Fairview Peak L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4 hours

Date visited.

July 3, 2022

Elevation.

5,933′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Day 9/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Sign at the junction with NF-767 and NF-2213
Sign at the junction with NF-767 and NF-2212
Sign at the junction with NF-2212 and County Road 2460
Fork in road, County Road 2460 heads up

It was our last full day and we had already hit all of our expected Fire Lookouts for the trip. We had now moved on to our “if we have time” list which left Fairview Peak as our next alternative. We decided to pack up and move camps for the last night. This would set us up closer to Cottage Grove and make our drive home the next day shorter. This time the pavement route around the forest was significantly longer than cutting through on potentially iffy roads. We decided to risk it and headed up NF-38 to connect via NF-3831. NF-3831 is in relatively decent shape, but still required caution. We had to buck up a small tree, ride a few high lines, and move some rocks to get by. Eventually NF-3831 ends at a T-Junction where we took a left on to NF-2213. This junction used to be a four way junction but the NF-925 road has since been decommissioned. There was still a worn out sign for it though. Along this route, we found some impressive old growth Douglas Fir. NF-2213 will take you to another T-junction where it continues off to the right. We turned left here on to NF-767. This was another unsigned road, but there was a sign for Fairview Peak L.O. and Bohemia Saddle. It was roughly 8 miles of gravel roads from NF-38 to NF-767. Surprisingly, NF-767 was the best of all the roads with minimal hazards. It follows along the Calapooya Divide for a little over 2-1/2 miles to connect with NF-2212. There was another sign at this junction pointing towards Fairview Peak. We turned left here. NF-2212 goes directly through the burn area from the Rough Patch fire in 2021. The road was rough, rocky, and full of pot holes from here. It eventually meets up with County Road 2460 at another signed T-junction. The road conditions here were just as bad. We ended up parking in a pull out just before the Musick Guard Station where the road heads steeply up to the Bohemia Saddle. We road walked the remaining distance to the saddle and lookout. At the Bohemia Saddle, there is a large parking area with a trailhead for the Bohemia Mountain trail. The road to the lookout is directly across the saddle from the trailhead. It can be distinguished as the only road continuing up and by the gate with a Fire Lookout icon. The gate was open during our visit, but I assume they typically close it.

The gate for the Guard Station and my car
View from the road walk
At the Bohemia Saddle looking towards Fairview Peak Road
Doe and Fawn

This area is high-traffic in comparison to other towers we have visited. We were dusted up multiple times on our walk due to passing vehicles. We did end up seeing a doe and her fawn along the road though. A reminder that road walking isn’t all that bad and that it was something we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When we finally reached the summit we were shrouded in a fog cloud, but had it to ourselves. We were also confused since there was no vehicle onsite. At first I assumed that meant there was no lookout here, but we both heard someone moving around in the cab. Interestingly enough, the catwalk door and door to the cab were both open. We assumed this meant someone had to be here. Previous years, this lookout has been apart of the rental program through the Forest Service. But, it was recently pulled into active duty for the 2022 fire season. We didn’t want to risk disturbing the lookout attendant by climbing the tower and they did not come out to greet us. There had been a fleet of vehicles and ATVs that had been coming and going from the area. I would hide out in my tower too if I was them. We enjoyed a lunch and waited for a while to see if the clouds would eventually lift, but had no luck.

We walked back to our parked car and were dusted up a few more times for good measure. We headed back out via NF-2212 to find a camp and hoped the rest of the road was in better condition. Spoiler: It was not. There were portions of it starting to wash out and one particularly large rock embedded in the road that was tricky to maneuver. Someone had spray painted it bring pink to make it more visible to oncoming traffic. It was still a well traveled road and we met a few vehicles on our way out. There were even a couple people who were driving a Prius. After what felt like a life time crawling down NF-2212, we finally reached NF-22. There had been a few dispersed camps along NF-2212 but none were particularly flat or secluded. We quickly ran out of dispersed options and ended up spending the last bit of cash we had on hand at Lund Park Campground. Overall, it had been a successful trip.

Day 10/10: We drove home without incident.

History.

Fairview peak was established for fire detection as early as 1912 with a cabin and an Alidade. In 1921, a standard 12’x12′ D-6 cupola cabin was built. The cupola was eventually lowered and it was converted for additional storage or living quarters after a new tower was built. A 30′ pole tower with L-4 cab was added in 1936. For a brief time, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the tower was used for an Air Force Gap Filler Radar station. It was used for this function up until 1964. Eventually, the tower was replaced with the existing 53′ timber tower and 15’x15′ R-6 cab in 1972. It was moved to the rental program for a while, but I am unsure on when or for how long it was apart of this program. All I know is it was temporarily removed from the program to be actively staffed again for the 2022 fire season. It looks like the lookout received a new super structure as well. It is unclear at this time if it will be actively staffed every season or moved back to a rental.

Pig Iron L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 2, 2022

Elevation.

