Friday, October 6, 2017

A Bit of History

Early this summer, I received some very interesting photos from someone whose family had some historic ties to Stehekin. The photos capture a glimpse into a unique era. I know that some of the fire lookouts still stand in Washington, but in the almost 40 years since my first visit to Stehekin I have only seen the charred remains of what was once a fire lookout. These small spare cabins, often perched high atop tall mountains were the summer haunts of young men, and sometimes women, who were hearty hikers and looking for wilderness experiences, all the while serving the greater good.

There's something that can spark our imaginations when we think about the fire lookouts, and the people who spent their summers alone, high above the valley floor. What a unique experience it must have been, but certainly not suited to the faint of heart. What thigh muscles they must have had - trekking down to get water to haul back up to their mountaintop homes. ha!

And when I started to do a bit of research, I discovered some interesting facts pertinent to the Stehekin valley, and the Pacific Northwest. I have always understood that the fire lookouts were for the specific purpose of having high elevation observers able to report undetected fires to authorities. Early detection and quick response were the objective.
a few years ago - fire at Flick Creek as viewed from the head of Lake Chelan
I was fascinated to discover that in the 1940's, during WWll, fire lookouts were built and/or recommissioned for a different service. They served as Aircraft Warning Stations (AWS), and Stehekin's sentinel, McGregor, was used for that purpose in 1942. Ultimately, it wasn't ideally suited for the purpose because it would often be enveloped in cloud. (more historical information about McGregor Mountain Lookout can be found here.)

There was another AWS located near War Creek - which is up above Stehekin Landing, near Purple Pass. These photos, which were shared with us this summer, are believed to be from Boulder Butte, which is approximately 1/4 mile hike above the pass.

My father-in-law, Ray Courtney, spent one summer as the Fire Lookout on Goode Mountain. He taught himself to play the guitar that summer. Unfortunately, I have never seen a picture of that particular lookout. If any of our readers have any photos from the era of the fire lookouts in this area, we would be love to have them shared with us. We are very interested in archiving historical photos that capture the history of Stehekin and its surroundings. Thank you!

edited to add: the lookout photos in this post are believed to be Boulder Butte Lookout. These were generously shared with us by Karen Brockman, whose father spent his summer as a lookout while he was in college (probably 1932 or 33).

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