Then and Now: Kloshe Nanitch Lookout
Hikers love fire lookouts, but these structures require both maintenance and care to be preserved for the future.
Fire lookouts provide unique destinations on hikes. They stand perched atop towering mountains in seemingly impossible locations far removed from civilization. Their utilitarian purpose to spot wildfires demanded that they provide commanding views of the surrounding land. Few lookouts still operate in their original intent as means to spot fires from afar, and most in Washington are now unstaffed and are only recreational destinations for hikers.
Then: a historic lookout
One such lookout, built in 1917, was the Kloshe Nanitch fire lookout on the Olympic Peninsula. Its towering views included Lake Crescent, Mount Olympus, and a wide panorama of the valley below. It was first used to spot a wildfire in 1918, just one year after its construction. As the structure aged, it eventually fell into disrepair, and by the mid 1960's it was removed from its perch above the Sol Duc Valley.
Now: twice removed
Seeing that the lookout was a historic draw for many hikers, the lookout was reconstructed in 1996 to resemble its original design. This time, the lookout would be purely a destination for hikers who wished to take part in a piece of Washington's history. However, the lookout suffered from vandalism, creating a safety hazard. With little money to maintain the lookout and keep up with the constant vandalism, the lookout was removed in 2012 leaving only a wooden viewing platform in its place.
Lookouts require careful maintenance so that all hikers can continue to enjoy them. Over the years, many volunteers have stepped up to ensure that other lookouts don't suffer the same fate as Kloshe Nanitch.
This year, WTA partnered with the Darrington Ranger District of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to place regular volunteers at the Green Mountain Lookout. Volunteers with the Everett branch of our friends at The Mountaineers help maintain three popular lookouts, and the Mount Baker Club maintains the Winchester Lookout. The support that volunteers give is invaluable in keeping lookouts all over Washington operational and maintained.
When you next visit a fire lookout, keep in mind that these are a part of Washington's history and need your help to stay in good shape. Treat the structures with respect so that future generations can enjoy their grand views and cozy interiors.