- September 13, 2016
- Posted by Avery Mickey
It was thursday, our last day of work. We were getting packed out the next day from our ten day excursion into the Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness. It was our fourth week together and we could all feel the end coming. Our backcountry camp was only a little under two miles from where Uncle Buck, our summer rig, was parked at the Salmon Lookout pull off. It wasn’t really a trailhead, just a section in the long windy dirt road that was just large enough to fit a few cars. We were working towards the rig because the packer had only cleared enough to get the horses to the camp. Fortunately for us he had cleared most of it and it was only 11:40 when we made it back to the junction of trail 12, the one we were working on, and the trail up the Salmon Lookout, a volunteer run lookout. The junction was maybe a quarter mile from the road and our rig so we decided to snack, drop off all our tools at Uncle Buck, and then so eat a late lunch up at the lookout. The hike to the lookout was a few winding switchbacks to the top of a ridge overlooking the vast wilderness. Upon arriving to the top we were greeted by a greying border collie barking at us from the porch of the lookout. An older gentleman accompanied her and she came to investigate us further when it was clear her owner was unperturbed. The gentleman was in his seventies and eighties, wearing dark green work pants and the signature yellow fire long sleeve button up. He immediately offered us coffee tea, which was very welcome because it was a bit of a cloudy day and the wind at the top was cool. After telling us to make ourselves welcome and to look around he bustled inside to start a pot of coffee. We milled around taking in the splendor of our view and petting the dogs, whose name turned out to be Koda. Then we settled on the rocks just under the lookout to take our lunch. The gentleman brought us two handfuls of coffee mugs and a big percolator of coffee. As we drank the delicious black goodness he told us about how he ended up there. His first job was as a lookout at Diablo Mt, not far from where we were at Salmon. He got hired when he was 16 in the sixties when people were starting to realize that fire was an important part of the ecosystem and more and more fires in Wilderness Areas were allowed to burn out naturally. For almost an hour he talked to us and answered question about being a fire lookout, his continuing volunteering at fire lookouts, the equipment he uses, and most interestingly his views on current fire politics. Afterward he insisted we walk out onto the rocky point next to the lookout and thanked us for what we were doing out there. The adventure dog, Koda, followed us up the little trail and we all enjoyed the best view we had got all summer. As we walked down the switchbacks, away from the lookout we all agreed that there couldn’t have been a better way to wrap up the season.
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