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Ruth Kirk - Sunrise to Paradise

Part 1 - The Mountain

p. 13: The huge 1963 rockfall from Little Tahoma fell in December when no one was around to see it or be hurt by it, but skiers at Crystal Mountain heard its booming and rumbling.

p. 26: In a 1998 interview, Floyd Schmoe, 102, said of his first winter on Rainier around 1920, "I did a lot of very bad skiing that winter. We didn't have ski boots. We just strapped skis onto our feet, and as we were all alone on the mountain, I'd go down to Longmire on skis, carrying a pair of webs [snowshoes] on my back. It would take me only about forty minutes to get down, but with a heavy load of fresh food, it would take about four hours to get up to Paradise again."

Lecturing for the Park Service, Schmoe liked to say, "Mount Rainier is a volcano with glaciers and, like it, we should have a warm heart and a cool head. That's something I've always aspired to."

Part 2 - The Park

p. 53: Camp of the Clouds was at today's Alta Vista.

p. 59: On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley signed the Mount Rainier National Park bill. Mount Rainier became the fifth national park the U.S.

p. 64: The park was initially administered by the predecessor to the Forest Service. The National Park Service was created in 1916.

p. 65: In the early days the park was managed for public enjoyment not for wilderness preservation. Protection of wildife, including predators, became a policy of the National Park Service in 1931.

p. 69: Conceived by Charles B. Wright and constructed by John Bagley, the Tacoma Eastern railway was built from Tacoma to Ashford. Bagley decided on the project just months after the park was created. In 1902 the railroad reached Eatonville; in 1903, Elbe; in 1904, Ashford. The abandoned tracks are still intact today. There is a photo on p. 70.

p. 71: "In 1904, as the Tacoma Eastern, a 9:00 a.m. train out of Tacoma arrived at Ashford by noon. In 1924, as the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul, a 7:30 a.m. train out of Seattle arrived at 10:45 and returned by 7:00 p.m." Passenger service ended in 1932.

p. 73: In 1908 the first automobile permits were issued in the park. The first Model T from Ford rolled out of the factory that same year. The Chinook Pass road between Enumclaw and Yakima was started in 1916 and opened in 1931. In 1911 President William Howard Taft rode to Paradise in a car, although mules had to tow the car part of the way. The next year, a car made it all the way to Paradise unaided. The road to Paradise was engineered by Eugene Ricksecker beginning in 1903.

p. 76: The Stevens Canyon Road opened in September 4, 1957.

p. 81: Construction of the Paradise Inn started in the summer of 1916 and the inn opened the next year. That first year the inn opened before July snow had been cleared from the road. Baggage was taken up from Longmire by sled and guests walked or rode horses. Complaints spurred the Park Service to work harder to clear snow from the road.

p. 83: Photo of the winter toboggan chute at Longmire. It stretched for a quarter mile, "a distance ordinarily covered in 12 to 15 seconds."

p. 84: In 1921 a cogwheel tram from Paradise to the summit was proposed. In 1947 Seattle engineer O.S. Willumsen resurrected the idea.

p. 86: Rainier Park Company manager Paul Sceva wrote that Eastern tourists provided the profit, not the local people who went to the Mountain for only a day or camped if they stayed overnight. The locals were called "toilet customers."

p. 87: By 1928 Mount Rainier had become the first park in the nation to have a long-range master plan. Hotels were planned for both Sunrise and Spray Park. A scaled back version of the planned Sunrise hotel (in Yakima Park) opened in 1931.

Part 3 - The People

p. 92: "All tribal groups believed that by approaching powerful myth-age places after intensive ritual preparation and prayer, a person could gain lifelong spirit knowledge. To approach without such preparation was unthinkably disrepectful and dangerous." Native people ordinarily did not climb above the invisible spirit line which roughly coincided with the permanent snowline.

p. 108: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was active during the Great Depression years from 1933 to 1941. Mt Rainier was home to eight CCC camps of up to 200 men.

p. 109: The author describes the origins of the U.S. Army mountain troops, which trained on Rainier in the winter of 1942. She says that during the Russo-Finnish war of 1939, the skiing Finns held off Russion tanks for 105 days, though they were outnumbered forty-two to one.

p. 110: Photo of U.S. Army ski troops marching with skis over their shoulders at Paradise in the 1940s.

p. 111: The author credits Army ski troops with a circumnavigation of the mountain, ninety miles, carrying rifles and 85-pound packs. As will be documented, my research has found that while the troops did explore several sides of the mountain, they did not complete a circuit. A few recollections by Sherman Smith of Army training at Paradise are included.

p. 118: Photo of six skiers hiking along a snow covered road to Paradise carrying skis, from the 1930s. The Mountain looms above.

p. 119: The author describes winter outings by The Mountaineers in the 1910s. This information is available in the Mountaineer annuals. This page includes a photo of a woman skier at Paradise wearing a competitor's bib with number 4. The caption implies that the skier is Olive Rand in 1917, but my research indicates that the picture is of Olga Bolstad (tnt-1917-Jul-22).

In the 1920s a group calling themselves SOYPs (Socks Outside Your Pants) also made winter Paradise pilgrimages. This group constituted the Puget Sound elite.

p. 120: In 1935 Alf Nydin of Seattle founded Ski Magazine, which was the first magazine in the country devoted to the sport. The author describes the Silver Skis race, including the 1937 event which was cancelled due to bad weather. In the 1930s, the Park Service considered winter sports to be Rainier's "most important public use."

p. 121: On this page is a fine account by Don Fraser of his victory in the first Silver Skis race in 1934. Fraser describes the course, the press build-up, and the perfect weather on the day of the race. He skied with a pair of "Northland seven-foot nine-inch triple-grooved hickory jumping skis without edges, but with lead slabs nailed on top for additional weight." Fraser says that Ben Thompson collided with Stan Borgersen, resulting in a broken jaw for Thompson and a dislocated shoulder for Borgersen. Fraser fell between McClure Rock and Panorama Point, which enabled Carlton Wiegel to catch up with him. They continued side by side through mushy snow to the finish, with Fraser's cross-country training giving him the edge to win by just a few feet.

p. 122: This page includes fine photos of skiing at Paradise in the 1930s. The top photo is uncredited, but was taken by Dwight Watson in 1936 and is from his collection at the University of Washington. The center photo shows a pair of rope tows near the Paradise Inn.

p. 123: The author describes growing concerns in the 1930s and 40s about the suitability of big-time skiing at Mount Rainier. The Park Service decided against major, permanent lifts inside the park and development shifted to other areas in the Cascades, including White Pass, Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes and Mount Baker. Today, the mountain is again the domain of cross-country skiing. The author writes: "Although hi-tech clothing and gear separate today's winter visitors from those of yesterday, in spirit many of those who now trek to Paradise are more akin to the excursionists of the early outings than to the racers and jumpers of the park's skiing glory days."

p. 127: The author describes the avalanche on Mount Rainer that claimed the lives of Willi Unsoeld and Janie Diepenbrock. The account includes recollections of Frank Kaplan, one of the survivors.

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Last Updated: Sun Oct 17 09:50:53 PST 2004