by Leslie Romer
As the hiking population in our region grows and less of the private forestland is accessible to the general public, the need for new hiking destinations increases. Fire lookout locations provide good hike routes in a range of lengths and difficulties. Most hike guidebooks include a few routes to lookout sites, but most lookout locations have not been addressed in any guidebook. Lost Fire Lookout Hikes & Histories: Olympic Peninsula & Willapa Hills is unique in including only routes to forest fire lookout sites, providing accurate hike directions to each historical location, and offering carefully researched notes on the history of each destination, as well as comments on the trees and plants on each trail.
This book includes routes to almost all the freely accessible fire lookout sites from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Columbia River, from the Pacific Ocean to Puget Sound and Interstate 5. Its fifty-nine chapters include routes to sixty-five lookout sites, all hiked by the author within the last few years.
Each chapter begins with a brief history of the hike’s destination. A wide variety of historical resources have been consulted to find the range of information that is included. Most lookout buildings were not intended for year-round or long term occupation. They were constructed inexpensively to provide a few years’ shelter during summer fire seasons. A few were famous and were included in the driving guides of the mid-twentieth century. Many were remote and known only to firewatchers on nearby towers, and the forest rangers who relied on their reports.
The second section of each chapter provides a summary hike description, with both a short paragraph of text and a table providing quantitative information about the hike. Next are the driving directions to the trailhead, presented in easy to follow bullet style-intended for use by the driver or navigator as they cope with a bumpy forest road.
The final section of each hike description provides the details of the walking route itself: the hiking surface, distances, intervening elevation gains, notable views, wildflowers, trees and other natural features. This collection also recognizes the value of lightly traveled forest roads as hiking routes. Gravel and dirt roads offer drier, more stable surfaces for winter hikes and more space for social hikes, year-round.
The book includes maps to convey the geographical relationship between the neighboring lookout sites, as well as maps providing hiking route details. Lost Fire Lookout Hikes & Histories: Olympic Peninsula & Willapa Hills also includes a larger collection of historical images of the region’s lookout buildings than any other current resource.
- Paperback: 346 pages
- ISBN: 978-1736935101
Where to Buy
Many fire lookout guides spotlight only popular lookout sites and offer cursory narratives to their history and significance. Not Leslie Romer’s Lost Fire Lookouts Hikes and Histories Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills. Impeccably researched and presented with clear and accurate hiking descriptions and thorough and intriguing historical narratives; Romer uncovers 59 mostly forgotten or unheard of lookouts in Washington’s wild Olympic Peninsula, empty rain-drenched Willapa Hills, and close to population centers Kitsap Peninsula and Black Hills.
Many of the coastal fire lookouts that Romer uncovers and tells you how to find were once part of the US Government’s Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) established to detect enemy aircraft during World War II. This book provides plenty of fascinating stories about the system. She shares accounts from many of the lookout sentries who spent many long days defending the country from enemy fire or the state’s timber resources from wild fire.
Users of this book will not only enjoy its practical application to help find these lookout sites scattered across the region—but also are in for a good read from the confines of their own post. While many of our hiking trails including ones to popular fire lookouts have grown increasingly crowded in recent times, this book highlights many destinations where solitude is all but guaranteed. The trips described utilize trails, woods roads, and routes ranging from easy strolls to challenging outings.
If you’re an admirer of Washington’s fire lookouts, seek off-the-beaten path hiking destinations, and have an appreciation for the state’s colorful logging, conservation, and war time history—you’ll want this guide on your bookshelf and in your pack.
–Craig Romano, award winning guidebook author of more than 25 titles