For Part One, click here.
I never thought we would get to stay in a fire lookout. It had been a dream of mine for years, but I never really thought we'd do it. But here we were, on the catwalk of Gird Point Lookout, on the top of the world. Now, granted, it was only at 7702 feet, not exactly the top of the world, but it sure felt like it. We had views all the way around, and although the Bitterroot Mountains to the west were significantly taller (10,000-11,000 ft.), they were far enough away that we still had a good view.
The cabin is what's called an L-4, the standard lookout tower built between 1929 and 1953. It is a 14x14 ft. single room with wooden panels mounted horizontally over the 360 degree windows. The panels are left up in the summer to provide clear viewing and shade, and are lowered in the winter to protect the windows from nasty winter storms. Some are atop really high towers, and others sit right on the ground. Gird Point's L-4 was built in 1939 atop an 8 ft. tower, used actively for decades, and slated for destruction in the late 1980's, when the advent of aerial survey replaced the need for towers. Before it was destroyed, however, a movement began to save the towers and open them up to the public--people like us. The restoration of our tower, bringing it back to the look of its active service days, was completed in 2003. The guestbook started then is a pleasure to read. Most guests, ourselves included, were quick to thank the Forest Service for saving and restoring this tower, and making it available to rent out. What an amazing place.
The cabin includes two double size bed frames with some thin camping pads in them, a small table with three chairs, some shelving for storage, a propane camping stove and lantern, a small wood stove for heat, basic pots and pans, dishes and utensils for four, and a dominant feature in the middle of the room--a tall table with a rotating topographical map on top. It looked complicated. Turns out, it was an Osborne Fire Finder. Whatever that is. I found a book on the shelf that explained how to use it to pinpoint the location and size of fires. The book, full of diagrams and charts, went on far longer than my attention span. But for someone like my brother-in-law, Tom, I'm sure it would have been a source of fascination for hours, maybe days. Not me. I was more attracted to what was outside the cozy little room.
The views were truly stunning--the kind of views that make a person stop and breathe more deeply. We found lawn chairs under the beds and set them up on the catwalk...er, uh...the veranda. Trading out our sweaty clothes for dry ones and drinking deeply from our water bottles, we sat down in the cool mountain breeze and tried to take it all in.
There was a lot to take in. It wouldn't happen quickly. We sat there for a long time, doing nothing but gazing and breathing.
A long time.
Dinner, sunset, wine, moonrise, stars...quiet.
The stress of our regular lives simply floated away on the breeze.
(Continue with Part Three)