Thursday, February 18, 2010

South Carolina Fire Towers

Thanks to Rick Shortt, of Wytheville, VA for a great find on a website/blog about hunting South Carolina fire towers:

Click above to visit the SC fire tower site

The SC tower website is complete with lots of great lookout photos and some Google maps of SC tower locations - something I haven't seen before but I'm thrilled someone is documenting them.  

While researching for my book, a former Nantahala National Forest district ranger told me that the Albert Mountain lookout near Franklin, NC was moved from South Carolina in 1951 and re-erected in North Carolina.  Attempts by FFLA SC representative Ron Stafford to find a removed tower from SC matching the make and model of the Albert Mountain tower have proven unsuccessful, and its original location remains in doubt.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rich Mountain Re-Visited

Thanks to Andy Kunkle, of Charlotte, NC, for sending me his trip report and overnight at Rich Mountain lookout tower this winter.  Andy braved the cold and hiked the fantastic Appalachian Trail/Roundtop Ridge loop I featured in Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers.  To read Andy's report, click here or the image above.  For photos of his trip, including the sunset and sunrise from the Rich Mountain fire tower, click here or the image below.


Wait Andy....where's your book?!?!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Groundhog Ridge Manway to Mt. Cammerer Lookout

Jenny Bennett has done it again with another trip report to an NC lookout tower, this time to the picturesque Mt. Cammerer lookout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Thank goodness, as I'm still not up to speed with routine updating of this blog - recent travel, illness, and various projects have had me quite preoccupied.  To finish writing a book with over 150 mountain peaks takes a great deal of time - in comparison, Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers has only 26 peaks.  I'll fill you in on the project once I finish it - first things first.  In the meantime, let's hope Jenny keeps hiking to the fire towers and shares her adventures.  I'll be stuck inside for a while.

Groundhog Ridge isn't a trail you'll find in my book, as it isn't one for the novice hiker.  The off-trail route leads up a ridge that becomes increasingly narrow as it climbs steeply towards the main crest of the Smokies.  This spur ascends south from Tennessee and intersects the state line just east of the lookout tower.  Though it isn't an officially maintained hiking trail, it is popular enough to be relatively well defined from its conspicuous intersection with the Lower Cammerer Ridge Trail.  The manway becomes more like a tunnel than trail as it climbs through dense enclosures of rhododendron and mountain laurel on its upper reaches - it requires a little crawling and clawing, for sure.  There is mild exposure near the top when the ridge becomes very narrow and traverses the rocky ridgeline.  But I admit, I'm now jaded with the ridgelines that I trembled across in fear on Oahu - this one no longer seems very intimidating.  The views looking up the ridge from a few hundred feet below the lookout tower are dramatic.  Speaking of dramatic - here's an aerial shot looking at the Mt. Cammerer lookout and its precipitous ridge.  The image is scanned from a book, hence the white linear line of reflection.  The last part of the Groundhog Ridge manway ascends to the lookout from the right!

The first time I hiked Groundhog Ridge was a hike with some of my best hiking friends.  We were fogged in the entire day - it was wet and rainy, an otherwise terrible day for a hike to a fire tower.  But it was one of my all-time favorite hikes because of the company we had.  Sometimes, it's not always the views from the towers that makes the hike special.  About a year later, all of these folks joined me atop Hemphill Bald, a few ridges to the south, for my completion of the Smokies 900 miles of trails.  Once again, we were shrouded in the clouds.  Like the last time, it wasn't the vistas that were important.

It's been some time since I last visited Mt. Cammerer, but I have an impending date with it in a few months.  A few of you may know what I mean by this.  I'll let the rest of you know soon enough.

