The history and views live on

By Craig Romano

Snow-clad and draped in glacial ice, it seems unlikely that wildfire would pose a threat to Mount Rainier. However, ringing the base of the 14,410-foot volcano is a nearly unbroken canopy of towering firs, hemlocks, and cedars within the 235,000 acre national park. And surrounding the park are millions of acres of additional timberland managed within national and state forests and private tree farms. When the nascent United States Forest Service decided that it was a good idea to start building fire lookouts to watch over this treasure trove of timber, they looked toward Rainier’s lofty slopes as the perfect spots to site them.

In 1916, the Forest Service constructed a stone shelter for fire watching at 9,584 feet on Mount Rainier’s Anvil Rock, just below Camp Muir. The rock hovel was replaced 12 years later by a cupola cabin. And while this location did indeed provide excellent fire finding with its sweeping horizon-spanning views, all too often it was shrouded in clouds prohibiting any viewing at all.

That was the issue, too, with the park’s second fire lookout, situated on a 7,176-foot point on the Colonnade on Rainier’s northwest shoulder. Built in 1930, it was soon taken out of use, replaced by a new tower at lower Sunset Park. But Anvil Rock remained staffed until 1942, not so much as to report fires but to record weather data. Soon after the first tower was constructed on Mount Rainier, the park service and the forest service realized what many hikers know today–that some of the best and more reliable alpine views aren’t on the mountain itself, but on the surrounding lower ridges and knobs immune to near-perpetual cloud cover.

By the 1930s, the park service and forest service began surveying more appropriate locations for fire lookouts. And with the nation in a Great Depression with millions of unemployed young men enrolled in Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); officials had an army of labor at their disposal to construct new fire towers.

Up they went, mostly two-story cabins with wraparound balconies; simple in elegance and utilitarian in design. Within the national park, seven new fire towers were built: Shriner Peak in 1932, Tolmie Peak in 1933, Sunset Park in 1933, Gobblers Knob in 1933, Mount Fremont in 1934, Crystal Mountain and another lookout on a nearby knoll above Crystal Lake in 1934. And along the park’s periphery in the Snoqualmie National Forest (now Mount Baker-Snoqualmie), Wenatchee National Forest (now Okanogan-Wenatchee) and Columbia National Forest (now Gifford Pinchot), the CCC constructed scores of fire lookouts on ridges, knolls and summits. To the north, lookouts sprouted up on Clear West Peak, Suntop, Kelley Butte, and Bearhead Mountain, among others.

To the south, a precariously built lookout rose above sheer ledges on 5,685-foot High Rock. And a lookout was built on a 6,310-foot rounded knoll in the Tatoosh Range; where long before beat poet Jack Kerouac immortalized the Deception Peak lookout in the North Cascades, author Mary Hardy penned a well-received book, “Tatoosh.” in 1947 about her experiences as a fire watcher during World War II.

Along Mount Rainier National Park’s western boundary, a lookout tower was built in 1934 on 5,450-foot Glacier View peak. Thirty years later, the Washington Department of Natural Resources constructed a tower on 4,930-foot Puyallup Ridge. It still stands and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. However, it is rarely visited due to access issues over private land.

But the lookouts that still remain are accessible (mostly by trail) to the general public. Within the national park, four fire towers remain, one in each corner of the park. And while they share the same construction–two-story, wood-framed, wraparound windows and balcony–they each provide a unique view and perspective of the sprawling forests surrounding Mount Rainier, and of the mountain itself.

Here’s a thumbnail of each, including how to visit them:

Tolmie Peak

Sitting watch over the northwest corner of the park, Tolmie’s 5,939-foot summit commands impressive views from the mountain to the Sound. The trailhead is reached via the Mowich Lake Road, where you follow the Wonderland Trail north for 1.5 miles to Ipsut Pass. Then bear left for 1.7 miles through open forest and sub-alpine meadows skirting sparkling Eunice Lake before making the final ascent to the peak.

