Historians accept the fact that they will spend much of their lives in a sitting position. Most often their environment consists of badly-lit rooms filled with poorly-designed furniture. Great then is the pleasure when the task at hand calls for hiking through the splendid valleys and magnificent vistas of a land such as the North Cascades. Equally pleasant is the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who live in that land.
From such an experience should come an inspired and definitive history. Alas, this report is not inspired, and it certainly is not definitive. But I enjoyed every minute of its preparation, and accept the responsibility for its errors and shortcomings.
In preparing the report I met some great people, men and women who love the North Cascades and who generously shared their knowledge of the history of these mountains. My thanks go to all of them. Superintendent Roger Contor, Jerry Hammond, Harry Wills, George Wagner, Jerry Wood, Darell Wilsie, Sy Hentges, Edith Gibson, and Paul Sollie, all treated me royally and contributed much to the report. Neal A. Butterfield, Northwest Regional Office, demonstrated great patience when I fell behind schedule. James Larson, Office of Natural Science Studies, helped make my first visit to the park a memorable occasion. Supervisor H. C. Chriswell and Mr. Donald E. Allen, Mount Baker National Forest, Bellingham, made available the history files of the national forest. James M. Trappe, Principal Mycologist, U.S. Forest Service, discussed at length the history of Stehekin, an area he knows well.
Bruce Le Roy, Director, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, and his competent staff made available the rich treasures of the Society's library and archives. Mrs. Anna M. Ibbotson, Assistant Librarian, brought to my attention several important documents and illustrations. At the University of Washington Library, Seattle, Andrew Johnson helped me locate material in the Pacific Northwest collections.
Thanks to Allan May, reporter on The Everett Herald, this study has a photograph of the power plant in the Skagit Queen area. Mr. May took this picture in a heavy rainstorm under uncomfortable and frustrating conditions. The photographs of Horseshoe Basin would be missing from this report were it not for the kindness of several people. On my way out of the basin, I accidentally left my camera on the trail. Some visitors found it and turned it in to the Stehekin ranger station. Mr. Ernie Gibson, pilot supreme, kindly flew the camera to Chelan in time to catch up with me.
A special thanks goes to several historians of the area: Paul Curtis Pitzer, whose study on the Skagit River was indispensable; Bruce Mitchell, Wenatchee, who gave me an afternoon of his time in discussing the Chelan area; and Mr. and Mrs. Charles M. Dwelley, Concrete, who publish The Concrete Herald and make the best coffee on the Skagit River.
A very special thanks goes to the citizens of Stehekin who told me the history of the valley as they had seen it unfold: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bird, who invited me into their friendly cabin; Mr. and Mrs. Curt Courtney, who set a superb table; Mr. and Mrs. Ray Courtney, one of the great guides in all the mountains of the West; and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Buckner. I shall not forget the evening when we strolled over the Buckners' meadow. Golden twilight filtered down from the mountains. A light mist floated up from the river. A mother Canada goose warned us to keep our distance. A deer slipped silently from the trees and walked across our path. I have never been able to explain what Western history is, but it includes all that as well as the traditional aspects.
Finally, my thanks go to Mr. Joseph S. De Leon, Seattle City Light Department who generously made available a large amount of material on the history of hydroelectricity on the Skagit River.
Erwin H. Thompson
Last Updated: 11-Jun-2008