For those interested in more about the Groundhog Ridge manway, you can check out a route description on  I don't think the map is accurate, particularly on the Groundhog Ridge portion (my GPS track is different), but the writeup will get you there if you're interested.  You can find Jenny's Groundhog Ridge trip report by clicking the Mt. Cammerer painting at the top of this post.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Hike to Yellow Mountain Lookout

Despite my recent preoccupation with travel and other projects that have been monopolizing my time, I'm fortunate that I've inspired others to seek out the lookout towers and articulately write about them.  In lieu of my own original blog post, I'll defer to some excellent trip reports to fire towers from others.  My newfound hiking companion and recent transplant from the northeast, Jenny Bennett, hasn't wasted time in hiking to several lookout towers during her short time so far in North Carolina.  Here's her writeup of a recent hike to the Yellow Mountain lookout tower:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aloha! (Tower)

My most recent excuse for a lack of NC Lookouts activity: I've been in Hawaii for the last two weeks.  No fire towers here - but I was excited to visit the Aloha Tower in downtown Honolulu: a 10-story lookout tower on Oahu!  To my grave disappointment, it is currently closed because both its stairs and elevator are "out of order".  I guess it's a good excuse to come back to Hawaii.  Reluctantly, I'll be back home soon.  Aloha!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Be on the LOOKOUT for Swine Flu

Well the few people who actually were following this blog have probably long ago abandoned it considering the lack of activity it has seen over the last few weeks.  I had so much NC Lookouts news that I actually sat down and made a list of the different posts and topics I needed to make.  And that's about as far as I got.  I'm down and out for the count.  Go get your vaccines, folks.  You don't want the swine flu - take it from me.  It's horrible.

When I get the energy back to fulfill that list, I promise lots of exciting news.  Duckett Top rehabilitation.  A hike to Shuckstack with NPS officials (seriously!).  Pinnacle Mountain Lookout Fundraising Dinner.  Carolina Mountain Club Banquet & Lookout Tower Challenge Award Recipients.  Panther Top Lookout Access Date Success.  Little Snowball National Historic Lookout Register Induction Ceremony.  A 7,000 ft. Elevation Gain Hike to Mt. Mitchell.  More Book/Tower Photos.  NC Lookout Towers featured on National Public Radio.  Oh my!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Panther Top Lookout Tower Open to Public Nov. 1

 Panther Top Lookout Tower

The Tusquitee Ranger District will host an access day for the Panther Top Lookout Tower in the Nantahala National Forest this coming Sunday, November 1 for visitors to enjoy the fall foliage. Normally gated 0.75 mi. below the tower, FS 85 will be open to allow vehicular access to the summit from early morning to 6:00pm. USFS archaeologist Michael Orberndorf will be on-site staffing the tower and allowing visitors up to the cab and catwalk.

The 30 ft. former live-in Panther Top lookout tower was constructed by the CCC in 1940.  Standing atop a 2,293 ft. summit, Panther Top is perfectly situated to take in the fall color during their peak at lower elevations. Its elevation makes it the lowest situated lookout tower in western North Carolina, and it is also the most western lookout in the entire state.  The Panther Top fire tower is one of only a few WNC lookouts still in possession of its original Osbourne Fire Finder, which can be viewed this weekend inside the tower cab.

Osbourne Fire Finder Inside Panther Top

To visit Panther Top from Murphy, NC, drive west on US 64 about 7 miles and turn right on Ranger Rd. (SR 1300).  Drive 2.3 mi. and turn right on Panther Top Rd. (SR 1303).  Continue 1.0 mi. until the pavement ends and the road forks.  Take the right fork, FS85, signed for the Panther Top Shooting Range.  Zero your odometer and follow the gravel road 1.2 mi. to where FS 85 actually turns left and uphill and FS 85A continues straight.  The junction can be missed easily if you are not watching for it.  FS 85 is normally gated, but will be open to vehicles on Sunday until 6:00pm.  Drive 0.75 mi. uphill to the summit and tower.

 Brock Fouts of Ellijay, GA

Of course, don't forget your copy of Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers.  Remember to send me your photos if you visit.  Above all, make sure to thank USFS archaeologist Michael Orberndorf and the Tusquitee Ranger District for making Panther Top available to visitors each fall.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bookers On Chambers Mountain

Sorry for the lack of posts lately on the NC Lookouts blog. I have so much NC fire tower news and notes to add that it's overwhelming, but without the time to do it. Look for lots of new content in the next week!

