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[TR] Hiking: PCT at Rainy Pass to the Devils Dome Trail - PCT and Devils Dome Trails 8/10/2014

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Trip: Hiking: PCT at Rainy Pass to the Devils Dome Trail - PCT and Devils Dome Trails

 

Date: 8/10/2014

 

Trip Report:

Well, this trip report is WAY overdue, as we hiked our hike last August (2014). But I promised a trip report if I was given some good advice, and I don't make promises lightly. So now I'm making up for my tardiness with a longer trip report. Quantity over quality? We'll see. But there will definitely be quantity.

 

However, since I'm not a rock or ice climber these days, I'm a bit timid about posting a mere "hiking" trip report here in the proper sub-forum. I hate to say it, but I've heard rumors that there are folks around here who can be tough on mere trail hikers. So, out of raw fear, I was intending to simply add it on to the end of my original thread, back in the "flame-proof" Newbie sub-forum where I received all the great advice last spring. But then I grew a pair and came here to the North Cascades sub-forum anyway. :)

 

 

What route did we choose? Well, I followed JasonG's advice on the PCT north out of Rainy Pass. But we didn't hike all the way to Castle Pass like he recommended because the Three Fools Creek Trail was, by all reports, almost unfindable in its decayed state as it heads down to Ross Lake. Instead, we turned west much sooner, leaving the PCT at Holman Pass to follow the Devils Dome Trail, which was known to have awesome views of both Jack and Crater Mountains. After which we planned to catch a boat ride south on Ross Lake to the parking lot on Highway 20.

 

 

Day 0: Arriving on the East Side

 

We drove up from San Diego, staying one night in northern Nevada, and the second night in a motel in Twisp. We arrived on August 10th, ready for ten days of backpacking.

 

 

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Summer 2014 conditions on the east side: Residue of the Carlton Complex Fire.

 

 

Day 1: Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass

 

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First thing in the morning, we drove 20 miles up Harts Pass Road from Mazama and stashed a bear can full of food in the woods near the PCT. That would save us carrying it the whole way. It took us over an hour each way on Harts Pass Road.

 

We drove 20 more miles west and did the same thing with our big backpacks, stashing them in the woods near the PCT's Rainy Pass trailhead parking lot. From there we drove 26 miles further west to the Ross Lake parking area on Highway 20 and stashed our CAR in the lot! We had nothing left!

 

 

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Vicki hitching a ride from Ross Lake. We got a ride right away. It sure is nice hitchhiking with a girl! :)

 

We got back to Rainy Pass about noon, and started our first easy day of hiking. Our goal was modest: A mere four miles uphill toward Cutthroat Pass.

 

 

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Black Peak (elev 8970 ft) from the PCT west of Cutthroat Peak. The smoke was better here, west of the fires, but visibility was poor and you could smell it constantly.

 

 

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Hazy, smoky view of Peak 7762 from just above our campsite. There were other mountains out there, but we couldn't see them.

 

We spent the night just below Cutthroat Pass, and were the only people in the campground. The PCT guidebooks call this site CS2603 as it lies on mile 2603 of the PCT. Rainy Pass was at mile 2599 out of 2660 total miles to the Canadian border. Although it was up pretty high, Porcupine Creek was still running at the campsite, so life was good. The PCT guidebooks had warned of waterless areas at higher elevations in late summer, and with all the fires we figured the forest would be dry as a bone. Not so!

 

 

Day 2: Cutthroat Pass to Methow Pass

 

 

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Hiking toward Cutthroat Pass, looking SSW toward Cutthroat Peak (far left) in the drizzle.

 

The drizzling started just after we'd packed our gear, which was nice. It also cut down the smell of smoke, but it certainly didn't improve the visibility.

 

 

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Mount Hardy, Golden Horn, and Tower Mountain from the PCT south of Granite Pass. Methow Pass, our destination, is in the far distance directly above that tall pine in the center of the shot.

 

 

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Golden Horn, Peak 7140, and Tower Mountain from just above our campsite at Methow Pass.

 

 

Day 3: Methow Pass to Glacier Pass

 

The rain began in earnest just after midnight. It pounded down outside, but we were fine inside. When morning came, we packed up everything from within the tent, and ate our only no-cook breakfast. When the rain let up for a brief spell, we jumped out and packed up the tent.

