Wahkiakum County Highpoint Trip Report

BM Huckleberry (2,673 feet)

Dates: November 2 and 15, 2008
Author: Edward Earl

November 2

From I-5, I took exit 39 and headed W on WA-4 through Kelso and Longview. After about 25 miles is the tiny town of Cathlamet. Less than a mile W of Cathlamet, I turned N on Elochoman Valley Rd. Call this point mile 0.0. At 3.5 miles I went slightly L at a fork. The right fork is Beaver Creek Rd. At 11.5 miles the pavement ends. At 11.6 miles, I drove through an open gate just after a sign with regulations regarding public access to logging roads. At 11.9 miles, the road crosses a bridge just before a fork. I went L at the fork and through an open gate. At another fork at 12.8 miles I went right, turning steeply uphill at "point 626". At 14.0 miles, I went L at a fork and gained the crest of a ridge only 0.1 mile thereafter. At 14.8 miles, I went R at a fork. At 14.9 miles is another fork. The L branch is soon blocked by a locked gate; the R branch goes around a hill and soon ends at a cul-de-sac turnaround amid piles of logging chaff. I parked on a wide pullout on the L side just before the fork. The road condition is suitable for any street-legal vehicle.

There are almost no numbered signs marking road intersections in this logging road grid, which diminishes the utility of previous trip reports that rely these numbers.

I hiked past the gate at the L branch of the fork. The road traverses W along the S side of a long ridge just below the crest. After about 4 miles, the road makes a hairpin turn through a saddle on the crest of the ridge and heads E. Just before the saddle is a muddy side road on the L; just after the saddle is a gated road identified by a white sign as Road 770 (the only numbered sign I ever saw in the area). I followed road 770 around the N side of a small hill to fork at another saddle. I took the L fork, which passes through the saddle and returns to the S side of the ridge. A few minutes later the road goes through a cut between rocks. Immediately past the cut, I turned R and headed steeply up a grassy side road. In 10 more minutes I gained the HP, which is occupied by a corrugated metal shack in a clearing. The highest ground is about 40 feet N of the shack in front of a small evergreen tree.

It is possible to drive as high as I did only during elk hunting season, which starts the first Saturday in November and continues through the following Sunday (9 days total). All other times, one of the gates lower down is locked, necessitating an additional 3 miles and 1400' elevation gain on foot (or bicycle) each way.

November 15

Based on a trip report of a visit to Huckleberry Ridge on Nov 2, several individuals questioned whether or not I actually reached the highest point. I had identified the highest ground as a rise in the clearing before and to the right of a small shack. I looked for the bench mark by the roadside but never found it. Other highpointers said the BM was in the brush on a small ridge on the E side of the road, just before the shack. I had seen this brush-covered ridge on my first visit, but the ground sloped downward toward it and I neglected to check for higher ground hidden inside it. I therefore decided to make a return visit and lay to rest any questions about having reached the HP of Wahkiakum county (and being a WA completer).

With a spell of good weather on a weekend in mid-November and a bicycle I had repaired just a few days earlier, I made my return trip on Nov 15. I expected to find the lower gate near Camp 2 closed, as other highpointers have reported that it is open only during elk hunting season, which lasts only from the first Saturday in November to Sunday of the next weekend (9 days total). I was pleasantly surprised to find it open; I though it should have been closed a week earlier. I was able to drive all the way to the upper gate, the same place I started my hike last time. Having a bicycle this time, my visit was short and sweet, and my 5 mile one-way, 800' gain ride took less than 1 hour up, and about hour down. The weather was much better, too: fog with occasional rain the first time, sunny with views of Rainier, St Helens, and Hood this time.

Upon arrival to the vicinity of the HP, I soon found a worn path into the brush on the ridge, and it led straight to the BM. There was a 6-foot bright orange fiberglass pole next to the BM, and some rocks near the BM were spray-painted bright orange. My hose level works even when there's no visibility between contending points, and I determined that the BM is about 5 to 6 feet higher than the rise near the shack. Without a doubt, the BM is the HP.

The questions about whether or not I can claim the HP on my previous visit are serious enough that the records should probably be revised. It is probably most appropriate to base my WA completion on my second visit to Wahkiakum, Nov 15. This should replace the original record of having completed 12 days earlier in Pacific county.