In the meantime, here is Michael & Jennifer Booker, of Knoxville, TN, at the Chambers Mountain fire tower with their now well-worn copy of Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers.

The 45 ft. Chambers Mountain lookout is located at 4,508 ft. west of Asheville near the town of Clyde. It was built in 1934 and is western North Carolina's only remaining routinely staffed fire lookout tower.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frosty Mt. Sterling Fire Tower

Tom Dunigan sent me this incredible photo of the Mt. Sterling lookout tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from his hike this past weekend. Something significant about this photo....... it's October!

Where's your book Tom?

And to think, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine just featured Mt. Sterling as one of the best locations to enjoy fall color this autumn.  There goes my credibility....

For some great info and photos of lookout towers in both Tennessee and the GSMNP, check out Dr. Dunigan's fantastic Tennessee Lookout Towers website.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

National Parks Magazine Features Lookout Towers

Check out this month's issue of National Parks Magazine from the National Parks Conservation Association, which features an article on lookout towers in the North Cascades.  The fantastic article describes both the history of the fire lookout system and details the amazing experiences and some harrowing accounts of tower operators.  Thanks to Nancy Truluck for bringing this article to my attention.  Here's a neat excerpt:
To experience a raging storm atop a fire lookout is to have a lightning-clenched fist coming at you at eye level. “Just before lightning struck my lookout, there was this intense gathering of energy,” recalls Bush. “Then suddenly it felt as if someone was moving a silk scarf across my face, and when I looked outside, I saw glowing balls of St. Elmo’s fire rolling down the branches of trees next to the lookout.” Being at the highest point on the horizon, in a cabin full of metal appliances, one’s natural impulse is to descend immediately, but it’s during these terrifying, earth-shaking moments that a fire lookout is most needed. If a lightning strike starts a fire, a ranger needs to be there to call the blaze in. “During one storm, I saw three fires break out in the span of five minutes,” recalls Cook. Thus during a storm, the lookout rangers must stand atop their glass-legged lightning stools, crouching, flinching, praying, and watching over the mountains, sacrificing their own fear in service of the forest.
As for lookouts in national parks in the southeast, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts lookouts towers on Mt. Cammerer, Shuckstack, Clingmans Dome, Mt. Sterling, and Cove Mountain.  The Blue Ridge Parkway hosts a lookouts on Green Knob and Fryingpan Mountain as well as Flat Top Mountain in the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.

Click to read the article "The Art of Mountain Watching"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Duckett Top Lookout Tower Glows At Night

What a sight it was at the top of Rich Knob in isolated Madison County. A glow of light shimmered from the inside of the Duckett Top lookout at night - perhaps for the first time in the last 30 years dating back to when it was last staffed.  Why is the light on?

Duckett Top's new official lookout steward, FFLA member Wes Greene, has been hard at work on rehabilitating the tower.  Rehab is now nearly complete on the tower's exterior.  Check back in soon for handfuls of photos of the exciting progress at Duckett Top.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FFLA Merchadise to Benefit NC Chapter

Through an agreement with the national FFLA, the NC chapter is excited to announce that all money beyond original item cost from purchased FFLA merchandise will benefit the NC chapter's Lookout Tower Restoration Fund.  Normally, sales profits are directed to the national FFLA budget, so this is a great opportunity to contribute specifically to NC fire towers with your purchase of FFLA gear.  The national FFLA sells a variety of items, including attractive FFLA vinyl decals suitable for car windows or bumpers, t-shirts, hats, colored embroidered patches, and pins.  This deal applies only to FFLA merchandise and excludes items indicated as sold by individuals.

When ordering from the FFLA, be sure to indicate "NC Fund" on your order form.  To visit their Lookout Store, visit

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reader Climbs Mt. Mitchell From Its Base

My name is Robert Sharpe and I have thoroughly enjoyed your book as it has helped me begin the Lookout Tower Challenge (I've nearly complete the South Beyond 6,000 Challenge) from the Carolina Mountain Club.  Today I lead a group to the summit of Mt. Mitchell and it's lookout tower from the Black Mountain Campground that had never taken the climb and I decided to participate in advertising for the book.  Attached is a picture of me holding the book with the tower in the background.

