Haytors Knob Fire Tower

Once a Wildland Firefigher, Always a Wildland Firefigher.

At least that’s how we feel in our hearts, and I’ve written about this in a previous post.

It’s been over 30 years since I worked a fireline, but when I saw this fire tower at the halfway point of our 6 mile hike to The Channels, I felt that old firefighter excitement deep inside.   The tower, built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was registered with the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2014.

According to the Registry, the tower construction materials were carried to the construction site on mules and on men’s backs.

When laying underneath, and looking up through the stairs, it truly seemed that the tower was moving against the clouds and sky.

Per the registry, the tower commands a view of over 60 miles on a clear winter day and fewer than six feet when the fog settles over the mountain.  Research did not reveal the height of the tower, but for some reason 100ft seems about right.  Oh, how I wanted to climb it but between the sign that said “No Climbing”, the lack of time, stairs (and probably the lack of muscle), I didn’t get very far.

The tower was in use from 1939 until the spring of 1970, and was the inspiration for a book called Fire Tower by Jack Kestner.  The late author wrote this adventure story in 1960 after serving as a lookout himself at the Hayters Knob fire tower.  “With this book, Jack honored the men and women of the Virginia Division of Forestry (now the Department of Forestry) who work tirelessly to protect lives and property during fire season”.

The tower itself is in much better shape than the cabin once used by the former lookouts.

As we turned to head back down the mountain, I took one last wistful look behind me.

The heart of a firefighter remains.


See the previous post for more about the hike to the top of The Channels.

The next post will reveal images of the sandstone formations that give The Channels it’s name.

34 thoughts on “Haytors Knob Fire Tower

    • Truly, you are right. I’m so thankful for having had those fire fighting days in my past.
      I just stopped by your blog … no painting update? Or did I miss something?

      • You have missed nothing! I haven’t posted for close to a month now – certainly three weeks …. The painting remains unchanged while I incubate something 🙂 I’ve been terribly busy, just not posting – on a break perhaps?

      • Pauline, I believe all of us, the New Zealand gals if you will, have had to take a step back from regular posting. Life is full! I often marvel that we all found each other at just the right time. Imagine if we all hadn’t been so active years ago. We might not have connected!

      • You’re amazing, Laurie. When we visit in New Zealand, I hope you’ll tell us in more detail about your time on the fire line.

        What fun it must have been to take these photos. I can picture you on the ground looking up.

  1. No way could I make it up those stairs. Nor would I want to. If that tower does sway in the breeze, I’d rather remain on the ground! Great shots, though. Wish you had climbed it to show us the view! 🙂

    • I remember being at the top of a fire tower in Northern Idaho and I could definitely feel the movement. Unnerving!
      I’ll tell ya, if I’d not had people waiting on my, I probably would have tried harder to climb it.
      And … then I would have fallen off! 🙂

  2. You used to work a fire line?!

    My home town used to have a fire tower very similar to this one – manned by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Back in the 70s, I climbed that tower with a high school boy friend. It was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. It’s now been torn down … likely to discourage people like me from climbing it.

    • Exciting and terrifying … I’m pretty sure that describes how I would feel, too.
      And yes, I worked for a fire crew in for the Forest Service in Northern Idaho. Physically demanding and a big adrenaline rush. Loved it!

      • Interesting! The closest I ever got to a fire line was processing invoices in the accounts payable department for the Ministry of Natural Resources. It was an excruciatingly boring summer!!

    • It really was tough work, Jane, but oh so good for an adrenaline rush. We’d come home exhausted and filthy … and then eagerly awaited the next call!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the pictures Laurie, and I continue to be impressed by how you combine personal thoughts and research in your comments.

  4. You’d really have to be in good shape to climb that tower. It’s beautiful looking up into blue sky though. Are poor fire fighters this season, they have really been working around the clock to save towns, homes and lives. It seems like a job from hell. Have I asked you why you took that job? Did you have to do a physical indurance test? Did you have to travel much? Seems like all of the west has been on fire this summer. Including CA, MT and British Columbia CA and this week in Alberta too. We’ve had a number of days it was smokey in Edmonton. Even though these fires are very, very far away. I’m glad your horizons look clear and smoke-free on that day xox K

    • I’ve watched the news about those fires. In addition to the worry over lives and property, is the ever present worry about climate. I’m so sorry about all the fires in the western part of both of our countries.
      As for me: I got a job working Wildlife / Fisheries and transitioned onto the Fire Crew. Hard, hard work but oh so good for an adrenaline rush. Loved it!

  5. I too am way behind and trying to catch up with everyone. Summers are hard to find time for posting but so much good stuff happens then. My sister did that kind of work for several years after moving up here to the PNW area. She loved it. It was then she changed her name to that of a favorite tree.Legally. 🙂 None of us could climb that tower now. 🙂 I love the old cabin and so would want to fix it up and live in it. It happens with everyone I see. Those are some beautiful vistas. The tower is very impressive for the time it was built. Have a wonderfilled weekend, Laurie.

    • There is something so exciting abuout running across one of these old towers. When I lived and worked on the Fire Crew in Idaho, I had friends who worked the lookouts. Such solitary work in the middle of the most gorgeous country.

  6. Pingback: A”maze”ing Channels | Life on the Bike and other Fab Things

  7. Pingback: Monochromia

Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s