Friday, October 8, 2010


One night there was a storm a fair distance from my tower. I could see the lightning, but I could not hear the thunder.

Most lightening is what we call “sheet lightening,” that is the lightning was flashing within the clouds. It makes a lot of light and sometimes big bangs but is harmless, at least as far as fires are concerned.

It is when the lightning comes down to the ground, and “strikes” the ground that a fire can be started. Sometimes these strikes are over in a fraction of an instant, and sometimes the bolt of lightening seems to grab the ground and shake it. It seems that those kinds of strikes last a long time, of course, they are still very short duration.

It was late at night, but I had seen the storm and was sitting up watching it’s progress.

Then FLASH. It was one of those hot strikes that hits and shakes, and when it was was over, there was a little red glow. A forest fire had been started. Fire policy has changed through the years, but at that point we put out all fires.

I phoned the dispatcher, gave them a reading and told him that the fire was about 1/2 mile from the lookout tower on that mountain.

The lookout guy was sleeping. I guess he was a sound sleeper, he slept through the whole storm. In fact, the fire crew arrived a couple of hours later, and woke him up! Not a good way to impress the boss.

I reported the fire as being 5/8 acre, which was a guess, since I was at least 30 miles away. We had a chart and some instructions, so it was not a total guess. Turned out my estimate was pretty close.

That was one of the highlights of the summer, which is another way to say that for the most part, sitting on a lookout tower can be VERY boring.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I stole this image.
Lightening is pretty tricky to photograph. Rarely will a strike be close enough to you but that a telephoto lens will be needed, which i did not have. Then there is the randomness of lightening.
One way was to aim the camera the direction that had activity, open the lens and see what happens.
On a tower where the area of concern might be 20 to 30 miles in each direction that was a LOT of area to point a camera.
The Cabinet range of mountains along the montana/idaho border filled by view to the West, and Glacier Park to the East.
Canada was within vision distance, but there were no prominent mountains within view, so we weren't sure what we were looking at!


Sitting (that is what we called it) on a lookout could be boring.

One guy on a mountain over from me spent part of the summer watching the clock, until they took him off the tower.

You had to be able to entertain yourself. The Forest Service radios rain off batteries which were replaced each year. Under each bunk was a battery box of considerable size. But the batteries from last year could be used for whatever the occupant wanted. I had a small tube radio that ran off batteries and I had jury rigged it so I could get the volts I needed from a batter two or three times bigger than my radio!

But it was the storms that I looked forward to.

I decided that I was in as safe a place as they could provide, so I accepted that and forgot about danger.

The real close storms were the real joy. It will raise your blood pressure to see the lightning and hear the loud thunder at the same time.

(Light goes very fast, but sound lumbers along at about 600 miles an hour and we were taught that figured out to about a mile a second. So, if you saw lightening and you counted slowly it would tell you how close the lightening had been. The kicker is that you could only hear the sound for about 20 miles).

In the three years I was on a tower I only got hit by lightening once. It was a powerful experience. It was night, the wind was howling. Everything that was not secured went away. (We were to be ready for a storm always!). And, BOOM.

Mountain thunder storms go away as fast as they arrive, and in a few minutes it was over.

The first night on my first tower, I was a couple weeks past 18, I was frightened. Then i began thinking. I will trust my big God to look after me and I will trust the Forest Service people, and I will enjoy my time.

And, that is exactly what i did.

Monday, October 4, 2010

summer jobs

My sister sent me a picture of the Fire Lookout tower she was on in the early 60’s. It was near Seattle.

That got me thinking and looking.

I found pictures of the three lookout towers I was on up in the upper left corner of Montana. I found a few pictures, but they are old, and my guess is that Kenelty, at least, is not standing any longer.

Those were three good summers. I was 18 the first year, a 19 year old groom the second and the third I was a 21 year old father!

We took a few pictures then, precious few, but at this moment I have no idea where they are.

I'll look!


The top picture is the current tower on Calx Mountain near Libby Montana. I was there the summer after I turned 18. The tower I lived in was a wood tower 60 feet high, as I remember. This steel tower was moved here in the 70'. To get there you had to take a forest service road 20 or 30 miles from the ranger station and then hike 7 miles.

The lower picture is Kenelty Peak, our honeymoon tower. This picture was taken 15 years ago, i doubt if anything is still standing. To get to this tower you drove 8 or 10 miles from the ranger station and then hiked 3 miles, there was no road. The year before a packrat had gotten into the living quarters and made a huge mess. I was sent up to clean it up before I went over to Calx Mountain. Later that same summer, the guy on this tower was drafted into the army and i went back for the last 3 weeks of the season.
I want to go back and visit this spot this next summer.

The middle picture is of Meadow Peak lookout. The tower was a brand new tower that year. To the east we looked into Glacier National park. We skipped a year after our honeymoon, Miriam was pregnant, and went on this tower the following summer with our oldest daughter, who learned to walk on the tower!
I read that the tower is still manned, and other pictures suggest that is is used as a communications center, with several large antennas around the site.

The Ranger Station we worked out of has been abandoned I read. Raven Ranger Station will always be a good memory.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Richter Uzur Duo

Of course, I stole the photo!
I liked them enough to buy the CD!
Don't do that often!


We went to a concert Saturday night: cello and guitar.

The guitarist was born in the same Oklahoma town as my Biodad. The Cellist was from the old Yugoslavia. One studied music in Moscow (Russia, not Idaho), the other in several US Universities.

They met in a little college town Utah.

That was a few years ago. They are young, maybe mid 30’s, and are extremely eclectic in their music taste. Their music reflects a good bit of talent, but also a huge amount of hard work.

Sometimes when I hear someone do music quite well (not professional, but good) I thank them for taking the time to get good enough to bring enjoyment to others. Many people are exposed to music, but it does not “take” for all of the.

That is not all bad, the world needs listeners as well as performers, but I still admire those who play an instrument (a voice is an instrument) and do it well.

Here is a video of them:

Here is one of the songs they did tonight.