Monthly Archives: March 2020

EVENTS

FUTURE PUBLIC EVENTS:

Monthly hikes for The Olympians Hiking Club, based in Grays Harbor County:

I PLAN TO LEAD A HIKE TO THE SIMPSON FIRE LOOKOUT SITE IN MASON COUNTY BEFORE THE GATES ARE LOCKED AGAIN AT THE END OF DECEMBER. IT WILL PROBABLY BE ON A WEDNESDAY IN THE SECOND HALF OF DECEMBER, 2022. Please let me know if you would like to join us.

SATURDAY, December 3, 2022. ELK RIVER Natural Resource Conservation Area HIKE . Please Send me an email with your contact info for more information. Full vaccination is required to join us on this hike.

PAST PUBLIC EVENTS:

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2022. Presented a slideshow “ADVENTURE HIKES TO LOST FIRE LOOKOUTS.” The Mountaineers Olympia Branch Adventure Series

SATURDAY OCTOBER 8, 2022. SQUALLY JIM AND WALVILLE FIRE LOOKOUT SITE HIKE. We enjoyed dry but slightly smoky weather for this hike near the Lewis-Pacific counties border. There had been some recent tree harvests near our route, but nothing that disrupted our hike. (it is in the book.)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2022 Presented a slideshow “HISTORY AND HIKES: FIRE LOOKOUTS IN GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY.” Hoquiam Timberland Library.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2022 Forest Fire Lookout Association Western Conference, Enterprise, Oregon. Presented a slideshow, “PIECING TOGETHER OLYMPIC FIRE LOOKOUT STORIES.”

SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2022. Mount Holyoke College Class of 1965 on Zoom. Presented a slideshow, “FROM AMERICAN CULTURE TO LOST FIRE LOOKOUT HIKES AND HISTORIES.”

SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2022 GRISDALE HILL LOOKOUT SITE. We enjoyed great views into the Olympics on our way to this high point above the Skokomish Valley. It is in the book.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2022      NEW PINNACLE PEAK LOOKOUT TOWER NEAR ENUMCLAW. A short steep hike to the newest lookout tower in western Washington.

Leslie and hiking friends take a look at the Pinnacle Peak Lookout Osborne firefinder map, January 2022.
Photo by Linda Stretz

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19 BOOK LAUNCH PARTY!

We had a fine party at Harbor House, Percival Landing, Olympia. It was a fun event, visiting with a lot of fire lookout, hiking, and Olympia friends. Shared some stories, signed some books, and appreciated everyone coming together briefly, masked, and socially distanced, to celebrate my book.

DECEMBER 7, 2021. LOST FIRE LOOKOUT HIKES AND HISTORIES: OLYMPIC PENINSULA AND WILLAPA HILLS is released for sale by Amazon and by order at your local bookstore.

Monthly hikes for The Olympians Hiking Club, based in Grays Harbor County, including: FEBRUARY 8, 2020.  Led a six-mile round-trip hike to the Humptulips Auxiliary Lookout site in the Quinault Ranger District of the Olympic National Forest for the Olympians Hiking Club. (It is in the book.)

DECEMBER 15, 2019. Led an eight-mile round-trip hike to the Drake Lookout site on Green Diamond Resources land in the Wynoochee River Valley. (It is in the book.)

OCTOBER 11, 2019.  Presented photos and talked about, “GRAYS HARBOR FIRE LOOKOUTS,” for The Olympians Hiking Club in Aberdeen, WA. Answered questions and picked up some interesting stories, too.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2019. Led an eight mile RT hike to the Twin Peak Lookout site, off the Donkey Creek Road, on private and Grays Harbor County Timberlands roads and lands. This included some cross country adventure hiking. (It is in the book.)

JULY 13, 2019. Led a six-mile round-trip hike approaching the Arctic Lookout site. We hiked a Hancock Timber Management road to a Rayonier Timber Company gate above the North River valley. (This is not in the book, as there is no public access to the fire lookout site, about a quarter mile beyond the Rayonier gate.)

APRIL 3, 17, 23; May 21, 2017. Presented an introductory class on Western Washington wildflowers at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Olympia, WA. Two classroom sessions were followed by field trips in the Lake Sylvia State Park and on the Congregation’s grounds.

OCTOBER 3, 2016. Showed and talked about my “TRAVELS IN ICELAND” to the Olympia area PEO club at Panorama, Lacey, WA.  

