Long before we decided to come to Libby, I was drawn to return to Blue Mountain Lookout Tower. My mom worked at the tower for a couple summers when I was a kid (20 years ago this summer), and I had gone up to stay a week or 2 at some point during that time. It was an extremely quiet place, which for a 12 year old can get boring fast but I still remember enjoying it for the most part. In the cabin at the bottom of the tower there was a radio I listened to, and a TV,where we watched one of 2 videos my mom had brought with her, Groundhogs Day and The Fisher King. We must have watched each of those movies a dozen times, almost to the point of hating them, yet to this day they are 2 of my favorites.
At night, crawling under the cabin, was a family of huge pack rats that I was convinced wanted to eat my feet. I was sure they were in the cabin and wouldn’t leave my cot in the dark for anything. Between them and the bear who paid occasional visits to the outhouse, I got little sleep for the first few days.
We found Blue Mountain Rd. on the map but couldn’t find the tower, even using satellite view. Regardless, I was determined to find it, or at least find out if it was still there, since so many lookout towers are out of commission, replaced with planes.
When we found the road there was a sign for “Blue Mountain Lookout – 11 Miles”. It was promising. After one wrong turn where the road just ended and the truck got stuck (and Ross pelted me with gravel with the back tire of the truck), we found the right road and drove on, still not knowing for sure if it would end with a gate around the next corner. The road weaved up the side of the mountain with steep switchbacks, cliffs, rocks in the road and the occasional tree or branch that had to be crushed or moved by hand. After about an hour and a half, having crept up the mountain between 10 and 20 miles an hour, the road became rougher when we came within 2 miles of the tower.
When we drove around the last bend we could see a radio tower and a travel trailer, apparently the home of the new host. We pulled up next to it and could hear two men talking near the tower, standing as strong and high as it ever has.
Not typically getting many visitors, they were interested to see us and asked about my leg, which led to a short conversation about motorcycles. I told them how I’d stayed at the tower a long time ago, and in the cabin which was now apparently demolished. The host was a young bearded guy and the other, his friend, who worked for the Forest Service in Utah and was visiting for a few days.
I hobbled up to the first level of the tower, knowing that was the limit with my leg. Even at that height the view was pretty amazing.
While we were up there 2 more cars showed up, only one getting out and walking around, then leaving soon after. With a drive that long you would think people might hang around longer and look around some more. Had I been able to walk I would have been hiking all over the top of the mountain.
The tower is at about 10k feet, a pretty huge climb for the truck since Libby is only at 2100 feet. It seems like an excellent place to camp, and is apparently allowed, so aside from the fact that my leg would basically keep me near the tent, it would be great to go back up there. Another for the list of possible spots in the area, though something near water would have more options, as far as things for me to do right now.
I was happy to find the tower still active, the host friendly, and be able to walk around it a bit; though I paid for it with an extra sore leg the next few days.