What would you say if you were a person mildly, ok a lot, obsessed with fire lookouts, and planned to rent another one for the weekend, when out of the blue a fire management officer called you and asked you to staff one for 3 days? And you got paid for it?
Well, I'd say call me Alanis Morissette, because that's ironic!
Friday morning found me on the trail to Spotted Bear Lookout, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, loaded down with food, water, and other necessities like flip flops, a kindle, and a backup e-reader in case the kindle's batteries died. I plodded along the 7 mile trail. forgetting to even look for the sign nailed to a tree saying "Tired?" partway up the ridge. Nearly 4.000 feet higher in elevation later, I peered at the lookout, looking impossibly far away on the next hill. Cruelly, the trail dropped down into a saddle. losing a couple hundred feet before then regaining it in the final ascent.
But finally I arrived and opened up the door to my temporary home.
A fire lookout is three things: a building, a job, and a person. Although lookouts have other tasks, like building maintenance and trail work, there really is one main duty: to spot fires. Once a day you also take some weather observations and radio them in to Dispatch. It's not difficult. In fact, once you have learned to read the country surrounding your mountain, you take plenty of breaks. You can read, play guitar, or write. Of course, your territory covers 30 miles or more with plenty of drainages. mountains, and ridges to learn.
The first two days, smoke from fires in Canada settled in the valleys. At times, visibility was only about a half mile. Since there was nothing to see, I hiked up the nearby ridge. I did an exercise circuit, lifting rocks and doing pushups. I gazed at the deer grazing below the tower and read books.
|This chair has insulators on the legs. You sit on this chair during lightning storms so you will theoretically be safe if the tower gets hit.|
|Pack string coming up the ridge|