Thurston County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: May 10, 2008
Author: Greg Slayden

new route

Edward Earl, Duane Gilliland, and I climbed Quiemuth Peak, highpoint of Thurston County. We knew from the trip report posted by "eco_biker" on March 28, 2008 that the road in from Pleasant Valley Road was potentially washed out so we planned to drive in as far as we could and see what the situation was.

We drove the 3.7 miles of well-paved Pleasant Valley Road in from WA Route 7 and easily reached the gate that is normally closed between Memorial Day and Labor Day. However, even though it was still two weeks before Memorial Day, the gate was locked, with a sign indicating that the road was closed due to flood damage. Undaunted, we parked and set off at 9:15 AM. We thought about trying the long alternate on FR 74 that wound about and approached from the south but that promised nothing but a hour or more of rough driving with a very high likelihood of more washouts.

We hiked in on the paved road and shortly hit a washout that had been cleared and could still be crossed by most cars. However, not long beyond that were two more washouts that were utterly apocalyptic. The road is basically gone, with the asphalt undermined and washing away and, as "eco_biker" noted, huge trees jumbled all over the road. It may be years, if ever, before this road is repaired.

Instead of hiking on the road for 8 miles as it went 3/4 the way around the mountain, we decided to try bushwhacking uphill for about 1/2 mile and 1000 feet to the col to the east of the summit, cutting off a huge distance. About 0.65 mile from the gate, not far after the second major washout/logjam, the forest looked pretty open, so we plunged in. As northwest bushwhacking goes, it wasn't bad at all the forest was quite open and brush was minimal. The forest floor was almost entirely covered with rotting logs that disintegrated when you stepped on them, making footing hard. Even the most solid looking branch or log was basically rotten mush.

Using GPS, we steered for the col and the upper part of the slope got pretty steep in the dark, damp forest. We finally broke out on to spur road 017 just above FR 7409. From there, we followed the standard route, uphill and under fallen trees on the Road 017 to its end, then a somewhat steep bushwhack 300 feet uphill to the summit, a cairn and register in a very dark, thick, brushy grove. No views at all.

We returned by our uphill route, 4 hours car-to-car. We felt the bushwhack route was well worth it, saving many miles of road walking. Later in the season it may get brushier but the tree canopy should keep it down for the most part. We don't know if the long dirt road approach on FR 74 is still viable but we doubt it. The hike we did seemed short and easy enough that we were glad we did it instead of trying a very long, slow drive that could easily be washed out.