Not A Cloud In The Sky
After discovering the secret about Jacob’s Lake (see “Jacob Lake” from January 2012), our Plan B excursion brought us to the base of the identically named Lookout Tower. I didn’t ascend it. Only Son #1 tackled those stairs, as I remained grounded with Son #2 (with a note to myself to go back and do that) peering upward wondering what the view must encompass. Even from the dull seats eighty feet below, the history of the structure tickles me. Yet again, the Civilian Conservation Corps strikes. More than eight thousand feet above sea level, the most noteworthy quality of its height remains today, as it did in 1934 when its construction was completed, to peer across the tree tops to scout for blazes beginning in the Kaibab National Forest.
Before aircraft skimmed the skies, the eagle-eyes of the solitary individuals perched in their tower detected the first signals of smoke and then provided coordinates to those charged with its extinguishment. The same service remains today, aided by technology, but still dependent on the eyes of the individual up in the tower. On the day my son ascended, the clear horizon brought no urgency, sounded no alarm, and the forest slept soundly. The view up there may have been spectacular, but the outlook at the lookout appeared dull.
Not A Sky In The Clouds
Even the sun appears a sickly shade of scintillation, covered thickly by the smoke from the Washington State fires. For a record number of days, Seattle measures no rain, no storms pummel Puget Sound, and nearly hidden in plain sight, Mount Rainier cloaks itself in an ominous haze (see “Change of Plans,” December 2013). The signs of smoke reach from the eastern mountains to the western shore, hovering over the city, threatening its usual summer glow, reminding me that the fire crews at our hotel in Omak wish fishing on the Columbia and sightseeing hydroelectric dams filled their days outdoors.
How different one season to the next might affect the view of the Pacific Northwest. How tranquil a forest might be in a moist year and how devastated it may become in another. Looking across the crystal blue sky in Northern Arizona appears in such contrast to the streaks of brown hovering between me and the light of the afternoon, planet Earth altering its best vistas into dingy, haunting reminders of its fragility. Somewhere above the clouds of ash and smoky haze, the sky desperately attempts to peek down upon me and while I know it stretches high above me, I wonder when I might see it again. All signs point to a long wait.