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.