Shissler Fire Lookout

  • July 18, 2017
  • Posted by Guest Blogger

Reaching high above my head with my hands at the very end of the loppers to maximize my extension, I take a little hop for a few more inches. I connect with the small branch of grand fir above the Shissler Peak Trail (Trail U50); it’s end detaches, falling away behind me. With it comes a shower of water, splashing on my helmet, rain jacket, and back of neck, giving me a chill.

In the past half hour the rain has steadily increased. As the brushing crew nears the summit and the Shissler Fire Lookout, so does the vegetation. Inevitably our progress slows and time is running out to reach the coveted peak. But as the rain turns to a downpour, the cutting crew returns from their trip to the top. They come back cheery despite the rain, soaked pants and socks, and the long day. They say the view from the top is awesome, especially with the clouds.

Fortunately for us, they offer to finish brushing to give us a chance to make the summit before the long descent back to the Moose Creek Ranger Station. Appreciative of the offer, we hand them our tools and briskly head to the summit five minutes away. Splashing through broad leaf thimbleberry and slick bear grass we round a bend and pop out of the forest onto flat earth and the rustic lookout. The Selway Bitterroot Wilderness opens up before us.
The clouds arch from ridgetop to ridgetop above the Moose Creek and Selway River Canyons, hiding the taller summits. Puffs of clouds that hang just above the tree tops on the canyon bottoms float slowly every which way, like boats in a large harbor. Some clouds form from the evaporation of water on tree tops and turn towards the sky like smoke. Growing in patches on the summit adjacent to cement blocks and white wooden beams is an array of colorful flowers - violet lupine and larkspur, creamy white yarrow, red indian paintbrush, pink willow herb rise from the brown earth. Red-green lichen crusted to rocks not in defiance of the gray sky but in a stern yet graceful bow to the heavens that gives greater contrast and more definition. The only sound is the patter of rain on the earth and our clothes. Extra sound is absorbed by the falling water. Resulting in a mesmerizing stillness and silence. I wish I could stay up here and watch the storm through. Alas, the rest of the crew is waiting and dry clothes, the warm cookhouse, and a hearty meal with the crew back at the station sounds alright to me. We turn around to meet up with the other to start the 3,000 ft descent along the trail that had our legs burning earlier.

So has been the first 3 weeks at Moose Creek. A fair amount of rain; enough to get my socks wet multiple times and give me blisters. A lot of selfless acts, and sacrifices, and teamwork; many a tree we’ve rolled out of the trail all together. Many hot, hearty meals together, even on off days. And of course, many opportunities to be blown away by this rugged landscape in the middle of nowhere, Idaho.


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