Mount Fremont

Perched on a ridge over 7,000 feet, it has the distinction of being Rainier’s highest remaining lookout. Situated in the drier northeast side of the park, the meadows here are punctuated with pumice and rock. The view of Rainier’s impressive Willis Wall and Emmons Glacier is breathtaking. Thanks to a lofty trailhead elevation of 6,400 feet at Sunrise, you needn’t work hard hiking the 2.7 miles.

Shriner Peak

The loneliest of Rainier’s lookouts, Shriner guards the quiet southeast corner of the park. The 4-mile hike to this 5,834-foot peak begins off of State Route 123. With over 3,400-feet of elevation gain, the trail is often deserted. Consequently, chances are good for viewing wildlife. Much of the peak’s lower slopes were engulfed by a wildfire before the lookout was constructed, creating open meadows and prime habitat. Bear, elk, deer, and grouse are abundant.

Gobbler’s Knob

At 5,485-feet, Gobbler’s Knob is the lowest of Rainier’s lookouts and the closest one to the volcano. It used to be the shortest to reach, too, just a 2.5-mile hike from Round Pass off of the West Side Road. But Tahoma Creek has continuously flooded the road, forcing its closure. To reach the trailhead now, you must first bike or walk an additional four miles.

Nearby remaining lookouts on national forest lands also invite exploring and make for excellent hiking destinations:

  • Suntop is perched on a 5,271-foot open knoll just north of the park. Reached by Forest Road 7315 (off of FR 73 near The Dalles Campground on State Route 410), it is a popular family picnicking and sightseeing spot. Hikers and mountain bikes can access it by following a 7.5-mile trail from Buck Creek.
  • High Rock, perhaps the most dramatic of the remaining lookouts, sits on a precipitous peak above sheer cliffs over 600 feet high along the appropriately named Sawtooth Ridge. The trailhead is reached by following Forest Road 8440 from Skate Creek Road.
  • Kelly Butte was recently restored by volunteers. The 1.7-mile trail, too, has been rebuilt in places, making what was once a short and steep hike a little less steep. Chances are good of seeing mountain goats. Reach the trail via Forest Road 7030 off of Greenwater River Road.

These lookouts, like many of the surviving fire lookouts from coast to coast, are primarily no longer used for fighting forest fires. Succumbing to aircraft surveillance, these backcountry sentinels remain historic landmarks. But beyond their weathered clapboards, they ignite passion and awe in their admirers by offering some of the hottest views in the Northwest.

Source: Visit Rainier, a non-profit organization that promotes Mount Rainier tourism.

How Medicare covers preventive healthcare


By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

How does Medicare cover preventive health screenings? I’m due to get a physical and a colonoscopy this year, but I want to find out what I’ll have to pay for before I go in.

Just Turned 65

Dear Just Turned,

You’ll be happy to know that Medicare covers a wide array of preventive and screening services to help you stay healthy, but not all services are completely covered.

Most of Medicare’s preventive services are available to all beneficiaries (through Part B) completely free with no co-pays or deductibles, as long as you meet basic eligibility standards. Mammograms; colonoscopies; shots against flu, pneumonia, COVID-19 and hepatitis B; screenings for diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, HIV, various cancers and cardiovascular disease; and counseling to combat obesity, alcohol abuse, and smoking are just some of Medicare’s covered services. But to get these services for free, you need to go to a doctor who accepts Medicare “on assignment,” which means he or she has agreed to accept the Medicare approved rate as full payment. Also, the tests are free only if they’re used at specified intervals. For example, cardiovascular screening blood tests once every five years; or colonoscopy once every 10 years or every two years if you’re at high risk.

Medicare also offers a free “Welcome to Medicare” exam with your doctor in your first year, along with annual “Wellness” visits thereafter. But don’t confuse these with full physical exams. These are prevention-focused visits that provide only an overview of your health and medical risk factors and serve as a baseline for future care. 


There are a few Medicare preventive services that require some out-of-pocket cost-sharing. You’ll have to pay 20 percent of the cost of the service after you’ve met your $226 Part B yearly deductible. The services that fall under this category include glaucoma tests, diabetes self-management trainings, barium enemas to detect colon cancer, and digital rectal exams to detect prostate cancer. For a complete list of services along with their eligibility requirements, visit

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, your plan is also required to cover the same preventive services as original Medicare as long as you see in-network providers.

