FIELD NOTES FROM A FIRE LOOKOUT
With Winter winds on everyone’s mind, our friend Ben Matthews, takes us back to spring snow and camping in a fire lookout of stunning Colorado.
After driving up from the quaint little town of Evergreen, Colorado into the mountains, switchback after switchback, we noticed a tiny little cabin-like structure at the top of one of the mountains and I stated, “that’s where we’re going,” and the group quickly became hesitant about what we had gotten ourselves into.
Finally, we arrived at Forest Road 192.1. At this point, the directions told us to drive up one more mile to a parking lot, but to not much of a surprise, this service road was covered with about a foot of snow and travel by car was definitely not possible at this time of year. Reluctantly, we unpacked our cars full of gear, food, and water and packed our bags for a hike that was now double the length of what we were expecting and covered with a foot of snow.
As we continued up the service road, now on foot, carrying our gear became somewhat tough. With every step you took forward, you would slip backwards about an inch because of the snow under our feet and the steep incline of the road. Also, with our Ozark Mountain heritage, the Rocky Mountain air was much thinner than we were used to and breaks were needed often as we trudged up the snow covered path.
As we hiked up the now two-mile hike with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, we kept seeing the little cabin-like structure get bigger and closer to us. When we reached the final set of switchbacks, above the tree-line, I made my way to the tower as quickly as I could, despite being winded and hungry.
We arrived to Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout at the perfect time for a beautiful sunset to light the interior of the upper section of the lookout as we settled in for the next two nights. Everybody was just relieved to get a little shelter from the elements for a while and have a beautiful 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains to the West, the Denver skyline to the East, Pikes Peak to the South and Longs Peak to the North. That night we feasted on chicken tacos and passed the bottle of rum and the bag of wine that was left by the previous inhabitants of this fire tower.
The following morning, we rose to a complete whiteout at the fire tower. The fog had rolled in thick before the sun rose and stuck around for most of the day. With the fog, there was a good amount of snow that got dropped as well overnight and in the early hours of the morning. This was quite the sight to see with windows 360 degrees around in the upper sleeping quarters of the tower. Throughout the day, we did some small explorations on the various ridges that were near the lookout only to come back to warm back up and to refuel our bellies with sandwiches, Munk Packs and hot tea or coffee.
Around 6:00pm, the fog began to drop below us and we were, quite literally, above the clouds and got to experience a beautiful sun set with view of Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak, and Longs Peak. It was a great way to end out the day. – @bentommat