After living in Montana for a few years, we decided to give our shot at reserving a Lookout Tower.
It starts by waking up at 7:50 am – 6 months before the day you actually want to reserve for. Booking is handled on a 6-month rolling basis. The actual booking time is at 8:00 am so we gave ourselves time to get the page up on our computer and ready to book. At exactly 8:00 am, we added the reservation date to our cart and went to check out. Little did we know you need an account before purchasing. The website requires you to have an account first before checking out. So you might want to create an account with them before 8:00 am. We managed to create an account and book the Lookout Tower by 8:03 am. Woo! The excitement kept us awake to start our Saturday a little earlier than usual.
The Hike to the Lookout Tower
Our hike was 3.5-miles one way with about 2000ft of elevation gain to the tower. The trail starts out hiking through a wildflower-filled forest. After a mile, it opens up into an old burn area. Much of the hike travels through this burned area. There were a lot of wildflowers and huckleberry bushes in the new growth. The hiking wasn’t too difficult in our opinion, but it is still a solid hike with overnight packs on! We knew the tower didn’t have the closest water source, so we conserved water on the ascent (Realized we probably should have drank more later!).
Arriving at the Tower, and Taking in The View
Finally, we made it to the tower! Expressions of gratitude were said out loud for at least a half-hour. The Tower had a lot of supplies, which was a surprise to us. Board games, cards, cookware, lawn chairs, and more filled the Tower. You have so many options for things to do. We decided to walk around the catwalk and take in the views. Mitch was looking for wildlife through his binoculars and scope he brought just for the occasion. Shortly after our arrival, we both were feeling like an afternoon siesta (in hindsight, probably because we over-conserved our water instead of drinking it on the hike up).
Finding Good Medicine in Medicine Point
After setting ourselves up to relax on the lawn chairs, Mitch began reading James R. Fazio’s memoir about his summer spent manning the tower in 1963. I started reading the logbook and was entertained by various experiences – so much that I read the whole thing from the beginning in 2001. There was an absurd amount of logs regarding the flies. (There was a lot! But we opened the windows and most of them found their way out). Strange references to a “Bitterroot Buttripper” kept popping up in the logbook. I later Googled it out of curiosity, but nothing explained this to me. Some were excited to be in the tower during a thunderstorm and saw small forest fires start – or start and then rain themselves out. Many raved about the outhouse and pooping with the door open. The experiences entertained me and some made me laugh out loud. We were both relaxed and enjoying the unique atmosphere up in our cabin in the sky for the night.
Nighttime in the Lookout Tower
After filling our bellies with a new tuna/mac and cheese concoction, we watch the sunset. Mitch spotted a nice elk herd in the distance and was occupied counting and watching them during their dinner. We watched as the stars came out to fill the sky. During our stay, the Comet NEOWISE was supposedly visible, but we didn’t end up catching it. However, we did catch the full range of stars having light pollution-free surroundings. We laid on the platform and watched the milky way emerge from the darkness.
Hard to Leave
The alarm was set to catch the sunrise. After staying up late the night before admiring the sky, we perked up to watch the sun rise above the Anaconda range and fell back asleep (awesome part of being in a lookout tower). A few hours later we emerged from our sleeping bag cocoons and made breakfast. Drinking coffee in the mountains on a sunny morning is a personal highlight when camping. It’s almost as if you are waking up with the mountains. We took our time enjoying the morning before hesitantly packing our belongings. Medicine Point put big smiles on our faces that lasted the whole hike down. It was decided that next time we book a lookout, we will try to aim for at least two nights. One was not long enough!