Friday, October 9, 2015

The Lookout Diaries, Part One

I stomp up the trail carrying 30 pounds in my backpack.  For some reason, I turned down a helicopter flight to hike instead.  For some reason, this trail always seems endless.  But I'm getting paid to do it, so I continue on, through the forest and past the "Tired?" sign that someone years ago nailed to a tree, through the snow survey area, to the false summit and then the final push to the fire lookout.

The regular lookout sits patiently by her full backpack, ready to flee down the trail for four days off.  She points out a few fires, then says tentatively, "please don't kill my grouse."  I look at her uncomprehendingly.  "The guys all want to kill them, and they've been up here since they were chicks," she explains.

After reassuring her that I would never kill her grouse, she bounds down the trail, and I'm left in silence.  I prowl the lookout, scanning the maps.  I gaze at the fires.  I make tea.  Finally I launch myself out of the building, restless, and hike up the next ridge.  I go to sleep when it gets dark, and wake up when the sun rises.
Sunset at the lookout
The next day is one of those fall days you hope for, crisp and clear and lovely.  I hike around and gather firewood, because it's in the 20s in the mornings.  Between looking at fires, I read books.  I talk to Dispatch twice a day on the radio; other than that, I see and speak to nobody.  I go to sleep under a bowl of stars.
One of the fires
I suddenly wake in the middle of the night.  Everything has changed....



  1. Oh I'd love to spend a few days in a fire lookout. I know they rent some of the retired ones where I live.

  2. Way to leave us hanging! Can't wait to read what happened in the middle of the night! The area sounds worked for it.

    1. On paper this trail doesn't sound that hard, but I haven't met anyone who doesn't think it is.

  3. Has the fire lookout enjoyed her season in the "sky"?

  4. You packed your way in versus accepting the 'ride' because you are bad-a$$ :-)

    And leave us hanging at the end...soooo not nice. But sounds like an experience that so few will have. Savor the good moments!

    1. I'm glad I hiked up but I had moments when I heard the helicopter flying over that I thought darn it!


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