This review is about seven pages long. Here’s what the reviewer liked in the beginning of the book:
Here’s what I noticed within the first few pages of this book Hikers love maps. It’s always gratifying to see a map with numbered hikes, first thing in a guidebook. • It indicates the author is is paying attention to a reader’s desire to hone in on specific hikes. • It also provides an overview of the geographic locations highlighted in the book for those who are unfamiliar with the area.
I noted 59 numbers on a map of western Washington State (Strait of Juan de Fuca south to the Columbia River and west of the I-5 corridor). • These numbers corresponded to 59 hike descriptions. • 59 hikes! That should make any hiker start salivating.
Romer shares “don’t miss” types of information in the preface, including which access passes are required.
I have always enjoyed hiking to the Kelly Lookout site on the Mason ˗ Grays Harbor County border, and wondered where the roads connecting with the hike route go. Knowing the fire lookout station was on a low elevation ridge between the Middle Fork Satsop and the Canyon Rivers, with lots of hills and valleys interspersed, has intrigued me. Maps of the area are spider webbed with gated forest roads, making it an attractive area to hike throughout the year.
The map below shows a 6.5-mile loop route with several side roads (thin black dotted lines) you may want to add to your exploration. Start at the junction of the gated Green Diamond Forest Road 6850 with the main haul road through the area, which has several names and no road signs in 2022. My 2007 National Geographic Topo digital background map labels it the Kelly Road. Washington DNR quadrangle maps of similar vintage label it the 500 Road. I remember seeing a road sign with that number, but I have also seen it called the 6800 Road— a number that is appropriate for the Green Diamond road number system.
Hike up the road from the gate. It soon turns a corner and levels out a bit, then rises again a couple times before reaching the critical Y at about 0.75 mile. Keep right at the Y junction to visit the Kelly Fire Lookout site. Chapter 43 has a more detailed description, if you would like one.
After visiting the fire lookout site with its green painted artifacts, the first option is to continue down the hill to a logging landing which currently has clear views into the valleys east and west. The rivers are not visible, but forested slopes and landscapes shaped by millennia of water carving through rocks and soil spread in all directions.
Return to the Y (where you kept right to visit the Kelly Lookout site). Turn right to continue around the loop. The route is comprised of narrow roads curving through rolling forestland. The curves prevent long views of the road ahead. Tree harvests in this century provide intermittent side views into broad forests as the hike route continues northeast. Self ˗seeded hemlock sprouts border the roadway, along with vigorous salal. The forest is generally a mix of Douglas firs and hemlocks, with occasional cedars and alders.
The next major junction is at a corner with a 6850 road sign on the left. A side road on the right leads southeast, toward the Satsop River. I have not followed that branch. If you do, and it leads to a riverbank, please let me know. The loop route heads north from here.
At K˗1 on the map (coordinates 47° 17′ 07″ N, 123° 29’’35″ W), follow the road left into a shadier section of the forest. The attractive uphill road on the right unfortunately ends in a logging landing in about a quarter mile. Continuing on the main route is a better choice here.
This section of roadway travels northwest, with one surprise in the forest landscape. There is a logger’s memorial on a tree beside the track. A tin logger’s hardhat has been fastened high on a sturdy tree trunk on the right side of the road. It has been there long enough for bark to grow over the hardhat’s rim. A plastic vine with red flowers is draped over tree limbs just below the silver hat. Several other memorabilia, including a date plaque (12˗10˗12), sit at the foot of the broad tree base.
Not far beyond this landmark, the route turns left at a gate and continues a short distance southwest to reach K˗2 on the map. K˗2 marks the junction with a side road on the right that could have a panoramic view west—if a few trees fell or were felled. Only narrow gaps between the trees were found when the 0.4˗mile spur was explored in 2020. Perhaps it has improved.
Turn left at K˗3 to include an interesting decommissioned road in the hike route (at coordinates 47° 17′ 11″ N, 123° 30’’36″ W). The landscape slopes downhill on the left toward an occasionally visible valley, and uphill on the right. The 1.2˗mile road was closed with two sets of berms and ditches. The first set is shallow; walking around the berm and across the depression requires little if any close attention. The second set has higher berms and an eight-foot-deep ditch with a usually thick mud bottom. An eight-foot-long split tree trunk and rocks were left in the winter mud in 2022 as a temporary aid for foot traffic. Cross with caution.