Today was an absolutely delightful day to be atop Mitchell.  It was cool but not too unseasonably cold and the skies were clear thus making it by far the best time I have been on the summit.

Thanks for writing the book!  It's been an immense help as I've climbed the peaks to the towers.
Thanks Robert, for your note and kind words regarding my book. Keep sending your tower/book photos and let me hear about all of your tower hikes you take in the future. And climbing Mt. Mitchell from Black Mountain Campground is no easy feat!  In my book, I rank only the Baxter Creek Trail up Mt. Sterling as the most strenuous hike to any lookout tower in North Carolina.  Notes like yours is why I wrote the book: to share the places most dear to me and get others as excited about the towers as I am.

All other readers, please make sure to send me your book/tower photos and stories of your hikes to the lookout towers, too.  I'll display them on the NC Lookouts blog.

And for those interested in purchasing your own copy of the Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers, click here.  I'll be happy to sign and personalize it for you, too.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Duckett Top Inducted In National Historic Lookout Register

The Duckett Top Lookout Tower was recently commemorated on-site for its inclusion into the FFLA's National Historic Lookout Register (NHLR). Pictured above, NC FFLA chapter member Wes Greene presents the NHLR certificate to NCFS County Ranger Wesley Bailey. The certificate now hangs inside the cab of the lookout.

Thanks to Wes, work to repair and re-paint Duckett Top is now underway. Mr. Greene has also become the official FFLA steward of the Duckett Top lookout tower, agreeing to look over its upkeep, in coordination with the NCFS, for years to come.

I failed to announce that the NCFS replaced Duckett Top's roof in 2008, demonstrating their commitment to the preservation of the lookout tower. Duckett Top is one of western NC's leading examples of synergistic partnership between the FFLA and the Forest Service.

Check back soon for further Duckett Top updates.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine Features Lookout Towers in October Issue

Very exciting news to start off the month of October.  Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine has featured fire towers as their cover story this month.  Of course, it's no secret that the towers are perhaps the best locations to enjoy this month's coming fall color.  Numerous towers in the southeast are featured in the article; most are in North Carolina.  These include the towers on Yellow Mountain, Mt. Sterling, and Chambers Mountain.  You may recognize several of the photographs, too. 

Click to read the entire article

As if this isn't exciting enough, Blue Ridge Outdoors also included a small write-up about our efforts to save the Shuckstack lookout tower, complete with a photograph.  They also featured the Carolina Mountain Club's new Lookout Tower Challenge (LTC).  This is fantastic news for lookout towers in North Carolina as this article will go great lengths to recognizing them as scenic and historic hiking destinations as well as bringing attention to fire tower preservation in the southeast.  More on this to come, but make sure to pick up your own print copy of this month's BRO at your local outfitter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Duckett Top Rehab Under Way

I received these spectacular images of the beauty witnessed from the Duckett Top lookout by our FFLA member Wes Greene, whom is on-site repairing and painting the tower.

Check back soon for more Duckett Top news and photos of its rehabilitation.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Little Snowball Lookout Open to Public October 3rd

The Big Ivy Historical Society will host their annual Mountain Heritage Day on Saturday, October 3rd and open the Little Snowball lookout tower to visitors.  The Little Snowball lookout has perhaps western NC's most fascinating and inspiring restoration story and stands as one of the state's most successful lookout tower restorations.  Members of the Historical Society, including Lloyd Allen - whom can be personally credited with the salvation and relocation of the tower - as well as citizens from the Big Ivy community, will be on hand to show off the tower and share stories of their heritage in the valley.

Big Ivy Historical Campus

The grounds of the Big Ivy Historical Campus hosted the F-8 CCC camp in the 1930s - the men whom built the Little Snowball tower high up on the mountain.  In addition to the restored fire tower, the campus also includes a 1800s-era log cabin and early 1900s schoolhouse - each restored with the same detail and accuracy that was given to the lookout tower.  The campus is a little known gem in a picturesque, hidden valley in northeast Buncombe County - visit on October 3rd to tour all of its fascinating structures.