You also need to know that while most of the previously listed Medicare services are free, you can be charged for certain diagnostic services or additional tests or procedures related to the preventive service. For example, if your doctor finds and removes a polyp during your preventive care colonoscopy screening, you will pay 15 percent of the doctor’s service fee. Or, if during your annual wellness visit, your doctor needs to investigate or treat a new or existing problem, you’ll probably be charged. You may also have to pay a facility fee depending on where you receive the service. Certain hospitals, for example, will often charge separate facilities fees when you’re receiving a preventive service. And you can also be charged for a doctor’s visit if you meet with a physician before or after the service.

To eliminate billing surprises, talk to your doctor before any preventive service procedure to find out if you may be subject to a charge, and what it would be.  

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC TV’s “Today.” Send senior questions for him to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or at

Three shots at not getting sick

The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated against flu by October and getting the latest anti-COVID shot. And for the first time, vaccines are available for RSV – another anticipated virus to contend with this year.

To help make that happen locally, information on where and how to get a flu shot and other vaccinations is available from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (, 253-649-1500), Seattle-King County Public Health (, 206-296-4774), the Washington Department of Health (, 800-525-0127), and,a CDC-hosted website.

Here’s what else to know:


Anyone can get sick with flu, some worse than others. People with the highest risk of severe illness include those 65 and older, children younger than 5, and pregnant women. Adults with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease also are high-risk. Medical experts say a flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the fever, cough, sore throat, and achiness that comes with the bug. The CDC and other health authorities note the potential spread of flu will likely increase in October, peak between December and January, and continue into next May. And while getting a shot early in the flu season is best, it’s not too late to do it later in the season.


Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common virus that affects lungs and makes breathing difficult. It’s more common in the spring and fall. While people of all ages can get it, the virus is worse for children under 5 years old and older adults, especially ones in poor health. The CDC has reported that RSV causes approximately 160,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths among adults 60 and older every year, and the agency recommends that older adults receive the RSV vaccination.


A new CDC-recommended COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be widely available this fall. One dose of the 2023-24 Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are urged for virtually all ages, starting at 6 months old. An alternative vaccine, Novavax, is offered for anyone unable or unwilling to go with Moderna or Pfizer. While hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are low compared to the height of the pandemic, the virus still exists and could, like other viruses, spread this fall and winter as people spend more time indoors with others. Most people can be vaccinated for free, and if there is a cost, consumers with health insurance can have it covered through their plans.

Private medical and healthcare providers, plus pharmacies such as CVS, provide vaccinations.

Influenza claims lives annually. The 2022-23 flu season ended with 261 deaths statewide attributed to flu, according to the state Department of Health. Of those, 35 were reported in Pierce County and 57 in King County.

How the fair got here

By Paula Becker

On Oct. 4-6, 1900, a group of Puyallup Valley farmers, business people, and other residents join together to produce an agricultural and livestock fair designed to highlight local products. The event is called the Valley Fair and is so successful that it becomes an annual event. In time it will become the Western Washington Fair Association’s Puyallup Fair (since renamed the Washington State Fair) and draw the fifth-highest attendance of any fair in the country.

The main promoter of the Valley Fair was Lewis Alden Chamberlain, a farmer from Buckley who successfully mounted a similar agricultural event in Enumclaw in 1899.

Alden set about convincing farmers in the Puyallup-Sumner Valley that their location would make it easy to draw crowds from as far away as Seattle and Tacoma. Chamberlain approached the Puyallup Board of Trade with his idea. The board gave the project their support, and in June of 1900 some of the valley’s most progressive farmers organized the Valley Fair Association. Chamberlain was elected president of the newly formed association. William Hall Paulhamus became vice president, James P. Nevins secretary, and George D. Spurr treasurer.

Board members circulated through the valley offering $1 shares of 1,000 possible shares of capital stock they had issued to fund the fair to merchants, farmers, and anyone else they could corral. Although only $82 was raised through stock sales, and some of that was the value of trade labor rather than cash, board members pushed ahead with preparations, erecting a 10-foot fence around a vacant lot west of Puyallup’s Pioneer Park.