4,881′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Seasonal gate from Mowich Loop Road
Gate from NF-100 to Pig Iron
Interesting hairy forest
Where the trail meets up with NF-100

We somberly headed back out to NF-100 after our unfortunate discovery on Watson Butte. Instead of heading back to Mowich Loop Road, we turned right to head to the other side of the ridge. We stayed on NF-100, which was a fairly well maintained gravel road, until we reached the gate. As described in my post about Watson Butte, access is from Mowich Loop Road off of HWY-138 near Stump Lake and milepost 67. Take a right at the junction with the road to Clearwater Forebay. You will pass through a seasonal gate to stay on Mowich Loop Road. Take a left at the unmarked T-junction to turn onto NF-100. From the gate, it is a mile road walk to the Fire Lookout. You can also access the Fire Lookout from Pig Iron Trail #1438, but I’ve read that it is overgrown and steep. It was a fairly pleasant and flat road walk. Based on information I read online, I had thought Pig Iron was only staffed on a volunteer basis. We weren’t sure if we’d meet anyone during our visit though. Once we had a view of the lookout we could see a car parked and hoped they were friendly. We didn’t have to wait long before the lookout decided to come out and greet us. She introduced herself as Lisa and asked if we had come up the road or trail. We mentioned we had come from the road. She said her gate had been cut by vandals at some point during the beginning of the season and it was kind of scary not knowing who could drive up. Luckily, it seemed one of the Forest Service crews had recently fixed this issue. When we had walked around the gate there had been a new chain added and it was safely locked. She didn’t leave her post often, so she was relieved to hear that. We talked for a while about the surrounding area, Illahee Rock, the FFLA, and the importance of volunteers and advocacy within the community. We didn’t get invited up on the catwalk or in the cab, but the views were the same from the base. We mentioned our trip up to Watson Butte and she said she didn’t even realize it had still been up there. She thought it had been removed a while back, possible due to misinformation on the Former Fire Lookout Site. We didn’t stay for too long since it was already fairly late in the afternoon and we still had to drive back to our base camp. We made sure to thank Lisa for her time and information before heading back to the car.

Lookout Lisa

Lisa is the current lookout attendant on Pig Iron and is employed through the Forest Service. She is accompanied by her cat. She has staffed this lookout since 2017 and was the last person to staff Illahee Rock in 2016. She has worked on many different lookouts including, but not limited to, the Watchman, Mt Scott, Mt Harkness, & Pickett Butte. She started her work with the Forest Service in Air Quality which lead her to Fire Lookouts. She has worked as a Ranger for Crater Lake and the North Cascades National Parks. I believe she said she worked at Crater Lake NP for 15 seasons. She mentioned she used to do wilderness snowshoe trips for kids in the park. Pig Iron had recently had some work done on the catwalk, stairs, and windows due to damage during the 2021/2022 winter season.

History.

In 1950, the site on Pig Iron had been established with a fire camp. The lookout used a tent for living quarters and had a Fire Finder situated outside. There was a cover for when the Fire Finder was not in use and a small shed nearby for storage. A lookout structure was built during the same year. It is described as a 14’x14′ hip-roofed cab (the NHLR describes it as 10’x10′) with a 10′ wooden tower. It has 3’x3′ solid pane windows. It’s a similar structure to a standard L-4 design but not quite the same. It is situated below the actual summit for a better view.

Watson Butte L.O.

Former Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Collapsed during the winter season 2021/2022

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 2, 2022

Elevation.

5,687′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

We headed out from camp towards HWY-138 once more. Today we were backtracking to Watson Butte and Pig Iron. They are located on opposite ends of the same ridgeline. This made it an easy day for driving since they were both along the same route. From HWY-138 heading east, we turned left on to Mowich Loop Road. The road does as it describes and loops back around to HWY-138. That means there are two opportunities to turn onto this road. If you are coming from Diamond Lake, you will want to take the second turn off to the right that is across from Stump Lake near milepost 67. Technically, both will get you to where you want to go but it’s shorter from this route. We bumped down a pothole filled road until we came to a junction. If you continue straight, it will take you to the Clearwater Forebay. You will want to turn right to stay on Mowich Loop Road. There is a gate here that is seasonally closed to winter traffic. The road improved after the gate but still had a few potholes to avoid. Eventually, you will come to an unmarked T-junction. Mowich Loop Road continues to the right and NF-100 is to the left. We turned left on to NF-100. If you stay on this road it will take you all the way to the gate for Pig Iron L.O. We decided to visit Watson Butte first.

NF-170 sign
Looking at Watson Saddle junction from NF-170

From NF-100, we turned on the first road off to the right. This is the NF-150 spur and does have a sign. We were slightly worried about the roads after seeing the condition of the Mowich Loop Road. The rest of the route was along three number spurs and we hoped we would be able to get close enough to make the hike. We were pleasantly surprised to find the three number roads were in better condition. The only road hazards we met along NF-150 were downed trees. Some of the trees were already cleared by tree cutters, but some were not. We had a buck saw with us and decided to do some road maintenance for the Forest Service. And by we, I mean my partner. I helped clear the area once the trees had been cut though. NF-150 eventually leads to a odd 5-way junction at the Watson Saddle. On the topo map, the road we wanted was labeled NF-164. Based on the directions from the Forest Service, you should take the road farthest to the right. Most of the roads at the junction are not marked though. We were able to find an NF-170 road marker on the road farthest to the right. This was confusing to us since it didn’t match the road numbers on the map and NF-170 should be off to the left. But, It did look like the road most traveled and was farthest off to the right as the Forest Service had recommended. We headed up NF-170 to the right until we were met with a section that started to get brushy. This made us second guess our decision and we headed back to the odd junction. We walked around the junction looking for any confirmation that NF-170 was the correct road. Eventually, we gave up and drove back up NF-170 to the brushy section. We parked in a pull out on the exposed portion of the road just past the brush and decided to start walking.