 

 

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Vicki in raingear with Mount Hardy in the clouds as we prepare to hike north from Methow Pass.

 

 

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Me on the bridge where the PCT crosses the West Fork of the Methow River. Do I look like I'm enjoying this?

 

 

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My soaked shoes as we head up Brush Creek toward Glacier Pass. These were supposed to be waterproof shoes. Fail! My feet were squishing inside.

 

 

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The lower part of the east face of Azurite Peak. The top is in the clouds.

 

 

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Wet clothes hanging to dry in our tent at the Glacier Pass Campsite. It was so humid out that we knew they would never dry. But we had to try. And we also knew that we'd have to put the cold soggy things back on in the morning.

 

 

Day 4: Glacier Pass to Harts Pass

 

It hadn't rained all night, which was nice, but the world was still wet. We put on the cold damp clothes and got really busy packing in order to warm them up. Then it was time to hit the trail. Uphill, of course.

 

 

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Misty morning hiking north from Glacier Pass toward Grasshopper Pass

 

 

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Looking back at Grasshopper Pass and Azurite Peak (8400 ft).

 

A rain shower had pounded down back at the pass, but afterward we finally had some visibility. If there had been no clouds, we could have seen forever from here, as we were quite high up on the crest by now. At least the smoke was gone, and surely the fires were out for good after all that rain.

 

 

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Mount Ballard, Peak 7728, and Peak 7385 from the saddle just south of Tatie Peak.

 

 

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A picnic table was deluxe accommodation at the Harts Pass Campground.

 

We had one last blast of rain here, which luckily happened just after we'd set up the tent and gotten all the gear inside. It was nice to sit inside a dry tent. Other folks had to take temporary shelter under the roof of the cement pit toilets.

 

We also picked up our food cache, and now we were ready for the long haul north and west to Ross Lake. Unfortunately, I was the one who had to carry it all.

 

 

Day 5: Harts Pass to Windy Pass

 

Well, being in a civilized, developed campground isn't all that it's cracked up to be. We were camped in the first spot near the road across from the "guard" station, so there was more foot and vehicle traffic than you might expect. PCT hikers showed up in the dark and stumbled through camp, headlamps flashing around, looking for a flat spot to pitch a tent, or knocked on the ranger's cabin and engaged in loud talking about the nearest power outlets to charge their electronics (20 miles away in Mazama). We even got a senile grandpa who showed up unexpected with headlights blasting into our tent looking for his grandkids who were camped around here somewhere. It was hell, I tell you! I was pining for the peace of the wilderness. So we got up at the barest light of dawn and were already packed and hiking before most people had even crawled out of their tents. Onward!

 

 

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Harts Pass Guard Station from our campsite.

 

 

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Me, slogging through the wet flowers in the meadow north of Harts Pass. The flowers were truly gorgeous everywhere we went. August is a great time to be up in the high country.

 

 

It also looked like today might be the first day with decent visibility!

 

 

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Zoomed-in view of the Golden Horn from the south side of Slate Peak.

 

 

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Silver Star Mtn, Gilbert Mtn, Reynolds Peak, and The Needles from a mile north of Harts Pass.

 

 

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Slate Peak Fire Tower (elev 7440 ft). It's amazing what bulldozers can do to a mountain when they try.

 

 

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Crater Mountain, Mount Terror (28 miles distant) and Jack Mountain

 

 

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Zoomed-in view of Mount Baker (10781 ft and 52 miles away) barely visible left of center; Mount Terror is in the center.

 

 

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Azurite Peak and Mount Ballard from the PCT just north of Buffalo Pass

 

At this point the clouds began to grow, blocking our distant views, but we were still happy. It was easy hiking along this stretch of trail, and we didn't plan to hike very far, only six miles or so. We needed a rest and a chance to dry out after all that rain.

 

 

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Drying our tent at the Windy Pass campsite.

 

We also did some laundry, and hung everything out to dry. Then we relaxed in the tent for the rest of the afternoon, reading and napping and generally enjoying ourselves. We deserved it!

 

 

Day 6: Windy Pass to Canyon Creek

 

This was to be our final day on the PCT. We'd met many through-hikers heading to the Canadian border, and we were a bit tempted ourselves, but we had a boat to catch on Ross Lake, and so we were determined to turn left at Holman Pass onto the Devils Dome Trail.

