Ranger Diary: Lookout Duty


August 11, 2013
Topic of the Day: Lightning

It came from clouds like this, flickering down from the dark bottoms to touch the ground. Long dark veils of rain and hail swept along behind, and the sky growled all day. Storm cells churned up from the south until late afternoon. I bailed off my perch twice, seeking lower ground. Better safe than zapped.


August 12, 2013
Topic of the Day: Smoke

I returned to Quartz Mountain, marveling at the change in the weather. It was a much nicer day. Scanned with binoculars. Watched smoke from the Conrad Lake fire smear the distant horizon. Set up my camp chair, faced south, read a book for awhile and got drowsy. Looked up to find a pale shape where there hadn’t been anything a minute ago. I woke up. The map was already pinned to the ground with rocks and oriented to the landscape. North side of Bethel Ridge, azimuth 170 degrees, east of the radio tower. Township 14, Range 14, section 2. Approximately. I peered through the haze, willing the binoculars to give me clearer vision. Called it in. A few minutes later another one popped up, this time to the west of the tower in section 5. Called it in. Pretty soon the observer plane showed up and called in the latitude and longitude, gave a fire behavior report. An engine was dispatched. I watched as the first smoke grew. Because I was on the boundary between two ranger districts, I monitored two radios. Everybody was chasing smokes. After awhile the radio traffic becomes irritating. To distract myself, I picked up trash. The variety is delightful–I rarely find shattered beer bottles, cigarette butts, or pistol shells in the wilderness.

Made a small watercolor sketch while mosquitoes gnawed on my hands. Kept looking up. As the sun headed west over Mt. Rainier, the shadows lengthened and I knew no more smokes would appear today. Ravens played on the wind, out of sight but not out of hearing.

Two smokes in one day and one watercolor–not bad.