Where the old road bed starts
Where the trail starts
trail conditions
can you spot the trail?

The Manzanita and Ceanothus were encroaching on the road in some portions and there were a couple down trees, but otherwise it wasn’t in terrible shape. There was a point in the road where it opened up to a view of what we assumed to be Watson Butte. I could see signs of a structure, but it was hard to tell exactly what I was looking at from that distance. I thought it looked collapsed, but I was hopeful my view was just obstructed. We walked for about a mile until we came to the trailhead. There is still a sign noting where the Watson Butte Trail #1443 starts. There was even enough room for a couple cars to park. It is obvious that this trail doesn’t see much use. From the trailhead, it is another 1.1 miles to the summit gaining around 600′ in elevation. We started out by following an old decommissioned road bed until it met with the base of the butte. The trail started to gain more elevation once we left the road. The trail continues faintly through a mostly shaded forest. It was especially faint among the switchbacks. We were able to stay on track by looking for the trail bench in the more overgrown sections. The final push is steep, but eventually opens up to an exposed summit. My partner had made it to the summit before me and I called out to ask if it was still there. He was oddly quiet in response. Eventually, I rounded the corner and saw why. We were too late. We had known Watson Butte L.O. was in bad shape and had been for years, which is why it was on our priority list to visit. There were posts of it standing the year before and we thought we had time. But, we were still too late. Watson Butte L.O. was nothing more than a pile of boards.

I’m not sure if we were the first to discover this or even hike the trail this year, but we were the first to report on it. Nothing can prepare you for coming upon a fire lookout you thought would be standing only to find it destroyed. My partner was in disbelief and even speculated that maybe someone vandalized it. But, to me, it looked like it had succumbed to the elements and time. We had a moment of silence for the lookout that once was before heading back down. It was a sad reminder that we are not going to be able to see them all standing. Some will burn in our ever present fire season, some will be removed by the Forest Service, and others will simply waste away in time. But for now, up a confusing network of poorly marked roads to an overgrown and fading trail you can still hike to what remains of Watson Butte L.O.

History.

Umpqua National Forest Archive – Sept 1942

Normally, I only like to post pictures I’ve taken myself of the Fire Lookouts but I decided to make an exception for Watson Butte. This lookout was built in the 1930s as an L-4 ground cabin. The Forest Service notes this as being built in 1934, but other sources claim it was built in 1937. Either way it had been standing for at least the last 84 years. Before the lookout structure was built, it was established as a camp and a telephone line was extended to the summit in 1920. It hasn’t been actively staffed since the 1960s. At one point there was talk of salvaging it for the rental program, but this never happened. According to Facebook, the last person to have record of it standing was on May 24, 2021. It most likely collapsed under the snow during the winter of 2021/2022.

Illahee Rock L.O. (Revisited)

Oregon Lookouts

Please reference the original post on Illahee Rock L.O. for information on the history of the lookout, status, our initial site visit, and directions.

Date Revisited: July 1, 2022

Trip Report.

Day 7/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Ever since our not so graceful redemption visit to Illahee Rock, we have wanted to revisit during more ideal conditions. It wasn’t a high priority since there are so many other fire lookouts to see and only a short window to see them. But, Illahee Rock holds a special place in our hearts. It was the catalyst that triggered our pursuit to visit as many standing fire lookouts as possible. We had this as a potential add on to our road trip if conditions were favorable and we had extra time while in the area. Thanks to a recent post by the Wandering Yuncks we knew it’d be snow free this time too.

This was essentially a rest day for us from the go-go of the trip. We were already situated close to the access road for Illahee Rock and it was our only plan for the remainder of the day. We had a leisurely breakfast at camp before packing a lunch and heading out to HWY-138. The access road is fittingly named Illahee Road, which is also NF-4760. It is located just past the Umpqua’s Last Resort. You will wind up this decent gravel road for 7-1/2 miles to the junction with NF-100. Make sure to watch for fallen rocks on the road. We decided to park at this junction and walk since I recalled NF-100 having some larger potholes. After further inspection, all the potholes would have been passable to the Civic with caution. We stayed on NF-100 for about a mile before we reached the NF-104 spur off to the left. This will take you to the trailhead. The NF-104 spur is pretty overgrown and rocky. I wouldn’t attempt driving it in a low-clearance vehicle. From the trailhead, it is a short hike to the summit. It was really nice to see everything snow free for a change. The trail is still in great shape, even after the fires, with only a few downed trees to navigate. The wildflowers were in bloom too and we had commanding views in every direction. There is a hole in the catwalk that someone had cut just big enough for access. It was here during our last visit as well, but I didn’t have the energy to climb through it then. Also, in case it needs to be said, please do not cut holes in the catwalks of fire lookouts. But, since it was already there, I decided to get a better look. We had the trail and summit to ourselves aside from a kettle of Turkey Vultures that checked us out. I knew I didn’t smell great, but it must have been much worse than I thought to attract the Vultures. They eventually realized we weren’t road kill and moved on to something else. We enjoyed our lunch on the catwalk and soaked in the sunshine before heading back to the car.

