Sunday, September 26, 2021


 What to write about! All bloggers (those of us who are left) know the struggle. It's not that we aren't out doing things. We are. But the desire to write about them wanes at times. 

When I started this blog ten years ago, there were a ton of blogs I followed. Sometimes it was hard to keep up with them all. But those blogs disappeared over time. I was left wondering about their authors, especially the ones who clearly were not okay. 

Also when I started writing here I was still a firefighter. Now I'm not, except on a very limited basis. My life is still very full, but how many hikes and fire lookouts do people want to read about? How many do I want to write about?

Thanks to those who still read here, even when I don't have much to say.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Feeling Fancy

 I drove anxiously up the rocky dirt road that hugged the side of the cliff. Meeting another vehicle would be nerve wracking at this point. But luckily, the fire lookout came into view.

I surveyed it, contemplating the next two days' stay. It looked kind of like a nuclear bunker, very different from the rustic cabins and towers I was used to. A locked radio room shared space with the lookout, from which transmissions could be heard (911? I was never able to hear clearly enough). The parking area was so steep that I had to chock my tires. Large radio frequency antennas loomed nearby.

But to my delight, opening the door to the lookout provided a view of a cozy, light-filled space. The lookout area resembled an air traffic control tower. Sliding glass doors led out to a catwalk. Inside, there were electric lights, a refrigerator, a heater, and even a microwave. This was the Four Seasons version of a fire lookout!

Not wanting to tackle the road again, I settled in and explored the local area. I ran a couple miles down the road and huffed and puffed my way back up. I took walks and read books on the catwalk. At night I turned on the lights and the heater, not waking up freezing as I sometimes do at fire lookouts.

I've stayed at lookouts with resident pack rats, with daddy longlegs infestations, and ones that have pristine outhouses. Some are local party spots, and some are terrifying to drive to. They're all different. There aren't many like this one with all its amenities. I love them all.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

For Jenn

 Jennifer parked her car and started out on the trail. Although she was solo, she wasn't really alone. She would encounter hundreds of people. Some would remember her later; they talked to her, even captured her in photos. 

She probably hiked swiftly: she was an experienced hiker. Maybe she thought about the trip she had taken to get here, the horseback riding tour she had taken, or her dogs, waiting for her at a local boarding facility, since they weren't allowed in the national park. She took a steep side trail; many hikers do at this point. There's a good reason for that. At the top you can look down onto a glacier and see several lakes. It's a beautiful spot.

Jenn didn't show up to pick up her dogs the next day. Her car remained in the parking lot, her belongings at her campsite back in town. She was reported missing. Speculation began. Was she lost? Had she encountered a bear? Helicopters swooped over the trail and adjacent areas, and searchers headed out on foot.

In the end, it was rangers with climbing gear who found her. She was 500 feet below the glacier overlook in a steep and rocky area. It appeared to be an accidental fall, but nobody seems to have seen her then. We will probably never know what happened. Did she slip while trying to get a different view? Did the wind cause her to lose her footing? In the end, it probably doesn't matter. Jenn was gone.

The armchair hikers came out. The predictable "Never hike alone!" was typed many times, probably by non-hikers, closely followed by "Women should never hike alone," which ignores the fact that men and women are similarly likely to be search and rescue subjects, with men actually a few percentage points higher.

The truth is, if you spend any time outdoors and on trails, bad things can happen. Sometimes you escape through mere luck alone. Maybe you were temporarily lost, but were able to find your way back. Perhaps you stumbled, but regained your footing, or slipped down a mountain but were able to stop yourself. The bear might not be in a fighting mood that day, or you were able to overcome the river current during a crossing. And then sometimes, even on a well traveled trail and equipped with the right gear, things go wrong.

I'm sorry, Jenn. I've stood in the spot where you took your last steps. I'm sure you were amazed at the beauty before you. I hope your last thoughts were of the beautiful day you were walking through. Hike on, Jenn. I didn't know you, but I won't forget you.