by Diane Spicer
This Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills book review is brought to you by Hiking For Her at the suggestion of its author, Leslie Romer.
There are several reasons why my interest was piqued when I received Leslie's email asking me to review her book.
First, it's my job to put new hiking guides to the test and report back to you, dear reader, about which ones are good enough to use for hike planning.
Also, I've hiked many of the trails listed in this book, so I can evaluate whether or not the directions and descriptions are realistic.
And then there's the history angle.
I was curious about just how many lookouts have been lost over the years, and how they got there in the first place.
The final reason?
Fire lookouts are placed on high points, offering expansive vistas plus a great leg workout to gain and then dump elevation.
Having a few more view hikes on my "favorite hikes" list sounded good to me!
Now let's get to the details in this Lost Fire Lookout Hikes And Histories book review.
That old saying about not judging a book by its cover is certainly true.
But it doesn't hold up well once you've had a peek at the Table of Contents and the organization of any book.
So I cracked open the book and started scanning for what I consider quality indicators in a hiking guidebook.
Hikers love maps. It's always gratifying to see a map with numbered hikes, first thing in a guidebook.
I noted 59 numbers on a map of western Washington State (Strait of Juan de Fuca south to the Columbia River and west of the I-5 corridor).
These numbers corresponded to 59 hike descriptions.
59 hikes! That should make any hiker start salivating.
Romer shares "don't miss" types of information in the preface, including which access passes are required.
Of particular interest to me was the hike summary table stating hike distance, high point, elevation gain, difficulty rating (she includes a key), and more.
Overall, judging by the contents of the preface, it looks like we are in good hands with this author!
Let's pick a hike I am very familiar with, the trail to Pyramid Mountain Lookout on the northern Olympic Peninsula.
I'll use it to illustrate what you will find in the hike description sections of this hiking guidebook.
First, it was gratifying to see a repeat of the relevant trail specifications (listed in the preface table mentioned above) at the beginning of the description:
This is a good double check for any hiker in terms of time management and safety planning.
Or use this information to weed out any hikes unsuitable for your hiking style.
Here's where this book really shines.
It's obvious that Romer spent a lot of time digging into historical facts and photographs.
So if you're a history buff, you're going to love the details in this section.
In this case: dates, forest ranger names, who transported supplies to build the lookout (a famous woman horse packer named Minnie Peterson), and exact cabin dimensions.
The discussion of the history of the Pyramid Mountain lookout explained a decision to not erect a tower (only a cabin and woodshed), something I had always wondered about.
The Hike Summary was completely honest about the one section of trail that can be treacherous in wet weather.
You encounter it nearly 2 miles into the hike, and because it's narrow and exposed, it might be a deal breaker for you or a hiking companion.
Great to see this safety information called out at the beginning!
Who wants to get 2 miles into a hike and be turned back by unnerving trail conditions, right?
The Getting There section gave high level instructions about which highway to use, and where to turn off to access the trailhead.
It's a smart idea to check current road conditions on the Olympic Peninsula before you leave for the trailhead.
While brutal wind, rain and snow storms are confined to winter months in western Washington, they have lingering impacts on spring through fall hiking plans.
The Washington State Department of Transportation real time map will tell you what's what.
Check before you go!
The Hiking Route description gave granular information about where to start the hike.
It mentioned the types of trees, water crossings and trail tread to expect.
As you would expect, Romer described the view from the top and included names of local landmarks as well as peaks far off in the Cascade Range to the north and east.
This assumes clear weather, of course!
She was respectful when mentioning the condition of the abandoned cabin, not dwelling on graffiti and structural damage left behind by thoughtless hikers.
Overall, this hike description matched my own experience of the Pyramid Peak trail and lookout cabin.
The historical details will add a layer of richness next time I head up to this high point above Lake Crescent.
This Lost Fire Lookout Hikes And Histories book review wouldn't be complete without a few notes specific to hikers.
This book is too large and heavy to bring along on a hike.
Pay close attention to the recommended months for each hike, but base your decision to try the hike on current ground conditions.
The maps in this book are not intended to be used during your hike, only as a resource during the planning phase.
Be sure to spend some time with the Glossary and Bibliography, they've got some hidden gems that you don't want to miss.
Writing an accurate guidebook is very challenging.
Things change every year in the hiking world.
On the Peninsula, extreme weather can damage very localized areas. The hike you want to do may have been in the bullseye: downed trees, eroded trail tread, buried signs.
Trails may be re-routed, closed or abandoned.
Roads and bridges wash out, or receive little to no maintenance in spring and early summer, giving you a difficulty rating that doesn't match the description.
Also, annual rain and snowfall could be unusual in any given year, making a hike listed as
suitable for April readily accessible in late February (good news for a hiker).
Or dangerous to attempt in October - very bad news indeed!
Always have a back up plan when you set off for a hike, should the book's information not reflect your current reality.
Don't be shy about turning around when you've reached your comfort threshold on any trail.
Looking for a great gift for a Pacific Northwest hiker?
Seeking more entries on your Washington State hiking bucket list?
Curious about where to find Western Washington high points that are steeped in history?
Planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula?
This is the book for you!
It's packed with details and organized in a way to make it easy to pick your next hike.
You can buy a paperback copy of Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories at:
This book was a delight to read and review.
I am happy it was brought to my attention so I can share it with you as you plan your Washington hiking adventures.
Best wishes for Happy Trails,
to Leslie and everyone who uses her book!
Lost Fire Lookout Hikes And Histories Book Review