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DARRINGTON, Wash. — For generations, forest workers would keep watch over Washington’s backcountry by looking for fires threatening the wilderness.
They stood stoic sentry in towers that are now disappearing across the landscape. Of the 656 that once existed, fewer than 100 left in Washington state.
Among the survivors is the North Mountain Lookout, located just outside Darrington.
Built in 1965, it towers 4,000 feet above sea level. The lookout was abandoned in the mid-1990s and plans were being considered to tear it down.
It sat shuttered for the next two decades and fell into a sad state of disrepair. The wood rotted. Vandals blasted bullet holes into the walls.
But a group of volunteers from the Darrington area decided to save it.
“When I started, I don’t know if I necessarily thought we could save it, I just thought it was worth trying,” said Roselie Rasmussen, a project coordinator with Friends of North Mountain Lookout.
About 100 people performed thousands of hours of work over the course of eight long years. Almost all of the materials and labor were donated.
The community had a vision for the lookout, though the outlook wasn’t always bright.
“On a sunny day when you could come up and look at the mountains you could really see the potential,” said Rasmussen. “On a rainy day, when it was socked in, it was depressing. Just depressing.”
There is nothing depressing about it anymore. The lookout boasts 360-degree views from Mount Baker to Whitehorse Mountain. The 14-foot-by-14-foot cabin is neatly appointed with a camp stove, full size bed and craftsman furniture.
You can now rent the lookout via Airbnb for $190 a night. All of the proceeds go toward the lookout’s upkeep and to community organizations around Darrington.
The tower is one of 13 remaining in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.
It’s a dying icon that was brought back to life by a community that was determined to bring their vision to the mountaintop.
“I feel great pride knowing we were able to see an issue and realize we could do something about it,” said Rasmussen, “and we all did something about it.”
WATCH: Drone footage of North Mountain Lookout
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