The next day we were able to get a bit more clarification on the status of Illahee Rock from the lookout attendant we met on Pig Iron. She was the last lookout to staff Illahee Rock in 2016. She didn’t go into details on why they stopped staffing it or if they planned to staff it again. We could tell she was very passionate about Illahee Rock and would’ve preferred to be stationed there instead. The Forest Service had moved her to Pig Iron as an alternative. Any friend of Illahee Rock is a friend to her.

Walker Mountain L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Deschutes National Forest

Status.

Abandoned; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

June 30, 2022

Elevation.

7,078′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 6/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

If you’ve ever been on HWY-97 between the junction with HWY-58 and the community of Chemult, you might have noticed a sign for Walker Mountain L.O. You can even see the tower from the highway if you know where to look. It’s located on a peak east of the highway often overshadowed by the excessive amount of communication towers. The first time I remember seeing this sign was back in August 2017. My friends and I were headed south on HWY-97 towards Diamond Lake for a weekend camping trip. That’s not to say my family hasn’t ever driven this way before, but I hadn’t had the same attention or interest for such things. Similar to the millions of other people that drive this route, have driven this route, or even live in the area, I passed the sign many more times without paying a visit to lonely Walker Mountain.

After our visit to Bald Mountain, we headed north on NF-2516 towards HWY-31. On the map it looked like we could potentially cut across the forest via a three number spur to connect with NF-94. We were hesitant to commit to this road given that it was marked as different road numbers on our two maps and both had it noted as a high-clearance road. We know from experience that the maps aren’t always correct about the road conditions, but it felt too risky this time. We decided to go up and around via HWY-31 to HWY-97. Sometimes pavement is the faster option even if it’s not the most direct. The only other challenge from this route was that we had to cross HWY-97 once again. The road marked for Walker Mountain off of HWY-97 is NF-94. This road will take you up to the ridge of the mountain where you will want to take a left on to NF-9402. The NF-9402 road follows along the ridge and climbs the remaining way to the summit. We had asked all the lookout attendants we met if they knew the road conditions to Walker Mountain, but none were sure of the current conditions. Ed from Sugarpine Mountain mentioned we would probably be fine since there are communication buildings and they want to maintain them. Turns out he was correct. NF-9402 had been recently regraded with fresh gravel. One might argue that it was even too fresh. From the junction with NF-94 and NF-9402, it is a little over 3-1/2 miles to the summit. As we headed up the ridge we found that the fresh gravel was pretty loose and soft in some spots. This made traction a bit of an issue in some of the steeper sections. It even created a highline from trucks driving up and pushing it around. Instead of water bars, the road had these rubber flaps to help divert the water off the road. There were over 30 of these water diversion flaps along the way. The gravel seemed to have piled up closer to them. All was passable in my Civic, but it’s something to be cautious of if you decide to visit. The last few hundred yards of the road turns to dirt, but it looked passable to most vehicles. We decided to park where the fresh gravel ended and walk the remaining distance.

On the summit, you will find Walker Mountain tucked behind a plethora of communication buildings. The lookout tower has seen better days and has been abandoned since the 1940s. They have since removed the bottom stairs to keep people from climbing the structure. There is an accompanying garage, privy, and stone cabin that you can visit on the summit as well. The stone cabin has seen more recent restoration work since it is considered one of the oldest administrative structures on the forest. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t put some time and effort into the tower as well. It was already fairly late in the day and we needed to get moving if we wanted to find a camp. We were also getting moved along by the amount of mosquitoes here. For some reason, we have met more mosquitoes on summits than in camp this trip. We said our good-byes to Walker Mountain and can now claim we’ve been here every time we pass it from HWY-97.

We were motivated to press on to the Umpqua NF since it would mean we could set up a base camp for the next few nights. We would also be leaving Klamath County and entering Douglas County. This meant we should be able to find water sources and refill our water reservoirs again. We stopped to refuel once more in Chemult. The gas attendant made a comment that our car looked like it had been on some great adventure. To be fair, it was completely covered in dust and looked a bit scratched up from our close encounters with the manzanita. I told him we had been intentionally bumping down some forest service roads for the past few days and left it at that. We made an additional pit stop at Broken Arrow Campground near Diamond Lake to refill our water. We were relieved to find the water was on here. We have dispersed camped in the Umpqua NF before and knew of areas to look. It was mostly a race to get there before the sun was set. The impending holiday weekend was finally upon us and our biggest worry was finding an open spot. We were surprised to find one of our favorite camps open and set up for the next few days.

History.

Walker Mountain was established in 1913 as one of the first few lookouts on the Deschutes NF, along with Black Butte and Maiden Peak. The first lookout was a simple crows nest tree. It’s noted that the site was potentially used as a patrol lookout as early as 1907. A cabin made of stone and wood was built in 1915 for living quarters. In 1919, a small 25′ pole tower with 6×6 cab replaced the crows nest. The existing lookout was built in 1932 as a 35′ steel tower with hip-roofed 14×14 L-4 cab. The accompanying 16×18 garage was added in 1934. In 1996, a restoration and maintenance program was started to help preserve the historic stone cabin. The restoration work had been carefully completed on the cabin in 2005. The lookout tower itself is listed as condemned and proposed for removal by the Forest Service.

Bald Mountain L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5 hours

Date visited.

June 30, 2022

Elevation.

