McCue Ridge Fire Lookout

July 15th, 2015 in Yesterday

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Many of us have skied very close to the ruble of the McCue Ridge Fire Lookout. It is located at the low end of McCue Ridge, on a high point near Don’s High Road. High Camp regulars, David and Debbie Rodenhizer came upon the site last spring at the end of the ski season. The cement blocks, telephone wires, remnants of a woodburning stove, old cans and dishware were exposed in the low snow. David went home to investigate and discovered a picture of the lookout in book entitled:  Lookouts Firewatchers of the Cascades and Olympics by Ira Spring and Byron Fish. David and Debbie donated a copy of this book to the High Camp library.

The lookout was built in 1931 and could only be accessed by the Chiwaukum trail and a spur trail that switchbacked up the backside of McCue Ridge. Of course, the phone wire was routed that way also. The tower stood at an elevation of 5136 feet and was 41 feet high. Recently Zeke and I hiked out to that area. We wondered what kind of view the firewatchers would have. As we sat on rocks near the site we could see deep into the Chiwaukum drainage, up both the south and north forks of Chiwaukum Creek and up Glacier Creek a well. It was a big view.

View through the burned trees

View through the burned trees

David, Debbie and I recently hiked into the Chiwaukum and saw what we believe to be vestiges of the old trail to the lookout as it climbed out of the Chiwaukum drainage. This was deep in the middle of the ash and destruction of last years Chiwaukum Fire. This fire roared down McCue Ridge and into the Chiwaukum drainage on July 18th, 2014. The actual lookout area was completely engulfed in the flames, as was the access trail. Even after this event, you can still see glimpses of another era when firewatchers were depended upon call out the alert if there was a forest fire. Last summer the blaze which was started by a lightning strike was discovered by an airplane patrolling the area after a huge thunder and lightning storm.

Old woodstove and aluminum pan lid

Old woodstove and aluminum pan lid

You can hike to the lookout along Don’s High Road. There is no trail, so hikers need to be aware of their map location. It is interesting to hike through the ash of the 2014 fire to a lookout site built in 1931.fire above and below ground

Christine