Fire Lookout Towers

A few months ago I was reading through The Paris Review when I came across a story called Diary of a Fire Lookout by Philip Connors (you can read an excerpt online, and maybe find it at the library to read the rest). It’s a diary of the authors time spent as a fire lookout in the rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Fire lookouts are becoming more and more rare as modern technology encroaches upon the task of spotting forest fires. Which is sad because some of my favorite writers spent summers high up in a lookout tower thinking, writing, and watching for signs of smoke. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Ed Abbey’s Black Sun. Doug Peacock spent some time as fire lookout after Vietnam, I’m not sure that he ever wrote about it, but it probably helped clear his head and help him to readjust.

As Connors’s story shows, not all fire lookout towers have been shuttered, but most aren’t in service anymore. The Forest Fire Lookout Association has a list of links to retired lookout towers available for rent, most from the US Forest Service.

A recent article in the UT talks about the old fire lookout tower on Palomar Mountain reopening to be staffed by volunteers.

There’s something romantic about fire lookout towers, spending all that time in the woods. The solitude. The open space. The few journeys into town, via steep mountain trails, to get supplies. The chance encounters with passing hikers. Connors’s story captures the mood perfectly.

Advertisements

2 responses to “Fire Lookout Towers

  1. Interesting! Thanks for posting!!

  2. As fire lookouts have become an endangered species, so too are the eccentric national treasures like Kerouac & Abbey who squatted in them.

    Thanks for the heads up on Connor’s piece!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s