I knew when I agreed to staff the lookout for a couple of days that it wouldn't be a true wilderness experience. It was reached by a short 2.5 mile hike, and wasn't too far from a popular mercantile that draws crowds in the summer. It was a lookout, though, so I couldn't turn it down.
Some people work at fire lookouts that are very busy. They are more like rangers than the stereotypical, solitary fire watcher deep in the forest. They are better people than I am. To me, the whole point of living in a small glass house to look for fires is to be alone.
I peered out of the tower. Hopefully it was too early for the first people to arrive, but I saw something moving down below. A deer, I thought, but then looked closer. A cinnamon colored black bear was wandering around in the meadow. I watched it for awhile, until it turned and waddled down the trail.
Soon, hikers arrived, accompanied by dogs. There really weren't that many, maybe 10 in all, but their visits were spread out throughout the day. A sign at the base of the tower invited them up, so I showed them around, and had the kids look through the firefinder. They were all interesting, and I wasn't annoyed to see them arrive, but I looked forward to sunset.
At night the tower was mine. I watched the sun go below the horizon and the other lookouts I could see on the other mountaintops vanish into the dark. I sat on the catwalk and looked at the lights far below. I didn't have to talk or answer questions. This was why I had come here.
I'm not against people climbing lookouts to talk to the person there; I've done it many times myself. It just wouldn't be the job for me. I need the remote towers, the ones that see maybe five people a summer. I wouldn't be as crazy as Jack Kerouac on Desolation Peak, but I might end up a little bit feral.
On my last day a herd of visitors and dogs arrived, along with the regular lookout. I packed up and headed down the trail. Even though it hadn't been the solitary experience I was used to at other towers, it was still worth every minute, and I would miss my house in the sky.