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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

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.