Life up high on Grouse Ridge
Life up high on Grouse Ridge

Life up high on Grouse Ridge

If you’ve been to the mountains in California, you know just how special they are – and not only how amazing the views are, but also how fickle the weather can be there.  Our team has been up on Grouse Ridge helping to restore the fire lookout tower there.  It’s elevation?  7711 feet.  While it’s not the tallest peak we’ve worked on, it’s still a hike to the project site and it’s high enough that the wind can get in the way of project completion.

Grouse Ridge Lookout is located in the middle of Tahoe National Forest, one of the prettiest and most visited vacation destinations in the States (the forest – not the ridge).  The tower was built in 1923 and used into the 1970s.  You can find it at the very end of the hike along the Grouse Ridge Trail.  As a lookout tower the site is defunct now, but the forest is hoping to restore the building so that it can be available for public use.  Just check out the views that you get from the top!








Longtime volunteer Bobby Evans helped out on the ridge for both sessions and loved every minute of it, despite the cold, the high winds and the altitude.  In his downtime, he admired the sprawling mountain views and made friends with supervisor Dane, crew leader Kat, and fellow volunteers.  Here are some brief highlights from his photo journal:



Here are the hard-working crew leader Kat and project supervisor Dane.  This was a hard-hat zone and both project leaders and volunteers alike were hard at work measuring, drilling, leveling, and constructing. The crew had a number of big tasks to take on during the two weeks they were out there, including re-roofing, installing windows and siding, fabricating stairs and railings, constructing a catwalk deck and railings, and painting the entire exterior of the cab.



By the end of the first two days, volunteers had worked in 47 degree 13659033_1209043659126268_6846448970283531906_nweather and 34 mph wind gusts to finish 900 lineal feet of custom moulding, drilling 2,156 holes and painting 1,460 feet of same.  Who counted all those drill holes, we’re not sure – but what stats! With the first session, volunteers completed the construction of some of the railings, leaving the installation of handrails to the session two crew. Bobby says, “We expected to have the roof done but high winds ruled that adventure out for this session.” Windows for the cab also arrived, but the tired session one volunteers took a few days’ break, leaving the windows for the next group as well.



From so high up, you can see all around you – and volunteers  got a taste of what it could be like to work at a fire lookout tower – they located a fire off in the distance one day, and watched as the smoke lifted up towards the billowy clouds.


Session two had volunteers trimming, sawing and installing railings around the lookout cab. Everyone seemed to get along so well – Bobby comments, “What a team a collection of former strangers make!” The team even banded together to make dinners. One night, Bobby writes, “Site supervisor Dane Cowan and volunteer Doug Turner cooked the chicken, Kat made the salads, prepped the veggies for the fried rice and salads. There were no leftovers.”

What camaraderie on a project! Despite the mountain lion growls around the campsite at night, all the volunteers had a fantastic time on Grouse Ridge, saving one of the most amazing fire lookout towers in California, and getting some great views in the process!

And so ends another project.  Rest well, Grouse Ridge!