View from the Lookout, Part Two

View from Suntop Lookout

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first time my youngest daughter spent a night at a fire lookout. With fall, approaching it was time for the second time. I was nervous that it would be in the clouds again as the morning was heavy overcast. We left to check in at the ranger station and pick up a replacement radio and keys. During the 30 minute drive to the lookout gate we never saw a glimpse of blue sky. It was not until we made the last turn up the forest road that the sky opened up and we arrived above the clouds.

Above the clouds

We soaked up the sun and prepared for a night of star-gazing.

Mount Rainier

Suntop Lookout

A few visitors came by to soak up the sun also.

Ground Squirrel

The sun set to the west in a blaze of light.

Suntop Sunset

To the northwest the creator painted the sky in a way that reminded us of Jupiter. The streams in the sky was from a fire caught in the jet stream.

Jupiter's Sunset

A few moments later the moon rose as an orange ornament welcoming the night to come.

Moonrise

With the fading light it was time to bunk down and await the many points of light and the full moon.

Fading Light

The morning came with us still above the clouds. The tops of hills creating islands among the buffeting billows of clouds.

Mount Stuart and the Enchantments

Island in the Clouds

Mount Rainier rose above the sea of clouds.

Morning comes to Mount Rainier

It was a beautiful time, We look forward to other adventures above the clouds.

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The View from the Lookout, Part One

Suntop Lookout

Lookouts have always captivated my attention since moving to the Pacific Northwest from the south. The history, how they came about, and how they built them is a story worth reading. I am amazed when standing at Three Finger Lookout after climbing the wooden ladders on the edge and wonder how did they end up putting a cabin here in 1931. But you lose those thoughts in the wonder of the view. I am drawn to them because of curiosity on how they got there and the men and women who experienced the loneliness of the duty for perhaps months at a time.

They had majestic views. They would see the waxing of the day and it’s waning into the night. This would bring the expanse of the heavens full of specks of light from horizon to horizon and the dusty Milky Way cutting through the dark dome. The views… snow-capped mountains, green carpeted forests, or color exploding with the coming of fall. It is why I am drawn to the lookouts. It is why I’ve climbed to over 50 of the different lookouts or their former residences over the past few years.

I shared this passion with my daughter who this past summer twice was able to spend nights at the Suntop Lookout as we volunteered “the watch.” Although her first experience had her asking why had her father done this to her. After trudging up the trail we found the door locked. After hiking back to the car and getting the key at the ranger station, back we came to the following view:

Suntop Lookout in the Clouds

She must have thought dad was crazy. I told her Mount Rainier was right out there, but all she saw were clouds and mist. Then the sun sank in the west (we did not see of course).

Looking for the Sunset

A few hours later I woke her up to see the heavens, for the clouds had receded beneath us. Together we sat and looked at those points of light; soaking in the immensity of the heavens we do not see during the waking hours.

Suntop Lookout at Night

Suntop Lookout at Night

Then morning light arrived to wake the slumbering mountain before us. A softness of pink light took hold of the sky and dawn arrived.

The Waking of Rainier

A few hours later, we said good-bye to the lookout. My daughter turned to me and asked, when are we doing this again. Ah, the passion was shared.

Saying Goodbye to Suntop Lookout

There is a good listing of Washington lookouts with some links at Summitpost.org (http://www.summitpost.org/washington-lookouts/564151).