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HIKING AND MOUNTAINEERING HISTORY OF OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK




From Historic Resource Study 1983 Olympic National Park
By Gail E. H. Evans and T. Allan Comp
Cultural Resources Division
National Park Service

Although recreational hunting and fishing in the Olympic Mountains could hardly be divorced from hiking, mountaineering and hiking developed as independent recreational activities. A precedent for hiking in the Olympics was set as early as 1890 when three members of the O'Neil exploring expedition represented the Oregon Alpine Club, an infant mountaineering club formed in 1897. Scenic beauty combined with the challenge of traversing rugged country and ascending unconquered peaks had great appeal to numerous recreational hikers and mountaineers. E. B. Webster, one of the founding members of the Klahhane (hiking) Club of Port Angeles, Washington, thoughtfully contemplated the attraction of the mountains. He wrote in 1918:

The need of nature is not personal to certain individuals; it is racial. . . . Perchance it was long, long ago, when you played hookeyfrom school. Yet everytime you go camping, fishing, picnicing, or even for a stroll to gather the spring flowers you are returning to nature; you are yielding to her influence. Always you return from your little outing rested, refreshed, and strengthened for the routine work of life (Webster 1918).

Expressing the same sentiments over a decade later, Joseph Hazard in Snow Sentinels of the Pacific Northwest commented, "The best thing about the age in which we are living is not found in its mechanical progress or in its luxurious standards of living. It is found in a more universal knowledge that complete living comes from a common sense coordination of things physical, intellectual, and spiritual" (Hazard 1932, 48).

The Mountaineers, a Seattle mountaineering club, formed in 1906, was eager to partake of the multiplicity of renewing outdoor experiences offered by the largely unsurveyed and untrampled river valleys and mountain peaks of the Olympics. They were principally responsible for opening the interior of the Olympics to recreational hiking. A party of sixty-five men and women, and approximately fifteen pack horses laden with hundreds of pounds of supplies, penetrated the mountains on their first annual outing in 1907. Months of preparation were spent prior to the trip. An advance party of three, including W. M. Price, Elwha River settler Grant Humes, and well-known Seattle photographer Asahel Curtis, charted a possible route and selected campsites prior to The Mountaineers arrival on the Peninsula in July of that year (Smith 1907, 145; ST 1907, 16 June). Many miles of trails were built beyond existing roads. Large quantities of supplies were packed in ahead of the party.

During their one-month outing, members of the club made the first recorded ascents of several principal peaks including the West Peak of Mount Olympus, Mounts Seattle, Barnes, Queets, Christie, Meany and Noyes. Grant Humes described his involvement in this mountaineering exploit in a letter dated 10 November 1907. (Roloff 1934, 222-223; Smith 1907, 145; NPS OLYM 1897-1911,1934). (For a more detailed account of The Mountaineers' 1907 expedition see Chapter 1, Unknown No Longer.) The Mountaineers conducted future summer outings in the Olympics in 1913, 1920, 1926 and 1933. During The Mountaineers 1913 hiking expedition up the Elwha River, across Low Divide and down the Quinault watershed, the 102 member party passed a resolution "to investigate the matter of the construction of club lodges and mountain shelters" (Streator 1913, 21, 26). Olympic Forest Supervisor Rudo Fromme joined The Mountaineers for part of their excursion (NFS ONF n.d.). Over the years, The Mountaineers worked cooperatively with the Forest Service to build trails in the mountains (Roloff 1934, 223).

During the 1910s and 1920s, other mountaineering and hiking clubs formed, and these groups, along with repeated expeditions of The Mountaineers, made regular hiking expeditions into the Olympic Mountains. The Klahhane Club of Port Angeles formed in 1914, and each year an outing was planned to some point in the Olympics. The Klahhane Annual of 1918 noted, "Club members are instrumental in carrying on the great work of conservation which has assumed such an important place among national movements in the last few years." Klahhaneites claimed as their personal domain a "noble pile" six miles south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Mount Angeles (NPS OLYM 1918).


Soon after 1900, organized hiking groups planned expeditions into the Olympic Mountains. Two hikers perch atop Mount Queets around 1907. (Photo by A. Curtis, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society)


Soon after its organization the Klahhane Club leased from the National Forest Service an abandoned two-story cedar log cabin built by Louis Williams as a summer retreat, located on a bench at the foot of Mount Angeles. Club members made initial repairs to the old Williams Cabin, constructed a peeled pole porch addition in 1917, and in 1921, a large addition (Webster 1917; 1921, 109-12). When the Williams Cabin burned to the ground in the early 1920s, Klahhane members relocated to the north shore of Lake Crescent before finally constructing a new clubhouse at Heart O'the Hills in the early 1930s (Bredl 1965, 2; Robinson 1971, 273). A portion of the new Klahhane Club building stands just inside the Olympic National Park boundary.

At the southern end of the Olympic Peninsula, the Olympians of Aberdeen and Hoquiam organized in 1921. That same year they hiked into the Olympics by way of the Quinault River. Five Olympians reached the Middle Peak of Mount Olympus on 11 August 1921. Again in 1926, the Olympians entered their namesake mountains, and a party of eleven climbed to the summit of Middle Peak (Mathias 1928, 38-39).

The Mazamas of Portland Oregon, organized in 1894, planned their first outing to the Olympic Mountains two years later in 1928. Four Olympians were among the thirty-three Mazamas that ascended the West Peak of Mount Olympus. This was the second largest party on the summit (Mathias 1924, 39-40).

