Sunday, July 27
The day dawned clear and bright. Breakfast was a festive occasion this morning with friends who had stayed overnight. Suzanne cooked pancakes with the huckleberries that she and Richard had picked on their way up the day before. They had packed in butter and maple syrup to top it off. The pancakes tasted so good that we all ate way too many!
When we were all sitting around talking in the lookout last evening, Richard had casually drawled “Don’t ya think you should call in that smoke over there?” With a look of shock on my face, I jumped up to look where he was pointing…….until I realized that he was yanking my chain. Richard entertained us with stories about clearing the Baptiste helispot 49 years ago during his first season with the Forest Service. Later that summer, he and some other guys who were stationed at Betty Creek decided to hike up to Baptiste Lookout after dark with only one headlamp. They slept a few hours in the lookout and hiked back down to go to work at 8am. This story reminded us about how crazy we were as young people.
This morning, we had a debate about the name Baptiste. While Suzanne and Bill thought that Baptiste was the name of Sacajawea’s husband, Richard and I insisted that it was the name of her baby. When we looked it up on the Internet, the former high school history teachers (Richard and I) won the debate. As a big fan of Native American history, I liked the idea that the mountain was named for Sacajawea’s son.
Suzanne wanted to follow me through every step of preparing the morning weather report. She clicked pictures during the entire process including when I was reporting the weather over the radio at 10:00.
When everyone got packed up to hike out, I was sorry to see them go. They had filled my lookout with happiness and laughter and stories. There was much to do after they left because we had used almost every dish, utensil, and pot to cook and eat our dinner and breakfast! After the chores were finished, I settled back into my solitude.
The solitude did not last. In mid-afternoon, two hikers made it to the lookout and they shared the story of Baptiste. According to them, Baptiste was a French mountain man who lived in this area in a small log cabin in the late 1800’s. He discovered enough gold to go back to France and live it up for awhile. When his money was gone, he returned to his cabin and died of starvation one winter. His gravesite is marked on many Forest Service maps as “Baptiste Grave” and the mountain bears his name. Many have tried to find the place where Baptiste found gold, but no one has.
I was expecting a pack string in late evening bringing building materials for roof repairs. Rich, the packer, had called earlier to tell me that he was bringing family members along and asked if they could tour the lookout. Six pack mules and six mules and horses carrying riders showed up around 9pm. While Rich unloaded tools and materials, I invited two mothers and three children into the lookout. They were very excited about being in a real lookout and asked many questions. The group would be camping below in Silver Basin.
As the setting sun painted the sky with every shade of red possible, they left me to get back to their camp before dark. I was once again left in solitude and quiet in my glass lookout on top of the world.