Fall is here. The air is cool and snow lies atop the peaks on the horizon. I wrote a couple months ago about my Three Curious New Hobbies from the road, but now with farmer’s fruit stands closed for the season and alpine lakes much too cold to plunge, it’s about time I adopt a new one. The new hobby I have acquired is…… Climbing up to old fire lookout towers.
I recently read books by Kerouac and Abbey where his character and himself respectively, work a summer stationed as a fire lookout. What a job, spending all summer on top of the world! Too bad for the contemporary “rucksack revolutionaries,” all remaining towers have been decommissioned as air planes and satellites take over the gig in the name of “efficiency.” So the best I can do is climb up and dream about what it must have been like to wake up to the most beautiful view in the park, each and every day. To watch the land slowly transition from spring to summer to fall as the visitors below scurry about. And to have the time to reflect on the past, live in the present, and wander into the future.
There were once dozens of these spread throughout the national parks and other wild lands of the American West. Glacier National Park had twelve active stations alone in its heyday. Many remain but the position of fire lookout is long gone, a relic to be admired. Nonetheless these towers provide an excellent perch upon which to view the land below and the skies above.