Although we lacked a thermometer to test our intuitive assessment, the last section of the decommissioned road seemed significantly cooler than the rest of the route. In early February 2022 the only patches of snow we saw on the entire hike were beside the road in this part of the route. It does not have the highest elevation on the hike, and it did not appear especially shady, but it was definitely cooler. A look at the map reveals this section of the path parallels an unnamed creek that runs into the Canyon River a half mile west of the Kelly Road. The nearby creek may well contribute to the cooler microclimate experienced here.
The decommissioned road ends on a maintained gravel road which is gated at its junction with the 500 or Kelly Road. Turn left at K˗4 on the map. Hike 0.6 mile to return to the trailhead and your vehicle. Keep an eye out for the creek crossing under the roadway in a forested valley. It is one of the subtle waterways that were the first designers of the area’s interesting landscape
I really love the book. It’s a great one. This book is a welcome addition to my collection of Washington hiking and climbing guides. All of the hikes in this outstanding book lead to remote summits that are off the beaten path yet incredibly accessible. The historical research and maps add background and context to the scenic points and how they were important to the region’s history. –Mike Gauthier, author of Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide
Leslie Romer’s book brings the fire lookout era to life again, as well as offering wisdom and insight from one who not only has visited the sites but taken the time to observe, listen and learn what nature has to say about the past, the present and the future of the forest. There is a wealth of information, knowledge and thought to be found in these pages. –Bryon Monohon, Forks Timber Museum Director
If you’re an admirer of Washington’s fire lookouts, seek off-the-beaten path hiking destinations, and have an appreciation for the state’s colorful logging, conservation, and war time history—you’ll want this guide on your bookshelf and in your pack. —Craig Romano, award winning guidebook author of more than 25 titles
I couldn’t stop reading! Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills is a must-have for anyone interested in fire lookouts, Washington State history and/or hiking. The book combines interesting historic facts with detailed driving directions and trail descriptions. –Tammy McLeod, creator of Fire Lookouts of the West Coloring Book
Author Leslie Romer not only gives the necessary information needed to visit the “lost” lookouts of Washington’s Olympics and Willapa Hills, she has painstakingly researched and updated lookout histories. I am placing my copy of Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills on the shelf next to my well-worn copy of Kresek’s magnum opus, Fire Lookouts of the Pacific Northwest. That’s where it belongs. –Keith Lundy Hoofnagle, Former Olympic Fire Lookout and National Park Service Ranger
When it comes to exploring the hills, doing the research and having knowledgeable contacts, Leslie leads the pack. This long-needed guide from her many site visits provides everything you need to have a wonderful fire lookout experience, even if the lookout building is long gone. The guidebook lays out the history, access and route in excellent detail, prompting the reader to want to go out and explore them. –Eric Willhite, Peakbagger and Fire Lookout Blogger
Leslie Romer performs a major feat of archival research, as well as years of footwork, to come up with this wonderful new contribution to the Northwest’s great-outdoors bookshelf. She spells out exactly how to follow in her footsteps, and she fleshes out the experience with details of both the present plant life and the past—in words and in exhumed photos. –Daniel Mathews, author of Cascadia Revealed: A Guide to the Plants, Animals and Geology of the Pacific Northwest Mountains
This is a magnificent book, written by an experienced hiker and environmentalist. She has specialized in hiking to old fire lookout sites and has now visited more than 500 sites, most of them in Washington State. The book contains extensive overview of 65 lookout sites in Washington´s coastal region, providing historic background as well as practical information and detailed route maps. –Bragi Ragnarsson, Professional Hiking Guide, Reykjavik, Iceland
Part hiking guide and part history book, Leslie Romer’s Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories is a richly detailed account of the long forgotten fire lookouts that once dotted the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills. Romer, a backcountry enthusiast, adeptly guides the reader to the lookouts on trails just waiting to be explored. –John Dodge, author of A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm
It is delightful… Leslie Romer makes a difference ⁓ inspiring a search for our history while exploring our beautiful world. May her readers follow her footsteps and find their own paths. –Molly Erickson, US Forest Service, Retired (44 years)
Sometime in the second half of 2021, free public access to the South Mountain Fire Lookout site through the surrounding private forest lands was eliminated by the Green Diamond Company. Until sometime that year, the long bicycling and hiking route to South Mountain, the southernmost peak of the Olympics, has been accessible from the Shelton˗Matlock Road, year round. Until this autumn, the forestland gates at that main road, and within the tree farm have been opened, allowing cars and trucks to drive to a gate four miles from the 3000-foot South Mountain summit, during the September through December hunting seasons. From there it has always been an enjoyable hike to the top.