As they busily set up a borrowed tent within the fence on the evening before the planned Oct. 4 opening, gusts of wind collapsed it. It took until after midnight to re-pitch the tent and repair the damage.

The Valley Fair board, however, had evidently not managed to stir up sufficient local enthusiasm. When the gate opened, no exhibitors had yet materialized. Vice president Paulhaumus recalled events in a newspaper report in 1920: “Chamberlain stood at the gate most of Thursday morning without any exhibits being turned in. About noon, Romulous Nix was seen coming down the dusty road leading a shorthorn bull, unknown breeding. [Nix’s name was actually Rhonymous or Ronimous. Apparently he used both spellings but usually abbreviated it and used the name R. Nix.] Mr. Chamberlain gave his old friend a warm greeting and found a fencepost to which the Nix bull could be tied. The bull had some qualifications besides being the head of the herd. He had also been taught to permit boys to ride on his back, and instead of having a merry-go-round or a Ferris wheel, the children were entertained by taking a ride on the back of the Nix bull.”

Paulhaumus arrived soon thereafter with a heard of Jersey cows, some calves, a wagonload of chickens, ducks, and geese, and some Berkshire hogs. With the Nix bull, they constituted the fair’s initial livestock exhibit. By the time the event concluded, several horses and foals and an owl had joined the exhibition.

Examples of the Puyallup-Sumner Valley’s bounteous produce were on display inside a tent, as were various kinds of needlework, baked items, and jams and jellies. Contestants vied for prizes in categories such as best raspberry wine, most butter made in 24 hours, and best example of Hubbard squash. A pair of slippers was promised to the child under age 16 who produced the best essay on Puyallup Valley history. A number of valley merchants also displayed their wares.

A $1 admission fee covered an entire family for the entire run of the fair, and also gave that family one vote in the election of fair officers for the next season. Newspaper writers were admitted free of charge.

Although attendance on the fair’s first day was disappointing, by Friday, Oct. 5, word of mouth had spread and the trickle of visitors began to expand. Local residents attended almost without exception, and, true to Chamberlain’s prediction, Tacoma residents began to arrive by train.

Friday’s fair visitors watched as infant Walter Durgan of Sumner was awarded the prize for Prettiest Baby. A public wedding planned for early afternoon had to be canceled when the engaged couple who were to have been married and collect an oak rocking chair and $10 worth of groceries as wedding presents developed cold feet. A cattle parade around the fairgrounds led by Oscar Showers of Enumclaw and a brief horse race helped disappointed fairgoers regain their good humor.

The first Valley Fair netted a profit of $583 and drew some 3,000 visitors. Except during World War II, the event was held annually thereafter. By the end of the 20th century, more than 1 million people attended the Puyallup Fair (as it was titled then) each year.

Source:, a non-profit organization, and Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation.


This year’s Washington State Fair, in keeping with one of its annual traditions, will open in Puyallup on the Friday of Labor Day weekend. The 20-day run Sept. 1-24 (it will be closed on all three Tuesdays) will feature the usual attractions, including animals (farm and domestic), agriculture displays, commercial vendor and product exhibits, carnival rides and game booths, arts, and food (such as the fair burgers the two past fairgoers have their hands on in this photo). Big-name musical performers will star in the concert series at the grandstand, where a rodeo is also billed.
The fair is the largest one in Washington and one of the biggest in the world. Some things to know if you’re planning to attend:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and expect crowds. The fairgrounds cover 165 acres, and attendance averages 1 million people a year.
  • Admission costs $14 for adults, $12 for children 6 to 18 years old, and $12 for seniors. Kids 5 and under get in free. Everyone can enter free on opening day between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. by donating a non-perishable food item for the Puyallup Food Bank.
  • Parking in official fair lots costs $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends. “Premium” parking (purchased on-site) is $35, and VIP parking (purchased online) is $50. Private owners and fund-raising groups typically offer pay-to-park options. And there is some on-street parking.
  • Need other information? Call 253-841–5045 or go online at