Shorty Peak Lookout
Idaho Panhandle National Forests (Kaniksu Area), ID – 48.94028, -116.68833
Photographs by Daniel Wakefield Pasley.
"After a devastating season of fires in the year 1910, the U.S. Forest Service sought to extinguish every fire by 10 A.M. the day after it was reported. This policy required the rapid detection of fires while they were still very small. Nowhere on earth ever had the density of lookouts that northern Idaho had during this time. The Selkirks alone had over 220 and in adjacent Washington, more than 90 percent of the mountains had a lookout. The lookout heyday only lasted a few decades before the use of aircraft and improvements in communications made other means of detection more efficient. Some strategically situated lookouts are still manned today, but most are now piles of weathered lumber strewn on almost every summit in the Selkirks."
—Some mountain climbing, alpinist-type forum
Selected Entries from the Shorty Peak Lookout Visitor's Log
Daniel, Keiran, Ira, Rachel and Ethan – September 5, 2013
Dear Shorty Peak,
We hiked up in the dark, our second pitch-black, three-mile hike in as many days. Yesterday we hiked to Arid Peak Lookout which you know, assuming that you Lookouts are linked together through some kind of collective consciousness or tree-born rumor, because certainly forest trees can talk to each other from one branch to the next or through a shared root system or similar. What else are trees going to talk about but the comings and goings of various animals and humans right? You know the place, south a few hours by car and on the east side of the valley, up against Montana. Anyway, you're a way cooler lookout and we should have stayed here last night too. Sure the hike up to you was steeper and longer but your trail was in better condition, and the digs, SO GOOD.
Oh yeah before I forget, this is kind of a funny story, by the time we made it to the top we were tired and kinda lazy from the hike and so as soon as we saw your squat, square bod in the near distance we started hiking the fall line, you know, off piste, that's "french." So that means we didn't pass by the outhouse on the way up. And later, after we settled in, I looked around for it but I couldn't find it because how could you if you hadn't hiked past it on the way in, which (SAD FACE!) was a total bummer cause I had to poop. I like woods-pooping like nobodies business but dude, I was kinda freaked about the bear sitch. Anyway, the next morning—there it was, just kind tucked into some trees. Side note: What a view from inside, a real king's throne!!!!!!
Anyway that night we made sausage, vegetables, and pasta for dinner, totes scrumptious. Immediately afterwards Rachel, Ira, and Keiran just kinda passed-out because they're b-o-r-i-n-g but Ethan and I stayed up because we could see a storm blowing in from the south and we thought it was our civic duty to monitor meteoritical activities on account of us staying in US Forest Service fire tower lookout. At first we could just see lighting way off in the distance but otherwise it was kinda clear all over, you could see stars and everything—so bright!, I love it up here!!!! Okay so there we were standing on the deck and leaning against the railing watching the storm and talking and Ethan is getting fucked-up on whiskey and altitude. Then the wind started picking up. And then we started hearing the rumble of thunder, and that thunder rumble! Dude, so loud!!!! And, true story, before you know it S H I T started to hit the old proverbial fan. First of all, no more clear skies, just dark, low clouds in every direction. And bro, the wind was gnar-gnar! Then it started to rain and blow something fierce. By that time we were totally counting the delay between the lightning flashes and thunder rumbles. At first it was like 20 seconds or more between the two, but soon enough the storm was so close, like only 3 seconds a way, which is like one kilometer which is like really really really fucking close.
And then we saw lightning strike!!!!!!!!
