Nature Notes

Vol. XII May, 1934 No. 5

Highlights of History of Mount Rainier Nat'l Park

Part VII

During the summer of the same year that Mt. Rainier was scaled for the first time there was working in the mountains of the Pacific Coast a small party of geologists and engineers - mapping the areas about the greatest of these mountains for the U.S. Geological Survey. The work had progressed fairly rapidly in the southern portion of the coast region and late in the summer work of this kind was in progress about both Mt. Shasta, in California, and Mt. Hood, in Oregon. Later in the fall Samuel Franklin Emmons was dispatched from the Mt. Shasta region to begin the work of mapping Mt. Rainier before weather conditions would make this impossible for that year. He arranged for the assistance of A. D. Wilson, topographer of the Mt. Hood project, and together they journeyed to Olympia, Washington to meet Hazard Stevens who, as they had learned a few days previous in Portland, had just returned from the first successful ascent of Mt. Rainier. The work of these men in mapping the area would necessitate an ascent of the mountain.

Stevens received them very graciously, informed them in full of the manner of the country and aided in securing for them Mr. James Longmire of Yelm Prairie as guide. Thus for the second time that season Longmire packed his horses for a trip into the wilds about the base of Mt. Rainier. The party followed up the Nisqually and attempted to gain the vantage point of Paradise Park by way of the Paradise River Canyon but this proved impossible and so they returned to Bear Prairie. It was necessary for them to penetrate deep into the country with pack animals an account of the quantity of scientific equipment necessary for their work - which must be brought along. From Bear Prairie they worked their way east to the divide that flanked the Cowlitz Valley and, turning in a general northerly direction, the small party worked their way into the alpine country and eventually established a base camp somewhere in the vicinity of Cowlitz Park. His duties thus performed, Longmire now returned to civilization after noting the signs of bad weather.

oxen pulling wagon

Emmons and Wilson continued to wait for suitable conditions, then started their ascent. From Cowlitz Park they climbed to timberline, crossed the Cowlitz Glacier and worked up the ice to the base of Gibralter where they found the narrow ledge concerning which Stevens had dwelt on in their conservation at Olympia. Along this ledge they crept to the "chutes" where Emmons almost lost his footing as his awkward pack of blankets slipped from his shoulders. For a moment his condition was a perilous one, He gingerly stepped from his pack that had become tangled about his feet and thus relieved his blankets, food and equipment slid silently over the precipice into the great abyss below. However, the two men continued reached the summit where, unfortunately weather conditions were not such that proper observations could be made. They returned via the same route - which proved even more difficult than the ascent - and eventually reached their base camp again. The weather now gave indication of putting a stop to any further work of this character. Snow began falling and so after a conference the two men beat a hasty retreat back to civilization. Mt. Rainier, after defying the tread of white men for centuries, had in one year twice succumbed to the daring and adventurous spirit of western pioneers! (See Journal of the American Geographic Society, Vol. IX. 1879. pp 53-57. A paper read before the society by Samual Franklin Emmons.)

Mt. Rainier's summit was to remain inviolate from this time for many years. It was not until 1883 that the third ascent was made and again Longmire accompanied the party which consisted of P. B. Van Trump, who had accompanied Stevens on the first successful ascent, and a Mr. Bayley. This time, however, Longmire succumbed to the lure of the high country and accompanied his companions to the summit of Mt. Rainier. There is nothing of interest regarding this third ascent. However on their return they camped on the river bar near the present village of Longmire. They had hobbled and left their horses here when the ascent was made and during their absence the animals had wandered. It was in the search for these horses by James Longmire that the numerous warm, mineralized springs were discovered - and so was born in his mind an idea for a resort in this - at that time - untracked wilderness. He returned later in the fall from his ranch at Yelm and staked out his mineral claims about these springs. (C.F.B.)

Bench made from trunk of a Western Red Cedar formerly used in the Longmire Homestead Cabin and now found in the Park Museum.

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