FAR OUT WASHINGTON
September 28, 1992
Written for Pack and Paddle magazine
Perk up, mountain trivialists. Here are a few more obscure facts to bounce off your brain. What are the outer-limit named peaks/bumps of Washington? What is the farthest east summit in the state? The farthest west? North? South? NE, NW, SE, SW?
These questions unfolded before me as I returned from a trip to Borah Peak, the highest point in Idaho, via the Idaho Sawtooths. Since I was already clear over there on the Gary Larson-like Far Side of Washington, my initial goal was to identify and climb Washington's most distant summit from home, our state's easternmost "peak."
With my trusty DeLorme Washington Atlas and Gazetteer in hand, I noticed some things about the east border of the state that really hadn't occurred to me before. First, the Washington-Idaho border is an absolutely straight north-south line for about 178 miles from the Canadian Border all the way down to Clarkston where the Snake River is joined by the Clearwater (the river Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea came down in 1805). From Clarkston/Lewiston south, the state line slithers slightly more to the east along the center of the Snake as this mighty river (which drains most of Idaho ) wanders in from the Oregon border.
A couple of surveying oddities struck me about the man-made north-south part of the Washington-Idaho line. It starts from the British Columbia border at 117o 01' 51" (per the DeLorme Idaho Atlas). Why that peculiar division? And by the time this "straight" boundary line gets to Clarkston it has actually tilted west a bit to 117o 02' 15". Isn't that a little strange? And why again?
But back to the problem at hand: What Washington summit is
The answer: Lime Hill (USGS Limekiln Rapids and page 29 of DeLorme's Atlas), all 2922 feet of it, tucked away in the SE corner of Washington, east of the 117o W longitude.
From Clarkston, I drove south to Asotin where there is an admirable turn-of-the-century wooden church. This picturesque little town of about 1000 souls is the biggest city in, and the seat of government for an entire Washington county (also called Asotin). Hashotin means "eel" in the Nez Perce ("pierced nose") Indian language.
A county road continues south out of Asotin twisting right along with the Snake River bank, through a "gorge"-ous basalt canyon about 2000 feet deep which rises steeply to the levelish, rolling palouse above. The road curves in and out of small side gulches, until the meandering Grande Ronde River pours into the Snake. Right across this "big round" river (which drains the east half of the Blue Mountains ), the gentle golden grassy mound of Lime Hill could finally be identified with some certainty.
On the south shore of the Grande Ronde was the "town" of Rogersburg, named for a Mr. Rogers who settled here around 1904, and who must have wanted to be your neighbor more than the current residents. A rustic dirt road could be seen switchbacking up above town toward Lime Hill, giving hope of a quick access. However, after driving up the Grande Ronde about 3 miles to a bridge crossing, then following a dirt road back down the other side, I ran into a locked gate, "Private Property" blockade, before I got back to Rogersburg.
So I returned to what the USGS Limekiln map said was the most direct route and parked at a dry creek that drains the west side of Lime Hill. It was past 5 o'clock, September 28th, and past the autumnal solstice 1992. With the short day, it'd be fumbling dark by 7:15 PM and I had 2000 feet of elevation to gain, then lose, and 2 hours of light to do it in.
The going was quick though through the steep dry grass with hardly a tree in sight anywhere. Long dusky shadows jutted out off the gentle hills up the Grande Ronde. With my head down, going the speed of sweat, I was surprised by an animated, pounding sound and looked up to see that I had spooked a herd of eight deer who spronged off in all directions. I was feeling fast until I watched their effortless talent. This area is a game refuge.
The rounded top of Lime Hill, soon reached, was not the geologic find I'd expected of volcanic, tight-crystalled 15 million year-old brown lava flows, but instead the rocks were various colored and sizes, and rounded, presumably slid in here from Canada by the last great ice age, 15,000 years ago. And there must be some limestone around here somewhere.
