dispatches & explored

Lookout! No. 2: Reyes Peak

Second in a Series

Reyes Peak

Ruin with a View

When the Reyes Peak fire lookout was destroyed by the rampaging Matilija Fire in September 1932, my favorite lookout was lost. (Somehow the fact I wouldn’t be born for another 40+ years doesn’t really seem to have any bearing here: I love the location, the approach, the view … just work with me here.)

So on a ridiculously clear May weekend this year, ZK and I took three of the pack and spent an idle day picking around the old lookout site (okay, there was also a fair amount of time sipping single malt beneath the towering pines, but let’s stay on-topic).

An easy (though at times steep) one-mile walk from the Reyes Peak trailhead, at 7514′ the site is the highest point along Pine Mountain but also among the most accessible lookout sites this side of La Cumbre Peak and those that are still driveable.

Lookout Footings

The fire lookout was your classic 14′ x 14′ cab (same dimensions as but different design from the Thorn Point lookout) atop a 14′ wooden frame and was only five years old when what ranked for 75 years as the largest fire in the history of the Los Padres (then the Santa Barbara NF) tore across Pine Mountain, consuming everything in its path. Our loss.

Reyes Peak Lookout, 1927
Reyes Peak Lookout, 1927. Image courtesy LPNF Archives.

Its locale couldn’t have been more idyllic: a nearby lupine-dotted meadow that made for a perfect picnic/pasture site. Plenty of trees. And plenty of space in an era when rangers were horse-mounted and not behind the wheel of a Silverado half-ton. There was room to move around this lookout. Consider many of the other lookout spots: either barren, unattractive knolls or one where a few steps in any direction and you’re in for a world of hurt.

The site proper was wedged on a corner of the sandstone outcrop that defines Reyes Peak proper. In addition to the usual timbers and steel bars, ZK and I accounted for the lookout man’s bedframe (with casters still intact), in amazing condition considering it’s been subjected to nearly 80 years of the elements. And just to the northeast of the peak was a 4′ x 8′ section of the old roof. We lifted it from the ages-old duff to witness the edges — long covered by the earth — still flecked with Forest Service-issue paint.

Rooting the Roofing

On the knoll to the north is space aplenty for some guerrilla camps, and just to the east the use trail known primarily to HPS diehards leads down a drainage to meet with the 23W04 and out toward Haddock. Another guerrilla camp is situated there, one with fantastic views of the Pacific. It was here we took our lunch, sitting beneath the fragrant conifers and reflecting on the short life of this lookout.

Reyes Peak Lookout, we hardly knew ye.

(But you’re still my favorite.)

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One Response to Lookout! No. 2: Reyes Peak

  1. Dave Bula says:

    Great blog post, Craig. I am always very interested in anything to do with fire lookouts and their history. Is there any way you can let me know when you post anything else about fire lookout sites, especially in California?……………Dave Bula, Western Deputy, Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA).

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