Thursday, July 24
This morning, a low ceiling of thick, grey clouds hung over the world just above the lookout obscuring the tip of Baptiste Peak above. It was a cold morning, but a toasty fire in the wood stove kept the lookout warm and cozy. I watched as a curtain of rain moved across the Swan Range descending into the drainages before striking the reservoir. Minutes later, my lookout was engulfed by clouds and rain and my visibility was zero. That’s how it was for my morning weather report. Cyclone Lookout reported clear skies in the North Fork.
In late morning, the rain stopped, the clouds began to lift, and mountain peaks started to re-appear. However, the clouds persisted throughout the day hanging out just above the peaks. The winds began to pick up before noon and whistled around the lookout. The winds this afternoon and evening were 40-50 mph with gusts over the ability of my bulb wind meter to register! Baptiste Lookout is basically a glass-walled cabin on stilts. When a strong gust of wind hits it, it shakes! I have been told that Baptiste is more stable than many of the other tall lookouts. Kjell Petersen, another volunteer lookout, told me that Firefighter Lookout in a strong wind is like “riding a pissed off bull!” He used to hang pots and pans from the ceiling, but when the lookout would shake the pots clanked together and kept him awake, so he took them down.
I was glad to have a fire in the wood stove because the outside temperature stayed around 40 degrees throughout the day and the cold wind found every crack. Scalplock Lookout Bill Fordyce says that you can never be alone if you have a wood stove with a glass door. This wood stove has been my best friend today.
One of the most important parts of my job as a lookout is to scan the landscape every hour for any sign of smoke. On a windy day like today, I give special attention to the places where lightning touched down a few days ago. This wind could fan the flames of smoldering embers.
There have been no visitors to Baptiste Lookout in the past two days. My only contact with other humans has been electronically. Solitude is part of a lookout’s life.
There is a difference between solitude and feeling alone. How can I feel alone in this vast wilderness surrounded by majestic peaks, forest teeming with wild animals, wildflowers of every color, roaring creeks, and clouds in every direction? I am a part of it all……….even as the grizzly or the wolf.