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.

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