August 8, 2012

Black Crater and spectacular views from a former lookout sight

North Sister (right) and Broken Top (left) from summit of Black Crater
Lookout sites that once and continue to sit atop mountains and buttes in Oregon needed some way for folks staffing them to get there. As a result, many of Oregon's trails that lead to high points deliver hikers to either existing or former lookout sites. Even where none are intact, the remnants of those lookouts often remain in the form of wooden floors, cement foundations and stairs, cables and wiring.

Belknap Crater (right) and Mt. Washington
Black Crater, a mountain a little over 7,200 feet, sits among some of the highest mountains in Oregon's Cascade Range. With grand views of the Three Sisters to the South, miles of lava flows at the mountain's base and arid eastern Oregon, the mountain's summit starts one thinking about what it would have been like to live in its former lookout. What would it have been like in the summer months, when fire danger lurked. Would I go Jack Torrance ("The Shining") on the place after a few months? Some folks have manned the same working lookout for numerous years during the summer months.
Lava flows from the summit
The need to stop wildfires before they spread into such disasters as the Tillamook Burn prompted  construction of about 1,000 fire lookouts in Oregon. Most were built in the early to mid-1900s. I read recently that about 200 remain in the state, and only a few of those are still manned. Many were destroyed to limit liability after technology took over much of the surveilance. Many that remain have been rennovated, and the forest service rents them out for overnight stays.

The only time I hiked to the summit of Black Crater, I was accompanied by my dog, Cody. He was a great climber who, unfortunately, we eventually had to put down. He always enjoyed being on the trail and I'll always remember some of the hikes we took together.
Cody the "Wonder Dog"
From the summit, the lava flows that Belknap Craters belched can be seen, surrounding  a number of forested islands. Toward the Three Sisters, miles of forest carpet the lower slopes of the mountains before giving way to harsher terrain that makes up the peaks' higher elevations.