Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mockingbird Fire Lookout

Trip Date: August 2014

After our big vacation in July (see Amsterdam, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zanzibar) I wanted to get back into the mountains and do some hiking.  I also wanted to drive into work and check our trail cameras to see what we had captured since we'd left in June.  I decided to head out to The Ghost and hike up to the Mockingbird Fire Lookout and then swing into work on my way home and check the cameras.  It was shaping up to be a great day out with Rome.  

According to my guidebook, the hike up to the lookout is approximately 3km with 354m of elevation gain.  The hike follows an old fire road up to the lookout.  The trailhead is near marker 121, which is 3.8km west of Highway 940 along the Waiparous Valley Road.  Please note, my guidebook stated that the road to the lookout was positively identified by a sign "Dangerous road closed to all vehicles with 4 or more wheels", but this sign has since been removed.  There is no sign indicating the road to the lookout, so keep your eyes peeled for marker 121, which is on the south side of the access road.  

This is what the trailhead looks like today
On the trail with Rome
Wildflowers along the trail.  The purple ones are Common Harebells
Fire lookouts are an integral part of Alberta's forest fire detection system.  Lookout observers are Alberta's first line of defence for spotting and reporting wildfires.  Forest protection relies on early detection to help suppress wildfires while they are still small.

Welcome sign just below the lookout
The Mockingbird Lookout was originally constructed in 1952 to replace the Black Rock Fire Lookout on the summit of nearby Black Rock Mountain, which ceased operations sometime in 1950.  The old box-like structure, that acted as the Mockingbird Lookout for over 20 years was torn down and the present day buildings were erected around 1973.  Rumor has it that the Mockingbird Lookout received its name because the surveyors, who were scouting new locations, were listening to a transistor radio as the song Mockin' Bird Hill was playing.

Mockingbird Fire Lookout
Standing on the summit
Mockingbird is an active fire lookout, meaning it's operated throughout the summer months.  I was fortunate enough to run into the operator on my visit.  She explained to me that she's basically on-call all the time and has daily reports she needs to submit about weather conditions, temperature, wind speed etc.  She'd been up there since early May and wouldn't be done until Thanksgiving.  Considering she's not allowed to leave, that's a long time to be isolated!

Devil's Head
Black Rock Mountain.  If you look closely you can see the remains of the old fire lookout on the summit.
Panoramic shot of the front range of the Rocky Mountains
After spending some time exploring the area around the lookout, and chatting with the attendant, Rome and I started the walk back down.  It was time to head into camp and check the status of our trail cameras.

Another view of Black Rock Mountain from the trail on our hike down
If you're curious about what we caught on camera over the summer, please visit the Summer Catch post on the Wild About Base Camp blog.  We ended up with a few really great shots of some elusive critters.


  1. Residents should contact their local fire department before conducting any burning as restrictions vary among local fire districts. Forest Fire Detection Cameras

    1. Thanks for the comment John and you're right it's always a good idea to check the current fire restrictions before ever having a fire. Thanks for reading!