Outdoors

Norman Maclean had high perspective on lightning


The Grand Tetons, tranquill as they seem in this scenic photo, were the site of a lightning strike that left members of a climbing party clinging for life.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
The Grand Tetons, tranquill as they seem in this scenic photo, were the site of a lightning strike that left members of a climbing party clinging for life. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

MOUNTAIN STORMS — If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky,” Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune recommends it, and so do I.

It is one of the “other stories” in his book “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.” 

Recently I wrote a story about a backpacking trek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during which thunder storms pounded my camp with the shock and awe of the bombing of Bahgdad.

Maclean says this about thunderstorms from the perspective of a forest fire lookout staffer at  Elk Summit near Powell, Idaho:

“In the late afternoon, of course, the mountains meant all business for the lookouts. The big winds were veering from the valleys toward the peaks, and smoke from little fires that had been secretly burning for several days might show up for the first time. New fires sprang out of thunder before it sounded. By three-thirty or four, the lightning would be flexing itself on the distant ridges like a fancy prizefighter, skipping sideways, ducking, showing off but not hitting anything. But four-thirty or five, it was another game. You could feel the difference in the air that had become hard to breath. The lightning now came walking into you, delivering short smashing punches.”




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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