Baptiste Lookout Duty 2015

Our good friend Debo Powers is spending over a week as a volunteer lookout at the Baptiste Lookout in the Flathead National Forest. She sent this description of her experience along with some beautiful photos that we wanted to share. You can read all of Debo’s lookout stories on NFNews.The Osborn Fire Finder

The wind whistles outside rattling the windows, shaking the structure, and whispering secrets to this old lookout that is my home for the next week. Dark grey clouds cover the sky in a persistent march from west to east. Occasionally, rain splatters against the west windows and bounces off the catwalk. This is an unusually grey day in a record dry fire season that has left everyone on alert for fire starts. The radio squawks continuously with the chatter from firefighters, helicopters, and lookouts communicating with Dispatch.

I continually scan the landscape looking for smoke. I’ve been here less than 24 hours and there has been a lot of fire activity. The fire below Scalplock Lookout has been put out. Smoke was reported on Flattop Mountain, Logging Ridge, and Kintla Lake and lookouts are watching where lightning strikes hit around Bowman and Quartz Lakes. This is a busy year. With the forest fuels so dry, any lightning strike can bring instant fire. This is a year for full suppression techniques and the lookouts in their towers are relentless in their vigil.

Sunset

I am a volunteer fire lookout assigned to Baptiste Lookout in the Flathead National Forest for eight days. Other volunteers come before and after me during the season. Yesterday, I hiked the six miles up to the lookout carrying a load of food with a friend who carried a load for me as well. Before reaching the top, we passed the volunteer lookout who I was replacing and exchanged radios and information. Being back at the lookout felt like returning to a former home–familiar and novel at the same time. After checking in with Dispatch, I unpacked my pack and organized my few belongings in the lookout. Betsy had packed elk for dinner and along with vegetables from my garden, we had quite a feast. The night was filled with a million stars and the wind blew continually almost sounding like the ocean.

Betsy hiking away from Lookout

After a breakfast of elk and eggs, Betsy left to hike back out and I was left to the solitude of lookout life. The world around me is one of folds and creases in the landscape–mountains, hills, drainages, and the reservoir below. Every peak and drainage has a name and these must be reviewed each year to be familiar with them again. I am glad that I left notes above the windows with the names of the most prominent features.

This morning I have been practicing….pretending that I see smoke on one of the many undulations of land around me. I practice the sequence of steps……I take an azimuth using the Osborn Fire Finder. I look at maps to determine the Township, Range, and Section. I fill out a Smoke Report. (If this was an actual smoke, I would consult with other nearby lookouts to use triangulation to pinpoint the spot as close as possible.) I practice in order to be ready so that if I do spot smoke, I can report it effectively and professionally.

Another friend called today to say that she was hiking up with her backpack and tent to spend the night. I hoped that she would bring either chocolate or fresh fruit.

Beautiful day on Baptiste Lookout

I like big landscapes. I like windows that open out into a countryside that stretches for miles beyond. Living in a one-room window-rich house, no matter how tiny, is like living in a huge mansion. The sides of the room encompass a huge expanse. And when that landscape has no streets, electric wires, vehicles, or buildings that you can see, the result is a feeling of freedom and exhilaration that is unsurpassed. With only the sound of the wind and the dancing of the clouds a short distance above the roof, the feeling of peace and serenity is complete.



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Patti Hart

Patti has been traveling the world with Morgan since 1974 and loving every minute of it.  She's responsible for the photography and editing on the MagoGuide website as well as making occasional contributions.  Patti also generates the graphics and edits the MagoGuide products (e.g., the Mago Scrolls).  She recently built and published the iPhone and iPad application for MagoGuide. Finally, she is responsible for this website including code that tailors the content to what readers are interested in seeing.  In other words, a very busy lady.

One thought on “Baptiste Lookout Duty 2015

  1. Hi and thanks for sharing this wonderful collection Debo,you are doing some good work!
    Chocolate and big views,incredible sunrise pics and and Bear Top Bill were my adventure similarly when I accepted an invite from Chouteau .A perfect Sunday evening saw my happy, long,” going for broke” bush whack after losing a trail turn. And a few bonus miles in the Bob and adrenaline surprising strength pushing my legs straight over one ridge after another, there was the most surprised look out in Montana that day,hahaha. A Panama hat and old tune disguised my 14 mile weariness….Bill graciously shared his opulence and was even kind enough to remind me that bringing the chocolate is an important part of any visit to the edge of Heaven.
    I was later able to send an aluminum folding chair via horse supply.
    Thanks again for reminding me of the most amazing hike and days of old….I thought then this was what everybody experienced and have since realized how special it was.
    Deacon,his old friend the big dog was there. Big animals and small would let themselves be seen…a herd of elk far,far below or bear scat not so far. …GungaDin would have been proud!

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