Category Archives: Forest Fire Lookouts

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT HIKE UPDATE

HIKE SUMMARY: This is a good example of hikes in the Capitol State Forest. There are several ways to reach the destination; each involves numerous junctions and a few road crossings. Trail conditions come and go, as do the well-intended trail signs. The trails to Rock Candy Mountain are shared with bicycles all year, and motorized bikes May through November. Despite these drawbacks, the views of snow-topped Cascade and Olympic peaks can be wonderful, and sections of the forest are truly beautiful. The convenience of the hike to the state capitol area cannot be beat.

Round trip Distance High Point Elevation Gain Season
6.4 miles 2364 feet 1700 feet Year-round; Best: April
A Discover Pass is required

GETTING THERE

  • From Interstate 5 in Olympia, exit to US Highway 101 northbound.
  • Drive west 5.8 miles and keep left on State Route 8, where US Highway 101 turns north.
  • Pass milepost 17. Get in the left lane to exit left.
  • A road sign indicates a left turn to the Rock Candy Mountain Road and a right turn to Summit Lake. Pull into the median left turn lane and cross the two eastbound lanes to enter the Capitol State Forest.
  • Drive a short distance and park in the parking lot on the right, or adjacent to it during the winter season when the lot is gated.
  • The trailhead is across the road from the parking lot.

HIKING ROUTE: Cross the road to a clearly marked trailhead for the Rock Candy and North Rim #1 trails. Do not let the trail names draw you in. The route that starts with the North Rim #1 Trail offers the most direct hiking path to Rock Candy Mountain. The route of the Rock Candy Trail is more than 2 miles longer and goes to the same destination. The 0.1-mile trail shared by the two routes briefly crosses open land before entering the forest. In winter 2022, the trail and land between the trail and creek showed clear signs of flooding that scoured the trail and forest floor.

The trail splits under the trees, with the Rock Candy Trail crossing an attractive bridge and heading east. The North Rim #1 Trail heads south into a mixed forest without any enticements beyond a well-maintained walking surface. The route’s first road crossing appears at 0.33 mile.

A sign before the road indicates the non-motorized trail ends here. About 100 feet into the trail across the road is a narrow brown sign confirming the North Rim #1 Trail’s continuation. A few corners later, the trail turns south and passes a recently replanted area with two spindly groves of seed trees offering filtered views of the south Olympics and western Capitol Forest.

At 0.8 mile, turn left (east) at a 3-way intersection. The sign here in early 2022 says North Rim Trail continues east and west. Maps indicate the North Rim Trail continues west from this point, not continuing toward Rock Candy Mountain.At 1.16 miles cross another section of old forest road whose use is now reserved for two-wheeled, horse, and hiking traffic. The shared trail starts with concrete trail support blocks, necessary for the heavy wheeled traffic. This fortunately leads to what is currently the prettiest section of trail ascending the west slope to the Rock Candy Mountain Lookout site.

The route climbs the hill in moderately steep zigzags, with more and more of the Olympic Mountains appearing as you ascend. The evergreens are tall here, making them subject to future timber harvest projects. The forest currently contains a mixture of conifers and low shrubs, with hedges of Oregon grape, sword ferns, and other native flowering and evergreen plants often bordering the trail.

At 1.8 miles, the trail ends just past a Divide Trail North sign. Turn right on a drivable road currently identified as the Divide Trail North on Capitol Forest maps. The west slope of this section of the ridge was harvested, 2018˗2021, offering broader views in that direction. In a short distance there are additional wooden signs on the left side of the road, identifying the destinations of downhill trails as Waddell Creek and Porter Creek.

Continue on the broad gravel road as it gradually becomes steeper, turns right, then left. At 2.5 miles it reaches a grand viewpoint offering Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens to the east, and a panoramic forested landscape at your feet.

The elevation is about 1700 feet, indicating that most of the elevation gain for the hike has been completed. After admiring the view from the road edge, cross the gravel to a fairly steep bank marked with informal trails. In 2021 several former trails resolved into one shared by hikers, bikers, and dirt bikes. Ten to twelve feet above the road this informal way-trail levels out and wanders through open forest. The route ascends very gradually at first, becoming steeper after 0.25 mile, when it approaches an area with sky visible above young trees.

The clearing is a road end; the road continues the gradual elevation increase for another 0.15 mile. When the road you are hiking veers to the right, take the trail opening in tall salal on the left side of the road, continuing the straight route. Follow the trail through salal and forest for little more than a 0.1 mile, where it emerges at a hilltop road end.

This is the top of Rock Candy Mountain and the site of its fire lookout. The curiously named hill offers panoramic views west and north, over many miles of forest to the Olympics and possible glimpses of the southern bays of Puget Sound. Most of the timbered acreage between here and the Pacific Ocean, and south to the Columbia River, is privately owned. There are only eight publicly accessible fire lookout sites outside of Capitol Forest in the Willapa Hills. Almost all you can see is commercial timber—private tree farms—grown to be harvested repeatedly with little regard for ecosystem health or wildlife.[1]


[1] This opinion echoes that of Robert Michael Pyle in his award-winning book about the Willapa Hills, Wintergreen, Listening to the Land’s Heart.

ALTERNATE MASON LAKE LOOKOUT SITE HIKE


This is offered as an easier route than Hike 35 in Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills. It is still a short, low elevation, year round hike.

Drive to the junction of the Mason˗Benson Road and East Trails Road. Turn right on East Trails Road and drive almost one mile to a gated gravel road on the right. Park near Green Diamond gate number 2385.

