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The Press Expedition and a Modern Day Visit - Part I
May 14, 2002 - Jerri Brooker

In 1885 Lt. Joseph P. O'Neil led an exploration of the interior of the Olympic Peninsula, the first systematic documented trek of its kind. Explorers generally came by ship (there were no roads or railroads yet) and neglected the interior of the region for years.

White men had not yet explored the Olympic Mountains at that time, either, so the Seattle Press newspaper called for volunteers in 1889 to explore them after strong interest from Washington Territory Governors, Eugene Semple and his successor, Elisha P. Ferry.

On October 23, 1889, the story appeared in newspapers nationwide - interest was widespread. James Halbold Christie, born in Scotland, sent a letter from North Yakima and expressed his desire to lead the expedition. He had explored mountains from the eastern boundary of Quebec to Hudson Bay and in the Northwest Territories up to the Arctic Circle.

Christie asked for financing; on meeting him William Bailey, publisher of the Press, granted the request for funding to send him on his way. He assembled an exploration party of six.

Christopher O'Connell Hayes (a 22-year-old range cowboy from eastern Washington), John Crumback (the expedition cook) and John W. Sims (a hunter, trapper, prospector and trader) were the first to sign up to accompany Christie. Captain Charles A. Barnes who previously served in the United States Revenue Marine (whose task was to photograph and map the area) and a Puyallup doctor, Harris Boyle Runnalls (the expedition's natural historian), completed the exploration party.

James Christie's party of six men (five completed the trek), four dogs (including Christie's two bear dogs, Bud and Tweed - the other dogs were Daisy and Dike), two mules (Jennie and Dollie) and 1,600 pounds of supplies spent five-and-a-half months in the mountains on a north/south crossing December 8, 1889. The middle of winter!

Why?

Others were suddenly wanting to be the first to discover the mountain lands. They had to get off on the expedition first to ensure their party succeeded in the task.

The thoughts of how they'd survive were interesting.

They planned to live on game, but Bailey made sure they were amply supplied with flour, bacon, beans and coffee and other provisions. To get the flavor of their other supplies, according to Christie's journal - they had "... Winchester rifles, ammunition, a tent, canvas sheets, blankets, fishing tackle, axes, a whip saw for cutting out logs, a few carpenter tools, the necessary tools for mineral prospecting, rope, snowshoes, a small but well selected assortment of cooking and other utensils...".

The copyright of the article The Press Expedition and a Modern Day Visit - Part I in Washington State is owned by Jerri Brooker. Permission to republish The Press Expedition and a Modern Day Visit - Part I in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

I don't know about you, but I am happy living in today's world where such supplies wouldn't be necessary for six men, nor would the timeframe.

The Christie party did succeed as the first white people to explore the mountains, though the resident Indians had lived in and traversed the area many years prior. Today the hike is known as "up the Elwha and out the Quinault" trek.

Imagine the tales of being in a mountain range in the dead of winter in 1889. The party battled cold, rain, snow, sleet, you name it.

Next week I'll continue with more about the actual expedition. There's a modern-day tale of the same area.

I read an article in the May 7, 2002, issue of the Olympian newspaper: two people followed the trail of that expedition. Their trek was a bit different. Jon Green and Lisa Hupp traversed the mountain in five days in late March 2001.

The joys of better weather and a partly established trailhead were undoubtedly helpful. But it was not a picnic.

They carried 45-50 pound packs with snowshoes and a bear canister. Up switchbacks from sea level to 2000 feet for the first three miles, they had their work cut out. They traveled 27 miles to the Low Divide, an area of sub alpine meadows, to discover the next 16 miles downhill were not any easier. Snowfields, difficult streams to cross and a cougar kept them alert.

At the Low Divide the shelter they planned on had been crushed by snow. So they stayed in their tent - moisture froze inside their tent as did their boots and water. Green says frozen boots are one of the perils of the mountain hiker. Seems he doesn't intend to let it stop him, though.

Green is an environmental studies student at the Evergreen State College in Olympia who came here two years ago from New Hampshire to see the Olympics. I expect he has a greater vision of this mountain range after his trek and an even greater appreciation.

I wonder how he felt about covering the same space as Christie. And if Christie were here today, what would he say about the modern-day conveniences and the ease of the hike over the mountains?

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References:

http://www.olympic.national-park.com/inf...

http://www.thingstodo.com/states/WA/nati...

The Olympian, Tuesday, May 7, 2002.

Across the Olympic Mountains, The Press Expedition, 1889-1890, Robert L. Wood, Seattle and London: The Mountaineers and University of Washington Press, 1967.

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Copyright 2002 Jerri Brooker

The copyright of the article The Press Expedition and a Modern Day Visit - Part I in Washington State is owned by Jerri Brooker. Permission to republish The Press Expedition and a Modern Day Visit - Part I in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


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