I mentioned before the summer of 2008 was the "Summer of Peaks". Moose Mountain was another notch in that belt. Nat and I had attempted it before, but waited a little too late in the season and opted to stop just short of the active fire lookout on top. This time there was no chance of snow stopping us.
Thunderstorms on the other hand are a real risk in the summer. Moose Mountain seems to be a bit of a lightning rod, and its location on the edge of the Rockies means storms can develop in a matter of minutes. There's even a sign posted at the trailhead warning hikers of the high lightning strike risk, and the fact the mountain itself is struck by lightning throughout the season. Yeah, that's what I want to read when starting a hike up a mountain!
The approach to Moose Mountain is a pretty yet nondescript trail through forest and meadow. It's not terribly strenuous, and it's usually used by cyclists. However, there's no mistaking once you begin your ascent up the actual mountain, as you lose the trees and have only barren landscape around you:
As you start the switchbacks up this side of Moose Mountain, you realize you are right on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, and there is lots to see:
After the switchbacks, the trail turns into a bit of a false ridge walk; you walk along the top of one peak, only to dip down and start ascent of another. It's the second ascent along a narrow trail of scale that is not for the faint of heart. That faint line along the ridge and side of mountain? Yeah, that's the trail. You can also see the fire lookout at the peak. We're looking west, but the trail actually winds around to the other sided of the peak to approach the lookout:
Looking down the valley between the mountains makes for a fabulous look at the rock formations:
The Moose Mountain fire lookout is still an active lookout. Someone works here from May until October, and lives in the tiny structure that doubles as the lookout. On top of that, that person will have a few thousand people hiking to his doorstep every summer:
All food and supplies are brought in by helicopter. The landing pad is located beside the lookout:
There is a guestbook to sign, as well as a couple of signs to greet visitors, one official, and one a little more "unofficial":
Nat and I were the first up this particular day, and to our surprise the fire lookout guy came out the greet us (he actually said he could hear us coming from quite a distance... Nat and I are not exactly silent hikers). He was extremely friendly and informative, telling us about bringing his family up for part of the summer (imagine 2 adults and 2 kids under 10 living in that tiny house!), busting illegal campfires, the training required for such a job, past fire lookouts (Nat's father met a lookout at Moose Mountain who played the cello for the hikers who arrived) and more. He also assured us (me) that those dark clouds on the horizon were "unlikely" to contain lightning (but did say he'd had to chase more than one hiking group off the mountain due to incoming lightning storms).
I think a book could be written purely about the people who man the fire lookouts around the globe.
That said - you can't beat the working conditions. This is his view to the west:
We bid the fire lookout goodbye as a number of other hikers were making their way up the trail. This was definitely one of the most interesting hikes yet!
As my closer, here's a panorama shot from the summit of Moose Mountain, stitched together by amazing hubby Dave. Imagine having this as your private view 5 months out of the year! (please click on photo for full-size):