INDEX — Not even scenic mountain lookouts are safe from the greedy hands of copper-wire thieves.
The Heybrook Lookout, a hiking destination near Index, has been without a lightning-protection system since it was hit by thieves a couple of years ago. Work to replace the system will continue into next year, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The 2.6-mile hike to the lookout seems to be growing in popularity every year, said John Robinson, who manages wilderness recreation programs in the Skykomish Ranger District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The lookout now sees up to 4,000 visitors a year.
After a short, steep hike, they’re rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Baring, Mount Index, Mount Persis and, sometimes, Bridal Veil Falls.
Visitors this July included a team of teenage volunteers from a Seattle parks program. The teens replaced the lookout’s wooden railings, which had been covered by graffiti and carvings in the style of marijuana leaves and “Johnny Loves Suzy.” The teen volunteers used a pulley system to get tools to the top of the lookout. It stands about 67 feet above the peak, not counting the cabin above.
More volunteers are needed — especially folks who aren’t afraid of heights, Robinson said. Already new graffiti and carvings have shown up at the lookout.
“It’s heavily vandalized,” he said.
At the same time, without a lightning-protection system, visitors are advised to keep away from the structure during bad weather. A warning sign is at the trail head along U.S. 2.
A lightning-protection system is made up of prongs and wires that absorb any lightning strikes and redirect the energy from the roof, away from the lookout, and into the ground. It is meant to protect people from electrocution and also to prevent damage, including fires.
The Forest Service has more parts ordered for the project and hopes to wrap up the work for inspections next year, Robinson said. Security measures also have been added. In the long run, they’d like to rent out the cabin on top for overnight camping and special events, he said. Some people have been married at the lookout, and others have expressed interest in similar ceremonies. The site also is used for navigation training by mountaineering groups.
The lookout dates back to the 1960s and sits atop Heybrook Ridge, between Index and Baring.
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How to help
Volunteers and monetary donations are needed for the maintenance of Heybrook Lookout, near Index. For more information, contact John Robinson of the Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2232, firstname.lastname@example.org.