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The long road walk that begins the climb of Three Fingers Fire Lookout is downright awful. But, even on the way up there are spots that you can ride a bike. Make sure you bring a bike and a lock so you can chain it to a tree. That way you can pretty much coast your way back home. Your legs will thank you.
Once we finally made it to the trail-head we felt excited to start the hiking. Yet, the next 2 ½ miles to Saddle lake was all spider webs, bushwhacking, and bugs. It felt like a nightmare as we moved like snails through much of the dense brush. There is a lot of blowdowns to climb over and many times that we would lose the faint trail. Take GPS...
Saddle lake was drying up early this year with the warm weather and was harboring a fair amount of bugs. We passed it by as fast as possible and figured we could get water at the flats. Past Saddle lake is more bushwhacking for another 2 miles until you reach the first open meadow. Here the trail quality improves a bit but most of the time it still felt like we were walking in a river bed.
Goat Flats is a nice area with some good views. It even has a good quality toilet facility. So if you plan to climb Three Fingers Fire Lookout remember this is your last chance for some kind of comfort. There are some camping spots for those not wanting to carry all their gear up to the lookout. Even if you do not climb to Three Fingers Fire Lookout, the views from Goat Flats would be worth a backpacking trip.
From Goat Flats follow the obvious trail leading uphill on your right if you are facing Three Fingers. As the trail approaches Tin Can Gap it begins to get interesting.
The climbing gets tough as the trail skirts along the side of the hill crisscrossing the ridge as it goes. The Moat is completely bare this year. From where the moat is, it’s an easy hike with limited scrambling to reach the snowfield below the summit.
Climb the small permanent snowfield and you will be at the infamous ladders.
If you are decent with navigation and have a knack for scrambling the entire route on Three Fingers is easy to puzzle out. Enough people use it that there is still a trail. The biggest problem we faced was exhaustion from going that far with 7000+ feet of elevation gain for the day.
The ladders were steep and crooked but no problem after a few deep breaths. Be careful of the small gap in the rocks on the top of the second ladder. It is very narrow and my pack was difficult to fit through forcing me to climb the rope hand over hand.
Despite the throbbing pain in my body from the long ~15 miles arriving at the lookout made it worth every step. Come for the summit, stay for the sunset, and sleep on top of the world. I will be back for this one someday.
As the sun was going down two young kids arrived at the Three Fingers Fire Lookout. By this time there were several of us sharing the hut for the evening. We all expressed surprise at their lack of gear and they said they were camping at goat flats. We urged them to get back down before dark and gave them some water to get them back down the trail.
Both were wearing jeans and cotton t-shirts and looked ill-prepared. During this conversation one of them mentioned that they did not bring bikes. I brushed it off thinking it wasn’t important. Neither Brandon or I had remembered locks for our bikes. We put them far into the woods so people wouldn’t notice and hoped for the best.
I have my suspicions that the two kids who came to the Three Fingers Fire lookout late used them to get down. We were lucky to have found them laying in the grass near the bottom of the road. I suppose we can celebrate that they "weren't stolen". Be careful and lock up your bike if you bring one up. We would end up walking back down the 8 mile roadway.