Island County High Point Trip Report

five areas on Camano Island (580+ ft)

Date: March 27, 2004
Author: Bob Bolton

Island County has inspired quite the lore for itself since that first visit by John Roper over 10 years ago. This may best be summed up with the field note that Andy Martin put into his report: "Hellacious fricking green and stinging mess of rotted deadfall". I couldn't help noticing the contrast between that rhetoric and John's typically terse, matter-of-fact "The summits are located off EZ Duzit Road and Sequoia Road." At first blush, this contrast might appear to stem from the highly dissimilar experiences of the two writers: Andy, a dyed-in- the-wool, desert-lovin' Arizonan, who wrote in another Washington bushwhacking cohp summit register (Thurston County's Quiemuth Peak), "back to cactus ASAP..." vs. John, the unparalleled Washington peak bagger with over 2300 summits, including every named peak in North Cascades National Park and several major river drainages. Implied in John's unbelievable résumé is that he's bushwhacked, sometimes for days, in many a jungle far more daunting than this nearly sea-level, mostly flat acreage while approaching and climbing peaks of all shapes, sizes, and difficulties. Such experience, of course, would instruct John on how best to go about tackling the Island County monster and the list below may well show the most important lesson of all: note that John did it in December, while the others came during what most mere mortals would quickly presume to be the correct season - late spring and summer. To put it succinctly, John had it right.

John Roper: December 5
Bill Schuler: May 5
Ken Jones: May 13
Trapper Robbins: August 31
Andy Martin: July 5

For two reasons I have been dreading Island County since deciding to attempt the completion of my home state - (1) the bushwhacking, and (2) the private property. I'm new to this cohp game, and converted to counties from a nearly 50-year off-and-on history as a hiker, backpacker, peak-bagger, and scrambling mountaineer. As such I've never had to go ask permission to wander around on someone's property, and wasn't at all confident in how to successfully do so. This was a factor in one of the better decisions I made as regards Island County - to go with someone who DOES have such experience. I was fortunate to be able to call on her majesty, queen Roxanne of cohp, who still had not done Island even though it was Trapper's first purposeful cohp back in 2000. One of our criteria was to attempt it during a dry spell in winter or early spring while the foliage was at a minimum, affording fewer stings and better visibility - both down to the jungle floor and out to the surrounding terrain. We finally were both free on March 27, and we made plans for the assault. At some point a flash of brilliance struck me as I remembered that Greg Slayden also wanted Island County, so I contacted him and we timed our departure around his schedule that morning. Mind you, I didn't KNOW this was a flash of brilliance at the time - this fact only became apparent in the field as Greg's methodical approach and his absolute commitment to the cohp ethic resulted in what may well be the most thorough search yet for this elusive objective.

Greg had traced the 5 contours into his GPS unit's map. In Andy's report he lists 7 pointers for WA bushwhacking novices, the second of which reads "A GPS unit is useless in dense trees". Of course, this is true for those who purchase units that work fine in desert country, but we Washingtonians know to buy a GPS that DOES work well in trees. Both Greg's and mine did just fine on this outing. We were easily able to discern when we were inside the larger contours, and could see the breadcrumb trail that showed how well we had searched the areas. Greg has since sent me a graphic of our trail superimposed on the topo map, and it's a rather impressive demonstration of his thoroughness.

The first four areas were as others have described. Two mounds along Sequoia did seem to be the highest spots out in the open. The one on the west side of the street is in front of what appears to be an abandoned house, although it may be that the owner simply uses it for seasonal living. The mound on the east side seemed lower to me but higher to her majesty, and it was on a vacant lot. We headed into the trees off the south end of Sequoia and tromped around looking for the highest bumps. This was easy bushwhacking because of the older-growth trees that allow little sunlight to reach the forest floor, thereby limiting the growth of brush. We talked to people at the three areas north of Cross Island Road. At the last house Roxanne apologetically presented our reason for being there, something about a crazy hobby. The woman retorted "Oh let me guess, you want to go to the highest point on the island", then gave us permission to scout around her house, which was sitting on the highest point in that closed contour. We got a good laugh out of that one.

Then came the dreaded bushwhacking. We donned our rain gear as it had rained in Seattle earlier in the day, so we assumed there still may be lots of wet foliage. The short story is that we trampled around in that jungle for at least the better part of an hour, although I don't know the exact amount of time. We headed toward the southwest portion of the contour, checking as we went for the highest areas we could see and touching each one. Near the southwest edge is where we believe the highest point to be. At the top of the steeper terrain leading from the southwest into this contour is a little ridge. We walked on or near that ridge for some distance, and could see that everything seemed downhill from one particular spot. Then Greg's GPS took us on a rather direct line back to the car, and as we emerged from the jungle there were whoops and hollers something to the effect that we would never again have to return to this venue. As it turned out, the rain gear was entirely unnecessary, and the only wetness we encountered was from the perspiration it caused.

This was my 38th of 39 WA counties. Only Chelan's big bad Bonanza stands in my way of a Washington completion. Bob Packard will apparently be attempting Bonanza in July. I'm in a Mazama party attempting it in August. With any luck, John Roper will finally have some company 10 years after he completed the state. Meanwhile, count me in as a member of the one-to-go club!

Andy wanted to get back to the cactus. I want to get back to the mountains!