet.

There is precious little sense of accomplishment on driving to a summit - however the deed is done.

I get a room along the drive leading to Mount Daniel in central Washington.

Saturday, August 8 - Amabilis Mountain

Another day - another drive-up. This one is very near Interstate-90 and has over 2,000 feet of prominence. Here are instructions for reaching the summit.

From Interstate-90 Exit 63 drive northeast on FR4826 for all of 0.2 mile to a junction with FR4822. Turn right onto FR4822 and drive 2.3 miles until a left fork at (47.29105° N, 121.27430° W) with elevation 3,416 feet. Take the left road and drive 2.5 miles to near the summit. The road winds around the north side and then loops back to the southeast.

Locate a left fork and drive it less than 0.1 mile. Here note one road continuing straight, and a broad, flat area to the right at (47.29232° N, 121.26176° W), elevation 4,492 feet. Either park there and hike an overgrown jeep track to the summit boulder; or drive the road that went straight ahead, parking at its end. Look right and locate a trail leading into the forest and uphill to the summit.

I took the trail, reached the summit boulder, called Bob Bolton for fun, and descended the jeep road in an ad-hoc loop hike.

A cream cheese brownie with hot chocolate/coffee is my reward at a Cle Elum gasoline station before driving the approach road for Mount Daniel.

At the trailhead I have conversations with many hikers and backpackers. Eventually I eat supper and turn-in, hopeful that the weather will hold.

cliff river
Roadside geology carved
by the Columbia River.
A second example of
water's workmanship.

Sunday, August 9 - Mount Daniel

My climb of Mount Daniel is described in this trip report. The effort was a bit eventful because I was caught in a whiteout, albeit briefly, at the summit. Mount Daniel is a county highpoint "twofer", serving as the highest point for two adjacent counties - in this case King County (with Seattle) and Kittitas County.

Wildflowers at the
Mount Daniel trailhead.

Having made excellent time, I return to the car around 4 p.m. and head for a room in Cle Elum. I enjoy a pint of ice cream with leftover mix-ins from the trail; and have a "gourmet" Italian-like TV dinner in a new line of products from Mary Callendar's - "Pasta Cavatappi" with chicken and a pesto sauce.

I was so hungry that it took most of the ice cream pint, eaten first, to remove a headache. In a sense this was my own fault: I had intentionally taken exactly 1,345 Calories on the climb, corresponding to the Cathedral Trail number. Evidently that amount, plus breakfast beforehand, was insufficient given the effort involved.

Do people of more normal weight get so hungry as well - or can they rely on fat reserves at such times? Sometimes I feel that I might be too skinny for my own good. Then again a fat person cannot climb Mount Daniel in ten hours.

Monday, August 10 - Aberdeen and more Rain

The weather turns as I drive to the coast, raining by the time I reach Montesano. My plan is to take a motel so that the weather can be monitored on television, and drive to a trailhead for the Grays Harbor County highpoint by morning only if it appears promising. It is a very steep bushwhack with summit rocks - and neither section will be safe to negotiate in the rain (let alone enjoyable).

The only motel in town is too sleezy, I drive west ten miles to the larger community of Aberdeen where I get a room at the Thunderbird. The manager is away due to a death in the family, and his assistant hands me the room key anyway with a written, co-signed agreement that I will pay later that evening.

I enjoy the room, and, being holed-up for the time being, have a bottle of fruity wine (only 6% alcohol) with supper. After much television I remain awake until 10:30 or so - surprisingly late for one of these climbing trips.

Tuesday, August 11 - Edward's Place

The forecast stinks. I decide to visit my friend Edward Earl at his apartment in Lynnwood on the north side of downtown Seattle.

Passing first through Olympia, I drive by the state capitol building and then return to the freeway. I continue driving north, and, when in downtown Seattle I visit the flagship store for REI, a well known retail outdoor equipment company.

I browse through several sections of the store before purchasing a two foot snow picket and assorted gourmet chocolates. There is even a café on the second level; and, recalling that Edward has no microwave oven, decide to eat my lunch here since take-out food has no easy means of being reheated once at his place. It is an Indian-inspired "wrap" with chicken, rice, curry sauce, and diced mango. Thai Srirachi hot sauce adds measurably to the flavor. The soda is refillable ad libitum without extra charge.

Once at Edward's apartment, and after the normal pleasantries on greeting one another we have an on-off discussion about several topics. At the 6 p.m. hour we share "Cheeseburger macaroni" flavor Hamburger Helper. The added ground beef, although called for in the box directions, lessens the "cheese flavor density" - and I am left longing for a "cheesier" experience (no pun intended!!).

