2017 Day Three as a Volunteer Fire Lookout, Tuesday July 18

By | July 22, 2017

Smoky morningThe sounds of a wolf pack baying over a carcass greeted me this morning.  Their melodies bounced around the surrounding mountains in the clear mountain air.  A few coyotes began yipping in the distance as though in answer to the chorus.  It was a quiet morning with the valley full of smoke that had drifted in from somewhere else.  The wolf songs floated up to me from around Cyclone Lake as I stood on the catwalk in my pajamas in the warm morning sunshine eating my breakfast (yogurt with fresh strawberries from my garden) from a handmade ceramic bowl.  The singing wolves continued their concert off and on for well over an hour as I delighted in each encore and basked in the sunshine.

During the morning weather reports, I livened everything up by saying that there was SNOW in the valley when I meant to say SMOKE.  When I corrected my mistake, Dispatch laughingly said to not worry because we will have snow soon enough!  I guess that was just wishful thinking on my part.  The next lookout to give his weather report could barely contain his amusement.  I thought, “Gosh, I really am trying to be a ‘real’ lookout!”

Students in "The Woods Project"

Late in the morning, I heard a whoop from the trail and saw a group of teenagers emerge from the woods carrying backpacks.  From the catwalk, I called down and discovered that they were there with Glacier Institute.  Sixteen high school young people from Houston with their adult sponsors, guides from Glacier Institute, and reporters from the Missoulian gathered below the Lookout.  I invited them to tour the Lookout in groups of 6.  With each group, I described the lookout job and the tools that we use followed by questions and answers.  They were an amazing group of smart, articulate, polite young people involved in “The Woods Project.”  It was delightful interacting with them.  I was inspired by their eager, young faces and their apparent interest in everything around them.  Each of them individually thanked me for taking time with them.

Following this group, I was visited by fellow volunteer lookouts, Steve and Barb Penner, and their friends from Kansas.  They brought me a special treat–a big bag of sliced watermelon!  Steve and Barb will be working on Baptiste Lookout starting the end of July and Barb will be on Cyclone in late August.

The rest of the afternoon passed quietly.  The haze of smoke from somewhere else persisted throughout the day.  I continued to look for smoke on Cerulean Ridge, as requested by Numa Lookout, where a lightning strike had happened three days ago.  Nothing.

After evening check-in, I had permission to hike out and return home to attend the annual Summer Interlocal meeting at the North Fork Community Hall the following day.  This is an important meeting attended by landowners and representatives from all of the agencies (Flathead Forest Service, Glacier National Park, Fish Wildlife and Parks, etc.) who manage resources in the North Fork.  As President of the North Fork Preservation Association, which is hosting this year, I will be presiding over the meeting.

My hike back to my truck was uneventful although I enjoyed seeing the progress of the huckleberries along the trail.  There were not any ripe ones yet.

Watering the garden

It was great to be home to water my garden and make chili and salad for the Interlocal meeting. This was a good time to be absent from the Lookout because the weather was calm (no lightning!) and there were no fires in the North Fork to monitor.

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