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by Diane Spicer
This Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts book review presents a novel approach for hikers of any age and ability level.
Let's get one potential point of confusion cleared up right away:
Keep reading to pick up some fresh ideas for Washington hiking destinations which combine state history and amazing panoramic views.
Hiking For Her offered to write this book review.
A copy of Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts by Amber Casali was provided, free of charge, by Mountaineers Books.
For your personal copy, visit Mountaineers Books here.
When people ask why I choose to live and hike in the Pacific NW, this is the answer I give them:
The photos in this book are going to tantalize you with some of these stunning vistas and viewpoints.
Of course, there are varying degrees of sweat and muscle power involved in earning the reward of a sweeping view from atop a lookout.
But you'll know ahead of time just how many energy bars to pack, because the author of Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts is very clear about the round trip distance and elevation gain to reach each lookout tower.
She highlights this important information at the beginning of the book, in a chart entitled "Lookouts At A Glance".
The best way to scratch a combined history and hiking itch?
Use this book as a guide to plot your summer hiking adventures with an eye toward Washington history:
You'll also find out which of a handful of towers are still being used today.
Another way to multi-task?
Work as a fire lookout by day (see the long list of weekly chores detailed in the book).
Write poetry and novels during the hours of darkness.
These names might ring a bell as folks who did exactly that:
I can hear you thinking:
"How can I stay overnight in a lookout?"
This book has the answer!
The author splits the fire lookout hikes into 4 big state regions, and provides a large map to help you differentiate the boundaries:
Use the map to set up your hiking destinations.
Spend the summer and early fall chipping away at the list, when low (or absent) snow levels allow you to access each lofty lookout.
It might also be fun to choose an area you don't normally explore within Washington State.
The easy to use map will help you set up a hiking itinerary, and revise it on the fly to accommodate weather conditions.
It seems quaint today to think about this job description:
one human being*
unafraid of lightning or heights
to carry supplies & food
up to a craggy vantage point
and spend the weeks of high summer
watching for smoke on the horizon.
*usually male, with exceptions such as Hallie M. Daggett
Not so quaint in light of the recent devastating fire seasons in Western states!
Fire lookouts are once again an important tool in the human endeavor to fight forest fires.
Washington State once had nearly 600 lookouts; this book shares 44 of the 89 that remain standing in 2018.
Only a few are staffed during the fire season.
Amber Casali's words and photos offer you an accurate representation of a typical Washington lookout hiking trail.
It goes something like this:
start at low elevation:
hike through dense forested terrain, sometimes for miles, gaining elevation slowly but surely:
and finally break out into rocky high alpine terrain.
Alternate but realistic Pacific NW ending:
Over two hiking seasons, the author visited every lookout in this book.
She kept detailed notes, and whenever possible she talked with working fire lookouts and repair crews.
She spent the winter months digging into historical documents and reading books about fire lookouts.
All of this diligence produced a book you can rely upon for good trail descriptions, fascinating background information, and armchair hiking destinations (also called the hiking off season).
Her photos of lookout towers make it easy for you to put them into the 3 basic design categories.
I won't spoil the fun, but here's a preview:
this is the underbelly of the Gobbler's Knob fire lookout, demonstrating just one construction approach to providing shelter and an unobstructed vantage point for a fire lookout.
About 50% of the lookouts listed in the North and Central regions of Washington State have been visited by me over a span of two decades.
This provided some basic fact checking, and the ability to agree or disagree with the author's impressions.
Just one caution:
Every hike in the book has an associated map to show you the general area you'll be hiking through.
However, it is not (and probably was not intended to be) a detailed topographic map, so don't use it as a navigational aid.
Instead, use it as a general overview before you start your hike:
Be sure to use the complete hike description to your advantage as you plan a hike:
All of this information allows you to plan the amount of water and food you need to carry.
Take care to translate the hiking mileage and elevation gain (and subsequent loss) into your personal hiking pace.
After writing this Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts review, I have no hesitation in urging you to grab a copy.
Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts
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