We often check the weather at each of two online websites - and it looks like I might be able to do "something" by Thursday. Such a possibility suggests leaving in the morning.

99,990 miles 99,999 miles 100,000 miles 100,001 miles 100,010 miles
100,000 miles (click to see digits)

Wednesday, August 12 - Holding Pattern

The forecast remains poor. I treat Edward to breakfast at the local Denny's analog where we have good meals at a reasonable price. The peanut butter chocolate cream pie slice goes into his freezer as a mid-morning snack.

I purchase three birthday cards for my mother, and mail them as-if they came from three different family members including myself.

I visit a gourmet food store and purchase fancy pasta salad and ribs in a sweet/spicy raspberry habanero glaze.

I put a quart of oil in my truck engine as it is low.

The pie is enjoyed at noon; and the pasta salad is not enjoyed until 4.

This evening our climbing friend Greg Slayden comes over, and I prepare an impromptu spread of snacks for us to enjoy. Mount Olympus is a key topic seeing as I am set to go there while they have both already done it.

I will be heading out by morning.

Thursday, August 13 - Mount Walker

The Edmunds ferry takes the truck and myself across Puget Sound after a brief 20 minutes. On the west shore I drive to Mount Walker, another peak on the Washington 2,000+ foot prominence list.

From Quilcene drive 5.0 miles south on Route 101 to logical mile marker 299.7. Follow the sign for Mount Walker and drive dirt FR2730 4.2 miles to a junction near the summit. Bear left and go 0.1 mile to a parking area with signs for both Trail 894 and a northern lookout.

The highest ground is in the forest perhaps 100 feet from the sign, and on the opposite side of the parking area from it. A narrow path leads there.

The clouds and general mistiness suggest that my prospects for the Grays Harbor County highpoint are still poor for tomorrow. So rather than drive south to Montesano I head north, through Port Angeles, and then take a room in Forks by the late hour of 2 p.m.

I pack for the Olympus climb even though I have a dayhike beforehand that requires some of the materials. The implied shifting of contents is enumerated on a sheet of paper.

Friday, August 14 - Cape Alava

Cape Alava is the westernmost point in the contiguous 48 states. Getting to such an "extreme point" is also part of my hobby: instead of a highest point it is a farthest point in the horizontal dimensions.

Cape Alava
Adam with Cannonball Island
at Cape Alava.

This morning I time the drive to Cape Alava carefully with the tide table so that I am at the outermost point just before low tide. This ensures that I actually get there, and, as importantly, that I won't be stranded as the water rises about me. Thereby I reach the western end of Cannonball Island which is connected to the mainland only at low tide via a narrow spit of sand.

My efforts at Cape Alava are described in this
trip report.

I drive Washington Route 112 east to Port Angeles where the Mount Olympus group is gathering. I have climbed with Dave Covill, Richard Carey, and Don Nelsen. The only new person is Ken Russell.

All but Ken sit together for dinner (he has no cell phone to make arrangements); and we sleep in two rooms by ten p.m. I take the floor, shunning the ten dollar charge for a rollaway cot.

Saturday, August 15 to Wednesday, August 19 - Mount Olympus

Details of our Mount Olympus expedition are described in this trip report. I urge you to read it as the highlight of my journey. I also did a decent job composing it - certainly better than this overall trip review.

After Mount Olympus I return to the Thunderbird motel in Aberdeen where the shower was long indeed.

Thursday, August 20 - Oregon

The plan is to make California today. Along Interstate-5, and somewhere in Washington between Portland and Olympia my truck odometer passes 100,000 miles. The series of photographs above documents this significant milestone for my vehicle.

In central Portland I simply must stop at Voodoo Doughnuts which sells the most eclectic doughnuts this side of Andromeda the galaxy.

donut box
Six doughnuts purchased.

I purchase a half dozen confections, shown in the photograph with their take-out box. From upper left we have, proceeding clockwise, Butterfinger, white icing and Fruit Loops, a "Voodoo" doll, peanut butter and Rice Krispies, and finally grape. At center is mango creme.

Just north of Eugene, Oregon my truck "check engine" light goes on. Completely nonspecific, I have no idea what is truly amiss - if anything since there is no trouble driving the vehicle.

With help from Greg Slayden at his work computer I locate the nearest Toyota dealer in the Eugene area, and drive 35 miles there. The diagnosis is a computer glitch that merely needs reprogramming - no actual mechanical problem exists.

donut shop
Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland

This sets me back 2-3 hours, and yet fortunately Dennis Poulin, another climbing friend, invites me to stay at his home in Medford 30 miles north of the state line. I accept.