7,396′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 6/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

My partner and I packed up to head towards Bald and Walker Mountain for the day. If we finished early enough, we planned to head into the Umpqua NF for our final leg of the trip. We weren’t in as big of a rush this morning since we were only a few miles from Bald Mountain already. We didn’t want to arrive too early and disturb the lookout attendant. We were already situated off of NF-2516 and headed farther north towards the NF-036 spur. The road briefly passes through a section of private residence before re-entering the forest. It was good that we hadn’t tried to find a camp even closer to the lookout the night before. Where we had stopped turned out to be our best option. The forest had turned into another thicket of Lodgepole Pine once we passed through the private area. It was so thick in sections that it felt like we were walled in by trees on both sides. The NF-2516 road is well maintained gravel all the way from Silver Lake Road to HWY-31. From NF-2516, we turned left onto NF-036. If you’re coming from HWY-31, it will be off to the right. We were able to drive all the way up to the gate in my Civic. The NF-036 spur is soft and dusty, but passable. The gate is just after a tight switchback in the road which offers enough room for parking a few cars. We pulled into a pull out just before the gate and prepared to walk. We always like to make sure that we’re not blocking the gate and pulled far enough off the road for additional vehicles to pass. Normally, we don’t meet any traffic in these areas but you never know. This proved to be in good practice since we ended up having a large propane truck drive up during our visit. This only happens every few years to refill the tanks on the summit.

From the gate, it is another mile of road walking to the lookout. This was a pleasant morning walk to the summit. The road starts to open up to views before you reach the lookout and is lined with a variety of trees. We were able to locate White Bark Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and Lodgepole Pine. When we reached the summit we could hear the lookout attendant talking to someone on the phone. We figured Ed mentioned to them that we would be visiting, but didn’t want to assume at the same time. We decided to take photos around the base of the lookout and take in the view while we waited. Eventually, the lookout attendant was finished with their call and came out on the catwalk to greet us. Similar to our interaction on Sugarpine, he asked if Ed sent us and we asked if he was Ron. It felt like we were getting passed along on a fun field trip of the area from one lookout attendant to the next. Ron invited us to join him on the catwalk and gave us a brief history of the tower. He was very gregarious and had a lot of knowledge about the surrounding forest. He mentioned he had just wrote a book about forest management and it’s relationship with fires. It’s called Axe-It First. This is why he was on the phone when we arrived. It was published that morning and he had been thanking those that assisted him in the process. We all talked for a long time, 2 hours to be exact, about our current state of things and what needs to change for things to get better. He realized quickly he was preaching to the choir. Ron had many stories to share and was happy to share them with us. So much so that it was hard to find a break in the conversation to even leave. His wife eventually called him and he had to step away to answer. We thanked him for his time and said our good-byes. We wanted to visit for longer, but we knew we needed to keep moving if we wanted to make it to Walker Mountain and the Umpqua NF.

Lookout Ron Rommel

Ron Rommel was born in 1950 and is currently 71-years old. He’s originally from Portland, but currently resides in a community just outside of La Pine. His background is in Forestry and he used to do tree inventory for the Forest Service. He has also worked in manufacturing and has a business degree. He has been a lookout on Bald Mountain for 4 seasons and is employed through the Walker Range FPA. Ron currently works the lookout on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He said he started staffing the lookout when his friend asked if he knew anyone who could help his wife out. She had been staffing the lookout for 30-days straight with no relief. Ron was interested and offered to help. When he first started, it was just the two of them alternating. The lookout is now staffed by three different people. He has communication with 7 different lookouts from Bald Mountain; Odell Butte, Sugarpine Mountain, Round Mountain, Hager Mountain, Green Mountain, Spring Butte, and East Butte. He published his book, Axe-It First, on June 30th. It is what he dubbed a call to action for our government and general population on our current fire management. Although I haven’t read it yet, it is on its way in the mail. I promised him I would help spread the word.

History.

Bald Mountain, also known as Baldy, was first scoped for a fire site in 1907 when they planned on building a trail to the summit. In 1918, a telephone line was strung to the summit where they planned to add an observation station and firefinder. In 1927, they finished building a road on the mountain. A year later they constructed a 40′ steel tower with 12×12 live-in cab. This was a unique design from Aermotor and only a few were constructed like it. In 1941, they removed the old lookout and replaced it with the current one that stands today. It is a classic L-4 cab with treated timber tower and stands just below 30′. This site was originally managed by the Klamath FPA, then the Forest Service, and now the Walker Range FPA. It is still actively staffed every season.

Bear Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

Status.

Abandoned; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5-hours

Date visited.

June 29, 2022

Elevation.

5,527′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 5/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

From Sugarpine Mountain, we continued southeast on NF-86 until we reached NF-76. This road is also considered County Road 676 or Silver Lake Road. We turned left towards the community of Silver Lake and stayed on this road until we could visibly see Bear Butte. The roads off to the left before you reach butte are not marked. You will need to turn left on to one of these roads before your pass the butte. There should be a road that parallels NF-76 and has two different access points. It can be hard to see and we had to turn around to make sure we were picking the right roads. Once the road turns away from NF-76, you will want to take a right at the second un-marked road. This road should take you to a large cinder pit with a view of the lookout. We ended up parking at the junction with this road and walking to the cinder pit. I personally didn’t feel like running into any additional road surprises for the day.