Start your hike up the moderately sloped road beside Sherwood Creek. Trees have been retained close to the creek to protect water quality, offering a healthy mixed forest of cedars, hemlock, and fir on the left side of the hiking route. Keep left at the first Y, continuing to parallel the creek, which burbles audibly in winter and spring. Enjoy occasional views of the water, flowing broadly between thick grassy banks.

The road curves to the right (east southeast) at about 0.6 mile, tracing the water course that has gained a swampy patch featuring swamp lanterns (also known as skunk cabbage), before disappearing into dense forest.


At 0.8 mile the hike route turns southwest, away from the creek. After another quarter mile, take a grassy branch road to the right, continuing the moderate ascent through the tree farm. At 1.33 miles, this road ends at a logging landing on the top of a 260-foot-tall hill. Fortunately, the route’s continuation is visible a few hundred yards away, on the next small hill to the southwest. This short section of the road was half-heartedly covered with logging debris after the last harvest here, around 2018. Step over the small downed limbs, and continue your hike. Descending from the second hillock, a crossroad appears in a few hundred yards. When you reach it at 1.7 miles, turn right.


The original route turns left at the next junction, crosses a culvert, then climbs the next ridge on an old jeep track through evergreen huckleberry bushes and young fir trees. Instead, this alternate route continues on the narrow road headed north northeast for another quarter mile, then turns left at the next road junction, to hike southwest between conifers planted in the 21st century. This road’s border includes alder, manzanita, and scotch broom among its young fir trees.


After traveling about 0.4 mile to the southwest, turn left uphill on a narrow but drivable track. Hike a short distance to the viewpoint at the end of the road. No artifacts of the old fire lookout building have been found here, but the high point of this area is beside the ridge-climbing road, at 362 feet elevation. The high point’s coordinates are 47.3473°, ˗122.9145°. The best views are found here too. The view east offers a grand panorama of Mount Rainier and the Cascades. The western horizon features Mounts Elinor and Washington’s snowy peaks, among the Olympics’ rocky skyline.

When satisfied, descend the narrow road and turn right to complete the loop. Bypass a lesser road headed west on the left, but take the next left turn at a T. In another 0.1 mile, turn left again on the road that runs beside Sherwood Creek. You have completed the loop; the trailhead is just 0.15 mile ahead.

Lengthy Review of LOST FIRE LOOKOUT HIKES AND HISTORIES … on WWW.HIKING FOR HER.COM

https://www.hiking-for-her.com › lost-fire-lookout-hikes-and-histories-book-review.html

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.

This review was posted in February, 2022.

KELLY LOOKOUT HIKE EXTENSION

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

Prepublication Reviews

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)

BAD NEWS FOR SOUTH MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT HIKERS

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.  

Continue reading

THE SKETCHY HISTORY OF THE RAFT FIRE LOOKOUT

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.[1] 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.’[2]

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).”[3]

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[4] show Raft as a forest service lookout in 1960 through 1976 at least, and Salmon River[5] as a state lookout—just as they are both listed in the Fish and Spring book.[6] 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.

A section of the 1960 Quinault Ranger District Firemans map, marking the locations of fire lookouts in the Olympic National Forest and Quinault Indian Reservation with black triangles with white centers: Raft River Ridge and Higley Peak in the national forest, and Lone Mtn. on the reservation. This map lacks a legend interpreting the symbols used.

1972 Olympic National Forest map, showing the locations of the Raft Lookout (hexagon), Raft National Geodetic survey marker (triangle), the Salmon River Lookout (triangle within a hexagon) in the Olympic National Forest (green), and Lone Mtn. survey marker (triangle) within the Quinault Indian Reservation (pink). Fire lookout symbols were not included in the Olympic Forest and Park map legends in the 1970s or later.
1977 Olympic National Forest, Olympic National Park map, showing the locations of the Raft Lookout (hexagon), Raft National Geodetic survey marker (triangle), the Salmon River Lookout (triangle within a hexagon) in the Olympic National Forest (green), and Lone Mtn. survey marker (triangle) in the Quinault Indian Reservation (pink). Fire lookout symbols were not included in the Olympic Forest and Park map legends in the 1970s or later.

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,[7] 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.

[1] Ray Kresek, Fire Lookouts of Oregon & Washington, 1985 and Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 1984.

[2] Fish and Spring, p. 197. [1] Kresek, 2015 and 2019, p. 23.

[3] Ray Kresek, Fire Lookouts of Oregon & Washington, 1985 and Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 1984.

[4] Fish and Spring, p. 197.

[5] Kresek, 2015 and 2019, p. 23.

[6] Quinault Ranger District, Olympic National Forest, Firemans [sic] Map, 1960; Olympic National Forest map, 1972; Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest. 1977.

[7] The Salmon River Lookout is documented elsewhere as in use from 1960 until about 1995.

[8] Byron Fish and Ira Spring. Lookouts; Fire Watchers of the Olympics and Cascades, 3rd edition, 1998, pp 197, 199.

[9] 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.



					

Fire Lookout FAQ

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

•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?

 In 2022 I published Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills, a guide to the fire lookouts and lookout sites in that region—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. I would like to be visiting libraries, museums, and other venues where I can talk about this book. I am looking forward to opportunities to do this soon.

As the Mount Rainier Region, or central Cascade Mountain Range, is another hiking area near my home in Olympia, I have resumed visiting fire lookouts and lookout sites in that region, drafting their hike descriptions, and collecting their histories. I am delighted that a new lookout tower has been built on Pinnacle Peak, and the High Rock Lookout cabin is being restored!

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.

And?

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 gave me more time to write and work on other projects at home. I have even been paying more attention to the flowers in our garden! Hiking, however, is the core of my wellness program—both physical and mental. I expect I will continue to hike and write about my discoveries as long as I am able.

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.