You can use this link here to get directions to Big Ivy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wayah Bald - A TV Celebrity For the Wrong Reasons

Well, one of western North Carolina's most recognized and beloved lookout towers landed itself on the old-fashioned motion picture box today - and for all the wrong reasons.

ABC News 13 picked up the story of the Wayah Bald weapons of mass destruction incident today and scored photos of the imbeciles responsible for the good ol' redneck fireworks exhibition. 

Meet the imposing 5 foot 7 inch Nicholas Ford, of Dillard, GA.  I was going to spare you the other mugshots since they're just as laughable, minus the peach fuzz toughness.  But thanks to the oh-so insightful comments left on this blog from the good friends of these morons, here's another:

Meet all 5 feet 5 inches of Martin Murray, of Franklin, NC.  Maybe the height of the fire tower was threatening to him, so he thought he should blow it up?  Or maybe not - as his friend (who surely is as intimidating as this pup) so delicately explained to me, "All they did was make molotovs and tried to test them in a area where they wouldn't get caught."  Well, thank goodness that's all!  He wasn't finished there, claiming "they was not trying to burn it down." (sic).  The Macon County sheriff was quoted as saying "Sometimes kids do stupid things."  Seriously?  Why isn't it: "Sometimes...the people themselves...are stupid..."?

It's actually difficult to articulate how much ignorance that these boys and their ever insightful cronies (and friends that jump to their defense) actually possess, but the Franklin Press recently ran a story about the arson that may give you an idea:

During the first incident in April, the cocktail was made from lamp oil and did not ignite.

One of the suspects used the internet to find the proper recipe for the crude devices. Sometime in May, another device was set off using lighter fluid. Reports state the device made a big fireball. The suspects recorded their handiwork on video, footage that would later be posted on the website YouTube.

Again in May and June reportedly, more Molotov cocktails were ignited inside the Wayah Tower. The suspects again captured the incidents on video and lighter fluid was sprayed on the subsequent fires to make them bigger. Suspect interviews revealed that in the June incident, lighters and a Roman candle were thrown into the fire.

The suspects would return at least twice more, reports reveal. Compressed CO2 cartridges, fireworks and smoke bombs were thrown into the fire. Another fire was then started with newspaper in the upper parking lot. The suspects reportedly threw a small propane tank into it. When it didn't explode, lighter fluid was sprayed on it to intensify the flames and heat. The tank never exploded. One of the suspects returned the next day and retrieved the propane tank.
At least they got their propane tank back!

Click to the watch the video

Wayah Bald Reader Photos

To celebrate the recent news of the upcoming Wayah Bald lookout restoration, here are photos of recent Lookout Tower Challenge completers Michael & Jennifer Booker, of Knoxville, TN, at the tower showing off their copy of Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers.  Thanks to research from prominent WNC photographer Bill Lea and the USFS, the book contains an extensive early history of the Wayah Bald fire lookout turned observation tower and forest icon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wayah Bald Escapes Destruction; To Be Restored

According to the USFS, the Wayah Bald lookout tower will be the largest benefactor of the recent ARRA Stimulus Funding package for WNC lookout towers rehabilitation.  And for good reason.  The tower suffered accelerated deterioration last year when the stonework of its exterior walls and staircase began crumbling.  Recently, it survived numerous attempts to blow it up with homemade explosives.  However, an interview with Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins in an article in the Franklin Press recently reported:
"It won't be cheap. It will be very labor-intensive," Wilkins said of the tower project.  At present, people are allowed to access the tower, but the north side is roped off because of loose and falling rock. The renovation will require pulling the north face off "rock by rock," pouring concrete and resetting the rock.

"We get comments from the public about it," Wilkins said. "There's a lot of concern."

Money for the tower is included in funding allocated for repairs of CCC projects. Wilkins said he expected the restoration would cost more than $75,000, but the exact amount will depend on the bids that come in.