As an organization, the Boy Scouts were intimately associated with the Olympic Mountains. Between 1914, when the first ascent of Mount Tom was made by historian Edmund S. Meany and a Scout group, and the late 1940s, scout groups hiked throughout the Olympic range. The Boy Scouts made the first ascents of Del Monte Ridge and Mount Tom (Sainsbury 1972, 39; Olympic Mountain Rescue, The Mountaineers 1979, 10).

Although large regiments of hikers from mountaineering clubs from the Pacific Northwest were welcomed by Peninsula business communities and invariably attained notoriety through newspaper publicity during the 1910s and 1920s, small parties of mountaineers or solo hikers in the Olympics periodically received acclaim by local newspapers as well. Four mountain climbers from Bremerton ascended Five Fingers peak, a cluster of false peaks adjacent to the West Peak of Mount Olympus in 1908. For the first time in history they successfully climbed West, Middle and East Peak of Mount Olympus, all in one day (Wood 1968, 78).

Packers paused at Soleduck Divide, and gazed toward the Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus, in the fall of 1927. (Courtesy of Olympic National Forest)


During the summer of 1920, Henrietta McNaughan, a reporter from Portland, Oregon, made front page headlines in the Oregon Journal with her narrative of a sixteen day solo hike in the Olympic Mountains from Hood Canal to Lake Quinault. In one of three lengthy articles she noted: "As a recreational center, for the lovers of the beautiful in mountain scenery, the lovers of wild life and of mountain climbing, the Olympics have been practically untapped. With the exception of a few resorts at the forest's edges, the region is a complete wilderness" (Oregon Journal 1920, 8 August).

Two years later in 1922, two members of The Mountaineers Club, A. E. Smith and Robert Schellin, ascended Mount Constance (at the eastern Park boundary), placing a cairn atop the 7,743 foot rocky pinnacle (Thompson 1923, 3). In more recent years (since the 1920s), several nontechnical but remote mountain peaks were climbed for the first time by members of the U.S. Geological Survey mapping parties (NPS OLYM ca. 1980).

According to O. H. Kneen writing for Mentor magazine, in 1924 "three men and five horses . . . penetrated the last untamed wilderness of our land" (Kneen 1925, 32). Organized by Seattle photographer Asahel Curtis, the party traveled extensively in the western river drainages. Olympic National Forest Supervisor Rudo L. Fromme and others joined the party as they descended the Elwha Valley (TRL 1924, 14 October). Curtis took numerous photographs hoping to stimulate a widespread awareness of the Peninsula's timber resources, its plentiful wild game, its water power and agricultural potential, the "exceptional mountain scenery . . . [and the] summer resort possibilities" (ST 1924, 15 July).


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SKIING HISTORY





HISTORIC RESOURCE STUDY
Olympic National Park
Washington
By Gail H. E. Evans Author
T. Allan Comp Project Supervisor

Unlike hunting, fishing and hiking, skiing was among the last recreational sport activities to arrive in the Olympic Mountains. Through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was active in developing a number of recreational projects on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1930s, Deer Park opened for recreational skiers during the 1936-1937 winter season in what was then part of Olympic National Forest. Patronized primarily by the Peninsula residents, this "winter sports paradise" continued to operate as a local ski resort after the area was included in the expanded boundaries of Olympic National Park. In the early 1940s four buildings originally constructed by the Forest Service and a sheepherder's cabin dating from an earlier period served as winter use buildings for the ski area. Deer Park Lodge, a simple but rustic former CCC barrack with a dormitory and kitchen, housed several skiers. Under the National Park Service administration, Deer Park ski area continued in operation until 1957. In 1961 and 1962 the National Park Service removed Deer Park ski buildings, including the lodge, a ski shop, woodshed, toilet and the sheepherder's cabin (first aid station). (NPS OLYM 1964; 14 February, 5 March; NPS OLYM ca. 1945; PAEN 1937, 30 September).

Limited by relatively light snowfall and slopes with a southern exposure, the skiing season at Deer Park was restricted to only three or four months. In the early 1940s alternative ski areas were proposed for the Soleduck Park area (along the divide between the Soleduck and Elwha Rivers) (PAEN 1941, 19 June). Five years later visiting National Park Service landscape architects examined Hurricane Ridge for its potential as a ski area and site for an alpine lodge (PAEN 1946, 2 August). In 1950, according to an article in the Seattle Times newspaper the Park Service proceeded with plans to construct a "lodge to rival the Pacific Northwest's famous Paradise Inn [on Mount Rainier, Washington] and Timberline Lodge [on Mount Hood, Oregon]" (ST 1950, 29 October). The lodge was designed to provide year round facilities for tourists, including winter sports enthusiasts. With the completion of this project, the Hurricane Ridge Road and lodge set a new precedent for Olympic National Park. As the Seattle Times explained, "Olympic National Park is one of the nation's newer parkscreated only 12 years ago. Its 866,000 acres comprise some of the most primitive mountain wilderness in the United States. Except for the few narrow roads leading into it from the borders, it is virtually inaccessible to the average tourist" (ST 1950, 29 October).


Skiiers stood outside the cook house at Deer Park, in 1937. (Photo by N. Mortiboy, courtesy of Olympic National Forest)



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