 

When we woke, we were completely inundated by fog and mist. No great views for us today. Maybe if we were lucky it wouldn't rain. And August was supposed to be the least rainy month up here in Washington. Sheesh! I'd hate to be here in the rainy season! My shoes still hadn't dried out, and my toes were all wrinkled at the end of each day. Luckily we were prepared, and so we survived just fine. And the woods are still beautiful even in the mist. In fact, Vicki was very happy that it was misty, as it kept it cooler when hiking uphill. That's a silver lining, if ever I heard one.

 

 

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A misty morning at the Windy Pass campsite. This spot is called WACS2636 by the PCT folks (WAter CAmpsite mile 2636). Only 24 miles to Canada from here.

 

 

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Belled Horses enjoying a walk home together on the PCT north of Tamarack Peak.

 

Video of the belled horses

 

We met up with their owner several miles further along the trail. He said "Oh yes, they got tired of being out here and decided to head on back." He didn't seem to be worried. They obviously knew where they were going. He also gave us a tip on where to camp that night, a couple of miles beyond Canyon Creek (where we'd intended to stop). We thanked him and hiked on. I wish I knew his name, in order to thank him again, as he gave us some great advice.

 

 

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Peak 7058 of the Devils Backbone and Jim Peak in the clouds, as we make our way downhill toward Holman Pass.

 

 

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Okanogan Range in the distance, with Buckskin Point on the right. That's the West Fork of the Pasayten River down below.

 

 

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Canyon Creek where it crosses the Devils Dome Trail.

 

This was where we'd intended to camp originally. It was nice enough, but there weren't any views and it looked like it would be "Mosquito Heaven" as evening set in. We took a short rest, filtered some water, and decided that we had enough energy to hike onward, uphill to the unknown campsite.

 

 

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Campsite and a meadow below Peak 7791 just off the Devils Dome Trail.

 

He was right! It was beautiful! There was a small stream for water just off to the left. The campsite itself was just below those tall pines. We were tired, but very happy to be here.

 

 

Day 7: Canyon Creek to Devils Pass

 

The next day dawned foggy and misty again. We were starting to get used to this weather by now. We packed up and started hiking, headed for Sky Pilot Pass, Deception Pass, and Devils Pass.

 

 

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Me taking a photo of the flowery meadow above Canyon Creek on the way to Sky Pilot Pass.

 

 

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Jackita Ridge, Jack Mountain in the distance, Devils Pass (our destination), and Peaks 7203 and 7514 from the trail just beyond Sky Pilot Pass. We were happy to have all the mist burned off by the sun. What a beautiful day.

 

 

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Rotting wooden trail bridge over a swampy section of the Devils Dome Trail near Deception Pass.

 

 

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Our campsite on the trail northeast of Devils Pass.

 

A medical issue, not immediately life threatening (which I would prefer not to discuss in any detail here on an internet forum) arose as we were hiking, and so we made an early camp, a mile or so before our planned destination at Devils Pass. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible in the tent and rested while we planned out our next moves.

 

Generally speaking, we realized that we were going to have to end our hike right away. Spending three more nights and catching the boat at Ross Lake was not going to happen. We really needed to exit the wilderness immediately. But we were, essentially, about as far from civilization as it was possible to be on this hike. So we got out the map and started looking at our options. Heading for Ross Lake was shortest at thirteen miles, but then we'd have no boat ride scheduled, so we might have to hike another thirteen miles to the highway. Hiking back the way we'd already come was about twenty miles to Harts Pass, but we'd still be twenty miles from the main highway, on a dirt road with little traffic. The obvious route was the Jackita Ridge Trail, which was about seventeen miles to the highway. All three routes also required hitchhiking back to the car at Ross Lake.

 

As we were getting ready to leave (still inside the tent), a late afternoon thunderstorm arrived. It was pouring down, and lightning and thunder were booming all over the mountains. There was even a bit of hail. Once again, it was sure nice to be dry inside a tent in the rain. So we stayed inside and waited it out. Then we got ready for the ordeal that was ahead: Hiking out to the highway, all night long, in the dark, on an unknown trail.

 

 

Day 8 Devils Pass to Canyon Creek Trailhead

 

I'm calling it "Day 8" even though it actually started on Day 7. It ended on Day 8. It sure felt like another day. And then some.

