There is something special about a fire lookout. There aren't many of them left - airplanes and satellites do most of the fire-spotting work now - but the ones that remain are monuments to a time that, to me at least, seems simpler, more human, better.
It is no accident that these crow's nests were the domain of poets. People like Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, people for whom words were magic... they did their time up there on the crags. And yet it was such a bare-knuckle occupation as well, calling for physical strength and vision unheard of at the lower elevations. Not to mention that your average lookout tender needed to be a level-headed sort, in tune with every mountain echo while maintaining an eagle eye on all 360 degrees.
I envy those men for the time they had. For the hours spent in sweet solitude above the clouds, for their ease of daily living. I'm not being romantic here; I know there were hardships associated with the job. But there are hardships that go with any line of work... and the payoffs from this one must have been monumental.
I hiked up to the Tolmie Peak lookout yesterday, in the northwestern corner of Rainier National Park. And yes, the view was superb.