this month's issue of National Parks Magazine from the National Parks Conservation Association, which features an article on lookout towers in the North Cascades. The fantastic article describes both the history of the fire lookout system and details the amazing experiences and some harrowing accounts of tower operators. Thanks to Nancy Truluck for bringing this article to my attention. Here's a neat excerpt:
To experience a raging storm atop a fire lookout is to have a lightning-clenched fist coming at you at eye level. “Just before lightning struck my lookout, there was this intense gathering of energy,” recalls Bush. “Then suddenly it felt as if someone was moving a silk scarf across my face, and when I looked outside, I saw glowing balls of St. Elmo’s fire rolling down the branches of trees next to the lookout.” Being at the highest point on the horizon, in a cabin full of metal appliances, one’s natural impulse is to descend immediately, but it’s during these terrifying, earth-shaking moments that a fire lookout is most needed. If a lightning strike starts a fire, a ranger needs to be there to call the blaze in. “During one storm, I saw three fires break out in the span of five minutes,” recalls Cook. Thus during a storm, the lookout rangers must stand atop their glass-legged lightning stools, crouching, flinching, praying, and watching over the mountains, sacrificing their own fear in service of the forest.As for lookouts in national parks in the southeast, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts lookouts towers on Mt. Cammerer, Shuckstack, Clingmans Dome, Mt. Sterling, and Cove Mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway hosts a lookouts on Green Knob and Fryingpan Mountain as well as Flat Top Mountain in the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.