Without any announcement beyond their website, Green Diamond developed and published new access maps for their forestlands in Mason and Grays Harbor Counties in 2021 (NEW – Grays Harbor/Mason County). The previous practice of press releases published in local newspapers, and listed on the company website News page: (https://www.greendiamond.com/news) was not followed. This information was probably shared within the company, and with current Recreational Access Permit holders. In the past, the public affairs office answered the phone for questions. This year no one answered the phone or returned my call to ask about the new maps.
“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills” by Leslie Romer
Our state’s rainy western flanks might not be first place you’d look for fire lookouts, but local hiker and author Leslie Romer has documented over 60 current and former lookout sites between the mouth of the Columbia River and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Part history book and part guidebook, Romer combines years of ground-truthing with detailed, archival research to bring these oft-forgotten sites to life. “Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” lays out all the background you need to start planning your summer adventures around the Olympic Peninsula and find some truly off-the-beaten path locales.
For the physically active history fan, the newest addition to the local written record is Leslie Romer’s “Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills.” Released only last week, this 330-page softback is packed with historical geography detailing 66 individual hikes to the fire lookouts that once dotted our region. The hikes themselves were chosen for being accessible to the public and range from a half mile to twenty one miles in length. While few of the lookouts remain, Romer has done exhaustive research to locate where they once stood and has created a lasting record of this once crucial network of early warning stations. With many dating to World War II and ranging from the Columbia River to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and everywhere in between (a majority here in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties), each hike is detailed for historical context as well as for geographical accessibility. The cartography is excellent and this book is highly illustrated with historic photos. $22.95 softback.
OUR COAST WEEKEND Arts and Entertainment Weekly, January 11, 2022. Astoria, OR
For all of you who have dreams of getting out into nature more in 2022, here are two new books that will encourage you to do so!
“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” offers over 60 hikes to fire lookout sites throughout the Willapa Hills and the Olympic Peninsula. In researching these destinations, Olympia, Washington, author Leslie Romer proves to be not just a doughty hiker but also a veritable scholar.
But before you get to the section of the book that details the hikes, please read the 11 pages of preface. These contain smart advice that Romer wants to convey to anyone following in her footsteps, things like: make sure you know who owns the land where you’ll be hiking, and get the proper permits ahead of time; know the etiquette you should practice when encountering wild animals; and, don’t skimp on the Ten Essentials.
Heeding this counsel will lead to a better experience once you actually hit the trails.
Following this introduction, Romer has prepared at-a-glance tables that summarize the hikes by distance, elevation gain, seasonal access and more.
Then you’ll get to the actual hike descriptions. Each entry methodically includes an overview, driving directions to the trailhead, a map and detailed directions for the hike.
Romer also combed through archival records and pored over old maps and written guides to provide mini-histories of each site and even information about some of the folks who once staffed and supplied these lookouts. These included a Disney illustrator, a famous female horse packer, and — during World War II — Aircraft Warning Service spotters.
“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” provides destinations that are off the beaten path.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest.
In October 2019 I organized a slide show about local fire lookouts for The Olympians Hiking Club in Aberdeen. I planned to share photos and what I knew and remembered from visiting all of the lookout sites in Grays Harbor County. Almost all of the historic fire lookouts there had been eradicated—with almost all signs of their existence removed before twenty-first century visitors arrived on the scene.
On my list was the Raft Lookout site, which I had hiked to several times in 2008-2010. I wasn’t including it in my book, because maps now show its location on the Quinault Indian Reservation, and the tribe no longer offers recreation permits for access on their lands.
To gather a little history for my presentation, I looked in the lookout inventories published in the 1980s. I noticed that Raft is listed in Byron Fish and Ira Spring’s Lookouts; Fire Watchers of the Olympics and Cascades, but does not appear in either of Ray Kresek’s books about lookouts published in the 20th century. Fish and Spring list Raft lookout under the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, Quinault Ranger District. It describes it as a “Lookout shown on Forest Service map and not on USGS.” They located it in “Township 23 Range 11W Section 12, 10 mi. NW of Amanda Park.’
