Approaching the summit of North Baldy
Dominating the ridgeline to the west of Priest Lake is North Baldy, a prominent outcropping of granite with a commanding view encompassing 360 degrees. Not surprisingly, this outstanding viewpoint was chosen as a USFS fire lookout site early on and as a US Air Force radar site during World War II.
The mountain's lookout history began in 1909 with a camp 1/4 mile south of the summit to which a log cabin was added in 1918. A cupola cabin was built in 1928, then a 40' pole tower in 1938. Lastly, a 41' treated timber tower was constructed in 1964 and abandoned in the 1970's. The tower was dismantled in 1989 and the top 30' of the superstructure moved to Big Meadow Lake west of Ione WA to become a wildlife observation tower.
Lookout photos and information courtesy of Rex Kamstra's Forest Fire Lookout Page
Today the only structure on the mountain is a small relay tower, but the views are as outstanding as ever. Priest Lake and the Selkirk Crest draw the eye to the east while the Pend Oreille Valley is laid out at your feet to the west. Just about every significant peak in North Idaho and Northeastern Washington is visible from this vantage.
The road up to the summit can be challenging to negotiate, especially the final half-mile or so which is strewn with fist-sized rocks and boulders. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, and I was wishing for an ATV when making my way up on my motorcycle. I have added a half-star to the terrain rating under the assumption that many will want to walk the final stretch.
The cache is a .50-cal. ammo can with an "Official Geocache" sticker. It is hidden near what I ascertained to be the highest point on the mountain in a group of rocks roughly 70' north of the old lookout tower site. Spoiler photos have been added to aid in locating the container among the many rocks peppering the peak. Please be sure to rehide the cache well and then add another rock or two to be sure; the location is a frequent destination for visitors traveling from both sides of the ridge.
Priest Lake and the Selkirk Crest viewed from North Baldy