My first lookout tower adventure was actually Saturday afternoon, and I decided to hit a couple of local sites. That morning I had called my good friend Cathy Taylor (no relation) who is a park ranger at Paris Mountain State Park. It turns out that she has the same interest in fire towers, and was more than willing to share some information.
The first fire tower on Paris Mountain wasn’t on the summit. Rather, it was a wooden structure located on the northeast side of the mountain. Hikers can reach the former site by taking Fire Tower Trail to the remains of the tower’s foundation. I’ve hiked the trail myself, although not recently, and there’s not much left of the tower.
That first location wasn’t ideal because the view was restricted to views north and east. At the time of the first tower’s construction the summit was unavailable, as it was part of the old Altmont Hotel property. The old hotel eventually burned and the land was sold, making way for the current tower and the bristle of antennae that now cover the mountain’s summit.
As mentioned previously, I had made at least two treks to the tower as a child in the late 1960’s. At about age seven I distinctly remember partially climbing the stairs, but getting scared and coming back down. Later I remember climbing all the way to the trap door of the cab, but not entering.
On Saturday’s trip I was once again disheartened at the amount of trash and vandalism at the site. This has always been a hangout, which means that the assets at the top of the mountain need some heavy-duty protection.
With all of the fencing and concertina wire it’s no longer possible to get to the base of the tower, but you can still get fairly close.
While the tower itself appears to be in good condition, the floor of the cab is now completely gone and there is no glass in the windows.
Unlike several other towers I’ve seen, this cab as a rotor vent on top of it. I guess it could get fairly hot up there.
From Paris Mountain I continued northward to Cleveland, SC. I found Firetower Road off of Highway 276 just before you get to Highway 11.
I drove to the top of the hill and could see where the tower used to be, but the tower was long gone. There didn’t appear to be any trace of the structure left – just a circular drive around a clearing where the tower used to be.
Even so, it wasn’t a disappointing trip. From that vantage point I was able to see Glassy Mountain with its tower off in the distance. Clearly these were set up to have line of site with other fire towers. I’m sure that if I had been able to scale the steps of the non-existent tower I would also have been able to see Paris Mountain, Sassafras Mountain, and several other tower sites.