 

I put fresh batteries in the GPS and checked the onboard map. I hadn't pre-loaded any special tracks for the Jackita Ridge Trail, but the trail itself was on the unit's basic topo map, so life was good. We were wearing our raingear, as everything was wet after the rain, and, who knows, it might rain again. We also made sure that our headlamps were ready, as we'd be needing them that night.

 

The two of us were nervous, but we knew that we had made the right decision, and then we got on with it.

 

 

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The campsite at Devils Pass on the Devils Dome Trail. This is where we should have been camping that night.

 

 

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Looking back. Panorama of Peak 7514 and Shull Mtn above Lake 5644 from the Jackita Ridge Trail. Devils Pass is downhill on the left of the photo.

 

 

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Zoomed-in view of the northeast face of Crater Mountain.

 

 

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Wet trail conditions on the Jackita Ridge Trail near Anacortes Crossing. I didn't look, but I could tell from the squishiness that the skin on my toes was a bit wrinkled at this point.

 

 

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Anacortes Crossing on the left, and Jackita Ridge, center.

 

The trail descended to the bottom, where we filtered water from the stream. Then it climbed extremely steeply back up to the ridge on the right just out of the photo. It was a very tough climb. Finally, the trail descended for a while, providing some relief. After that it climbed a bare scree slope for what seemed like forever. We were exhausted by then, but everything was wet, including ourselves (from both rain and sweat) and we didn't dare stop or we'd freeze. So we kept on hiking. We could only stop and rest for very short periods before the cold crept back in.

 

As I checked and re-checked my GPS to make sure we were still on the right trail, I kept noticing something called "Devils Park Shelter." Shelter! Exactly what we needed. As we got closer I continued to zoom in, and we eventually found a nice campsite where the shelter was supposedly located, but no real shelter. Darn! What a disappointment! But there wasn't much we could do.

 

There was a small stream flowing nearby, so we stopped and filtered more water. That last scree climb had drained our supply. By the time the filter was put away we were really and truly cold. Time to get moving!

 

And then, to our surprise, a couple hundred yards down the trail a structure became visible. It was the shelter! Hallelujah! It was an old ramshackle-looking place, with three walls and a roof, but it was dry inside, and had a number of bunks made of wooden slats and primitive log supports.

 

 

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Night view of Devils Park Shelter on the Jackita Ridge Trail

 

It was time to make the decision: To rest or not to rest. We wanted to get to the car as soon as possible, but we were also bone-tired. I sat down and studied the GPS and the map. It was midnight. At our current rate of hiking we would arrive at the trailhead before dawn, and hitchhiking in the dark is never a good idea. So we opted for a few hours rest. We also wanted it to be light for the final switchbacks on the five thousand foot descent, as we had no idea how steep and slippery it might be.

 

We changed into our warm dry clothes and felt better almost immediately. We also decided to get out two of those tiny rolled up Space Emergency Blankets that we'd been carrying in our packs (unused) for the last twenty years. They were crinkly and loud in our ears, but we wrapped ourselves inside them to retain some of our precious heat and to keep out the breeze. And they actually worked! Amazing, but true.

 

We fell asleep almost instantly. I'm not saying we slept really well, on a hard flat bed with a microscopically-thin piece of aluminized plastic for insulation, but we slept. Eventually, however, as the night air cooled around us, we began to feel the chill creeping in. I checked the time and it was three AM. It was time to get up.

 

At that point we realized that we had to put our wet clothes back on. They'd been hanging in the shelter, but they hadn't really dried out at all; they were cold and clammy. But did we really have to? After all, we were heading out to the car, not another night in camp where warm dry clothes would be essential. Hmmm... The Boy Scout in me said "Be Prepared!" and voted to suffer the soggy shocking horror, saving the dry gear for an emergency, but the realist in me immediately vetoed this madness and proposed a compromise: Keep the core warm, keep the feet dry, and let the legs fend for themselves. Good plan. We got as packed as possible and saved the pants for last. Whooo! That really woke us up!

 

On we hiked, into the dark of the night. Seven more miles to go.

 

Luckily, the trail along this stretch was quite nice. It wasn't overly steep, and wended it's way through woods and meadows. We passed people camping in tents, sleeping soundly, oblivious of our problems. As planned, it began to get light as we reached the final switchbacks down into Canyon Creek. Supposedly, there are 55 switchbacks on this section of trail, but it felt like 155! Down and down and down we hiked. Although the canyonside itself was very steep, the trail's grade never became dangerous, and we reached the bottom without incident.

