Photos and Text by Meredith Baird
The road from Noxon, Montana is rocky and minimalistic with large logging trucks barreling up and down sections. It is not an easy trek and a four wheel drive vehicle with clearance is highly recommended, but the prize that awaits you at the top is worth every nail-biting moment.
Fifteen miles up Pilgrim Creek Road, my fiancé, our dog and I slowly made our way, hoping that each rock our Honda rolled over wouldn’t pop a tire. Although I had scoured the web for pictures and information on our destination, nothing could have prepared me for the view we were about to see.
Sitting at 6,029 feet on its own thirty foot platform, stands Gem Peak lookout tower. Originally activated in 1921 as a “rag outfit” pole platform tent and later built into the present tower, this location served as a fire lookout over the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness into the 1970’s. The tower is now open to the public to rent. It comes with basic amenities including two beds, table and chairs, cleaning supplies and a wood stove.
Our first night at Gem Peak was spent taking in the 360 degree view of the mountains and Clark Fork River. We made spaghetti, drank wine and completely surrendered to the peace that only seclusion in nature can bring. Between cloudy skies and smoke from distant fires, no stars were visible, so we passed the time playing cards until sleep set in.
The next day, our plan was to do some hiking in the area, but we decided the view couldn’t get any better from where we sat, so we just relaxed, played with our dog, Lola, and took it all in. Luckily, later that day, the smoke cleared which gave way to an epic sunset followed by an amazing night sky. Stars soared across the darkness, too many to count, the milky way glimmered, and all I could think was how lucky I was to be in that place, experiencing those special moments.
Overall, I would highly recommend renting one of these towers. It is the perfect getaway to relax and decompress in the most beautiful setting imaginable. We are already planning our next fire lookout adventure! A list of available rentals can be found here. Many of the towers are hike in only and have minimal amenities, so plan on bringing everything you would need to camp.
Photos (C) 2015 Meredith Baird
Meredith is a photographer and videographer living in Missoula, Montana. An Illinois native, she moved out west in 2011 to follow her dream of living in the mountains and never looked back.