At some point, based on the research of volunteer historians and lookout hunters like me, Raft’s name was added to the updated lookout lists in both the 2015 and 2019 editions of Kresek’s Fire Lookouts of the Northwest; Lookout Inventory Revised. The line for Raft says only “Raft… (see Salmon River).”
That surprised me, as I think of Raft as a federal fire lookout and Salmon River as state, so I pulled out my older maps of the region. Some have accumulated on our bookshelves along with hike guidebooks since we moved here in the 1970s, a few were gifts from older friends when they were downsizing, and one prize 1960 Quinault District Firemans [sic] Map had been sent to answer my questions about another fire lookout site. Several of these maps show Raft as a forest service lookout in 1960 through 1976 at least, and Salmon River as a state lookout—just as they are both listed in the Fish and Spring book. At the talk, I had no photo of Raft Lookout to show, and only my map discoveries to support my scanty knowledge of Raft’s existence.
There wasn’t a large crowd for my Olympian slideshow, but a number of people stayed after the presentation to ask questions and share memories. I had hiked with more than half of the people in the room, so I anticipated hiking memories, and few questions. I was a little surprised when a frequent hiking companion from Elma mentioned that he remembered seeing the Raft Fire Lookout. He had worked for the Olympic National Forest several summers in the late 1960s, based at the Matheny Forest Service Work Camp. The Camp was located a few miles north of the Raft lookout, on Forest Road 240 (I think it is FR 21 on current maps) at the Jefferson County line.
The Raft Ridge Lookout, as he knew it, was one that his crew checked on regularly. He remembered there had been a house trailer on the site in 1968, ‘69 and 1970. His other clear memory was looking down on the Lone Mountain Lookout tower, across US Highway 101 to the southeast, in the Quinault Indian Reservation. The Raft Fire Lookout, even without a tower sat at 1600΄ or 1700΄ elevation, while the Lone Mountain Tower added a 90΄ metal tower to its 1173΄ hilltop elevation.
The combination of symbols on maps and the memories of an elder forest worker resolved the Raft Lookout question for me. Byron Fish and Ira Spring were correct to trust the US Forest Service map when they included Raft as a federal Forest Service fire lookout in their 1983 book.
That left one related mystery for me—how, when and why was the land that had included both the Raft and Salmon River Fire Lookouts transferred to the Quinault Indian Nation? I recently learned the area was known as the North Boundary Expansion Area.
… But that is a story for another day.
 Ray Kresek, Fire Lookouts of Oregon & Washington, 1985 and Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 1984.
 Fish and Spring, p. 197.  Kresek, 2015 and 2019, p. 23.
 Ray Kresek, Fire Lookouts of Oregon & Washington, 1985 and Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 1984.
 Quinault Ranger District, Olympic National Forest, Firemans [sic] Map, 1960; Olympic National Forest map, 1972; Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest. 1977.
 The Salmon River Lookout is documented elsewhere as in use from 1960 until about 1995.
 Byron Fish and Ira Spring. Lookouts; Fire Watchers of the Olympics and Cascades, 3rd edition, 1998, pp 197, 199.
 After several attempts, I reached Lone Mountain’s partly overgrown metal tower in September 2007. The tower was visible to travelers driving south on Highway 101 until 2012, when it was taken down for safety reasons.
•Where are all these lookouts? • What are you working on right now? • What else have you written? • And when you are not writing? • And?
•Where are all these lookouts?
I have visited over 500 fire lookout sites and standing fire lookout towers and cabins, mostly in the western US. More than 360 of them are in Washington State. Oregon: 68, Arizona: 23, New Mexico: 18, Pennsylvania: 10, California: 8, Idaho: 6, Montana: 5. Many of the lookout sites I have visited in Washington state are on private forest land which is no longer freely accessible to the public.
• What are you working on right now?
I am writing a guide to the fire lookouts and lookout sites on the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills—in other words, Washington State west of Puget Sound and Interstate 5. It includes extensive historical notes, as well as directions for driving to the trailheads and finding the sites. It includes all the lookouts and sites currently accessible without purchasing a recreation or hunting permit to private timberland.
•What else have you written?
