Scotchman Peaks group rises to occasion for lookout

SUNDAY, AUG. 12, 2012

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, based in Sandpoint, is teaming with the Forest Service to restore the Star Peak Lookout in the Kootenai National Forest near Heron, Mont.

The lookout was built in the 1950s, but even more impressive is a nearby ranger’s cabin built entirely of stone around 1910, said Rachael Reckin, Kootenai National Forest archeologist.

The lookout has not been used for fire control for about five years. It’s being restored for historical purposes and is not intended to be used as a rental, Reckin said.

“There’s not enough interest in renting lookouts that require a hike-in,” she said. “It’s generally not cost-effective to keep them up to a standard where they can be rented.”

Star Peak is within the area the Scotchman Peaks groups is proposing for wilderness designation north and east of Lake Pend Oreille.

“Some of us took a class from the Forest Service on how they do restorations,” said Sandy Compton of Heron.

The group also has started restoring an abandoned single track trail to the lookout that will be prized by hikers when it’s finished, perhaps next year.

The group has partnered with the Forest Service to fund a wilderness ranger for the Scotchman roadless area and nearby Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Ranger Jeremy Leibenguth has been devoting two days of this work week to coordinating volunteers who are clearing and rebuilding the trail.

Irv McGeachy of Hope, Idaho, paid for the privilege of hiking up with the Ninemile mule pack string at a Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness fundraising auction.

“These people walk the walk, if you know what I mean,” he said after hiking five uphill miles to the top of Star Peak and helping unload the lumber and supplies from the mules.

McGeachy also has been the lead volunteer in the ongoing reconstruction of the single-track trail to Star Peak summit.

“A Forest Service staffer found the trail on an old map from the 1930s,” said Phil Hough, the group’s executive director. “Last summer, our intern came out, searched out the route and flagged it.”

The trail will lead hikers and horses off the current route so they don’t have to share 2.5 miles on an old mining road that’s open to motorcycles and ATVs.

“The grade will be more pleasant and the trail will lead through several viewpoints over the Clark Fork River and out to Lake Pend Oreille,” Hough said.

Click here to comment on this story »