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Ray Heberer 31-May-2021 11:09
Does ANYONE know where Mike is? I hired him as a subcontract fire lookout in 1984. That year he relieved my 10 lookouts (including Saddleback) scattered around N. California, spending about a week at each one. (he didn't like it, but it got him in!) Then Mike manned Tahoe NF's Duncan Peak LO for a few years (great photos from that period). He moved over to Saddleback LO after I left there after the 1991 season, then stayed at Saddleback from 1992 to ?? (our last visit was in the early 2000's - I delivered a surprise pizza to him from Downieville on that trip!)
Guest 31-May-2021 11:00
Hi Mike, It's been a long time. Are you still around?
Guest 22-Nov-2017 20:40
Hi Mike:

I would really like to hear from you, if possible!

Jack Winberg
Guest 20-Jun-2017 16:56
Hi Mike:

Jack Winberg here - you still alive and kicking?

Guest 20-Jun-2017 16:55
Hi Mike:

Jack Winberg here - are you still alive and kicking?

Ray 08-Aug-2016 17:41
Hi Mike,

I stumbled upon your 2013 photos and read the comment below that you did not return. Your choice or ???

Is Saddleback being manned in 2016 (and '14 & '15?)

I'm still in Taiwan. Funny where life takes us!

Kathy 08-Jan-2015 20:14
Hello Mike, have enjoyed your photos. You have been blessed to have seen so many beautiful places and things. I am quite sure that the comment your guest Carrie submitted is very true. This lookout will always be with you. I am so glad you were able to do what you obviously love. Not many people have the opportunity to get so close to heaven. Hoping you are well.
Carrie 16-Aug-2014 02:47
Hi Mike-I went to Saddleback Lookout today for the first time. I hear you didn't come back this year. I never got the chance to meet you. It feels like your spirit is etched into the memory and feeling of the building. I sure wish I could have met you up there. I have to ask, why didn't you come back? Your replacement got sick and won't probably be returning. Not sure what happened. I'm sure after all these years the lookout will always be with you.
Janet 21-Jun-2014 18:56
Hi Mike,
Love reading all the comments about your photography! Are you at Saddleback LO
again this summer? Heard from Gretchen B and she was wondering where some of our group was! I told her about your photog website.
Hope all is calm up in the MTS!
Barbara 05-Nov-2013 02:43
Hi Michael, I'm enjoying your photos so much! Have you been able to see Comet ISON with your telescope?
Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments.
Barbara (visited you a couple of months ago)
Tom Niemann 18-Sep-2013 02:40
Greetings Mike from a long lost friend.Your beautiful photographs bring back fond memories of my family's lookout visit with you years ago. We were looking through old photos the other day and saw several of that visit. The boys still remember it. Any chance of seeing you at the lookout if I take a camping trip down that way from Washington State in the next couple weeks? Your friend, Tom Niemann
Eric Sweet 22-Oct-2012 20:14
Hi Mike,

My wife Karen and I wandered in on Saturday, and really appreciated your hospitality. Hard to believe some years the place would have been snowed in by now.

Love the gallery, you've certainly captured the essence of the place!

Michael Gates22-Aug-2012 00:18
Hi Ray! Long time.
Back in Saddleback for another year. Only year I've missed is '98 due to that nasty El Niño winter of '97-98.
Yes, the inkernet tubes have spread to the mountaintop, and actually work better than the phone. Not broadband, but a little better than dial-up. Runs through a small Wilson amp and directional yagi antenna.
Thanks for the kind words on the images. I've been a little lax this season. Plenty of fires though, luckily not on us. Here's the closest one that's been going a few weeks: Not sure the link will work.
Good to hear from you, Ray.
Ray 18-Aug-2012 14:40
Hi Mike,

How's it been? Are you in Saddleback in 2012? (internet up there yet?)

Your photos sure are great, and bring back fond memories!

Have you ever missed a year since you started as a lookout in 1985?

Ray (in Taiwan)
Michael Gates25-Sep-2011 04:33
Hi Dave,
Yes< I remember, and I found the Soiuoxon LO on some maps. Glad you made it home safely. 83 and on a dirt bike on this road....good genes to look forward to. Did you ever find those pics from Soiuxon? If you post them, let me know.
The lightning was a bit too intimidating for my tastes (survival), but I've put up a few shots.
Hope to see y'all when he's 84....8^)
Larry Lawrence 08-Sep-2011 03:35
Hi Mike!!!
Bruce Kennedy told me abt this site. I am now living in S KY and retired. It sure has been a longgggggg time since I have seen u. Hope all is well.

