In the early 1900s, there were more than 9000 fire lookout towers scattered around the U.S., while today there are a mere 60 as many have fallen to funding, destruction, and replaced by technology. But the lookout at Desolation Peak sitting at 6,100 ft, deep in the North Cascades, remains vital to the Pacific Northwest fire alert network.
Jim Henterly, a naturalist and illustrator, is one of the few remaining fire lookouts and has been on the watch for nearly 25 years. While on Desolation Peak, he has not always been in isolation as his wife joined him for many years and the two even rose their child in the tower through many fire seasons.
Henterly and the lookout at Desolation Peak are living history and one of the last truly human connections to the natural world. The remaining 60 towers will most likely fall to drones and other tech-based alerts, but today as the fire season ignites, Henterly and his keen eyesight are on the watch.