Lookout School Traditional Geocache
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Back in the 'early days' where did fire
lookout newbies go to learn their craft? Around here, they
were sent to the Darrington Ranger Station.
Built in 1916, this barn was originally towards the rear of the
Darrington Ranger Station compound, very close to what were
railroad tracks. As you can see, it had a spectacular view.
Historically, it housed the district pack mule strings and provided
storage for supplies. But in 1932, a new use was devised for it --
the annual "Fire School." A platform was built on the roof and an
Osborne firefinder was installed. During the three days of Lookout
School, candidates climbed to the roof of the barn and learned how
to use the firefinder, in conjunction with nearby Whitechuck Bench
Lookout. Listed as the Darrington Ranger Station Lookout in
Kresek's book "Fire Lookouts of the Northwest" and on Rex's
Forest Fire Lookout Page, it was abandoned in the 1940s.
Logbear and I were intrigued by the idea that the barn might still
exist and took some time to try to find it, without success. We
tromped around after hours looking for it, wanting to place a cache
near it, but finally had to settle for the Nels Bruseth (Now there
was an interesting fire watcher!) Memorial Garden, across the
street from the Darrington Ranger Station's office. (It's not there
now, so don't go looking!)
But I was bothered by it because I hadn't figured out where the old
barn had been, so I didn't really know if the cache was within the
requisite 520 feet from the lookout, in case it might qualify for
the lookout challenge. Not being ready to give up looking, I
scoured the internet for more -- satellite photos, meeting notes,
rare animal records, and old family newsletters finally yielded
enough clues to let me know that the old barn was probably still
standing and gave me the information I needed to finally find
Currently, the old barn still stands, unused. The trees have grown
up around it, and the view is long gone. The platform pictured on
the roof is also gone, but the roof on the smaller portion of the
building has been recently replaced. Periodically it comes up at
one meeting or another as a candidate for one improvement project
or another but based on what I've read, those projects seldom
develop into something viable. Some of the suggestions have
included replacing part of its deteriorating log foundation,
re-shaking the roof of the southern portion, and building an
informational kiosk for walkers on the nearby trail. It is
interesting to know that the barn has, in the very recent past,
become habitat for a colony of Townsend Big-eared Bats that reside
along 2nd floor rafters to raise their young. These bats are
considered a sensitive species, and the colony (when it is there)
has provided study opportunities for biologists.
In 1991, the entire Darrington Ranger Station compound (230 acres,
15 buildings) including this barn was placed on the National
Registry of Historic Places. With that protection in place, it
would seem that the barn is here to stay. Any future repairs will
likely be done with in kind material that is hand tooled to
replicate the original. Hopefully, some care will be given to this
old place and it will be around for many years to come.
- The cache is a very short walk up a nearby trail (the earlier
mentioned old railroad grade) that starts at the trailhead coords
- It is quite likely you can park your car at the trailhead (we
did) as there are no signs indicating parking status one way or the
other. If you do park there, please don't block the main body of
- Please do not access this cache through the ranger station
compound as it is not on that property.
- You will be looking for a regular sized Lock 'n' Lock in a
nylon camo bag.
- Hints will be given after FTF.
- There is a worthwhile FTF prize.
Finally, please let me know if there are problems with either the
cache or coordinates. Most importantly, have fun!
Dedicated to my BFF Marie . .
. Thanks, dear!!
(No hints available.)