Enchanted Valley and Its Chalet
Written by Raymond Geerdes
Enchanted Valley lies deep in the mountainous southwest corner of Olympic National
Park. Glacier snows and ice fields on the slopes of Mount Anderson are the source
of the East Fork Quinault River that flows southeasterly, and after confluence
with the North Fork pour together in Quinault Lake in Grays Harbor County at the
edge of the Quinault Indian Reservation.
1954. ONP Archives. Historic Structures Reports. ACC. No. OLYM-731. Cat No. OLYM 16353. Box 3. Folder 10.
Geerdes was a Quinault Ranger for Olympic National Park.
His report is reference 3 in
Enchanted Valley Chalet History.
Which is found under the history section of Windsox.us
This document was a "pdf" document which was composed on an old typewriter.
It may be a copy of a copy and so on.
I was able to figure out most of the words except for the names of some people in the report.
So some of the names of people may not be spelled correctly.
There are essentially two approaches to the valley that are feasible for most
civilization-adjusted mortals. The less feasible approach is along the Olympic
Loop Highway 101 that runs parallel with the Hood Canal. Thirteen miles south of
the town of Quilcene end one mile north of Brinnon a road runs up the Dosewallips
River for some fifteen odd miles. Here the road ends and the trail begins and the
traveler must make the necessary adjustments to the hikers dilemma that is, how to
carry enough to be comfortable and yet not so much to be burdensome. From the Dose
Forks with its elevation of 1817 foot, the hiker climbs for five miles steadily to
2814 feet elevation at the Diamond Meadow Shelter, on upwards for four more miles
to Anderson Pass Shelter at 4464 feet elevation, and then drops some 2500 feet in
six miles before reaching the Chalet at the lover end of Enchanted Valley. The
hiker can then retrace his steps, or he can continue down the East Fork until it
connects with the road again near the confluence of the East Fork and Graves Creek.
What makes this approach the less feasible is the abundance of snow that covers the
trail for several miles on either side of Anderson Pass, until very late in August.
The more likely approach to Enchanted Valley is from the reverse direction. On the
west side of the Olympic Peninsula, Highway 101 crosses the Quinault River one mile
south of Amanda Park and 3 miles north of Neilton. From this point a road swings
easterly along beautiful Quinault Lake through the town of Quinault and then along
the south bank of the Quinault River to the Graves Creek Ranger Station about seventeen
miles farther. From the Ranger Station to the Chalet in Enchanted Valley the distance
is about thirteen miles. O'Neil Creek Shelter is about the halfway point, and many
hikers spend the night there, hiking the remaining distance the next day. The trail
is a gentle one following the left bank of the Quinault to the pony bridge where it
crosses a box canyon. It then follows the left bank of the Quinault until it reaches
the lower end of Enchanted Valley where it recrosses the river just below the Chalet.
Along this trail the hiker will ascend from 546 ft. elevation at Graves Creek to an
elevation of about 2000 feet at the lower end of the Enchanted Valley. The grade this
far is about 5%. The trail above the Chalet rises rapidly in the next five miles to
about 4500 ft., or a grade of 10%. The trail into the Chalet is virtually free from
snow the entire summer season. This is the trail taken by the majority of hikers and
wilderness enthusiasts who visit Enchanted Valley.
