Tillamook State Forest Part 1 – the Fire Tower

Saturday was a big day. We drove out towards Tillamook and stopped on the coastal side of the pass at the Tillamook State Forest Visitor center. We climbed the fire tower, went on a nice hike, and checked out the museum. Because there was so much fun to see and do, I split the post into three.

One of the biggest draws to this forest center for us was the life-size fire tower standing in front of the museum. When my father was in his early twenties he lived on various firetowers throughout the Willamette and Cascade national forests for five summers. I remember very well being fascinated and captivated by his stories of living all summer alone in the mountains. Visitors were few and far between and his time was spent reading and hiking, and of course, spotting fires. The first summer after he and my mom were married they lived up in a fire tower too – so my mom has her own stories to tell as well.

The Tower

For that reason, it was especially exciting to take the kids to the forest center and climb the firetower. This fire tower was a very sturdy and nicely made one – while many that Dad lived on looked to be near falling down, or perched pecariously on tall craggy rocks and cliffs. I remember one in particular that he showed photos that he had taken from the outhouse perched at the edge of the cliff looking down over the precipice. I had hiked with dad to various lookout sites – most of the towers are gone now.

So, up we did climb…

On the Fire Tower

The kids were pretty amazed at how far up we had gone – my mom stayed at the bottom with James.

A Long Ways Up

Looking down to Grandma & James

Inside everything was arranged how it would have been if someone was living in it – minus the little stove Dad mentioned having. He showed the kids the fire finder and how it was used to spot and locate lightning strikes, etc. and their cordinates.

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 3

Inside the tower

Em looking through the fire finder

In the corner was the insulated stool that they would stand on if they were spotting fires in a lightning storm – the insulated stool had glass on each of the legs. Dad told us the story of the time he was radioing in a location while seated in a metal chair. He suddenly felt a prompting to move. Just after he got out of the chair a zap of lightning shot through the radio and hit the chair where he had been sitting moments before.

Jacob on the insulated stool

Dad on the radio

Dad also explained how panoramic photos were used to let the ranger stations down below know of fires and their coordinates, so they could get safely to the fire and work on putting it out.

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 1

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 2

Stay tuned for Part 2: the Hike

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3 Comments

Filed under Dot, Em, Family, Jacob, James, Lizy, Nature, Personal History

3 responses to “Tillamook State Forest Part 1 – the Fire Tower

  1. Wow! That is so cool. I’m going to have to take my boys there. I love all the ideas I get from your blog!

  2. You guys take the best field trips. When I grow up I want to be a mother like you…

  3. Philosophical Karen

    We are currently on an X Files binge right now, and so many of the episodes (in the first season anyway) take place in the forest. I don’t know why, but your post seems a perfect complement to that. Of course, in the X Files, the fires would be caused by downed alien aircraft, rather than by lightning… 😀

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