Benton County Highpoint Trip Report
Date: October 4, 2008
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 cohp.org.
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.
Author: Eric Noel