(Yet another yet very welcome) article about Beat Poets working as Fire Lookouts in North Cascades.
Desolation Lookout Jack Kerouac’s post still stands. IMAGE: COURTESY NPS
How to pick a Fire Lookout Cabin to visit? Are you capable?
Perhaps these remarks from Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac will inspire (or retire) your ideas.
Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts
What was Jack Kerouac doing on top of a North Cascade peak?
By Allison Williams 8/1/2013 in the August 2013 issue of Seattle Met
Excerpt, Regarding the remarkable Mr. Snyder:
Gary Snyder was the first poet to get a job as a fire lookout, manning the now-gone station atop Crater Mountain in 1952 while writing and studying Zen; his old friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen took a nearby post the next year. Then, on the night of a now-famous 1955 poetry reading in San Francisco, Snyder was introduced to the young Jack Kerouac. (Allen Ginsberg, drunk on wine to calm his nerves, did the introducing before going onstage to perform a new poem called “Howl.”) Snyder convinced Kerouac to try a stint as a fire lookout, since he himself—a burgeoning anarchist, albeit a pacifist—had been banned due to McCarthy-era blacklisting.
Kerouac later wrote about the summer in Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums, giving his pal Snyder the pseudonym Japhy Ryder. Snyder himself penned poems about the experience throughout his life; “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” concludes:
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
& (by the end)
“I wanta go where there’s lamps and telephones and rumpled couches with women on them.”