Benton County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: October 4, 2008
Author: Eric Noel

Background: This was my 4th attempt on Benton County. In 2005, I made an attempt via the southwest approach that utilizes Lewandowski Road on my way to the Blue Mountains. On the way in, I made it through the dairy farm, referenced in CoHP report #3 and CoHP report #4. It was getting towards dusk at the time so I was unable to see whether or not the signs on certain gates mentioned anything about trespassing but I soon turned back owing to darkness.

In 2006, I made another attempt utilizing the southeast approach recommended by Dean Molen and others such as CoHP report #1 and CoHP report #2. However, I ran into a locked gate and negative signage well down the road from where others had found it and lacking maps for the other, southwest approach, I decided to move on. Dean, having previously tagged the CoHP from this direction, naturally figured I had made a navigational error so he volunteered to re-visit the CoHP with me in 2007. We made another attempt via the southeast where we found that conditions had changed, perhaps even as a result of previous HPers' visits. The southeast route was now gated and signed where Dean knew it had not been before. With open farm fields and the ranch house having expansive views, this was not an appealing route to me. Dean concurred with this assessment.

On this day, we left Pugetopolis for attempt #4A at the southwest approach under cloudy skies. We made our way easily enough to the dairy ranch road and bypassed the home in favor of continuing through the dairy ranch. Upon reaching the first gate, we noted a "No Trespassing" sign. So we went back to the house and Greg inquired if we might use their roads to access the ridge above. The rancher said that was not possible owing to the rainy conditions and the likelihood of tearing up the roads. However, when I asked if it were OK if we were to come back when the roads were dry and he replied in the affirmative. Provided, that is, that we stopped by again and to confirm permission. While disappointing, this at least offered us hope for a future ascent. We couldn't really complain either about being denied since the weather was poor and it was easy to see how the roads could be easily torn up by yokels such as ourselves.

We then left the ranch and headed back to the main road, WA 241. We headed north for a few miles in search of other options. We stopped at another ranch gate and, as it was not signed ,we decided to proceed through. As Greg was opening the gate the rancher drove up behind me. I muttered to David that now we were surely gonna get an earful as any rancher driving up to the sight of strangers entering his property probably would not be too thrilled. As Greg returned to the car he instead informed us that the rancher was very friendly and stated that while that road was not passable up to the ridge, we could instead gain access via a road further north.

We drove to this turnoff (WGS84: 46.46279 -119.93474). This road can be found right next to a road sign advising of a "Soft Shoulder" approximately 0.9 mile south of where 241 crests the 2150-foot saddle of Rattlesnake Hills. This dirt road is not found on the current topo but appears on the aerial pictures. We soon encountered a pair of unlocked gates, first a wire crumple gate and then a metal swinging gate. The metal signage was stamped with the Department of Fish and Wildlife logo and indicated that this was private property. Hunting was apparently forbidden without a permit; nothing forbade any other activities such as hiking or driving. This road soon merged with the mapped road which continues along the ridge all the way to the HP and our trip was uneventful from this point on. Owing to the lousy weather, we decided to make this a drive-up. We rate the road as high clearance only. It was muddy and a bit rutted so David dropped it into 4WD low but under dry conditions you could probably do this road in 2WD. Or walk it as it is only five and half miles one way from highway to highpoint.

This is the only known access that is quasi-public so it is definitely the preferred route on Benton for future CoHPers. I don't doubt that someone else has driven up this way but if so they haven't written it up for While the landowner response was moderately favorable at the Lewandowski Road ranch, you'd still have to ask for permission and the roads aren't any better or shorter. The only reason for anyone to ever use that approach again would be if the access on this West Ridge route went bad sometime in the future.