By Sarah Schrock

A familiar face in a new location is making an appearance at the Methow Valley Farmers Market in Twisp this season. The affable “Lightning Bill” Austin has been selling his art, photography and small crafts during his Saturdays off from his lookout at Leecher Mountain.

“Lightning Bill” manned the Goat Peak Lookout spanning nearly two decades until the U.S. Forest Service changed his post to Leecher Mountain three years ago. If you had the pleasure of meeting “Lightning Bill” atop Goat Peak, you would likely have been greeted warmly with his whimsical poetry.

Bill’s poetry and personality are legendary, and for many his presence is much missed. But three years ago when the Forest Service abandoned Goat Peak as a permanent post and transferred Bill to Leecher Mountain south of Twisp, Bill found a lot more time on his hands to hone in on his art and pursue new crafts beyond poetry.

The Leecher Mountain post has proven to be a bit lonely for the veteran fire watcher.  While Goat Peak hosted a parade of hikers during the summer months, Leecher receives almost none. Bill lamented that he gets the occasional visitor on a four-wheeler since the lookout can be visited via road, but he truly misses socializing with the frequent visitors at Goat Peak.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schrock
“Lightning Bill” Austin at a recent Methow Valley Farmers Market in Twisp.

Bill’s illustrations portray a playful animated retelling of many of the sights and memories related to life from the lookout. Capturing the scenery in vibrant colors, animals come to life in the forest and mountains as Bill’s animated characters tell stories of adventure and encounters on the wild side. Certain characters show up through many of his works, including his dog Blaze, who recently passed away after a long life as Bill’s trusted lookout companion. Lightning Bill is still very much grieving the loss of his devoted companion who shared his remarkable life in the sky for 15 years.

Bill also sells wooden beads and zipper ties that he makes during the long hours in the lookout, along with some amazing photography of, you guessed it, lightning! Through the years he’s been able to capture the dramatic displays of purple, blackened skies with perfect bolts severing the clouds. There’s a lot of life to capture through art up at the lookout, and Bill has spent the last few decades doing just that and he loves to share it.

Bill would love visitors at his Leecher Mountain Lookout. Unlike Goat Peak, Leecher is accessible via vehicle, though there have been some washouts and the road is rough, so some clearance on your vehicle is advised. Mountain biking or hiking the road is also an option — it’s about 5 miles from the rough road. Access Leecher Mountain Lookout via Benson Creek Road, continue along FS Road 4150, then take a right on FS 110 to 100 to the lookout. So if you are looking for a new outing, pay him a visit, he’d rightly appreciate it!

PREVIOUSLY, IN TWISP

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