I completed the text for a Guide to Iceland’s Volcanoes, with their Stories a few years ago. Its Introduction earned recognition for me as a finalist in the 2015 Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual competition for non-fiction. More recently I have written hike descriptions for the Washington Trails Association on-line hike guidebook, as well as hike reports for http://www.WTA.org. My trail name is Leslie in Oly.
• And when you are not writing?
I like to hike two or three days a week. I have led many small group multiday hike trips to fire lookouts in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as volcanoes in Iceland. Recently my multiday hiking trips have been with a few friends, and I often lead local day hikes for two hiking clubs in the Olympia area. The hikes of The Olympian Hiking Club are open to the public. You can find those hikes on my Events page.
There is always another interesting corner of the globe to visit. Occasionally my husband, Henry, and some of our extended family (Geordie, Keith, Allyson, Mallory and Hope) travel with me.
Covid-19 has made me appreciate the freedom and mobility that I have so enjoyed, living in western Washington State. Staying home has given me more time to write and work on other projects at home. I am even doing more exploratory cooking than usual! And yet, my list of fire lookout sites to visit, or revisit to clarify some minor point, is growing. That certainly feels like essential travel to me! (mid-April 2020)
• How did you get so interested in Iceland? • Have you been to Iceland much? • Did you publish your book about Iceland? • What else have you written? • Do you do talks about travel in Iceland? • And when you are not writing? • And?
How did you get so interested in Iceland?
I went on a summer hiking tour in August 2007 and knew I wanted to see more of that amazing landscape. After a few trips I realized that the landscape is entirely volcanic, and that is the key to understanding what I am seeing. When I started learning about the volcanoes’ history, I heard and read folktales and historic anecdotes about them, too.
Have you been to Iceland much?
I spent a couple weeks in Iceland every year from 2007 through 2017. I explored new areas on each trip, which is pretty cool since the island isn’t all that big. I was in Reykjavik for a few days each of the last few years. In September 2018 I was with a Viking Cruise “In the Wake of the Vikings.” In late summer 2019 my husband, Henry, and I stayed in Reykjavik in transit between Greenland and Newfoundland, visiting Viking settlement sites in those Western Atlantic locations.
Did you publish your book about Iceland?
No, I did complete a manuscript for a book on Iceland’s volcanoes and their stories a few years ago. Despite the book’s Introduction earning me Finalist status in the 2015 Pacific Northwest Writers Association non-fiction writers contest, the book gained no interest from publishers. The inability to get permission to include photos of historical volcanic eruptions in a self-published book was the final straw. The manuscript is on the shelf. Its currency aging with each new eruption and visitors center opening. The text includes stories about each of the volcanoes because they help distinguish the geologic features—and because the tales are important to Icelandic culture.
I love to share my photos and information about Iceland and its culture. I have given slideshows to outdoor clubs, libraries and senior centers. If you would like me to speak to your group, let me know and let’s see what we can work out.
And when you are not writing?
As you might suspect from the non-Iceland posts, I love to hike and explore the outdoors—mostly in the Pacific Northwest. When there is decent snow, I enjoy Nordic skiing. I don’t bike and paddle as much as I would like. And I dream about more international travel!
My husband blogs about creative solutions to the weight of backpacking equipment. We don’t have any pets but I do have visitation privileges to a herd of Icelandic sheep and a great view of the Independence Valley from the ridge where my Icelandic tutor lives.
Monthly hikes for The Olympians Hiking Club, based in Grays Harbor County:
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2022 NEW PINNACLE PEAK LOOKOUT TOWER NEAR ENUMCLAW. Hike less than four miles RT with 1150 feet elevation gain to the newest lookout tower in western Washington. Leave me a comment with your contact info for more information. Full vaccination is required to join us on this hike.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19, 2022 KELLY LOOKOUT SITE HIKE EXTENDED. We will meet in Montesano to caravan to hike lonely Green Diamond forest roads on the border of Mason and Grays Harbor Counties. About 7 miles RT and under 1000 feet elevation gain. Leave me a comment with your contact info for more information. Full vaccination is required to join us on this hike.
PAST PUBLIC EVENTS:
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.
SATURDAY, DEC 18 LOST LAKE AWS STATION SITE
This is a good winter hike on PORT BLAKELY TREE FARM ROADS, through rolling hills with possible views of the SATSOP TOWERS. 5 miles RT. It is in the 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 Lookoutsite. 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.)