There are no formal trails to take you to the summit, so from here you will have to get creative. We headed to the right of the cinder pit and gradually climbed the slope at an angle. Eventually, we met up with the old road bed that used to circle the butte and followed it to a communication tower. Unfortunately, I don’t do well in soft terrain or rock scrambles. I accepted that this was most likely as close as I’ll ever be to Bear Butte L.O. and let my partner continue on without me. From the communication tower, he headed straight up the slope. He said he was able to find an old game trail from here that led to the rocky top. There are no longer any stairs to get to the structure and you will have to rock scramble the remainder of the way.

After we slid our way back down the side of Bear Butte, we continued east on Silver Lake Road. We re-entered the forest by turning right on to NF-2516 just past Antelope Flat. We were able to find a small camp a little ways down this road in a nice grove of Ponderosa Pine. This road would take us all the way to the needed spur for Bald Mountain in the morning.

Pictures of Bear Butte cab courtesy of my partner

History.

Bear Butte was established as a lookout site in 1930 with a cabin stationed below and a firefinder set atop the butte. In 1949, a 9×9 wooden lookout cab was added to the summit. It was abandoned in 1966 when state radios were placed on Yamsay Mountain and Bald Mountain. It’s in bad shape, but has been standing strong for 70+ years.

Sugarpine Mountain L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

June 29, 2022

Elevation.

6,393′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 5/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

My partner and I woke up early again with a quick pack up and breakfast. Our stops for the day were Sugarpine Mountain and Bear Butte. We hoped to find a camp in the direction of Bald Mountain to set us up for easier access the next morning. Our concern was that we’d find more thickets of Lodgepole Pine that wouldn’t offer much for dispersed camping options. We headed out from Head of the River, our camp from the night before, on the Williamson River Road towards Chiloquin to access HWY-97. We ended up turned around in Chiloquin trying to get to the Ranger Station. We wanted to see if they had the ranger district maps that Bly lacked. It was once again nice to see that they were open and they did have the maps my partner wanted. Success! We continued north on HWY-97 to Chemult. Our needed turn off for NF-86 was before Chemult, but we made the last minute decision to refuel before heading back into the forest. It’s always a good idea to have a full tank, if possible. This did subsequently make our access a bit more complicated since we now had to cross traffic on HWY-97 to access NF-86. We were lucky when we reached the junction that there was just a big enough break and no one behind us to make the turn safely. HWY-97 is a treacherously busy highway with only two lanes and most traveling around 70 to 80 mph. This makes any needed turn a bit hazardous unless there’s a provided turn lane.

Once on NF-86, we crossed the railroad grade and continued on past some private land until we entered the forest. We stayed right on NF-86 when we reached a major fork with NF-88. We knew we needed to take NF-8608 to get to the spur NF-370 to reach the lookout. The NF-8608 road makes a loop from NF-86, so there are two potential routes. The first turn is a longer route from NF-86 to NF-370 but it appeared more gradual on the map. The second turn is shorter, but steeper. We opted to take the longer route since it was more gradual, which usually translates to less road hazards and better driving conditions for a low clearance vehicle. Emphasis on the word USUALLY. This section of NF-8608 started out ok with a few potholes and highlines, but progressively got worse. The road is mostly made of pumice and dirt, which is very light and terrible for traction. The worst section was actually on the flattest portion of the road before our first junction. It had been majorly rutted out due to winter traffic and looked like ocean waves within the road. There was no where for us to safely turn around from here, so we had to continue through the mess. We decided once we reached the junction we would re-assess the situation. We creeped and crawled over the ruts, but made it to the junction without incident. If you decide to follow in our footsteps for a road adventure, you will want to take a right at this junction to stay on NF-8608. The road seemed to improve here, so we decided to continue our slug pace and assess the road upon any additional hazards. It wasn’t as bad as the flat section from here but it wasn’t great either. The manzanita and ceanothus were encroaching on the road which lead to some scraping against the sides of my car. A higher clearance vehicle could have avoided this, but we had to hug certain corners of the road to avoid hazards. This wasn’t the first time we’ve cozied up to some shrubs, but these scrapes seemed to be more permanent than previous. New racing stripes! We did eventually make it to the junction with NF-370 after what felt like a life time down a terrible road. So, I guess you could say the road is passable to low clearance vehicles, but I don’t recommend it. We could tell from the junction that the other portion of NF-8608 was the main route of travel. We hoped the lookout was there so we could ask them about their route condition. We were both a bit tired of driving at this point and decided to walk the remaining mile and a half along NF-370 to the lookout.

