2021 Trip Report - New View of Fire Lookouts
New View of Fire Lookouts
By Rebecca Friedman
On June 14, I joined Leonard Friedman, Bob Peltzman, and his son-in-law Robert Ruiz, as we drove 29 miles in Los Padres National Forest, mostly along 8N04 and 8N42. We stopped at the Forest Service Lookout on Frazier Mountain, elevation 8,013 ft. Located about seven miles west of Gorman, near the border of Kern and Ventura counties, the fire lookout was established in 1905. The current wooden tower was built in 1936 in Santa Barbara County and relocated to Frazier Mountain in 1952 after fire destroyed the original structure. The 8-foot-by-8-foot room used to be equipped with a small bunk, TV, stove, Osborne fire finder (to plot fire coordinates), and insulated stool (to stand on for protection during electrical storms). On a clear day, the 360-degree view included the Sierra Nevada foothills, Bakersfield, Palmdale, skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, and Santa Catalina island. The lookout was decommissioned in the 1990’s. But a sign announcing T-Mobile emergency management meant that I had five bars on my cell phone.
Although some forest lookout sites are still active in California, fire spotting is increasingly dependent on aerial surveillance, hikers or motorists. KCET recommended Five Fire Lookouts With the Best Views of Southern California that were “the last vestiges of a dying breed that are in various stages of restoration and disrepair” (Oct. 13, 2017, https://www.kcet.org/shows/socal-wanderer/five-fire-lookouts-with-the-best-views-of-southern-california). Along with Frazier Mountain, the others were Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout, San Bernardino National Forest; Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout, San Jacinto Wilderness; Castro Peak Tower, Henninger Flats; and Old Topanga Fire Lookout, Malibu.
Here’s the link to Huell Howser’s interesting 2002 episode on a fire lookout in Sequoia National Forest, “Fire Lookout – California’s Gold (4003)”: (https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2002/01/08/fire-tower-californias-gold-4003/).
After leaving the lookout, we enjoyed the tranquil forest scenery. We saw a few mule deer, and pondered the fate of dozens of neatly stacked woodpiles along the road. Before heading home, Leonard and I drove a few miles north on Lebec Road to view Deadman’s Curve of the old Ridge Route. Glad that’s no longer used. ~ Rebecca