Snow Camp Lookout, located at the peak of a 4,223-foot mountain, is a rustic paradise in the heart of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest 35 miles northeast of Brookings.
The fire lookout, a 15-foot-square structure, has windows on all sides, offering a panoramic view in every direction. On a clear day a spectator can see the ocean waves crashing along Kellogg Beach, Point St. George and Castle Rock near Crescent City, Calif.
The lookout, which campers can rent from the U.S. Forest Service, offers a wood-burning cook stove, cabinets and food-preparation counters, a double bed, and a table and chairs. Outside the cabin is a picnic table and a Port-a-Potty.
Amateur astronomers have a front row seat on the deck surrounding the lookout, which is situated away from light pollution obstructing the night sky.
The fire lookout is the most recent of three structures built atop Snow Camp Mountain. The present building will be celebrating its fifth birthday Friday, June 26.
Although the building is young, the history of activity on the mountain goes back nearly a century.
The earliest fire detection equipment was established in 1910. Surveying equipment was mounted on a post. A tent was set up for the observer. It wasn't until 1924 that a 14-foot-square cabin was built. During World War II, the building not only served as a fire outlook, but also an Aircraft Warning System station. It was staffed around the clock in 1942.
The original cabin was in place until 1958. A second outlook was 15 feet square, had wood-frame windows all around and a flat roof. It was not only used as an outlook, but was rented to campers, allowing recreational opportunities in the forest.
However, this structure was destroyed in the 2002 Biscuit Fire, a massive blaze that burned more than a half-million acres in Oregon and California.
Fortunately, Don Hartley, a contractor from Crescent City and a frequent visitor to Snow Camp, organized efforts to reconstruct the lookout, bringing back the recreational opportunities in less than two years after the previous building was destroyed.
Recreational activities include hiking nearby trails that lead to Windy Valley, 1,000 feet below the lookout, as well as nearby Snow Camp Meadow and the Enchanted Forest, and Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
From the lookout, it is a short driving distance to Game Lake, the Chetco River and other rentals available for campers: Packer's Cabin and Quail Prairie Lookout.
Snow Camp Lookout is available for rent June 1 to Sept. 30. The lookout is booked for most of the 2009 season, but a few openings remain. Information is available at the Gold Beach Ranger District's Brookings office at Crissey Field State Park, 14433 Highway 101, or online at http://www.fs. fed.us/r6/rogue-siskiyou.
Although the lookout is available for rent and paying guests will be given the lock combination to the gate, the public is welcome to hike the half mile to the lookout.