Way back in 1999 the Catskill Center alongside a dedicated corps of volunteers who've been with us ever since, began restoring and reopening five fire towers across the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. Overlook Mountain, Mt. Temper, Red Hill, Balsam Lake and Hunter fire towers were in the past the Department of Environmental Conservation's first line of defense in protecting the region from forest fires.
Between 1999 and 2001 all five towers were restored and since then, that dedicated and growing corps of volunteers have insured that the cabs of each tower (the very top of the tower with panoramic views) were opened for the enjoyment of the public every weekend from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Volunteers often hike up in the early morning hours to make sure the cabs are open for public enjoyment. Many take advantage of cabins that were previously used by DEC fire tower lookouts, the official waters of the mountains, who insured the safety of the public at large, and the protection of our region's forests.
Two weeks ago we had an opportunity to work with Nate Mars, who's recently worked on several next generation virtual reality technologies. Nate and I hauled the tripod and several cameras up to the top of Overlook Mountain on a beautiful June day. A classic full-plate-of-summer kind of day with gorgeous blue skies, a smattering of picturesque clouds, and a sea of vibrant green unfolded before us as we made our way up to the top of the fire tower cab.
Nate unloaded the tripod and we started capturing 360 degree photos from the stairwell of the tower, up in the cab, and then later from ledges that do justice to Overlook's name. The photos automatically stitch together from images captured by multiple lenses on the camera. When uploaded to websites like Facebook, the images are automatically converted so that while looking on your mobile device you can move your iPhone, for instance, and the image will pan across. The photos from the stairwell immediately give you a shocking sense of vertigo. On our way down we captured a 360 degree photo from inside the ruins of the old Overlook Mountain House.
Be sure to visit Facebook.com/catskillcenter where posts from June 26th showcase the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower.
Learn more about the Catskill Center's Fire Tower Project at CatskillCenter.org/fire towers where you'll find maps and detailed information about each tower, as well as how you can become a volunteer and support this work.