Enchanted Valley is one of those places that every wilderness enthusiast someday dreams
of visiting, and sometimes succeeds in finding. It is one of those places that Americans
want to see, and travel thousands of miles to see. It will only be a matter of time
before the American tourist discovers the Olympics as he has discovered Yellowstone and
Yosemite National Parks. Then the floodgate of American tourism will be unleashed on this
little known area that calls itself "America's Last Frontier." Yet the secrets of the
Olympics will remain free of that kind of commercialization that comes with roads and
automobiles. The Olympics and Enchanted Valley are for those who will pay the price, the
F. W. Cleator first visited Enchanted Valley in 1928. This capable and farsighted Forest
Official in his report described Enchanted Valley adequately. "At about the 21 mile post
on East Fork Quinault the trail suddenly breaks from continuous timber to a great open
park extending along both sides of the river, flanked by rock walls but particularly on
the north side by miles of imposing precipices, and rugged escarpments. Hundreds of smaller
waterfall in moister season, shoot, trickle, cascade, or otherwise pour over those cliffs
into a scenic masterpiece. At a very rough estimate some of the falls cascade down 1,500
to 2,000 feet, all in full sight of the observer. In dry season these give way to perhaps
20 to 30 small streams, still alive with spectacular cascades and falls. This together
with the wonderful background of snow peaks and glaciers, and immediate foreground of open,
elk-trimmed, grass floored, hardwood parks, makes a most wonderful attractive scenic
Lewis Canaday and Jan S. Doward describe the approaches to the north end of Enchanted Valley
in their book on the Olympics,
. "Rounding a curve into an open meadow the
hikers were suddenly treated to a sight that made their spirits soar. The fog that had
shrouded them during the night had settled into Enchanted Valley below like a vast sea of
fluffy cotton. The rising sun sent beams of red and gold through the clouds into the rocky
west wall and they caught their first full view of Mount Anderson to the north. Wearing a
shining glacier in its ring of lofty spires, its lower slope forming the upper end of
Enchanted Valley and its head in the mists of heaven, the peak produced a picture beyond
It was raining when I first visited Enchanted Valley, but even in the rain and mist the beauty
and spell of the place was truly enchanting. On entering the valley the rush and roar of
the river mingled with the gentler sound of numerous waterfalls and the still gentler murmur
of the steady rain blended musically as gentle melodies fade into more thunderous overtone of
a great symphony. Wild roses bloomed profusely along the trail, and their fragrances added a
new dimension of beauty. Clouds enveloped the top of the cliff, and the cascades dropping over
the rocks gave the appearance of water rushing out of the clouds. Farther up the trail, and
within a few seconds of each other, I saw a bull elk, a doe, and a mother bear with two cubs.
Suddenly the mists parted and across the river in a park-like meadow of alder and cottonwood
stood the chalet, silent, imposing, and mysterious. I was happy to see it, and especially to
see the smoke of hiker occupants raising from the chimney, for me as many others of the trail
it represented warmth and comfort as well as mystery and beauty.
There had not always been a Chalet, but there had always been an Enchanted Valley. Undoubtedly
the area was known to the Indians before the coming of the white man, for the Quinault Indians
live below on Quinault Lake and most certainly had followed the easy approach after game.
It is not known who the first white man was to see this valley. Surely old mountain men,
hunters, trappers, and prospectors must have passed through here at some early time. But those
were silent men, and when their restless moccasins passed through an area, which was to know
later that they had been there? Sometimes they left old campfires, or told of their exploits,
more often they were silent and silence followed them.
Things were different for Joseph P. O'Neil, second lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry, Commanding
Olympic Mountains Exploring Expedition, in the summer of 1890. Lieutenant O'Neil was the
commander of the official expedition sent out jointly by the United States Army and the Oregon
Alpine Club. Lt. O'Neil was the first person to see Enchanted Valley and to leave a written
record of his exploits.
Previously the Olympic Peninsula, especially in its mountainous heart country, was virtually
unknown and unexplored. Even today the Geological Survey is still at work charting some areas
for the first time.
O'Neil led his first expedition into the Olympics in 1885 when he explored the Elwha Valley.
A second party financed by the
started up the Elwha in December 1889, and
finally emerged at Lake Quinault six months later.
O'Neil's second expedition began at Port Union on the Hood Canal on the first of July 1890.
His combined expedition of Army personnel and members of the Oregon Alpine Club pushed up
the North Fork of the Skokomish River, passed Lake Cushman and arrived at camp 9 what is
now called nine streams on August 16,1890. He writes: "About 2 miles away was the summit of
the ridge the divide of the Skokomish and Quinault Rivers. The top of the divide was 3,500
feet above our camp. At 5:30 a.m. we started, leaded with 50 pounds a man. The hillside
was so precipitous that were it not for the huckleberry bushes, which grew in profusion, we
would not have been able to make the ascent. At 6 P.M. we first sighted the Gibbon Range,
with its snow crowned peaks, from the summit of the long-wished-for Quinault Divide". They
descended into the Quinault valley along what is probably lower O'Neil Creek. A study of
the physical features and a careful reading of the report seem to bear this out. Five days
later Lt. O'Neil and his two companions, privates Fisher and Danton, emerged at Quinault Lake
and spent several hours there in company of a Mr. McCalla. Contrary to popular belief no
horses came over this trail at this time. The main party with the stock and supplies had
remained along the Skokomish and had in the meantime completed a trail to the base of Mount
Anderson. Lt. O'Neil and companions pushed on to Hoquiam, boarded a steamer, disembarked at
Union City, and pushed up the Skokomish arriving at the foot of Mount Anderson where they
joined the main party. By September 7, 1890, all parties were in camp below Mount Anderson.
