From Cape Lookout on the Core Banks of North Carolina to Tecate Peak lookout on the California-Mexico border, a lookout is an eminence or prominence from which a useful view is possible. (Overlook carries the same meaning in some parts of the country.) There are scores of Lookout Mountains across the continent, each, no doubt, with a story of its naming. The founders of a settlement near Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain picked for the town’s name the Creek Indian word for “rock rising to a point,” spelling it Chattanooga. From the beginnings of North American history, Indians, explorers, settlers, cattlemen, soldiers, and outlaws in need of an improved outlook have made use of countless natural lookouts. Put a tower on a peak and a fire guard in the tower, and lookout means the peak, the tower, or the person, all in two quick syllables.

John Daniel