The Model Little Bald Mountain Lookout
This model is based generally on Little Bald Mountain USFS Lookout, once part of the Naches Ranger District in the Snoqualmie (now Wenatchee) National Forest in the central Cascade Mountains of Washington state. I manned Little Bald for part of the Summer of 1958. The images below are blowups of two of my few slides of the original.
The Real Little Bald Mountain Lookout - USFS - 6108'
I took over this wonderful lookout during the latter part of the season of 1958, filling in for the regular lookout who was a student from an east coast university. He had hitch-hiked all the way across the country for this job and, as a result, had to leave early to hitch-hike back for his fall term. Since my school (University of Washington) was "just over the hill" in Seattle, and began its school year a bit later than many other schools, I was able to take over this beautiful mountaintop in mid-August and man it until we closed it down for the season in early September.
Manning a lookout in those days was a little different from what it was in more recent history. We went up the mountain at the start of our season, and didn't come down again until we closed it at the close of the season - except to leave the job early or, on those rare days when it rained without lightning, for a very brief trip to the Ranger Station to get a real shower and a restaurant type meal a nearby lodge. We "shopped" for groceries and supplies by radioing our shopping lists down to the dispatcher. He - it was almost always a "he" then - arranged to have them filled the nearby store where we maintained a running account. Our stuff was delivered by the next Forest Service crew that came up our way. We were compensated for all the "overtime" (although the Forest Service didn't recognize that term at the time) by a small, temporary kicker in our pay.
Recently, I was delighted to get some great photos of Little Bald from Barbara Jones, a lady who was lucky enough to man this mountaintop during the early 1970's. Coincidentally, that's about when I managed to detour my Navy patrol plane (click here to see my Navy VP-9 page) over the area a few times and snap some shots from high overhead. Here are Barbara's pictures, along with one of my overhead views.
Little Bald remained in active service with the USFS until the summer of 1980 when it was accidentally burned and never replaced. At least it was spared the humiliation of being intentionally destroyed in the frenzy of destruction that occurred when short-sighted forest "managers" decided to reduce USFS liability by eliminating such "attractive nuisances" as retired lookouts and patrol cabins.
Little Bald was my fourth, my last and my favorite lookout, featuring both a spectacular setting and spectacular views. I had started my all too brief lookout career some three years earlier, almost by accident. I was working on the Ahtanum District State Firecrew during the summer before my senior year in high school, and rashly volunteered to be the mid-season replacement for the fire watcher on Sedge Ridge who was suffering from "combat fatigue". Sedge Ridge was a State Forestry lookout, 24 miles west of Yakima, Washington, perched on the border of the Yakima Indian Reservation ... and I loved the experience! Proof positive that some "rash" actions have wonderful results.
The following summer, I was old enough to work for the Forest Service and landed a job as the Crow Creek Patrolman on the Naches Ranger District, about halfway between Yakima and Chinook Pass. Among my favorite duties was manning Raven's Roost, my second lookout, during lightning storms and extra high fire danger periods.
My third lookout was Bald Mountain - we called it Big Bald to distinguish it from Little Bald. So far I haven't found any pictures of Big Bald in my collection, but I'm still looking. Also located in the Naches District, it was a new L-4 on a 38 foot tower located on the ridge NNE of the Naches Ranger Station. I manned it briefly at the end of the '57 season, filling in for yet another lookout who had to leave before the end of the season. Although very nice, neither its setting nor its view were particularly remarkable. As I recall, its only memorable features were the old log cabin and steel tower of the earlier site that remained for exploration -- and occasional visits by my hiking buddy, a son of then new owners of Whistlin' Jack Lodge in the nearby community of Cliffdell. He could be relied on to bring along a little beer ... and one of his attractive female cousins.
I haven't been back to Big Bald since that summer and don't know its current status so I can't particularly recommend a trip up its long, rough road just to see whatever might remain at the site. I do, however, definitely do recommend a visit to Whistlin' Jack's for some great food and lodging under the big Ponderosa Pines along the Naches River. If you happen to run into my old friend's pesky little brother, Doug. who owned and ran the place for many years, tell him I sent you.
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