O'Neil's intentions were to drop down from Anderson Pass into what is now Enchanted Valley
and descent the Quinault East Fork. It seemed to the explorer that the descent into the
valley was near impossible, and it looked for a time as though the expedition would have
to turn back. Of this O'Neil writes: "We were all much worried at the report that it was
impossible to proceed with the mules; they would have to be returned. In fact things did
look gloomy, and it seemed as if nothing without wings could pass from that divide. Old
tactics were resumed every available man was sent out to prospect for a trail. My
intentions were to get into the valley of the Quinault. This meant getting down 3000 feet
from the divide, a feat that nearly cost me the life of a man when we assayed it a month ago.
That time we had no pack mules to get down. After a search of thirteen days a place was found
where, with some work, a trail could be made passable. All hands were set to work. The
river was 3,000 feet fellow us and the descent almost perpendicular, but by zigzagging
making nearly five miles to gain three quarters we finally reached the bottom. Camp 15
was made on the Quinault side of the divide." Five days later the pack train reached the
forks of the Quinault, passing through the heart of Enchanted Valley.
Of the beauty of the place itself O'Neil makes no mention. Coming through the valley in
late September many of the waterfalls had stopped running. Yet most certainly O'Neil took
note of the beauty of Enchanted Valley as well as the other sights he behold. He was not
insensitive to beauty, and he later struck a somewhat prophetic note when he wrote in his
report: "This country is absolutely unfit of any use except, perhaps, a national park,
where elk and deer could be saved. The scenery is well suited for such purpose, and I believe
that many views there are unequaled in the world." Certainly we can imagine him thinking
of Enchanted Valley when he again wrote: The scenery, which often made us, hungry, weary,
and over-packed explorers, forget for the moment our troubles, to pause and admire, would
surely please people traveling with comfort and pleasure."
O'Neil's trip and subsequent report had much to do with publishing the Olympics in general,
and the area that he traversed in particular. He writes: "Last March there were two
settlers on Lake Quinault, today there are over 125, -- Men were going into the mountains
as I was returning. One of the great inconveniences of the trip was that a number of
prospectors and others followed, and a guard had to be left at each camp to protect our
Mr. Orte Higley, one of the early settlers of the Lake Quinault area, was in a hardware
store in Seattle in early summer of 1890 outfitting himself for a trip to the Olympics.
A young eccentric Englishman, Fritz Leather, was in the same store outfitting him for
the same purpose. Orte Higley and his father A. V. Higley joined forces with Leather.
In September of 1890 the Higley's and Leather were camping with the O'Neil expedition
at the base of Mount Anderson. Lt. O'Neil actually dropped into Enchanted Valley through
O'Neil Pass via Hart Lake and the upper Duckabush. Higley followed with their pack
outfit of eleven mules. The descent of the pass was made without incident or loss,
although several days later near the forks of the Quinault, one mule was killed in a
fall from a bluff due to yellow jackets, and previously two mules were injured in a
Once over the pass into the upper reaches of Enchanted Valley the Higley's waited three
weeks for the return of their eccentric English friend who had followed O'Neil out to
Lake Quinault. Leather never returned. The Higley's proceeded down to Lake Quinault.
Most of the available homesteads were already taken at the time. Later the Higley's
returned to the area and purchased land along the north shore of Lake Quinault. The
Higley's story is important because they were the only Quinault settlers to use O'Neil's
trail coming into the area. The trail was later used by hunters, explorers, and hikers,
but never became the cross-Olympic route that its founder desired at the time.
