Hikes on high
What: Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts
When: 7 pm Sat., Jun. 2
Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
By the time Amber Casali shows up at Village Books on Saturday night to discuss Hiking Washington’s Fire Lookouts, National Trails Day will already be in its last remaining hours.
One way to combat this conundrum is by spending the morning and afternoon of June 2 discovering local trails, helping raise awareness of related issues, and infusing your mind and body with a heady dose of excitement for the great outdoors. It’s a good bet that even if you’re still wearing moss-encrusted boots and other dusty accoutrements left over from your outing, you’ll still be welcome at the 7pm “Nature of Writing” event, where the avid hiker and mountaineer will talk about her guidebook, which highlights 44 memorable lookouts in the Cascade and Olympic ranges—all of which are accessible by trails on public lands.
In addition to detailing the basics of what it takes to arrive at each of the structures—which can be found everywhere from Orcas Island to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, Snoqualmie Pass, and beyond—Casali writes about how our state’s fire lookouts have not only played an important role in forest-fire management, but have also acted as temporary homes for the interesting people who spend summers isolated from civilization to watch over the forests below.
“You may be wondering if lookout staff are all grizzled mountain hermits,” Casali posits. “I think it’s safe to say that they represent some of Washington’s hardiest folks. They live alone at high elevations in extreme weather with the looming threat of fire and an imperative for constant vigilance. Although we may have images of the lookout poet sitting all summer in the windowed cabin penning verses, lookout staff actually have quite a few duties.”
Those chores include meeting basic needs like procuring water, keeping up with property maintenance, checking in with the local guard station at the beginning and end of every day, monitoring lightning and coming storms, post-storm vigilance, fire scanning, and fire and non-fire reporting.
Historical tidbits, information on how to stay in or near the lookouts overnight, and how to help maintain or volunteer at these historic structures are also covered, as is a sense of urgency related to their very survival.
“You should visit them while you can,” Casali writes. “At the height of Washington’s forest-fire-spotting program, there were between 500 and 600 backcountry lookout structures in the state. Now we have 89, having lost several just in the past few years…Enjoy the gems that are still standing, whether you drive, day hike or backpack to get there.”
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