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One of three such fire towers on Mount Hood, Clear Lake Butte Lookout is used by the Barlow Ranger District to spot wildfires during the summer. From November to May, however, when the mountain is buried in snow, the cabin is rented out to the public.

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It’s a relatively short three-mile ski to the fire tower, but the trail climbs 900 feet.
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A rusty US Forest Service notice greets visitors at the foot of the tower. Day-trippers are welcome to stop by the tower for a look around, but if the cabin is occupied, it’s best to ask permission before climbing the stairs.

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A wooden 1960s-era sign depicting an orange-hued sunset behind Clear Lake Butte Lookout hangs on a weathered beam above the stairs. The fire tower is strategically placed near two of Mount Hood’s popular summertime recreation areas, Timothy and Clear Lakes.

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A momentary cloud break reveals a prime view of Timothy Lake, just to the south of Clear Lake Butte Lookout, and visible from the catwalk that rings the fire tower.

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Visitors can access the wood-planked catwalk that surrounds the cabin by securing a sturdy trapdoor (at left) to the tower’s railings.

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Even on bitterly cold days, the tower’s potbelly stove heats the single-room cabin to a toasty seventy degrees. The metal pan on the stovetop comes in handy for melting snow for drinking water (though the Forest Service doesn’t recommend this).

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Elizabeth Barker gathers kindling for the stove in the woodshed at the base of the tower. Proper cabin etiquette (and just plain common decency) dictates that you leave the cabin well-stocked with firewood after your stay.

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Brian Barker savors a sip of hot tea before setting out to explore the wilderness around Clear Lake Butte.

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A bank of spring storm clouds hides Mount Hood’s summit. Below, the ghostly outline of Clear Lake punctuates the snow-dusted Cascade foothills to the north.

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