I'm not even joking. It struck like right across the street from us, like on the hillside across the valley from our hillside. Instantly there was this vertical band of glowing light, it was all yellow and orange and blue and pulsating, like glowing. At first we kinda looked at each other all WTF-style, and then we looked back at the fire-glow-thing for a second, then back at each other, then at the glow, each other, glow, each other, glow, etc. Everything was quiet, we'd forgotten that it was raining and windy and we just kinda stood there in this supernatural silence, and then boom reality kinda barged back into our brain-minds and we started shouting and postulating and wildly gesticulating and whatnot. The weird thing was the fire-glow-thing was pulsating real bad, like it would almost go out and then it would come back, even brighter and hotter than before. Thats when Ethan was all fuck this and he pulled out his phone and called 911 even though he was roaming real bad, like weird symbols bad. Some Canadian Mountie dude answered and he was all like "what's up eh?" And Ethan told him to tell the US Forest Service that we witnessed an actual real life fire start, and that maybe they should come and put the fire out, question mark? Maybe it was going to become a legit wildland fire, but who knows, maybe not, but dude you'd hate to guess wrong. Anyway the Canadian asked him where the fire was and so Ethan told them the fire was in the woods on a hillside across from the hillside on which Shorty Peaks exists, and he was all, "can I take your number and would you mind leaving your phone on, eh." That's when Ethan kinda got in argument with the mountie dude about leaving his phone on, cause he was roaming real bad. But anyway, he said he would. They never called back and the fire eventually went out for good. But like, close call right. So fucking apropos it was insane, I mean, like, watching a fire start from a lighting strike, in fire tower! What a rush.
Anyway, after the fire went out for good we went back inside and fell asleep because the seventy mile-an-hour wind was blowing cold ass rain sideways into our faces and bodies, which sucked.
Andrea and Alex – July 4-5, 2013
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! My girlfriend and I hiked over to the East Summit of Lone Tree Peak, just to the west. It took 45-50 minutes each way. We HIGHLY recommend it. There is a great view down up on your temporary home (Shorty Peak Lookout). It is about 200 feet higher than where you are sitting reading this. You also get some pretty spectacular views to the south, including a towering, narrow monolith that is hidden by arêtes (glacial peaks) from below. It looks like the monolith from the movie 2001. We gathered some snow in our Nalgenes where we made Sno-Cones with instant iced tea! Black tea and lemon with raspberries and black currant by Lipton. Super delicious, but I must warn anyone that overdosing on the iced tea mix will make you pucker like a three year old with their first Lemonhead. There was plenty of snow on the leeward side of ridge, as well as on top. Just dig down to get clean snow. My girlfriend even made iced coffee. We have been visited by American Crows, well, maybe they are illegal Canadian Crows, as well as several Golden Eagles. The benefits of wearing a red shirt!
We have also been visited this morning by little critters, ground squirrels probably, that left a pile of poop on the front doorstep of the top of the steps. Sunrise was spectacular and it is warming up fast in here.
I am so in the mood for another Sno-Cone! What an amazing place!
Tom V., Lisa V., Unknown – July 21, 2013
Third time at Shorty Peak was going to spend the night with my party niece uncle and Eli, but work calls. Lisa and Eli, first time to the Shorty Peak, enjoyed the view and will be back. Melsie, uncle age 53, with both knees in braces, did alright. See you next year.
P.S.: Forest Service asked if we could bring up the clean mattress covers and bring back the dirty ones. Reason: US Government Sequesteration, no person available. Enjoy the clean covers.
Today is my first time at Shorty Peak. I am impressed. Perfect day, warm, breeze, clear sky. Great company with Eli and Uncle Tom making good family memories and living it up. My Uncle is a True Champion coming up with left knee, foot, leg limitations. Great views and great pictures. Happy day
My first visit to Shorty Peak but surely not my last. Truly beautiful views and truly a peaceful [illegible] experience. Excellent company and weather for a lovely day.
Keelan and Matt – August 7, 2013
Matt (38) and I (29) began our journey yesterday afternoon, hopeful that Shorty Peak would be all that we were expected. It did not disappoint. The trail was beautiful, and challenging at times, just like life, but was well worth it once you reach the summit of Shorty. We found fresh huckleberries along the trail. Delicious!! We made a fire, shared some wine, had dinner, enjoyed the sunset. We snuggled up in our sleeping bags and felt ourselves lost in the stars. The views are spectacular! The sunrise this morning was incredible! It started out like a tiny flame from a match that spread and lit up the entire sky. We are going to stop by the "spring" on the way down. I can't wait to revisit this lookout. Well worth the travel. I bet it looks like Narnia up here. Best wishes to future travelers. Keelan and Matt.
