Pearsoll Peak Lookout
The nearby Labrador Fire caused the Forest Service to close access to Pearsoll Peak Lookout most of this past summer, so the SMS Heritage Preservation Team will be continuing work there during the summer of 2014. Located just outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the beautiful Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon, Pearsoll Peak has a view that extends from the snow-capped Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.
Pearsoll Peak was the second major project taken-on by the SMS. It was actually begun as soon as Sand Mountain Lookout was completed (1991). At one time under consideration for relocation to Sand Mountain, the SMS opted to relocate the more historically appropriate lookout from Whisky Peak on the neighboring Rogue River National Forest. The Heritage Program Manager of the time on the Siskiyou National Forest, Janet Joyer, offered to "provide helicopter support for removal of whichever lookout you take, even if it's not ours." In return for her generosity, the SMS followed-up by restoring Pearsoll Peak in place.
SMS volunteer Greg Keil at Pearsoll Peak during the first restoration phase in 1991
In 2011 the SMS replaced a window sill and some framing that was damaged during a windstorm. In the process, the interior siding had to be removed from the west wall. This provided the ideal opportunity to remove the tongue and groove fir flooring which was originally laid with the wrong orientation (parallel to the subfloor boards) and in the wrong sequence (pinning it beneath the interior siding). So... while the interior siding was removed from the west wall, the floor was carefully pulled-up and catalogued (so that it could later be re-laid in the same sequence) and then hauled in bundles to the trailhead. THe flooring was then conveyed to Portland where the paint was painstakingly removed by SMS volunteer Tim Nidever over the following winter using a steam process. In 2012, the Team hauled the flooring back to the lookout and re-laid it with the proper orientation. A clear varnish was used (as originally in 1954) to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the wood grain.
At left, Don Allen Jr. levels replacement "outriggers" in 2001
Don Allen Jr. was working at Pearsoll Peak on September 11, 2001. "I was listening to Jefferson Public Radio, the local NPR affiliate, when Bob Edwards first delivered the report. At first I thought it was a mistake, but pretty soon my cell phone started to ring with friends calling to make sure I knew about it."
Since 2001, the SMS has taken responsibility for all maintenance on Pearsoll Peak Lookout.
In 2002, the freshly painted lookout with its new outriggers and freshly sealed roof survived the infamous Biscuit Fire Complex of 2002. Had the dried-out roof and frayed outriggers been exposed during the fire, it's hard to believe the building would have survived. Had we not had to defer the original outrigger repair until 2001 (due to lack of funds in 1991), the fresh finishes probably would not have been on the building when the fire took place.
It should be noted that Michael Keown (the District Archaeology Technician at the time) made the significant effort to drop the shutters in advance of the fire. In combination, the recent application of exterior finishes and Mr. Keown's heroic effort to lower the shutters certainly saved the building. Burned conifers and brush were completely torched within 50 feet of the lookout, but the building -- remarkably -- survived Oregon's biggest blaze in recorded history (nearly 500,000 acres).
The view from Pearsoll Peak was substatially altered in the aftermath of the fire.
PROJECT LEADERS FOR 2013: The project leader for carpentry-related repairs will be Don Allen Jr., and Tim Nidever will lead the painting crew. People often express interest in helping at Pearsoll Peak, but because of the many hazards present and the remoteness of the site, we only take the most experienced and seasoned crew members there. We recommend starting with a less dangerous site. Pearsoll has very difficult access, and many other potential hazards you should be aware of.
At right, SMS volunteer, Blake Driver works to prepare Pearsoll Peak Lookout for another winter. Our crew opens and closes several lookouts for the season each year.
HAZARDS TO BE AWARE OF AT PEARSOLL PEAK include but are not necessarily limited to: rattlesnakes, black widows, janta virus, and tetanus. The lookout is accessible by extreme 4-wheel drive access road, capped by a moderately difficult trail about 1.5 miles in length. The terrain is cliffy, steep, and rocky in places. Some of the more common mishaps observed are car break-down/flat tire on the road, difficulty getting around other vehicles on the road, and sprained ankles. It is quite easy to lose the trail in places in even a small amount of snow. Poison oak is also abundant along sections of the road in lower drainages. Given Pearsoll Peak's remoteness and difficulty of access, visitors to the area should exercise great care: medical attention is a LONG ways away. Cell phone reception is poor to non-existent. Local water can contain heavy metals, so purification is recommended if drawing water from local sources. The weather can change in a matter of minutes from hot and dry to cold and wet: be prepared accordingly.
SMS POLICIES for Heritage Preservation Team members at Pearsoll Peak:
- Keep SMS sattelite-based safety device at work site
- Be sure someone knows when and where you are going, and have a prearranged check-in time beyond which help will be dispatched if you have not made contact
- Never work alone if it can be helped
- Be sure your tetanus booster is current (good for 10 years, normally)
- Use FRS radios when separated by more than a few hundred feet on the mountain
- Be prepared for extreme weather (sunscreen and proper attire)
- Wear boots with at least 8" leather tops
- Read and sign complete Job Hazard Analysis before commencing work
- Observe precautions to prevent spread of Port Orford Cedar Root fungus