Fire Lookout Adventure

If you've spent much time in the National Forests of the Western US, & in particular, have done so while traversing high ridges en route to remote summits here in the Pacific Northwest, it's possible you've come across one of the few remaining Forest Service Fire Lookout structures that dot the high country. According to the Forest Service, their heyday was in the '30's, when the CCC went on a construction spree, & when there were over 8,000 fire lookouts in operation. Today, fewer than 500 hundred remain -- 196 of which are still standing in ID alone -- a fraction of which are actually operational. Fire Lookouts have an architectural style all their own, a design rooted in economy of space & purpose-built for the sole intent of 360 degrees of visibility to surrounding mountains & valleys. To those that were hired to man them during the fire season (these guys were also called "fire lookouts"), this meant that while preparing a meal they'd be sure to have a bead on the opposing ridgeline between stirs of the pot or sips of government-issue coffee. At a mere 200 sq ft, they are a single-room exercise in living small, & often at high exposure to the elements, as they are most often perched on rocky outcroppings, knife ridges, or summit blocks to ensure unimpeded visibility. For this reason you'll often see them with ground wires running from each corner of the roofline to the rocks below the foundation, such that electrical currents from frequent lightning strikes will be diverted away from the living quarters. Despite their small size, they're beautiful little structures with wraparound paned windows, & combined with their cool history, they provide a nostalgic link back to the West's rugged past. They also figure prominently in Western lore, having been made famous by the likes of Jack Kerouac (in Desolation Angels & Dharma Bums), in the poems of PNW-raised Gary Snyder, & in the writings of Ed Abbey. 

Here are a few pics from an Indian Summer overnighter to a Fire Lookout in the Wild Sky Wilderness here in Washington. Enjoy!

Up early to appreciate the colors of dawn

Looking S toward Mt. Rainier while Henry Dog looks east toward sunrise

Waking up on top of a mountain & sipping coffee in the sun has to be one of life's greatest little pleasures

Naturally, the Hobo Tote is the perfect choice for a day hike!

Of course, part of the draw of the Fire Lookout is in the wide open alpine views that you can usually only get by climbing above treeline.