How to picnic overnight at a rented fire lookout tower for $40 a night high above the forest

How to picnic overnight at a rented fire lookout tower for $40 a night high above the forest

18 June 2009

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If you like simplicity in camping and food, spend the night or a few days high above the forest trees with a 360 degree view enjoying what the fire lookouts used to see. Rent a fire tower lookout for $40 a night and bring your own food and water. What you’ll need to bring is enough water. They don’t have running water.

Maybe you want to buy an abandoned fire lookout tower and turn it into your own vacation ‘treehouse’ getaway as an alternative to camping. You can even volunteer to refurbish these cabins in exchange for a free stay. Some are for sale, and others are for rent only.

Make sure the lookout tower is located in a place where if you wanted to buy one and put in electricity, the electricity potential would be available. Also ask whether electronic sites are encroaching on the tower.

Take a lantern because most cabins don’t have electricity. Don’t touch the exposed metal inside the cabin during a lightning, rain, or thunder storm, even though most cabins have lightning rods.

Bring communication gear in case you need to get help. Those lookout towers could be high on a mountain or built on metal towers. Some of these towers are privately owned. Want to buy one? Others may be used for amateur radio field days.

What Food to Bring to Your Overnight Picnic
Dehydrated foods are healthy. Also bring some raw whole buckwheat groats. Soak them a few hours in water to make them soft and chewy. Put dried fruit on top. Bring fruit that isn’t perishable if left unrefrigerated overnight or put your fruit in your cooler with ice. Take camping rations—dehydrated food to mix with the water your brought.

What tastes good are the dehydrated soups, dried fruit, banana chips, whole grain cereals, breads or cakes that don’t need refrigeration overnight, and the usual dehydrated packages of foods you find in stores selling camping gear. Don’t bring cheese or lunch meats that would go bad in two hours without refrigeration.

Uncut fruit such as pears, apples, oranges, grapefruits, or grapes can last overnight without refrigeration. Also puffed dry grains such as puffed rice or wheat don’t need refrigeration.

Remember that most of the cabins don’t have running water. Before you rent, ask if there is one with electricity. For example, Oregon’s Fall Mountain Lookout has electricity as of this date, but situations could change with time.

Ask whether there’s a toilet and what type as most cabins usually have no running water. Find out whether the cabin has been maintained and cleaned as some have steps or other parts with rotting wood.

Bring your own portable and/or disposable camping toilet if there’s none in the cabin. Usually there are no toilet tissues in the cabins. Carry wet wipes and your personal hygiene products. It’s a good idea to pack a zipper bag with disposable wet washcloths and dry ones and some baking soda for hygiene. Keep in mind that most of the towers don’t have running water.

A comfortable sleeping bag is required because most likely the only furniture you’ll find is the mattress in the cabin. And it could be clean or not so clean. You don’t know what insects could be in or on the mattress. If the mattress is clean, put your zippered sleeping bag on top of it or carry a water-repellent drop cloth to put over the mattress and then put your sleeping bag on top of it.

Most fire lookout towers are cabins that come with a propane or wood-burning stove that can either heat the cabin or provide a place for you to boil your morning tea, hot water, or coffee.

According to the Lookouts.Ussite, “When a structure is less than 50 years old, but has sufficient historical significance to be registered, the lookout is listed in the National Lookout Register with an NHLR number, and is automatically transferred to the NHLR upon the 50th anniversary of its construction.”

You’ll have the 360 degree view that the fire spotters used to have as they ‘manned’ the fire lookout towers, high above the treetops in a forest. The reason the cabins are being rented to the public is that video cameras, surveillance flights, and other remote detection systems are in place so there aren’t many paid fire spotters left, if any.

The U.S. Forest Service isn’t letting those fire lookout towers go to waste. They’re renting them out to the public for about $40 a night. If you want to make reservations to stay overnight in one of those cabins, visitLookouts.Us

Contact the Forest Fire Lookout Association for more information. Learn how to get involved with owning, fixing up, photographing, volunteering, researching, or helping out in numerous ways with refurbishing of fire lookout towers.

According to its site, “The Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA), founded in 1990, is an organization involved in research of former forest fire lookout sites, ground cabins and early forest fire detection methods. Anecdotes ofLookout operators both past and present are documented. The organization encourages efforts of public groups and others in the restoration of forest fire lookouts.”

If you like simplicity, forests, and high elevations, check out this picnic possibility. Maybe you’d like to rent a fire lookout tower for more than a day, buy one, or refurbish several. You’re getting cleaner air, picnic lifestyle, and 360 degree treetop views.

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