The road walk was dusty and hot. I saw some black bear prints and a really fat caterpillar though, so that was neat. I’m hoping one day I’ll have the opportunity to see a black bear from a safe distance. My partner has seen them a few times in the wild, but I haven’t been as fortune. As we approached the summit we could see a Forest Service vehicle parked near the lookout. Typically, the full time lookout attendant will drive their personal vehicle. We speculated that maybe Ed was off today and it was a relief instead. We wondered if Sharon from Calimus Butte had notified them that we were planning on coming. We didn’t make our presence known since we weren’t sure if they wanted visitors or if it was even Ed. We setup to have a lunch at the picnic table and took some pictures around the base. Eventually the lookout came out on the catwalk and greeted us. He asked if Sharon had sent us. Indeed she did. We smiled and asked if he was Ed. Indeed he was. He invited us up to look around. Ed was happy to answer our questions, share stories, and show us the points of interest in the area. He joked that he thought he was going crazy because he could hear voices, but saw no vehicle when he looked out the window. He confirmed that the other route out of NF-8608 was much better. He used to drive lower clearance vehicles up to the summit from that route as well. We briefly rejoiced that we wouldn’t have to drive out the way we came. He was shocked that we were able to make it from that route and he said he doesn’t even drive his truck that way. We talked about some of the surrounding lookouts and asked if he knew who staffed Bald Mountain. He mentioned that the lookout on Bald Mountain tomorrow would be Ron and that he’d put in a good word for us. We also asked about potential dispersed camp spots in the area and he pointed us towards a nice campground, Jackson Creek. We didn’t end up camping there since it was a little more off our route than we wanted, but it was tempting to be able to rinse off in a creek. He wanted to make sure our visit was as pleasant as possible and even offered to drive us back to our car. We graciously accepted. He dropped us off and we said our good-byes. The drive out was drastically different than the drive in with little to no hazards. So, if you’re visiting this lookout learn from our mistake and take the second turn for NF-8608. We continued onwards to Bear Butte.

Ed’s wife drew all the peak labels

Lookout Ed

Ed is 80-years old and has been a lookout on Sugarpine Mountain for the last 11 seasons. His wife used to staff the lookout with him but she passed away 3 years ago. He had an interesting history of jobs from flooring to owning a grocery store, car wash, and other rental properties. He mentioned his wife was a dental assistant and the brains behind their operations. His kids live close by in Roseburg. He loves the wildlife in the area. He also said he usually bakes his visitors chocolate chip cookies, but he was all out of chocolate chips during our visit.

History.

Sugarpine Mountain has a unique history in that it has never had a tower built specifically for it. It started as a fire camp in the 1930s, but it didn’t have a permanent structure on it until 1970. The lookout structure was airlifted from its original location at Fort Klamath. It was built in 1958 as a 20′ x-brace steel tower and 13×13 plan CL-100 cab. It’s actively staffed every season.

Calimus Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5-1/2 hours

Date visited.

June 28, 2022

Elevation.

6,622′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 4/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

We headed northwest towards the community of Sprague River. From HWY-140, we turned right on to Sprague River Road and followed it to Lone Pine Road. Immediately after turning right on to Lone Pine Road you will take another right on to NF-44. This road skirts between National Forest and private land. You will turn left on to NF-4542 from here. This road passes through an older burn area that is now covered in a dog-hair thicket of Lodgepole Pine. You will eventually come to a junction with NF-4555 off to the right that has a sign for Calimus Butte. Take this road to NF-150 which also has a sign for the lookout. There is no gate and the roads are manageable, so we were able to drive all the way to the summit once again. All the roads leading up to NF-150 were very good graveled or cinder roads. The only road that requires some caution is NF-150, but it’s not terrible.

We finally reached a lookout that we expected to be staffed with someone actually here. A reminder to respect the space of the lookout attendants and only approach or climb the tower if you’ve been invited to do so. After parking the car, we walked to the side of the lookout to take in the view. We hoped we would be invited inside since neither of us had been in a cupola before, but we never expect it either. The cupola style lookouts are my partner’s favorite. We heard some voices inside and eventually received a greeting from the lookout. She had poked her head out of the cupola window and apologized for not seeing us earlier. She offered to give us a tour, if we wanted, and we excitedly accepted. The lookout who was staffing Calimus Butte this season was named Sharon, she was accompanied by her dog and cat. One of her grandsons were visiting at the time as well. It was a full house. She showed off her National Historic Lookout Register from the FFLA and gave us a brief history on the lookout. We all climbed up to the cupola where she pointed out points of interest. This included surrounding peaks and other lookouts in the area. She also mentioned that she used the DragonPlot system and gave us a brief overview on how it works. The only other time we had heard of this system was on Sugarloaf Mountain when we met the weekend relief. It was interesting to see it in action and what it can actually do. She has the main computer for the system, while Sugarpine and Spodue mountain only have the tools and rely on her to get the information for them. Sharon was full of interesting stories of her time as a lookout at different towers. She was also very knowledgeable about the surrounding area and southwestern Oregon.

We told her about our current trip and that we were headed to Sugarpine Mountain tomorrow. She told us that the lookout was staffed by Ed who was a sweetheart. She also gave us the tip to camp at Head of the River, which is a primitive free campground. We did our best not to bombard her with too many questions, but we could have talked for hours. After saying our good-byes and taking a few more pictures, we headed out to the Williamson River Road. This is the road you would take to get to Calimus Butte if you were heading in from HWY-97. We turned into the forest to check out Head of the River and other potential dispersed spots. Unfortunately, the area just past the Head of the River was where the 2021 Bootleg Fire Complex burned. This fire was even spotted and called in by the Calimus Butte L.O. We drove through it a bit to see how bad it was, but it was not an area you’d want to camp in currently. We picked a spot at the Head of the River and set up camp for the night.

