Peter Barr has combined his love of fire towers and his passion for the outdoors into a historical/hiking guidebook to the lookout towers of western North Carolina.
Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers describes the natural and cultural history for 26 fire lookout towers in the Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains, Central Highlands, Blue Ridge and Black Mountains of North Carolina.
Among the towers discussed in the book are Shuckstack, Wayah Bald, Clingmans Dome, Mt. Cammerer, Mt. Sterling and Mt. Mitchell.
Published in April, the author provides a historical backdrop for each of the towers and the mountains on which they stand. Readers will also find descriptions of what can be seen from the towers, driving directions, as well as detailed hiking routes of varying length and difficulty to reach each of the historic lookouts. You can even read interviews from past watchmen of some of the towers.
The book includes over 30 maps and 40 photographs as well as listings of the towers that have been removed or restricted in western NC. Also included in the book is information on the “Lookout Tower Challenge”, a hiking based challenge program co-administered by the NC Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association and the Carolina Mountain Club.
With the book’s special emphasis on lookout preservation and restoration, Barr hopes to spur interest in the towers and their upkeep and rehabilitation throughout the state. Peter brings out the plight of the abandoned historic structures and makes a plea for help in saving them.
Lookout towers were built to safeguard forests by reporting fires in isolated areas. For many years they remained the primary source of fire reporting until aerial detection, satellite and cell phones provided faster and more practical methods. In recent years, many prominent landmarks have disappeared or have badly deteriorated. Since most lookouts are no longer in use, funding for their upkeep is no longer available in many cases. As a result, many towers have been dismantled due to poor structural condition or liability concerns by the agencies that own and administer them. About a third of the lookouts that once stood in North Carolina are gone. The author is actively trying to save the remaining towers through his association and by promotion of his book.
In addition to being director of the North Carolina chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, a group of enthusiasts who restore and protect lookout towers nationwide, Barr is also a member of the Carolina Mountain Club. He’s climbed the “Southeastern Highest 100” and “North Carolina Highest 100” summits, one of only two people to have ever completed these peak lists. He’s also summited every southeastern peak over 5,000 feet, becoming the first person to ever do so, and has reached the highest point in over 80 North Carolina counties. His next goal, hiking all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is nearly complete.
Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers is a must read for fire lookout enthusiasts or anyone interested in learning more about them or hiking in Western North Carolina.
I want to give Smoky Scout (see interview) a shout-out for giving me a heads-up on this book. You can check out her website as she hikes all the trails in the Smokies to raise money for the Girl Scouts.
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