  Wayah Bald lookout as it looked the 1930s (Franklin Press)

Wayah Bald is a former three-story live-in lookout built by the CCC in 1937.  It was only used for fire detection until the 1940s when it was decommissioned because of faulty motar (which continues to plague it to this day).  It was then reduced in height and converted to an observation tower - the first example of fire lookout being converted specifically for the use of as a hiking destination and public recreation in western NC.  Today it stands as one of the Nanthahala National Forest's and Macon County's most iconic landmarks and is a favorite vantage point along the Appalachian Trail.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wayah Bald Lookout Nearly Destroyed

This news, courtesy 105.0 WFSC, was brought to my attention today by one of our chapter members:
Six teens are arrested after attempting to burn the historic fire tower located atop Wayah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest.

On Friday Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland told us that an investigation involving home-made explosives all got started after a vehicle driven by one of the suspects was stopped during the Hands Across the Border Checkpoint on September 1st.

Officers initiated a search of that vehicle after noticing a U.S. Forest Service lock that appeared to have been cut. Holland said officers found further evidence that criminal activity had taken place and Molotov cocktails were made.

An interview and investigation followed and that is when the suspects admitted their attempt to destroy government property, “They admitted to going up to Wayah Bald to the look out tower and trying to set that building on fire by throwing these Molotov cocktails. On at least six different occasions they went up there and threw these devices and set the building on fire. Luckily, they didn’t burn down the building.”

Holland adds that those explosive devices are easy to make using household items, “They had jars or bottles where they put gas in and then they put in a cloth of some kind and then they light the cloth and throw it into the object they’re trying to burn. The gas ignites and sets a pretty big blaze.”

Investigators discovered additional evidence after seizing computer equipment according to Holland, “They actually videotaped one of these acts being committed and had placed it on You Tube.”

Three 17 year olds have been charged with felony arson and possessing weapons of mass destruction. Ryan Charles Douglass and Martin Douglas Murray both of Franklin were detained as well as Nicholas William Ford. As for the other three, two are juveniles and their identities are not being released, while the third individual, an 18 year old will be indicted federally.
My ever astute friend who brought this story to my attention summed this up much better than I ever could have:

"Fortunately (since rock isn't particularly flammable) their idiotic plan failed."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Duckett Top Receives FFLA Emergency Stabilization Grant

The NC FFLA is excited to announce that the Duckett Top Lookout Tower has been awarded an Emergency Stabilization Grant from the national FFLA fund. The small grant will assist in the purchasing of supplies in the repainting and maintenance of the Duckett Top lookout.

Wes Greene at Duckett Top

Wes Greene, FFLA member from Mooresville, NC, will be funding the remaining expense of paint and supplies as well as performing the labor to rehab the lookout.  You will be hearing a lot more about Wes and his generous work on the Duckett Top lookout in the near future, so check back in for further updates.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

Speaking of the Lookout Tower Challenge, Norm Neal, of Bessemer City, NC, is easily beyond halfway to completing the LTC.  Here he is at one of his most frequent haunts, the Fryingpan Mountain lookout tower.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lookout Tower Challenge Has First Completers!

Congratulations to Michael & Jennifer Booker, of Knoxville, TN, who have become the first hikers to complete the Lookout Tower Challenge (LTC).  The LTC challenges outdoor enthusiasts to hike to 24 of western North Carolina's lookout towers.  The program is sponsored by both the Forest Fire Lookout Association and the Carolina Mountain Club.

Michael & Jennifer Booker atop Wesser Bald lookout

Last June, I interviewed the Bookers for an article I wrote about the Lookout Tower Challenge in the Smoky Mountain News.  You can read that article here.  Michael told me they were attracted to the LTC because it "seemed like an attainable goal.”  He added, “it offers the opportunity to explore diverse parts of the southern Appalachian backcountry that we otherwise may not have visited. Many of the mountains offer physical and mental challenges that in the end are rewarded with limitless views.”

