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This review is taken from PN Review 152, Volume 29 Number 6, July - August 2003.

THINGS TO DO AROUND A LOOKOUT JOHN SUITER, Poets on the Peaks (Counterpoint)

In the mid 1950s three American poets, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Jack Kerouac - each for his own reasons eager for solitude - offered their services as fire watchers in the Cascade Mountains in upstate Washington. The first to do so was the twenty-two-year-old Gary Snyder, who by 1952 had graduated in anthropology, developed a serious interest in Zen Buddhism, written a substantial body as of yet unpublished poems and was well versed in the ways of the mountains. When Snyder first applied for a lookout job, it was characteristic of the future Rinzai monk that he should have asked them to give him the toughest and most inaccessible they had to offer. `I... listed my qualifications, which were trail crew and fire fighting, and experience with logging and carpentry and all that kind of thing, outdoor work, and mountaineering, and then I added: "So I would like your highest, most remote, and most difficult-ofaccess lookout."' This proved to be Crater Lake, at 8,129' the most northerly post in the Upper Skagit range, just below the Canadian border, and one which could be reached only with the greatest exertion, with provisions, kerosene cans and a set of radio batteries having to be borne by mules up a precarious pack trial and then hand-winched up a 300' cliff.

The fire-watcher's task, as Suiter explains in some details, was a simple one; to live alone in a fifteen foot square wooden hut and to observe the surrounding mountains, ...


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