Thursday, October 15, 2015
We were excited to get to spend a couple nights at Fivemile Butte Lookout. It's very popular because it's in Mt. Hood National Forest, which makes it an easy drive from Portland, it's available for rent all year long, and if it's not snowy you can park right next to it. In the winter, you can snowshoe there. Reservations are taken 6 months ahead of time, so you have to be ready to make your reservation at exactly 7AM exactly 6 months before the day you want to stay and hope for the best. The most popular times are weekends of course, and when the moon is either full or new, because it's an excellent spot for stargazing. The steep stairs that take you 3 stories up make it unsuitable for pets and young children. There is one full size bed and room on the floor to sleep two more people in sleeping bags.
The fact that it's no longer used as a fire tower is both positive and negative. When they started mainly surveying for forest fires from the air, most towers were torn down. Most of the ones that were saved still exist because they are still being used, so you can't rent them in the summer and early fall. Because they no longer put Fivemile Butte to official fire watching use, they no longer cut down the trees surrounding it in order to preserve clear views in all directions. But they are definitely still stunning. One morning we awoke to spectacular views of Mt. Hood which disappeared in the clouds shortly afterwards.
You do not have to carry all your stuff up the stairs, because there is a basket on a rope with a pulley.
This is especially useful because you must bring your own water, which gets pretty heavy! We found we used about a gallon of water per person per day for everything. Heat is supplied with a wood stove, which makes the little room very toasty indeed. There is a solar powered light in the cabin which was not working while we were there, although the Forest Service sent a repairman who seemed determined to figure it out. We were happy to make do with candles and flashlights. We found it was definitely advisable to go to sleep soon after it got dark, after some star gazing of course, because there are no curtains and the amazing windows fill the room with bright sunshine right at the crack of dawn. There is a propane stove, and tons of pots and pans, cooking utensils and silverware which made cooking easy. It's good manners to leave some small donations, like a paperback, a game, whatever water or dish soap or toilet paper you don't use, etc. for the next guest, and to replace whatever firewood you use.
It was an unusual vacation for me. Generally on vacation we like to use the place we are staying only for sleeping, and we do not bother to spend time in it. This time, the place we were staying was the destination itself. Also we usually pack our vacations with things to do; kind of like most of our days when we're not on vacation! This time we pretty much did nothing. We read a lot. My husband sketched and painted with watercolors. Jasper drew comics. We all took rambles on the trails around the fire tower and I took photos. We soaked in the quiet. I taught Jasper to do Sudoku puzzles and to make pancakes. Normally we do not eat processed food at home. I refused to spend as much time cooking in the fire tower as I do at home, yet I was far too phobic to buy regular processed food for my family. I chose bizarre, oxymoronic food which was intended to be both super convenient and simultaneously healthy, and made sure we could roast hot dogs and s'mores in the fire! We enjoyed the novelty of food from cans and boxes, like we were astronauts having to make do with odd approximations of Earth food. We gave the vegan non-GMO marshmallows with real vanilla a big thumbs up, and the nitrite-free, 100% grass-fed hot dogs were just what you'd expect from a hot dog, but the boil in a bag Indian entrees were just meh, and the organic ramen noodles were seriously awful! From our stay I concluded that there's definitely something to doing nothing. I'll have to try it again sometime.