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Tobias Peak Fire Lookout

Located in the United States Forest Service's,

Sequoia National Forest, Hot Springs Ranger District

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Tobias Peak's GPS location is 35.5101°N / 118.3421°W, Placed on the National Historic Lookout Register on 5/5/1999 as Lookout No. 313

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Are you interested in becoming a Volunteer or Volunteer Fire Lookout, then visit the  Buck Rock Foundation's Web-Site  for further information.

      Tobias Peak Lookout was built in 1935 and manned in 1936. Tobias has been, since it's inception a United States Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest, Hot Springs Ranger District Lookout and is located at an elevation of 9,292 feet. Located in Township 24S, Range 32E, Section 7, and is of wood frame construction and sits on a rock base. Tobias looks over the SanJuaquin Valley and has visability to Mt.Whitney as well as the Kaweahs (Great Western Divide), the west face of the Kern Plateau and the Golden Trout Wilderness as well as a view of the Paiutes and the Scoddie Mountains and a small part of the Kern River Valley.

      Probably first used as a lookout observation point sometime around 1912, Tobias Peak Lookout shows up on the 1913 Sequoia Forest work map. A mortar building was constructed on Tobias Peak around this time and was used as a Ranger Outpost and Lookout site. When Sunday Peak Lookout was built circa 1921, Tobias Peak became “inactive” as a lookout until 1935, when the Forest Service decided Tobias Peak was the better location due to its blocking the view from Sunday Peak which, was considered a hazard, so it was burned down by the Forest Service in 1954.

      The current Tobias Peak Lookout was built in 1935 by the CCC’s and is a “C-3” type 14x14’ live-in lookout. Supplies and building materials were brought in by mules and horses on a hard trail. In the early days of Tobias Peak a person had to park whatever brought them there in a flat area about one tenth of a mile from the actual tower. Today the road has been extended to within 30 yards of the tower, which leaves an easy climb for all. Tobias Peak is currently staffed by the Forest Service 5 days a week (closed on Thursday and Friday) and is generally open to the public. Unfortunately, Tobias Peak Lookout is no longer staffed. Information is courtsey of Buck Rock Foundation.

Lookouts in History – Tobias Peak Lookout

by Mary Ann Evans

      The current lookout at Tobias Peak was built in 1935 by the United States Forest Service. Tobias Peak, part of the Greenhorn Mountain Range in Sequoia National Forest, was chosen to replace Sunday Peak Lookout after it was found that Tobias blocked the view from Sunday. Sunday Peak Lookout, considered a hazard, was burned down by the government in 1954.

      Tobias is a “C-3” type cab that measures 14’ by 14’ on a foundation that sits on a pile of rock. Forest Service folks used this easy-to-come-by rock to construct the first building at Tobias which was built without one ounce of mortar. There was no door or glass in the window and the wind whistled through the walls. Early rangers (perhaps Norman Norris, Robert Beard or Ray Stevenson) used it as an occasional shelter as they were passing through.

      To build the current cabin, supplies and building materials were brought in by mules, and maybe there was a horse or two involved as the trail was hard. In the early days of Tobias a person had to park whatever brought them there in a flat area about one tenth of a mile from the actual tower. Now, visitors can come within an easy 30 yards of the lookout.

      Julian Olmsted manned the tower in 1937. He is a distant cousin on the same side of the Olmsted family as is the current lookout, Mary Ann Evans. In 1938, Harold E. Elsworth brought his new bride, Greta to the tower and spent their honeymoon at Tobias. There is a hidden meadow near Tobias where enterprising hikers might discover a well-preserved carved wood sign naming this, Stephenson Meadow. Ira Stephenson and his wife Donna manned Tobias from 1964 through 1972. There are names like Hockett and Brumfield on the roster that are the area’s pioneer names, and from time to time the very elderly will visit telling tales of coming to the tower when they were just children.

      The mountain view is still as it was when the tower was built, with the Kaweah Peaks and Mt. Whitney standing very tall in the distance and the peaceful serenity of the wilderness valleys below.

In Memorium

Mary Ann Evans

      Mary Ann Evans - well-known and well-loved as Tobias Lookout in the Sequoia National Forest, and a long-time FFLA member - passed away at the age of 75 on February 7, 2011, after a period of illness. On the mend after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, she was diagnosed with leukemia, a disease she probably had for years. With her immune system compromised, she was unable to battle the pneumonia, which quickly took her life. She died peacefully with her family nearby.

      Mary Ann was the consummate professional - wellstudied and proficient, friendly and intelligent, always on the ready. She lived and breathed the forest and loved everything about it - the people, the excitement of calling in a smoke, what the Forest Service represented, and the history. She collected history like some people collect rocks. So much so, that she wrote and self-published a book titled "Fire in the Eyes," a compilation of stories and history of fire lookouts on the Sequoia National Forest. Mary Ann touched everyone who knew her - and if you knew her, you could not forget her. She was intelligent, generous, hard-working, funny, talented, creative, and opinionated. A consummate professional, she never stopped studying and learning - even to the point of taking firefighting classes with the young college-aged fire fighters (imagine her cutting line!). Mary Ann was a natural talent as a hostess, and had great fun as master of ceremonies at our annual fire lookout end of season parties. Every party had a theme, with hand-made party favors, decorations and door prizes. She had a memory like a steel trap and would not let us forget our foibles, each year gleefully handing out the "FOOWA" (Fish Out Of Water Award) to the unfortunate lookout who did something unforgivable!

      Mary Ann and her late husband Earl loved to travel the countryside, and while Earl liked the desert, Mary Ann particularly loved the mountains. It was not unusual for them to take a road just to find out where it lead, and one time that road lead into the Greenhorn Mountains where they discovered Tobias Lookout. The fire watcher there at the time - Minnie Barkley - was legendary, known both for her home-made cinnamon rolls and her eagle-eyes. After several visits with Minnie (and discovering that there was no age limit on being a fire watcher), Mary Ann figured she would give the lookout a try. She was hired as Minnie's relief and it was to be a perfect fit. Her first season was a big one - the Stormy Fire burned thousands of acres right up to Tobias. Instead of scaring her away, Mary Ann was hooked and when Minnie retired, she was ready to take her place.

      Mary Ann regaled visitors with her stories, history and tales of Tobias and the surrounding Forest. She especially loved children and always had Smokey Bear memorabilia or little trinkets she bought to hand out to them. As her daughter Vicky Dains put it, "Mom never met a stranger."

      Mary Ann was "Tobias Lookout" for 20 years and our lookout world will not be the same without her. By Kathy Allison

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This page last updated on March 1, 2013.

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