Larry Lawrence
Michael Gates04-Sep-2011 16:17
Hi Butch,
I'm working on sending you a few pics.
The benchmark is not marked KS1527, but my Magellan Platinum shows 39° 38.197' by 120° 51.859' standing a few feet away.

Here's a link to an older shot I took of a Reference Mark that's on the other half of the mountain:

It's in the 2004 gallery.

Thanks for the kind words.
Butch Imsdahl 31-Aug-2011 16:16
Hello Mike

I enjoy your pictures on Pbase. What a great spot for a photo shoot. Some of the lighting shots are remarkable.

I have what may seem to be a strange request. Our outdoor activities now include Geocaching and Benchmark hunting.

There is rumored to be a Geodetic survey Benchmark at your lookout station. Have you seen it? If so do you have a picture
of it? If you do would you e-mail me a picture?

It is benchmark KS1527
N 39* 38.199 W 120*51.861

In any event Thank you for all you pictures.

Butch Imsdahl
Santa Rosa CA.
Howard Miller 01-Aug-2011 20:43
Beautiful photos Mike. Nice meeting you yesterday (Sunday). We really enjoyed the tour. Great place to get away from it all.

Howard Miller
Grass Valley
Hilary 25-Jul-2011 22:45
Michael, Nice to meet you this last Saturday. Forgot how much I need the higher mountains to clear out my head. Great wildflowers!! Jan & I blasted through a couple of snow drifts on our way to Chimney Peak. Got stopped by some really big drifts on the north slope before the trail head. We sort of tried to hike over the top but slipped right to the edge of very steep drop offs. Decided to come back when it is safer, like the end of August.

Hilary & Jan
Grass Valley
Michael Gates31-May-2011 22:15
Hi Jeannie.....tentatively yes, I'll be back, if we can ever get through the snow!
Congrats on Pilot.......I'll look it up.
Jeannie30-May-2011 21:58
Hi, Mike! Will you be at Saddleback again in 2011? I'll be at Pilot Peak on the Stanislaus. I was at Duncan Peak after you, then on Babbitt for a couple of years.
john oliver 25-Jan-2011 01:35
Hi Mike,
John from Duncan Peak. Been meaning to write for awhile now, Absolutely love your photography, its a hobby of mine, and the main reason for taking the Duncan job. Plan on returning this year, looking forward to the 10/4 work schedule. Hope to visit Saddleback at some point. About half way thru your 1440 photos. Hope these towers stay open several more years. Had one of those nights, 104 lighting strikes on Oct 3rd a very wild ride to say the least, I loved it. Hope to meet you and Rose soon.
Guest 30-Nov-2010 02:01
howdy! looked at some photos - well done.
campsite #60 BBNP Nov 2010
dawn 24-Jul-2010 07:49
Mikey - great pics from this year...was wondering if you was up there.
big love to the krewe,
Guest 04-Apr-2010 22:47
it's raining sideways. possible snow tonight down to 2,000 feet. it's been brrrrr for days. enjoying wearing handknit wool. at work. bored stiff. been cruising the galleries. had no idea last summer was such a rat l. busy season! hope all is well in your world! bubsie
Guest 06-Jan-2010 17:51
Mr. Gates, I am one of the attorneys who worked on the court case in which Fisheating Creek was found to navigable and publicly owned. We would like to purchase a high density image of one of your photographs of the Creek to present to a colleague. How do we go about doing that? Thank you, Monica Reimer at
Guest 24-Dec-2009 13:54
I spoke with Dave Mess and he directed me to this website and your photos. Long time since the Ohio Univ/Penn State Game. Great photo's and you should realize I too know great photo's, Best Regards, Gary Bodkin (Joe's son)
Trevor 12-Oct-2009 02:16
Good to meet you at the Lookout, October 11th, PM. Outstanding pictures from an oustanding location.
Greg Bulanti 09-Aug-2009 23:05
Hi Mike,
I often refer your site to folks who are interested in knowing more about the "Over North" backcountry. We are your nearest neighbors...we live at Oak Ranch. Great photos on your site. We are very fortunate to have you staff the lookout above our ranch. Cheers.
Carol 02-Jun-2009 00:59
I showed Gail the Lookout pics and she was very impressed by your work. I'm always impressed so nothing new there. The lightning shots are stunning at the LO.
Reese, Wood14-Jan-2009 05:02
Hey Great work!
John 05-Jan-2009 19:30
Awesome pictures, you'ld think this guy had all day to take these shots. And from the looks of it all night too. I still remember Duncan Peak and have a great photo right after a storm. The storm is drifting off to the east and the clearing is beginning to the west Great stuff Mike.
Mary 01-Jan-2009 22:54
Hi again - further to the comment I left on the Duncan Photo of star trails. I staffed Duncan Peak in 1964 and 1965 and I have never been able to convey to my children (and now grandchildren) quite what it was like to be up there all alone in the middle of a lightning storm. Thanks to your wonderful photos, they can now see for themselves! Many thanks. Mary Page (nee McClurg), Enfield, England
Chris 02-Dec-2008 15:25
Mike--I staffed the Babbitt Pk LO in 2003 and visited you at Saddleback on one of my days off. I've been meaning for years to get a print of one of your LO photos--please email me when you get a chance.
Roger Hopkins 26-Nov-2008 17:05

