A natural vacation
National forests in the Northwest have opened unused
fire lookouts, stock stations and maintenance cabins to the public.
All can be rented for overnight camping with up to a two-week stay
allowed in some places. Because each facility is rented by the
national forest in which it is located, two brochures, available at
most Forest Service offices, are helpful: A Guide to Your National
Forests and The Northern Region Directory. The latter lists over 50
rentals in 14 national forests. Accommodations at some are so
isolated renters have to hike, snowmobile or ski in. Overnight fees
range from $15 to $40 with space for up to four persons and
amenities such as a cookstove, table, chairs, cooking utensils and
beds or bunks. The rental program began in Alaska about 10 years
ago and quickly spread to Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
These days, Big Creek Baldy Lookout, on the Kootenai National
Forest in northwest Montana, has become so popular it is often
reserved a year in advance.