I sat in the fire lookout, watching lightning strike mountains to the north. None of it was in my response area though. It was all up in Canada, the forbidden land just three miles away. The trees on both sides of the border swath look the same, and they burn the same, but if I saw a fire start over there, it would be up to the Canadians to respond.
I was filling in for the regular lookout, but as a volunteer: he had asked fire managers if they could pay me, but they didn't want to deal with it. I'm not a very good volunteer, or maybe I'm too good: I couldn't let go of the employee mentality. My only responsibilities were to call in the weather once a day and check in at the end of shift. I couldn't make myself loaf around though. I carried a radio with me everywhere I went, just in case. The helispot was displeasing to me, so I took an axe and cut down the little trees that could be tail rotor grabbers. I even packed 5 gallons of water up the steep trail from the creek a mile and a half below.
The days were hot, and storms brewed over the park and the border almost every night. I looked for fires, but there weren't any. I lifted rocks for weights. Seeing an intriguing meadow down below, I hiked to it, and named it Magic Meadow. I read a lot of books.
Several hikers appeared. Most were hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail; they were delightful, with a love for trail life. A group of friends burst from the trees; they had planned to surprise me with treats. I shared the fruit with the thru-hikers. "Trail magic!" they exclaimed.
I had mixed feelings as I hiked down to return to civilization. I miss getting paid to fill in, like I used to, especially since I was paying my cat sitter. But I can't turn down a lookout stay; they are my favorite places. If I'm needed, I'll do it again.