We met you briefly as you were setting up your camp at Paw Hole. Hope you got some great photos; that place is hard to go wrong.

After we left you, we drove to the North parking lot and spent an hour in the Wire Pass Slot canyon getting back to the car just at dark. We then went to Kanab and showed up at the lottery on Weds AM and scored a permit for the Wave for Thurs! (There were about 38 people trying to get the 10 slots). Amazing that nobody had any interest in the South permit as an alternative, except for an elderly couple with a passenger car and street shoes (I think they got incomplete information from the ranger, so I tried to explain the conditions as we saw them...).

Have a look at .

Roger & Ruth
Rex Thompson 08-Oct-2008 04:19

I really like your pictures. Great pictures of fires on the Tahoe and Plumas NF. I work on the Sierraville District on Engine 61. Rex
John and Diane Minutilli 23-Sep-2008 23:15
Mike and Rose,

Seemed to have lost your email address when we moved, or switched computers, or both!
I checked out the NYT article, very cool. Still up at Saddleback, that is great. We miss the West and the Tahoe NF, but are staying put in CNY for the time being. Haven't made it back to FLA since we've been here, that has to change! We just got a D60 for John's birthday, it's fun having a digital SLR. Hope you are both well, season must be winding down after an eventful start, eh? Just waiting for those Santa Ana's to kick up.... Take good care - Diane and John
Sharon Gamache 15-Jun-2008 12:26
I have family in Paradise,Ca. While surfing for photos of the current fire in Paradise, I came across your site. What a pleasure! All beautiful.
You are are gifted and blessed to work and live on top of the world in such beauty. What a wonderful "backyard" you have. While in Paradise I look across the ridge to a lookout high on the mountain and have alway wondered what it looks like. Now I know.
How do you get your groceries? Please don't stop posting the pictures. I have bookmarked your sight and will continue to return to see more. Keep up your good work as both lookout and photographer. You made my day!
Tim 06-Dec-2007 10:30
Wonderful work, your pictures are truly beautiful.
Sean 29-Oct-2007 06:36
Fantastic pictures! I found them just this evening while doing some research on your lookout. I was there, just today! October 28, 2007 and got a few pictures myself. Walking the catwalk around the cab was just amazing.

What none of us could figure out was the little fenced area that I noted you referring to as the "fuel stick" in one of your photos. Can I ask what that is, is for?

Lookout looked great.. Buttoned down for the winter. Enjoy Florida.

Sean from Chico
Parker Boyack 22-Oct-2007 17:35
Can you see any fires from where you are? My family lives in Poway and might need to evacuate soon...
Guest 18-Oct-2007 22:53
A belated reader of the NYT article... Your pictures are brilliant! Bookmarked your page and will be coming back.
JON 18-Oct-2007 17:51
Hello Mike ¡¡¡¡
I read the article about you of Jesse Mckinley in "EL PAIS" (a national newspapper of Spain, what all thursday of week take a selection of "The New York Times" articles), this week is "un centinela del cielo busca humo", a bit like: "A guard of the heaven search smoke". Very interesting and an excellent demostration of you importat responsability hard job. ¡¡¡¡Your reputation to reach long away ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡
I made photos as a hobby....and, I know ¡¡¡¡ your galleries are excellent and very impactant. I look forward to additions to your galleries
¡¡¡¡ Best regards from Vitoria-Gasteiz (Pais Vasco,Spain),
¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡cheer up ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ in your work.¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡
(sorry for my "spanish" english)
illieH 18-Oct-2007 11:22
Hello Michael, I read the article about you in the Guardian,a national newspaper in Britain. If you ever decide to retire, please let me know.
Signed: An American in England
George Francis 16-Oct-2007 17:01
Mike these are Increadible pictures. I read an article on you in the Fortworth Star Telegram. Thank you for sharing.
Michael Hudson 14-Oct-2007 15:29
Read the article in this mornings St Pete Times (10/14) and am I glad I took a little time to visit your galleries. Your hummingbird shots are outstanding and the osprey in flight is breathtaking. Keep up the good work. I look forward to additions to your galleries.
Lee Adams 12-Oct-2007 05:08
Hey Mike, Wow NYT coverage!!! A great article. It took my nephew in Kansas City sending it to me to know. Sorry that I didn't get up to see you this year. And now I can't even blame work! Miss the SO, but now the relief postmaster in Downieville. BTW, I plan to be in Florida for a week in December. Maybe we can hook up there. Wondering if you are still on the Mtn? Hi to Rose too. Lee
Fred 09-Oct-2007 03:28
Is that a D-70 you are using? This is my 2nd comment and I noted other repondees used D-70s. Were they influenced by you?
Fred 09-Oct-2007 03:24
Do you have very expensive binoculars, Leica EtAl?
Or are you provided with mid-price binoculars?
Is there a difference in optical quality?
Do you use an SLR with a long zoom?
Do you use Digital?

