By Buddy Rose – January 10th, 2024
A recap of his presentation at the January 3rd Mossyrock Historical Society meeting

The monthly Mossyrock Area Historical Society meeting on Jan. 3 included a presentation and slideshow by Buddy Rose, featuring views from former fire lookout sites and many other outdoor scenes in our area. Included were photos of historic fire lookouts in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District.

The first fire lookout in our area was a cabin built on Badger Peak about 1926, with another small cabin located on Cispus Point about the same time. These were replaced with the more familiar types of fire lookout structures in the 1930s along with many others on various peaks in our area. Featured in the slideshow along with Badger and Cispus Point were High Rock, South Point, Pompey Peak, Trail’s End (Purcell Mountain), Hamilton Buttes, Newaukum, Sunrise Peak, Strawberry Mtn. and Burley Mtn.

By the 1960s, aerial observers in light airplanes began to replace lookouts for fire detection. Most lookouts were abandoned except for a few left for radio communication relay. Also about that time, Forest Service officials in Washington DC apparently decided the abandoned structures posed a potential liability to the government, probably worrying someone would get injured in one and file a lawsuit. Consequently, almost all of the lookouts were ordered destroyed, mostly by burning. In the Cowlitz Valley District, only High Rock and Burley Mtn. lookouts remain standing today. High Rock is in the process of being restored and has been partially dismantled.

Other scenes in the slideshow included various lakes, waterfalls, meadows and giant trees. Several of those shown are easily accessible by road. Others are in wilderness areas accessed by arduous hiking on trails. A few are off trails and access is by difficult cross country bushwhacking not recommended for most people.

Also included were three features unique to our area: Layser Cave, Monster Rock and Sanctuary Arch. Layser Cave, near Randle, is the archaeological site discovered by Tim Layser, a seasonal employee working for the Forest Service in 1982. Layser stumbled onto the cave entrance while painting trees for a nearby timber sale and was very likely the first person to set foot in the cave in more than a thousand years. Later archaeological study of the cave determined it was first occupied about 7,000 years ago but was abandoned more than 3,000 years ago following a catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Monster Rock is an unusual rock formation near Mt. Rainier Natl. Park discovered and named in 1980 by forester Fred Little of the old Packwood Ranger District. It has odd-shaped, deep depressions called tafoni resulting from erosion taking place over countless centuries. Little imagined the depressions resembled facial features of a monster. Paul Hammond, a noteworthy NW geologist from Portland St. Univ., visited the site with Little and others in 2008. He determined it was part of the so-called Ohanapecosh Formation, an ancient volcanic-origin, geologic feature that predates the formation of not only Mt. Rainier but the entire Cascade Range.

Sanctuary Arch is another unique geological feature located on a ridge in remote and extremely rugged terrain near Mission Mtn., south of Packwood. It was first noted and recorded by a Northern Pacific RR survey crew looking for a route over the Cascades in the 1880s. They viewed it from a distance as a hole in the ridgeline but there is no record of them visiting it. Gale Noblitt, a Forest Service employee in Packwood, discovered a route to it and proposed the name Sanctuary Arch in the 1970s. Noblitt observed the ruggedness of the area created a safe haven for mountain goats.

The next meeting of the Mossyrock Area Historical Society will be Wednesday, February 7 at the Community Center. The business meeting begins at 5:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 5:30 p.m. featuring chili-dogs and other goodies brought by attendees. At 6:00 p.m. there will be another slideshow and presentation about the Mossyrock area. Everyone is welcome to attend these meetings. Payment for dinner is by donation.