Stephanie and Bandit – August 10-12, 2013
There is not much more that I can say that has not already been written. This is my fourth year here and I use it as my solo retreat to get away from the crazy world we live in, slow down, and renew my soul. I was visited by a few hikers and few scattered thunderstorms, but other than that the quiet chorus of the bugs was all that was constant. I wonder why there are no spiders up here. They would have a feast.1 As I drove up here there were many Amber Alerts on the radio about the two kids kidnapped out of California. Last heard there were possible sightings in Southern Idaho. I wonder if the planes I see flying around are looking for them. I met a Border Patrol guy, I wonder if he is out looking for them too.
Oh, I just saw a little spider! He is small. He must be doing something wrong, because he should be big and well-fed with the grocery store he has here.
Last year there was a Freddy Kruger-like hand carved out of wood left here by its creator. It was creepy. The hand is gone, but the stand it was in is still here. The "handyman." Someone had the smarts to get rid of the hand. I would NOT touch it!!! Someone told me there was an article in Outside Magazine about the forest lookouts recently. They thought Shorty was highlighted. What a shame if it was, as this little secret will be out of the bag. On the other hand, maybe if everyone had a place such as this to visit, we would have a more peaceful world. :)
Well, it's time to go. Back to the kiddos, back to the hubby, back to the work. What a blessed life I lead!
Debbie, Silver and Pumpkin – August 19-23, 2013
Priest Lake, ID
Year number 16 for me. Must be some kind of record. I do it because Shorty is such an amazing place to unwind and renew the soul. Weather was great until today, but now the clouds are moving in as I prepare to go. It's all good and special. The hike up brought up memories of past trips and anticipation to be here this year. Spooked a bull elk on the way up. Found lots of huckleberries the entire way. Tasty ones too. Not so tart like many can be. When I arrived at the tower the squirrels went quickly into hiding as Silver and Pumpkin did their duty to keep them in their rock nests.
Settled into reading a book, easy to get lost in one up here without the distractions of home.
A gorgeous sunset tonight. I hope my pictures turn out. A trip to the spring on Tuesday, seems less water than in years past, yet plenty of spots for me to filter water and for the dogs to play in. Why do they always want the same spot I pick!?? The afternoon brought a flock of about seven ravens playing in the thermals to the south. They worked their way up in circles, drifted around, then left altogether, drifting to lower elevations. The bees are HORRIBLE this year. As soon as it warms up in the morning they started b-lining for the inside of the tower, so I had to keep the door shut and I either stayed in or I found a few nice rocks to sit on with my Therm-a-rest and read outside. Some grouse are hanging around, probably the mom and grown up chicks mentioned by others. Other birds would come by in the evenings and I enjoy listening to them sing. Thursday morning after I got back from the spring and berry-picking, there had been a fly hatch. Small, translucent wings, they were everywhere and would swarm into the tower as soon as I opened the door. This brought the birds in for a feast. The flies seemed to die quickly. It took several sweepings to remove them from the tower. My last night brought the singing window. If the windows and wind are a certain way, you receive a special concert, like Kokopelli himself playing! A mysterious flute... Until next year.
"At Shorty Peak Lookout you may have a chance to look down on some birds of prey. Look for red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and goshawks soaring over the valleys. Also, there may be American pipits, mountaintop nesting birds with distinctive, dipping flight patterns. You will hear the varied thrush's variously-pitched piercing notes, the vaux's swift may be flying erratically overhead, and the gray jay will likely be waiting for a handout, so enjoy all of them. At the lookout, the Columbian ground squirrel is the little fellow scurrying around and probably scolding you. Other small mammals are the yellow pine and redtail chipmunks, red squirrels, and the nocturnal northern flying squirrel. Of course, there are the deer mice that get into your food at night if you do not protect your food properly. This is bear country, both grizzly and black. The Forest Service recommends that you be able to distinguish between them. Potentially less hazardous animals are the mule and whitetail deer, with elk sometimes seen in the high meadows and clearcuts."