 

It was seven AM, and we had hiked over seventeen miles in thirteen hours (including a three hour rest). All while climbing 4300 feet and descending 8400 feet total. Not bad!

 

 

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Huge log bridge over Canyon Creek on the Jackita Ridge Trail near the trailhead.

 

We hiked a bit further and crossed an even bigger footbridge over Granite Creek, and saw a guardrail of the main highway not far away. We removed and packed away some of our soggiest raingear, and tried to make ourselves presentable in order to get a ride right away. And it worked!

 

 

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Arriving back at the car at the Ross Lake Parking Lot.

 

We drove west toward Seattle and got the medical attention we needed, and life was good again. We were sorry that we never got to take that boat ride down Ross Lake, or were able to view the glacier on Jack Mountain from the top of Devils Dome, but we still had a great time, and really enjoyed the Cascades and the Pasayten Wilderness. What a beautiful area!

 

 

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Panorama view over Ross Lake from Highway 20, with Jack Mountain in the clouds, right

 

 

Caltopo Map of our hike: http://caltopo.com/map?id=6D29

 

LOTS and LOTS more photos and videos of the trip:

 

To JasonG (and the others): Thanks once again for the great advice!

 

Happy Hiking!

 

(Oh, and climbing, of course!) :)

 

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Great TR, wonderful photos. I was hiking there several times last summer as well. There is quite a bit of elevation gain and loss for a trail hike.

A great place you could post this is at http://www.wta.org. It is an excellent spot to share hiking TRs and it will benefit others that want more info. on hiking that area.

Cheers,

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I had wondered how the trip went, thanks for checking back in! And sorry about the weather and the rather abrupt end to the trip, that sounds pretty character building. For what it's worth, you were at the tail end of the statistically driest time of year (last week of July to first week of August), but last summer was unusual with the amount of T-storms and precip that we had, esp. in August.

 

If you look at Cliff Mass's Blog he has some interesting posts from the time of your trip: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2014/08/heat-wave-thunderstorms-and-cool-down.html

 

Last summer started a period of unusual weather that lasted well into this spring. Things are more "normal" now, but we'll see for how long.

 

Hopefully you guys can get back up here and have a rain and issue free trip!

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Also, I'm impressed with the accuracy of your peak ID, considering this isn't your back yard. You obviously did your homework!

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And sorry about the weather and the rather abrupt end to the trip, that sounds pretty character building.

Heh. Character building. I like that. If I wasn't a character before, I sure am one now! :)

 

Also, I'm impressed with the accuracy of your peak ID, considering this isn't your back yard. You obviously did your homework!

Yes, there was a LOT of homework. Which is partly why this TR took so long to write.

 

But it isn't all that hard, if you use a few tricks. The most important one is that I always synchronize my camera's clock to that of my GPS, which I leave running in the top part of my backpack the entire time I'm hiking, so that I have tracks of where/when I've been. (Yes, I carry too much weight in batteries.) Once I'm back at home, I load everything onto my computer, then use the freeware program "GeoSetter" to geolocate all my photos. I think google has a similar tool.

 

After that's done, I use GeoSetter's map to show me where a particular photo was taken on the program's own internal map, and then I translate the location onto either the Caltopo map or the PeakFinder website (that link goes to the top of Slate Peak near the spot where we were able to see Mt Baker). If you use Caltopo, you can right-click on any spot on the map, then choose "Point Info" followed by "View From Here" which opens up a new page (link is also from the top of Slate Peak) that looks suspiciously similar to the one on peakfinder. I've noticed that the Caltopo site has more "Local" data loaded as it occasionally shows a non-USGS name for a peak.

 

The numbered/unnamed peaks have to be found the old fashioned way: Using a map. (One of those lost arts.)

 

I also load my tracks into Google Earth, which is another useful tool for removing ambiguity in the peak names.

 

BTW: Peakfinder has a smartphone app that I recently purchased for $4 - it has ALL the peak data already loaded, so it works out in the middle of nowhere. Tested and Recommended.

 

 

So now you know what I do in my spare time when I'm not at work: Re-hash old hikes, plan new ones, or actually go hiking! :grin:

 

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