As completers of the LTC, the Bookers have earned the newly designed embroidered hiking patch, pictured below.  You'd be amazed at how many people email me asking if they can buy the patch.  Sorry - you have to visit all the towers first!  Click the patch for more information on the Lookout Tower Challenge.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smokies 75th Anniversary Rededication

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Smokies 75th anniversary rededication ceremony at Newfound Gap.  The event was particularly significant to me because of its location.  Like many people who visit the Smokies, Newfound Gap is the first place that they get out of their cars to stretch their legs and gawk at the views while traveling through the park on US 441.  Years ago, my family and I were no exception.  But as an eight year old child, I walked up to a signboard that indicated the presence of the Appalachian Trail, and as I read about its magnitude and studied the map, a seed was planted.  Looking back on it, this was a magical moment - one that would eventually shape the direction of my life.  But I digress.

While most people surely did not take notice during the ceremony, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, mentioned something in one of his several speeches:  fire towers.  While I may be exaggerating the significance of his words seeing how they were coupled with other CCC constructed structures, it was nevertheless rewarding to know that lookouts are associated among the early symbols of our parks.  Those with the NPS in attendance that day could certainly use that reminder.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shuckstack Contributions Continue

Dave Landreth, of Hendersonville, NC, recently contributed $450 from the sale of his Wilderness System Tsunami 12.5' kayak for the preservation of the Shuckstack lookout tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Dave, aka "griztrax", is a long time friend of mine who years ago fostered my newfound addiction and love of the outdoors and wild country - perhaps more than anyone else.  Upon attending one of my lookout towers presentations, he pledged the sale of one of his kayaks to the restoration of Shuckstack.  Thank you, Dave, for your generosity and your desire to see this tower preserved.

Dave Landreth (left) & Kenny Hamblin (right)

Additional donations, both in excess of $100, have recently been contributed by Kenny Hamblin, also of Hendersonville, and Bob Clark, of Waynesville, NC.  The FFLA and myself are overwhelmingly grateful for all of these contributions to Shuckstack.

Shuckstack is among the top priorities of restoration projects for the North Carolina FFLA chapter.  To contribute, makes checks payable to the "Forest Fire Lookout Association" with "NC - Shuckstack" in the memo.  Contributions of $25+ will be granted a complimentary FFLA membership.  All donations will be recognized on this website.  Mail contributions to our FFLA treasurer:

Forest Fire Lookout Association
Attn: NC Chapter - Shuckstack
590 W. Versailles Dr.
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rich Mountain Lookout Tower Sunset

Something I always speak about in my lookout tower presentations are the opportunities that fire towers afford for enjoying sunrises and sunsets.  This is a sunset as seen from the Rich Mountain lookout tower near Hot Springs, NC - just off the Appalachian Trail.

It is amazing to think that live-in tower operators, like those who manned Rich Mountain, witnessed these spectacular displays on a daily basis.  The photo was sent by Michael & Brenda Spanjer, of Williamsburg KY.  Brenda is pictured below, with the lookout tower and her book.

Everyone continue to send in your photos with the towers and your copy of Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers and they will be posted here!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

USFS Receives $734,000 Stimulus Funding for Lookout Tower Restorations in North Carolina

The North Carolina chapter of the FFLA is excited to announce that the USFS has been allocated $734,000 for the restoration of CCC shelters and lookout towers on national forests in North Carolina.  This federal stimulus money, received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is the largest allocation of funding for fire tower restorations ever in North Carolina.

While specific projects are still being itemized, it is expected that partial or complete rehabilitation of eight lookout towers in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests may be included.  These include: Joanna Bald, Albert Mountain, Panther Top, Rich Mountain, Camp Creek Bald, Fryingpan Mountain, and Green Knob.  Wayah Bald is the only specific tower mentioned in the USFS report and will received substantial rehabilitation of its recently deteriorated stonework.

While this funding allocation will be shared with other CCC built structures such as trail shelters on the Appalachian Trail & in the Croatan National Forest as well as the Wilson Lick Ranger Station near Wayah Bald, the report extensively itemizes repairs to lookout towers including the replacement or rehabilitation of tower roofs, doors, windows, screens, stairs, floors, cabs and structure.  Of particular importance is the mention of improving safety for visitors, which may allow for the opportunity of lookout access dates for hikers in the future to those towers that are currently locked.

More specific information regarding future USFS lookout tower restorations in western North Carolina will be posted here as it becomes available.