Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Milt Madden, 1959-1962
Thoughts from a Seasonal Ranger
1959 – Living and teaching in Casa Grande, Arizona we applied for a job at Crater Lake for the summer. They offered us the job of fir lookout on Mt. Scott. We immediately said yes, looked at each other and asked “What’s a lookout?”. Our first summer was spent in a twelve foot square glass lookout. We had no tower. We were the tower. We were at the tip of Mt. Scott at a little over 8,000 feet.
This was our introduction to beautiful views. We could see Shasta to the south, and Mt. Hood on the north. And the beautiful lake!! It was a great privilege to see a reflective lake or a wind-swept blue lake at 6:00 am. And to watch the clouds buildup.
In the middle of the room was a weird looking machine-like something out of medieval times. It was the fire finder. It would dominate our lives all summer. We had to learn how to use it.
One day, during a blizzard, my wife was alone, and was startled to hear voices singing “Deck the hall with bought of holly”. It was some girls fro Headquarters on their day off. After some cookies and hot chocolate. They were off down the mountainside. Later that day as I was returning to the Peak. I realized someone had done me a big favor by proceeding me. I could follow their tracks in the several inches of snow.
One lesson we learned – if you open any can – let’s say coffee at 8,000 feet – the room will immediately be covered with coffee.
The Mt. Scott outhouse, perched on the northeast side of the look-out, had the best view in Oregon.
The back country of the Park had several streams and waterfalls. The other lookout on the west side of the lake (Watchman) and I would sometimes put a watermelon in a stream. The next day our wives would go and enjoy cold watermelon.
This was the days of uncovered garbage pits and we would drive down to watch the bears come and eat. A couple of them would call off their snacking long enough to come over and rock our VW back and forth. The word “vulnerable” suddenly had new meaning when we realized the VW had a cloth roof.
1961-1962 – For two years I was an entrance ranger. One night a couple came in late and we found an over-flow area for them. We told them the bears would leave them alone. What they didn’t tell me was that their bags had meat grease all over them. The night, it seems they had been awakened by being dragged around by a bear.