Living close to Mt. Spokane most of my life, I have always enjoyed hiking up to the old fire-lookout. My Aunt stayed the night up their years ago. When looking into staying overnight at the Quartz mt. lookout I was alarmed at the price, $185 buckaroos! Wow! Last year I started to really try getting into a night stays high in the sky.
The truth is….. reservations are never a fun process. The old fire-lookouts are booked out different ways, diffrent seasons and for diffrent prices. Some lookouts rotate on a 6-8 week schedule. Meaning that every six weeks you can wake up real early and try to beat everyone else to a spot on the next 6 week calendar. Other lookouts open up for registration early January. So it’s a race to get the dates you want, and they fill up fast. Some of the local lookouts are open in the fall, and here’s where you can find a nifty thrifty price drop. The other way to get a nights stay in a local fire lookout is flexibility and vigilance. People cancel reservations and you can scoot right on in, but again a lot of work.You can find all this info@ Recreation.gov
In January I managed to book two fire-lookouts near Bonners ferry Idaho. Originally I had planned to book five lookouts from Couer’dalene Id to Troy Mt. but they filled up fast. So I took what I got. I booked the Baldy-buckhorn ( $45 with fees) and Deer ridge ( $35 with fees). I also left a day in between the two bookings because driving those mountain roads can eat up half your day!
My friend Leanne and I headed out about 10 am from Couer’dalene. The drive to Bonners ferry was nice to hwy 2 east and we turned onto The Yak Hwy 508. Along the way and literally at the roadside we came across Yak river falls and jumped right in! The trip up the mountain wasn’t too long. At the top of the Mt. Baldy-buckhorn fire-lookout the view was amazing! This fire-lookout actually has a propane stove and light. Climbing those stairs was not so great and I have a little fear of heights. So clutching the guard rail was acceptable. The fire-lookouts while very stable move a little in the wind. Almost like a boat in water.
The next lookout was Deer ridge. From Hwy 2 we ended up on Meadow creek road. There was some construction on the way to the lookout so we had to ask for directions. Now ladies we all know better but we let it slip that we were staying the night without thinking. Deer ridge fire-lookout was quite a bit taller. Leanne and I were semi-disappointed as this lookout didn’t boast such lovely views. So on a whim ( it was still early) we took a driving tour to Copper creek falls. WOW! We ended up just south of Canada at Hwy 95 near East port. We had to walk in a ways but got to shower in the waterfall!
Somethings to know about renting a fire-lookout, the sun comes up waaay to early and set’s waaay late. Also you’ll want to stay up and catch the stars in these remote places. There is no water and hauling up the stairs is tedious. It’s windy up there and lightning is a real threat. The night at Deer ridge a wind picked up and bounced a huge counter weight against the tower. I spent the next two hours regretting that we had told some random strangers we were up there alone. We did consider locking ourselves in that night, however that seemed very daunting.
All in all we enjoyed our time at the fire-lookouts. To think that not that long ago people were stationed in them to keep watch was cool. I guess you just get used to climbing up and down 40 feet a couple of times a day? Not this girl!