To the south along the same ridge, the dominant peak of the area, a nice-looking grassy pyramid, Mount Wilson , nearly respectable at 4913 feet, rose to the SE. No time for it. While Lime Hill wins the state's most eastern honors, take your pick between Lime Hill and Mount Wilson for the Southeast-most summit in the state.
A thin sliver of the SE edge of Washington is covered on the USGS Jim Creek Butte Quad, which shows the most SE named-geograhic-features in the state: State Line Creek and McDuff Rapids, a thrill in the Snake as it first enters Washington territory, and the only point where Idaho , Oregon , and Washington touch.
Various boat tours from Lewiston up the Snake River into Hells Canyon, including year-round jet-boat-up/float-back-down trips (for Pack and Paddlers), can be arranged though Beamer's Landing 1-800-522-6966.
That night in my hotel room, I looked over the DeLorme Atlas for the answers to the other extreme summits of Washington , then bought the quads when I got back home which altered the list a bit.
This appears to be Barber Mountain (USGS Nighthawk), west of Oroville, whose summit is pierced by the US-Canada border. My sentimental favorite for this honor though would have to go to American Border Peak (7994 feet), north of Mount Shuksan, in part for its name, but mostly because it's a spectacular rocket-shaped peak, and quite challenging. Its highest point however is about 1000 feet south of the boundary, so it isn't really required.
Reed Island (USGS Washougal ), a 60-foot summit sitting out in the middle of the Columbia River wins this distinction. The nod for the mainland's southernmost summit goes to nearby Mount Pleasant ( USGS Bridal Veil ), 1000 feet high.
Bodelteh Islands (USGS Bodelteh Islands) off the tip of Cape Alava west of Ozette look like a fun trip in calm seas and safe tides, after a portage. The mainland winner is the summit of Tskawahyah Island ( USGS Ozette ) which has a land connection to the continent at Cape Alava (not labelled in DeLorme).
This is a tough call, as all the double-direction points are. You could consider the high spot on Point Roberts, a drip of land hanging off the mainland faucet of B.C. Or get the proper training (you'd be a dunce not to) and kayak out to Duntze Rock (USGS Cape Flattery) or that tiny island west of Tatoosh Island (same quad). Be warned that the tides rip through here with a vengence. Or split the difference between Cape Flattery and Point Roberts and go to Tiptop Hill, the highest point on Stuart Island in the San Juans, another "exposed" paddle.
Holman Hill (USGS Blaine), a 340-foot joke, and Bahokus Peak or Archawat Peak (both USGS Makah Bay ) on Cape Flattery , can share the prize for the mainland's NW-most named summit. Better set your sights on Archawat only though (if it's legal), or the Air Force may set their sights on you, since Bahokus is at the end of a restricted road on the Makah Air Force Station [but Karen , Aaron , and I were able to drive this in 2004].
McKenzie Head, the 200-foot point on USGS Cape Disappointment, could be counted. Be sure to visit the excellent Lewis and Clark Museum on the cape as well. There is a Peacock Spit right off the tip of the cape which at low tide may give you a place to beach your canoe, and would qualify as the lowest "summit" on this list.
Take your pick here between Salmo Mountain (6828 feet) and Shedroof Mountain (6764 feet), both on USGS Salmo Mountain , or better yet, climb them both.
There you have it. Perhaps those who accomplish this list should be awarded what could be called the "Pack and Paddle Pin" (pending Ann's approval) since you'd have to hike and get your strokes in to visit all these places. Might be kind of fun to try--you'd certainly see a lot of the state on your way there.
Further facts. The Nez Perce Indians would winter at Asotin out of the wind and snow on the palouse. Farmers used to transport wheat from the fields above to the Snake River through 4"pipe which they kept constantly full so as not to burn the wheat by a fast ride down.
I had previously considered Squalicum Mountain (USGS Bellingham North and Lawrence) to be one of the NW-most summits, but in the process of climbing it on Halloween 1992, I was surprised that King Mountain on USGS Bellingham North was even a better choice. That got me to really pull out all the NW maps and take a look. That is when I discovered Holman Hill on the Blaine quad.