Lassen Peak from the Colby Mountain Lookout in Butte County. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s like being on top of the world, with stellar views in every direction, including snow covered Lassen Peak.

No wonder a fire lookout is still manned here in the Lassen National Forest. It would be easy to see smoke rising from so many places, including the Ishi Wilderness to the west.

After riding my mountain bike 5 miles out of Jonesville, I reached the tower. While no one was there on June 9, someone at the U.S. Forest Service Almanor Ranger District later told me a guy still watches for fires from this perch. Usually this is from June through October.

The first lookout was built in 1912, with the California Conservation Corps replacing it in 1934. It is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.

The fire lookout is manned June through October. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The steel tower is 30-feet tall, with a 14-foot-by14-foot enclosure at the top. This is then surrounded by a 365-degree catwalk.

According to the Forest Fire Lookout Association, California has 625 lookout sites, of which 198 still stand. Of those 50 are staffed.

The U.S. Forest Service website says, “Prior to the devastating 1910 forest fires in Idaho, Montana, and Washington, little attention was given to any organized forest fire reporting system. Often referred to as ‘When Mountains Roared’, the 1910 fire consumed three million acres of prime virgin timber and killed 85 people. This disaster provided the impetus for an organized fire lookout network as well as better trail and communications systems. By the late 1930’s, over 5,000 fire lookout towers had been constructed. Of the 5,000 lookouts, 611 were built by President Roosevelt’s ‘green army’, the Civilian Conservation Corps.”

I would have liked to peak inside the small quarters the person lives in as well as talk to him about what it’s like scanning the horizon for smoke. Lookouts are now usually operated by volunteers.

I tried biking to the lookout last month, but was stopped by snow. At the lookout it’s not uncommon to have 5 feet of snow each winter. This makes sense considering the elevation is 5,973 feet.

Snow plants are a sure sign the seasons have changed. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The parking area at Jonesville is at 5,049 feet, which is a popular spot in the winter for snowshoeing and snowmobiling. This month it was cyclists, equestrians and those on quads recreating.

I opted to take a different route back to my vehicle, so I finished the day with 12.7 miles, and 1,313 feet of elevation gain.

It still amazes me how close pine trees are to me in Chico. A short ways up Highway 32 and the terrain changes dramatically. I’m just starting to explore the trails in the greater Butte Meadows area.

I wonder if anyone has actually counted the number of meadows there. The green grasses are so inviting. I stopped to photograph a few, but decided that endeavor would be better on a hike instead of a ride.

I got off my bike again, though, when I saw a group of snow plants. When I lived it Tahoe they were a sure sign spring had arrived. Something about them just makes me smile.

Pin It on Pinterest