I was absolutely DELIGHTED when I found out that the regional Project Learning Tree workshop ( www.plt.org ) I was attending in southeast Oklahoma was going to include climbing a fire lookout tower! The last time I climbed a fire tower was on the final day of my senior year of high school, when some girlfriends and I drove to the top of Boat Mountain in Boone County, Arkansas, and climbed to the top of the fire tower there. The details in my mind are fuzzy of that day, but it is possible that we skipped school, and it is possible, that we were not authorized to be climbing that tower. However, since the statue of limitations has long since expired on the endeavor, it is time for "true confession"! Fortunately, for this "climbing expedition", we had staff members from the Oklahoma Department of Forestry giving us some history on the use of fire towers, and what life was like for those who had this job. The tower was at the end of a very steep and rough dirt road, that climbed to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the Ouachita Mountain Range of that area. Besides the tower, there was the home for the fire tower worker and his family, as well as several out buildings.
Climbing the tower was an "optional" activity, so anyone that had a fear of heights was welcome to stay on the ground and have an alternate course of study. However, since the Master Naturalist who was climbing ahead of me seemed to be doing okay, I decided to proceed upward and onward!
These days the fire tower serves more as an "anchor" for a multitude of communication antennas, than as a full-time location for a forest service employee.
Once I made it to the top, and was inside, I had to have my photo made with one of the forest service employees who staffs one of the few remaining fire towers in Oklahoma.
It was a hot and sunny day in October, when our group climbed up to the top of the fire tower, and entered its tiny enclosure. You can be sure, we were GREATLY outnumbered by the hundreds of wasps swarming the inside compartment, as well as the stairs on the way to the top. Our guide told us they would not hurt us, as long as we did not accidentally lay our hand down on one of them that were crawling on the hand rails. Between watching where I put my feet on the steep ladder, and watching where I put my hands on the wasp-covered railings, it was an exciting adventure!
This photo shows the "trap door" in the floor of the fire tower that can be locked, to keep out uninvited human beings from getting inside the tower.
As you look down from the top of the tower, and see how old the rust-covered supports appear to be, one begins to wonder if this was the wisest decision or not!
Our guide was skilled at "hollering" down to those below, to see if anyone else wanted to make the climb up to the top.
One final thought:
While I was being greeted by a WASP at every step of the ladder, and the WASP buzzed my head when inside the top compartment, I felt very intimidated and a little scared. It reminded me what a visitor from another race or culture might feel like when they are surrounded by the WASP ( WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant) members of my Bible study group. I can see why my group of human "WASP" might be scary and intimidating to a foreigner. Therefore, I resolved to make such a person feel welcome, and not scared! So although this experience of climbing a wasp-infested fire tower might be viewed as a hardship, or a persecution, or a difficulty, or an insult, or an activity to point out a weakness, but if it was done for Christ's sake, to make me a stronger person, then I can delight in it! In fact, I can use it as a visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses: "For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10 The experience of climbing this fire tower taught me a lesson about wasps, but it also gave me an appreciation for the hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, that those forest "watchtower" folks have endured over the years! Thanks to their endeavors, we can continue to enjoy our beautiful forests, and have "MILES OF SMILES"!