A few years ago there were hundreds of lookout towers throughout the vast primitive and wilderness areas of the Colville Forest in Eastern Washington State. Now there are just a few. Drones and aircraft do the job once done by a person who looked and reported fires happening below in the beautiful mountains.
The Forest Service is considering upgrading the sturdiest (like this one pictured above on Crowel Ridge on Salmo Mountain, above Sullivan Lake). “We’ll put in a picnic table which can’t be moved but that will be about it. But it will cost over twenty thousand to make it habitable.”
So why we wondered, would anyone chose this as a camp site?
“You’re closer to the moon and the stars. When night comes, it does it quickly. One minute it’s light, then there is complete darkness,” explained Ranger Nan Berger.
Miles up the mountain enroute to this tower, we passed unbelievable and amazingly beautiful campsites rangers call “dispersed.” They are sites which are sprinkled along Sullivan Creek, each one as individual as the camper who chooses it, all free, elegantly arranged within the forest adjacent to the cold, turbulent water flowing over a rocky streambed. No registration required either, but if you want to swim in Sullivan Lake, a small day fee is required.
There are birds here called “dippers,” little black guys who got their name because they jump up and down, fly and dive and swim underwater.
This is Grizzly Bear and Caribou country so food is “on lockdown” and either placed ten feet up or in your vehicle.
Best times, always to find a creek spot, are the weekends following the big holiday campouts: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day. Otherwise there is East and West and numerous other smaller Sullivan Lake campgrounds with small fees, not at all like Disney in Orlando asks for a simple tent site: sixty dollars, and they’re always full!
If you like summer adventures, you might be interested in Passport in Time, a government volunteer program for those who want to help rebuild structures in the forests across the country.
People become so fond of wilderness camping (places where no feet have trod) that they seek these marvelous places across the country. Sorry, only a few wilderness areas are in the East.
It’s still time to find huckleberries. Perhaps, another joy of summer will be Roman Nose Mountain in Idaho out of Sandpoint where they’re just beginning to ripen. Get your bucket and come along.