From Dave Brigham:
On one of my occasional Backside-hunting drives through Boston's western suburbs, I found myself on a quaint country road in Dover, one of the horsiest towns around. I drove past a small parking lot and saw a sign that marked it as a park of some sort. Sure enough: the Ralph MacAllester Fire Tower at Snow Hill.
Just what I didn't know I was looking for!
My first thought -- and Backside contributor Joe Viger will hear me on this -- was of Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, in which Kerouac's proxy character, Ray Smith, ends up working as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in Washington.
I'd never seen a fire tower up close, and had no idea there were any within a 50-mile radius of my home. So I knew I had to hike up.
During my short hike, I heard banging in the distance. I had passed by several homes on my drive to the parking lot, so I figured somebody was doing some construction work. Once I was in sight of the tower, however, I realized that the noise was two guys working on the structure itself.
I wasn't sure whether the tower was open to the public, and being the non-confrontational guy that I am, I balked at approaching. I snapped a few pictures from a distance, then turned around to explore the empty building I'd seen on my hike up (turned out to be a Boy Scout camp; more on this in a future post).
I left the park curious about the tower, but unsatisfied with my visit. I did some research online, and found some interesting facts:
- The property is owned by the Dover Land Conservation Trust, which gives the state permission to operate the tower, which is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
- In 1984, the tower was struck by lightning; in 1985 a new cab was built.
- On a clear day from the tower, you can see Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, the hills near Hartford, CT, the Boston skyline and Mount Ascutney in Vermont.
I determined I had to go back, so a week or so later I did.
Once again there were a couple of guys working on the structure, but I kept walking until I was close enough for them to see me, and snapped the photo you see above. They didn't say a word to me, so my initial hesitation seems pretty silly in hindsight.
I then hiked around much more of the park, and took some other pictures you'll see in two future posts.
For an idea of what it's like to work as a fire spotter, see this article about working in the MacAllester Fire Tower.