I also read the NYTimes article
Don Seavey 09-Oct-2007 02:21
Thank You for your gift. I hope your work is a pleasure. It would be a pleasure to do your work. Do you have Amateur radio at the LO, that would make it perfect. 73, KG1R
Ann 06-Oct-2007 19:35
Found you through the NYT article online. What a beautiful world you see. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.
Guest 06-Oct-2007 17:39
i like your stuff!
Susan 06-Oct-2007 15:02
I read the article in the New York Times about the lookout post north of Sacramento on Saddleback Mt. I's like to see some of the snapshots again.
Elle Hanks 05-Oct-2007 16:23
beautiful pictures
Paul 05-Oct-2007 01:41
Thank you for sharing your delightful combination of talent, equipment, location and motivation. I never know what I will find in the NYT.
Arvid 04-Oct-2007 22:43
Hello. I read the article about you in the NYT. Your photoes are very nice. I myself work at a photo dealer in Norway, and I like to look at photoes. I would like to know what kind of binoculars you are using...
Thanks a lot.
Sonia 04-Oct-2007 17:31
I went into your site after reading about you and your amazing job in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Your pictures are truly wonderful.....
Sonia 04-Oct-2007 17:30
I went into your site after reading about you and your amazing job in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Your pictures are truly wonderful.....
N. Callahan 04-Oct-2007 15:41
Wow! I have seen some of your work YEARS ago and was always amazed and in awe. I'm not surprised to see you on the front page of the NYT. You are phenomenal. My fav is the hummingbird as well. Keep it up.
Lynn 04-Oct-2007 15:00
Dear Mr. Gates,

Great story in the NYT. You have an excellent eye and your photos show sensitivity. Any chance you could drive out to Madison Wisconsin and expand your work to the beauty of the midwest? We do have storms once in a while.
Brian 04-Oct-2007 11:27
Hi Mike,

Hi Mr. Gates,

Not only are your photos remarkable in their composition & range, but the sense of fun you bring to your subjects make viewing them doubly pleasurable. Thanks for posting.

"I'll be back..."!

(from Toronto Canada)
Arlene 04-Oct-2007 03:01
I discovered your photos through the New York Times article. They are truly extraordinary, with an amazing, powerful, yet serene sense of place. My favorites - the hummingbirds and the chipmunks (and the captions, too!). Thank you for a breath of fresh air.
Christopher 04-Oct-2007 01:35
I lose the sunrise flash pictures among many others. Is there any way to get higher quality ones?
Janet 03-Oct-2007 23:57
Loved your photos, especially the hummingbirds.
Parker Boyack 03-Oct-2007 21:31
Hi! My name is Parker, I read your article today and had to check out your pictures.. those are amazing! I would love to come visit sometime and take some awesome pictures.. keep up the good work!
Paula 03-Oct-2007 21:12
You photos are Top Notch. One in particular I loved. The lightening above expolding from a cloud. Bravo. After reading the NYT article, I am hooked on you.
Genevieve Brucker 03-Oct-2007 21:03
I read the NYT article online and had to check out pygmyhippo to see your photos. Great pics !! Genevieve
grubbedout 03-Oct-2007 20:54
Read the NYT article online and the photographs are the icing on the cake. Richard (England)
Guest 03-Oct-2007 16:31
Your photos are exquisite.Read about you in NYT article.You're right.It is the light!
Guest 26-May-2007 23:17
Great shots, very entertaining and good humor.
Guest 08-Mar-2007 13:23
I admit you got talent. Now I'm jealous.
Sandy 17-Nov-2006 06:37
Awesome pictures! I am a seasonal lookout too (Northern Calif). Love the hummer visitors!
Guest 12-Nov-2006 14:08

