Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Lookout Diairies, Part Two

I wake in the middle of the night.  The tower is shaking.  The wind is attacking it with such ferocity that the door flies open.  I hear mysterious crashing noises as things get blown off the deck.  The clouds are spitting snow.  It has turned from autumn to winter in just a few hours.

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
Around sunset, the wind dies down.  I escape the tower and run around, relieved.  The storm has passed, and the next day is bright and warm.  I hike the ridge and look at the fires.  I learn later that while the storm was battering the lookout, it was dead calm in the valley.

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


  1. What a contrast! Good thing that you like challenges......nice photo of the temporary fire lookout.

    1. At least I wasn't in a tent, although I would have been OK with my 0 degree sleeping bag in one.

  2. Despite the storm, how lucky to be able to spend several nights in such a beautiful place - in a cozy fire lookout.

  3. Ok, in my book, even though it was cold and a bit scary, the storm just enhances the experience!!!!

    1. That's true! I kind of hoped it would snow. It was cozy.


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