Irrationally I imagine the tower collapsing in the storm, even though it has stood since 1963 and must ride out even more severe weather. Still, I put on more layers of clothes in case I have to evacuate, and wait till morning. The wind seems alive. It is impossible to sleep.
The temperature in the cabin is in the 30s in the morning; it is colder outside. I record weather observations, ducking back inside after each measurement: temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity. The thermometer we use doesn't go below 30; we don't usually fight fire when it is that cold. The wind meter only goes to 70 mph; the white ball that measures gusts disappears at the top of the scale. I can't measure rainfall; the water has frozen in the bucket.
I start a fire in the woodstove. There will be no fire watching today; visibility is about a half mile. Curiosity drives me out of the tower; the trees are covered in white rime. Nobody talks on the radio. I ply the stove with wood, but it never really gets warm inside. I feel like the only person in the world.
|Rime on the trees|
On the fourth day, I pack up. I go down the stairs for the last time and start down the trail. I take one last look at the little house on the mountain that sheltered me from the storm. Then the trees hide it and I hike on, past the snow survey markers, across the benches and farther down, back to my life in the valley.
|Last morning at the lookout|