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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Sky High Wonders

Posted April 21, 2008 9:13 a.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2008 9:19 a.m. EDT

What was your favorite lookout as a child? Maybe it was a tree house or a window in the attic? Maybe it was a secret spot on the roof of a barn. Please discuss.

It’s a young boy’s dream: climbing a mountain and then climbing a tower on that mountain to get the best view of all! As a Burke County native I can certainly identify with the passion of Peter J. Barr. The UNC graduate has written a fascinating book on lookout towers vanishing across the mountain landscape.

In his book "Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers" Peter explains that fire lookout towers are “a dying breed.” Many have been abandoned and others “have fallen victim to vandalism and neglect.” These towers were once used by the US Forest Service to spot fires but aerial surveillance has made them obsolete. Peter Barr chronicles 26 of what he calls “scenic treasures” in his book. But this is as much a rescue mission as a historical project.

Peter Barr is spearheading a drive to save aging lookout towers. He serves as director of the North Carolina chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association. The group is raising funds to save and restore the deteriorating structures. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.

Peter says the “single best reason to hike a lookout tower is to marvel at its breathtaking 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding mountain landscape.” It’s hard to argue with that.