Congratulations!!!! We´ve been enjoyng you photos, since I found your gallery one year ago, just looking for birds at pbase.
My husband Ismar and I (Anna), we do love the way tou take you pictures, your imagination, creating smart situationts to have the right moment, this is unique, your photographs capture the beauty of our world, you have a lot of talent.
Thanks for sharing this with us!!!
Ana Paula and Ismar from Brazil.
John Roberts 12-Aug-2006 05:02

thanks for showing us the lookout. I enjoyed your company and had a great time speaking with you. I have enjoyed the pictures all the more, after the vacation. Was the outhouse sitting atop of the Beer Volcano crater? Did zoning restrictions move the factory North of the border?


dain gates 31-Jul-2006 22:32
hi mike,
im allen gates son. renee just forwarded this email of your site very cool!! i really liked the lightning pics. very stunning pics!! well just thought i would say hi. keep in touch. i know dad really liked you and the time he spent with you guys in florida. he would always tell me stories of you taking apart motorcycles down to little pieces and putting them back together. he always thought that was pretty neat.
mike 09-Jul-2006 14:45
good morning mike,
only nature can exceed our expectations. immediately after our discussion of grouse sightings (bears, bobcats, osprey, while motoring out to chimney rock, a hen with two chicks crossed my path. real friendly: talked to her for a few minutes - no fear. moment later, a doe with two spotted fawns crossed path. the fawns immediately flattened to the ground under a white thorn while she anxiously, but calmly circled, until i began to move on, then they jumped and ran to her. we almost got a light show, but lal 6 always jinxes to a lal 1. enjoy the fresh fruits, seeds, vege's and newspapers. see you on the next trip to the neighborhood - drop a note with any requests.
Kerrie 06-Jul-2006 23:55
Hey Mike,
I came and saw you today at the ranger place and I just wanted to tell you that I love your pictures! There great! Have fun up there...
From Kansas City
Guest 12-Nov-2005 01:05
oops forgot the link to my gallery, its:
Guest 12-Nov-2005 01:04
Hey Mike, decided to start posting my photos at
Its free for one unless you wanna pay a small fee to add a few features and get rid of any adds, which I did. Also they focus on all types of art.

Got my d70s :) I love this camera, nice that the few lenses I have from my old film Nikon fit it to. Stop by and check out my page if you get a chance.

Also curious what lenses you work with. Been looking at some Sigma and Tamron ones lately. Would love to by Nikor lenses of course but the prices...

Michele 07-Nov-2005 18:22
I was up visiting your Look Out back in August when I went with my Church Singles group to do a bit of "Off Roading"... I absolutely loved the entire afternoon as it has been a long time since I'd been in the Sierra's and all of it's splendor. I have enjoyed looking at each and every picture you've taken. They are WONDERFUL and bring back many happy memories. I lok foward to seeing more new pictures. Keep a sharp eye out and keep safe!

Rex 29-Oct-2005 08:15
Hi again Mike, took a cue from you and decided to do a trial Pbase thing. I can be found here currently:

Not alot upload yet but ill get more up soon.

Keep your head up for the FSM.
L Valentine 17-Oct-2005 04:47
As always, your photos are great, Mike. I enjoy seeing them, and I see one particular one each day when I turn on my computer... See you in November (maybe).
Rex Sundstrom 16-Sep-2005 19:11
Hey Mike. Rex here, from Engine 32, or used to be anyway, im on H-514 currently. Spending a week in disbatch and someone pulled your site up for me. Very cool. I just dropped about a grand on a digital NikonD70 and accessories. Very stoked. Hope alls well up top there. Sure ill seeya up there some point in the future. Later bro.
Brian Franklin 23-Aug-2005 08:35
Hi Mike,
I was fortunate to have met you today while out testing the new truck. Your photos are really special. The grandeur of your scenics and lightning storms is incredible. I wish I could capture just one humming bird shot as detailed as the many you have. Thanks for showing me your "sight". Hope I didn't interupt anything today. Look forward to meeting again.
Dan 19-Aug-2005 01:38
Hi Mike,
Just looking around... GREAT Pics, I'm not suprised...
always a Treasure to visit you pics...will see you soon,
laid off at Wolf Mtn. again. was checking into Duncan Peak
and/or Mt. Zion in AEU Ranger Unit. both looking for experienced.
Oh yea our lookout web site
Still working on it, please take a look.
Dan from Wolf Mtn.L@@kout.
sally brown 21-Jul-2005 22:51
your picture are great. I live in goodyears bar . I dispatch for downieville fire. I realy like the picture of the fire you took the other night. thanks sally