Lookout Sharon

Sharon has been a fire lookout since she was 17 years old and grew up in the Galice OR area. She got her start when her boss at ODF needed someone to staff a local lookout. He told her she was going to do it since no one else would. Throughout her years as a fire lookout she has staffed many different towers; Sexton Mountain, Manzanita Mountain, Calimus Butte, Little Greyback, Onion Mountain, along with some in Idaho and Colorado. She jokingly considers Ron Kemnow her stalker because he has visited her at multiple different lookouts within different states unintentionally. One time was even during a thunderstorm. He lives close to Calimus Butte in the Sprague River Valley below. She was the last person to staff Onion Mountain through a contract with ODF and the Forest Service in 2009. She has staffed Calimus Butte for 5 non-consecutive seasons with the Forest Service. Her seasons on Calimus Butte typically run from Memorial Day to the end of October.

History.

The history on Calimus Butte dates back to 1919 when a telephone line was strung to the summit with tent camp. A year later a 16×16 lookout with cupola was built. In 1922, the 14×20 2-room guard cabin was completed 2-1/2 miles from the summit. These were both built on reserved land for the Indian Reservation. In 1930, the cupola cabin was replaced with the existing D-6 cupola that stands today. Those who have managed this lookout has changed hands a few times throughout the years. In early years, the Forest Service had an agreement with the Klamath Indian Agency, who owned the lookout at the time, to help staff and maintain the lookout under contract. In 1961, the Termination Act lead to Calimus Butte Lookout becoming the responsibility of the Klamath FPA. It didn’t become the full responsibility of the Forest Service until the 1970s. It has been maintained and updated throughout the years, but its age is still a concern. It is still actively staffed every season.

Horsefly Mountain L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

6-1/2 hours

Date visited.

June 28, 2022

Elevation.

6,466′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 4/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

We started our morning on Dog Mountain and woke up a little after the sun had rose. It’s hard to sleep in when you’re on a mountain side with the sun in your face. We would be moving farther north today and needed to get up anyway. We packed the car and sleepily rolled our way down the mountain. We headed back out to Bly the same way we had came the day before and proceeded on to Horsefly Mountain. There was a brief pit stop at the Bly Ranger Station again to see if their water spigots were on. Unfortunately, they were not. We had checked a few State Parks and County Parks on our way to Dog Mountain the day before as well, but all were off. Our next planned water refill wasn’t until 3 to 4 days from now in a completely different National Forest. After researching online, we realized the entire Klamath County had been declared in a state of emergency due to drought. This declaration prompted the county to restrict public access by shutting off water fill stations to conserve as much water as possible. If we had known before entering the county, we would have had the fore thought to refill at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument before leaving. Obviously, this is only a minor inconvenience for us to the larger issue at hand. Our solution was to buy 4 gallons of water at the gas station before heading on to our next stop.

I spy no lookout onsite

As the crow flies, Horsefly Mountain is only 9 miles south of the community of Bly. We headed out of downtown Bly via Elder Street and turned left onto NF-3752. Based on the map we planned to take NF-3752 to NF-3815 to NF-011 since it was a mostly four number route. But, the trip reports from Peakbagger had a description of a different route. They mentioned the roads were good via NF-3752 to NF-3814 to NF-105 to NF-3815 to NF-011. If you’ve been on enough Forest Service roads you will know that the rule of thumb is two number roads are great, four number roads are good, and three number roads are trash. Obviously, this isn’t a hard fact but it is a good foundation when looking at routes within the forest. We were wary of the connecting NF-105 route, but turns out luck decided our route for us. As we were heading down NF-3752, we noticed that there were recent heavy equipment tracks along the edges of the road. The road itself seemed to have recently been regraded with only minor rocks and potholes to avoid. Apparently, it was more recently regraded than we thought because we were soon met with the grading machine slowly making it’s way along NF-3752. We were right at the junction with NF-3814 and the grader was blocking the road to continue any farther in the other direction. NF-3814 it is! We drove along this road until we came to the first major road leading off to the left. This was NF-105. There was a sign standing at some point but it is now worn out and on the ground. We were happily surprised to find NF-105 was a decent road and had minimal hazards to avoid. You should be able to reach the gate as along as you keep right at all the junctions along this road. The first junction is with NF-3815 but is unsigned. The second junction is with NF-011 and does have a sign. All the roads ended up being drivable in a low clearance vehicle with minimal caution. From the gate, it is only a few hundred yards to the lookout.

We were once again met with a lookout open for the season, but with no one currently occupying it. We assumed this was a similar situation to Parker Mountain, where we had shown up on their day off or they had yet to start their season. Given the upcoming holiday, we were still a bit surprised. We climbed the tower to get a better view since we couldn’t see anything from the ground. The catwalk was locked up, but we were still able to see a few points of interest between the trees. Our timing on this portion of the trip was a bit flexible. We planned it that way since we weren’t sure how much road walking we would have to do to get to some of these lookouts. Things seemed to be going in our favor, driving wise at least, and we had additional time in the day to move on to the next lookout. We hoped to have similar luck at Calimus Butte.

History.

In 1932, the Klamath FPA built an open platform tower on the southern portion of Horsefly Mountain. This site was built to assist Yainax Butte with cross shot views in their blind spots. It was quickly replaced by a more substantial structure in 1934 by the CCC. The new lookout was a 14×14 L-4 cab with 37′ timber tower and accompanying 16×18 wood framed garage. The current structure was built in 1961 when the previous lookout was considered unsafe for continued use. This lookout is an R-6 cab with 41′ treated timber tower and continues to be staffed every season.

Boys & Girls LOL
Anyone know what this is?