North Cascades Fire Lookouts in Winter

North Cascades Fire Lookouts in Winter

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Reasonable concerns about Shining-style insanity aside, there probably isn’t an outdoor person alive who wouldn’t want to be snowed in for a weekend, a week, maybe an entire winter. The fire lookouts of the North Cascades, Washington, sit empty and inaccessible, buried under some of the biggest snows in the world. Imagine being hunkered down in one with a season’s worth of supplies, just you and your thoughts. Okay, that last part’s a little scary. How about just you and a small library stocked with poetry, literature, and Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, the definitive tome on surviving periods of solitude.

John Scurlock is a photographer, outdoorsman, backpacker, climber, and, most critically, a pilot. He flies over the Pacific Northwest ranges with an experienced hand on the stick and an artist’s eye looking out the window. Scurlock’s photos are more than just pretty pictures, though — they are inspiration for dreams and an important documentation of Northwest peaks for climbers and skiers from a perspective they most certainly would never get.

Scurlock flies in a home-built Vans RV-6 airplane, which he constructed over about eight years in the 1990s and early 2000s. The single engine kit plane has a bubble canopy that allows him to shoot unobstructed from either side, a feature he’s been using since at least 2002, when he began a quest to shoot every corner of the North Cascades from the air. The result is a beautiful photo book, Snow and Spire, which is available here for $60.

As for the lookouts, they are silent and buried now, covered in thick blankets or plastered in rime. Empty. Alone. Waiting.

Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
  • Kim Kircher

    Love this! These images make me want to get out there and get my pilot’s license.

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