EACH YEAR: I donate two hikes to fire lookouts or fire lookout sites in the Puget Sound Region, through the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation annual auction. Sites visited in the last few years include: Pinnacle Peak Lookout site (King County), Suntop Lookout (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest), Mount Zion Lookout site (Olympic National Forest), Blue Mountain Lookout site (Olympic National Park), Tolmie Peak Lookout (Mount Rainier National Park). Chapters on Mount Zion and Blue Mountain Lookout sites are in my book.)

THE WEATHERWAX MYSTERY PARTLY RESOLVED:

The two published inventories that I rely on for basic location and historical information disagree on the location of this fire lookout. Ray Kresek’s list reports it in Section 9 of Township 21 North, Range 7 West. Spring and Fish said it was diagonally northwest of Kresek’s location, in section 6 of the same Township and Range.[1] When I started looking into the known details about Weatherwax, I realized I had always followed my hiking club’s traditional route, and looked for Weatherwax lookout artifacts at the feet of a set of communication towers in Section 5, even farther west.

In 2017 I was searching though old maps to resolve a different question and discovered a copy of the Osborne firefinder map for the Weatherwax fire lookout. Right at the top of the page it gives the location: “SW¼ SE ¼ SW¼ S.4 T21 N. R.7 W.”  This can be read as “the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 4 in Township 21 north, Range 7 west.” I had been offered a copy of the old map by a Weyerhaeuser employee in Grays Harbor County a decade before and had accepted it among other old maps “just in case.” I finally knew why.

When I compared the Osborne map with my contemporary maps I realized the fire tower location was clearly within the Olympic National Forest. I had read about state and national lookout staff sharing a tower, but not of any lookouts that were built on the other jurisdiction’s land. But I was able to confirm the lookout tower’s location with former state forest lookout staffer Keith Hoofnagle in 2017. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I knew when I worked there that the tower was on federal land. There was nothing secret about it.”

The tower had been there six years when Keith started work there. Section 4 is clearly in the Olympic National Forest, and always has been. So how did the state fire tower come to be built on federal land? The logical reason is that it has higher elevation than any nearby state or privately owned land and publicly employed foresters worked cooperatively in that era.

The question remains: Why did the two inventories list different incorrect locations? If  I ever figure that out, I will be sure to let you know!.


[1] Ray Kresek, Fire Lookouts of the Northwest; Lookout Inventory,. 2019, p. 24. Ira Spring and Byron Fish, Lookouts; firewatchers of the Cascades and Olympics. 2nd ed., 1996, p.199.

UPDATE ON THE ARCTIC LOOKOUT

(Good News and Bad)

The State (Division of Forestry, at the time) built a 54΄ pole tower with cabin on top on a ridge west of the Artic* townsite in 1948 and took it down in 1973. Until a few years ago, hikers visiting the site followed the first side road leading to it—through a Weyerhaeuser tree farm. When Weyerhaeuser started charging steep recreation fees in the Twin Harbors Tree Farm in Grays Harbor County, hikers looked for another route.

In general terms, the lookout site is located south of Aberdeen and Cosmopolis, west of U.S. Highway 101. To be specific, drive U.S. Highway 101 south past milepost 75 and turn right on Hilliard Lane, just before the North River Bridge. Drive 5.5 miles to the Hancock Forest Management gate that blocks the road, and park. A sign beside the gate welcomes non-motorized recreation beyond that point.

Hike about 0.4 mile and turn right on Forest Road LD4010/EF4213. Follow that route to a Y and continue straight on LD4011/AN4310. This road snakes up to a ridge that provides great views into the North River Valley. The hillside has been harvested, so the landscape presents as a patchwork of forest, fields, narrow roads and streamlines.

About 2.5 miles from the Hancock gate, and a short distance before the spur road leading to the Arctic Lookout site, is another gate. Now for the bad news: in summer 2019 a new sign appeared beside this gate. Rayonier Timber Company now requires a hunting lease for entry here. This area does not appear among the Rayonier properties that can be visited with a 2019 Non-Hunting General Access permit—$135 for a family pass. Perhaps it will next year. You can check their website https://property.rayonierhunting.com/Permits/PermitDetails.aspx to see if that has become available.

            ‘* Are you wondering why there are two spellings of Arctic here? The lookout was named for a little town which locals hoped to name “Arta” for the wife of the town’s founder.[1] Their application for a post office was not clearly written, and Artic was the name that came back from the US Postal Service. The state agency, fifty miles away in Olympia, used the more conventional spelling of the name.


[1] James W. Phillips. Washington State Place Names, 1971. p.9.