After mushrooms in balsamic vinegar with parmesan cheese, a BBQ beef and bean TV dinner, and a very large fresh peach I am ready to review a wide selection of Mount Olympus photographs while online and sharing Dennis' laptop computer.

We talk about highpointing for the whole evening. Finally I am tired, and I go to sleep after a sweet snack with milk.

Friday, August 21 - California Again

Dennis' wife makes these wonderful white chocolate and milk chocolate truffles!! They are filled with walnuts, I believe, and stored in the freezer to last a while. I have them alongside one of those crazy doughnuts with two really strong mugs of coffee. The Poulins have been great hosts, and I leave completely energized and ready to drive south.

I arrive at my brother's ranch home around 3 p.m., and spend much of the time with my nephews while also enjoying a somewhat large quantity of ice cream.

There is a birthday in the family, and gifts are given after a pizza dinner plus a Baskin Robbins chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cake. I am too full for comfort.

Saturday, August 22 - Family Affair

More family time. One highlight is taking my nephews to Coldstone Creamery for afternoon ice cream. Another is Dale's friend coming over to prepare gourmet pizzas for us at suppertime. He grills vegetables in olive oil, which are then placed atop the store-bought pizzas that are then baked. On serving, three kinds of fresh herbs are available to place on individual slices. I am impressed by the quality compared with the standard pizzas prior to adornment.

I drive to Dale's Monterey apartment where "the boys" and I watch silly videos through the evening. Ben & Jerrys in the freezer certainly adds to my enjoyment level. Again, I am stuffed by bedtime.

Aaron and Daniel Moshe Dale and Isabella
Aaron (left) and Daniel
Dale and Isabella

Sunday, August 23 - Home

I had planned on staying longer. However Rebekah, one of Dana's four daughters, also lives in San Diego County and must work tomorrow after one entire week of helping out Dana before and after an operation. Rebekah also came with her 2 1/2 year old daughter Isabella.

The resulting plan is almost too obvious for words - we three drive home together so as to save them the purchase of two plane tickets.

We start after baklava with coffee around 8:30 a.m. One highlight is having brunch at the Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo - my parents' favorite place to stay when visiting Dale and his family. The vegetable quiche is loaded with cheddar cheese, and Rebekah has another house speciality as the potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. Both of us drink hot mocha with whipped cream, and Isabella simply eats from Rebekah's food.

There are purchases at the gift store - a jar of boysenberry jam that I recommend, and this jack-in-the-box with a pop-up monkey for Isabella.

The drive from Santa Barbara through Los Angeles is horribly slow from summer weekend traffic. At Oxnard we divert to the coast highway, Route 1, to avoid the San Fernando Valley on Route 101 and passing over Mulholland Pass on Route 405. Unfortunately the coast road is jammed from beach-goers. The traffic does not moderate until reaching Route 405 near LAX. However by now it is already 9+ hours, and my tolerance for high-pitched noises from Isabella has long since gone.

All-told the drive consumes 12 hours, and I do not arrive home until after sunset. Without traffic the same route takes just 7 hours.


My goals are not entirely achieved for the summer as I was "rained out" of three counties as shown on this timestamped completion map.

However I did secure 10 more counties this journey, including Mount Olympus of Jefferson County, Washington; and several prominent peaks that I never expected.

Although it was not planned to come out that way, I reached the highpoints of three "Jefferson" counties - in Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

My pickup truck's odometer suggests 4,899 road miles total. These "Adam truck miles" appear to be roughly one-hundredth larger than normal, statute miles.

After the 18 western counties of this season, I now have (only) 26 counties remaining, one-sixteenth of the 414 county total in the eleven western (contiguous) United States.

I must admit that one reason why I elected to not attempt the Grays Harbor County, Washington highpoint after Mount Olympus despite clear weather is that it provides exactly 441 counties as my total count through several months until the next summer of county highpointing. As 212, this figure pleases me considerably: the perfect square of an "Illimani number".

Now that both Bonanza Peak and Mount Olympus are history I can confidently state that the toughest highpoints in a mountaineering sense have been done to finish that list.

Among the subjectively hardest I also rate Mount Stimson in Montana, Gannett Peak in Wyoming, and Grand Teton as also "up there". Again, I have climbed all of these. As such there should not be an obstacle to completing the western USA county highpoint list from a technical climbing aspect.

I'd like to get 20 of the remaining counties in summer 2010.