re: tree stumps
14 mar 1998
>what stories do you have to share about them?
when dan pederson arrived at brush mountain in 1916, the fire station
had only a telephone and a crude map stand. to pederson, a retired
norwegian sailor, that simply wasn't good enough. he needed a higher
point, to see more country. just below the crest of the shield volcano
grew a tall shasta red fir. its top was a good sixty feet above any
point on the hill.
so, armed with an axe, auger, and a pair of pliers (but no safety belt),
he took on the job of converting that tree into a 104-foot tall
lookout tower, alone...
starting at the ground, he began drilling holes every 18" to accomodate
66 yew pegs. each freshly driven peg served as a place to sit while
he bored the hole for the one above. limber poles, bent and wired
to the outside end of each peg, made the stairway more secure.
circling the tree four times with his spiral staircase, he eventually
reached the desired height. he then sawed off the top.
reminiscent of his sailing days, he fashioned a circular crow's nest,
similar to one you might find atop a ship's mast. the small enclosure
would give him a place in which to sit for hours at a time ten stories
above ground, watching for that infrequent but inevitable puff of
illicit smoke in the forest.
not to be content, he rigged two buckets to an endless cable, and filled
one with rocks to equal his own weight. a gentle pull on the cable thus
sent him shooting up or down the "tower" at ease in an elevator. only once
did the man-lift pose a hazard. a local family was visiting the station,
when their ninety-pound son climbed unnoticed into the bucket and pulled
the locking pin. the hundred-and-eighty pounds of rocks at the top brought
the counterweight bucket crashing to the ground, with the lad in the other
pail sailing up the tree at an equally breathtaking speed. dan leaned over
the rail, grabbed the cable, and succeeded in stopping the elevator just
in time to prevent the lad's suicide launch into outer space. the kid
wasn't hurt, but dan suffered rope burns all the way to the bone...
smokechasers had many a tall tale to tell about his expertise in
plotting smokes. one, without exaggerating, tells of being sent to a
smoke the size of a campfire four miles from dan's lookout. pederson
figured it to be located about 120 odd feet from the northwest corner
of section 12. the fire turned out to be 123 feet from the corner.
with his lookout tree completed, there remained one thing missing atop
brush mountain--a house to live in... with the abundance of rocks,
he created a snug and cozy little stone cabin, complete with
an artistic fireplace and thatched roof...
today, nearly hidden beneath an overgrown forest of wild cherry bushes...
remains a little stone cabin, its roof mostly gone. nearby are the
decaying ruins of a 104-foot long log, along with a few "bones"...
yew pegs, buckets, and a length of badly rusted wire rope...
* * *
it was known across the nation as "the cook creek spar tree"--the
most ingenious fire tower ever. it stood within the quinault indian
reservation 9 miles southwest of lake quinault.
in 1927 a 179' douglas fir 7 feet in diameter was high-topped by a
hobi timber company climber using spurs and a crosscut saw. the huge
pole was then debarked with a double-bitted axe as he descended from
the top. three-foot steel rods with an eye in one end were driven
into the tree in such a manner as to form a winding staircase with a
steel cable threaded through the 130 eyes and stretched taut with a
chain binder. the tightened cable served as a hand rail, as well as
to hold the rungs securely into the trunk. four railroad ties were
then anchored a few feet below the top, with the 49-square foot house
assembled atop them by paul meyer and his two helpers. cedar shiplap
siding finished the walls, and sliding glass windows gave the eagle's
aerie its own touch of class.
upon nailing on the last shingle, paul stood up on the rooftop and
hoisted the american flag. his shouts could be heard only faintly
on the ground as he declared, "i can see all the way to hawaii."
for the next 28 years that the unique fire tower stood, no one ever
challenged his statement by climbing atop that breezy roof again.
during its years of service, the cook creek spar tree became a center
of nationwide publicity. newspapers from coast to coast ran feature
stories, and in 1929 hollywood newsreels portrayed it as the
phenomenal one-legged skyscraper.
in 1955 the bureau of indian affairs found it necessary to saw the
pole down for fear that someone might be injured climbing the decaying
attraction. today, nothing can be found but a few rusted fragments
amid a thriving new forest in the ne1/4 of the nw1/4 of section 26,
township 22 north, range 11 west.
from "fire lookouts of the northwest,"
by ray kresek, ye galleon, 1984