Thursday, March 4, 2021

wandering in the fire lookout graveyard

 Anyone who has been reading here for awhile knows that I really like, ok might be a little obsessed with, fire lookouts. There's something about these historic buildings, very few of them staffed anymore, standing abandoned on lonely mountains, that makes me want to spend time there. I've even gotten to stay overnight in a few of them, and have filled in for the regular lookout people on their days off.  If a fire lookout is on a hiking trail, I always want to go there.

Sadly, many of these old buildings have fallen down or been removed over the years. Hiking to a former lookout site isn't quite as fun, but it's still interesting. There are hundreds of these sites in my local mountains. In the lookout heyday, people stationed throughout the forest would have been able to see the lights of their fellow lookouts in the distance, and share recipes on a phone line strung for miles on the trees.

Looking around, we can usually find traces of the towers and cabins that once graced the tops of the peaks. Concrete footings, nails, and pieces of glass are common, as are old, rusted cans and outhouse pits. On a couple of mountains I've found old bedframes, too unwieldly or remote to have been carried down. Old trails that led to water springs or other routes off the hills can still be found. It's easy to imagine the solitary man or woman who once lived up here, carrying drinking water and chopping firewood, stopping to gaze at the horizon to look for smoke.

Old bed frames at a former lookout site

Long after the buildings have fallen down and the trails fade into obscurity, the spectacular views still remain. Visiting enough of these sites, you can usually find where the lookout once stood by assessing the terrain. I wish all the lookouts were still there, but I know that's impossible, with harsh winter weather and lack of funding for upkeep. When I go there, I can still dream of what it must have been like to stay up here, in a little house in the sky.

There once was a fire lookout here. It must have been really terrible to look at this view every day.

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