The publicity that the Press Expedition and the O'Neil Expedition gave the Olympic
Peninsula did much to open the last frontier to settlement. The full account of the
Press Expedition was published in the
on July 18, 1890. Although the Senate
Committee on Forest Preservation and the Protection of Game did not publish the O'Neil
report until January 8, 1890, still the work of the expedition was widely known in the
Puget Sound area. Geographic conditions had acted as a barrier to the settlement of
the Olympics, and held up the flood of hungry land seekers. The Hood Canal and Puget
Sound acted as a sort of double moat keeping the area unsettled and unknown. The wave
of settlers pushing westward swept around the southern end of the Sound westward to the
sea at Hoquiam. In 1890 most of the accessible free land was gone, and the frontier as
a continual line had disappeared. This together with the tremendous upsurge of immigration
from Europe made land hungry pioneers seek out the few remaining unsettled regions.
Thus it was that O'Neil noted in his report noted that in a six months period the
settlers had increased from 2 to 125 at Lake Quinault. Most of these settlers in the
Quinault area came into the area over the old wagon trail that had been cut from Hoquiam
to Humptulips. The Board of Trades of the city of Hoquiam had originally constructed
this trail from Hoquiam to Humptulips to meet the O'Neil party as it came out the Quinault.
Concerning this O'Neil writes "I can not mention too highly my appreciation of the energy,
push, and interest of the Board of Trust of Hoquiam, on Grays Harbor. At a very large
outlay of capital they hired a gang of men to cut a trail from their city to connect with
and meet my trail in the mountains, and of this 93 miles of trail a full thirty was cut
out by them."
It was over the old wagon road to Humptulips, and the pack trail to Quinault that John
Olson came to the Quinault area in 1889 to look over the area with a view of bringing
his family. In 1894 the entire Olson family moved from Parker's Prairie, Minnesota,
near Alexandria, to the Quinault area, taking up a 160-acre homestead north of the lake
along the East Fork. Altogether there were 19 in the family, which included four children
of a former marriage. There were eight boys and eleven girls in the family. Shortly after
the arrival of the Olson's most of the available land suited for agriculture was already
homesteaded or pre-emptied, and already some families were moving out of the area. The
story of Quinault and especially Enchanted Valley is not complete without their
One of the reasons that the Olympics have remained a wilderness area until the present
time is the fact that Uncle Sam arrived early and stayed late, and no apparent idea of
moving out. In January 1898, the Senate Committee of Forest Preservation and the Protection
of Game had O'Neil's report before them. O'Neil reported that the country was unfit for
anything else than a National Park, where the deer and elk could be saved. Perhaps this
report had some connection with the fact that in the next year, 1897, the Olympic National
Forest was established by the executive order of President Cleveland. Since the land was
already public domain, this set it aside for use as a National Forest, and stopped
The extension of Federal control into the area was closely related to desire to save the
native herds of magnificent Roosevelt Elk that inhabited the region. The Congressional
Act of June 4, 1897, gave to the Forest Service the legal right to regulate hunting in
their areas. In the meantime, the elk herds were being sadly depleted in the Olympics
generally and in the Quinault basin area specifically. Hunting parties led by professional
hunters roamed the Olympics, in the decade and a half from 1890 until 1908. Many wealthy
Easterners and Europeans hired these hunters and spent months in the Olympics. Herbert
Olson reports that about 1896 he and his brother went up the Quinault as far as the
confluence of Graves Creek and the East Fork, in the area where the old Graves Creek Shelter
now stands. A certain Mr. Olaf Olson, no kin to Herbert, had packed in a hunting party
from Hoodsport up the Skokomish and down the Quinault over the old O'Neil trail and was
camped near the site of the present Graves Creek Shelter. The thing which impressed
Herbert at that time, was the pile of five gallon beer kegs, elk horns, hides, and drying meat.
Elvin Olson recalls a certain Anderson party who hunted elk for their teeth. Wallace
Osborn of Quinault, while working trails in that area around 1928, remembers finding old
hunting camps in the backcountry. These camps were very old at that time.
The elk were disappearing at an astonishing rate. In 1904, Representatives Francis W.
Cushman of Tacoma introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to establish the
Olympic area as "Elk National Park." President Theodore Roosevelt, the great
conservationist, set aside 615,000 acres as Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909.
Bills were introduced in 1906 and 1903 by Representative William E. Humphrey of Seattle
to set aside the area as a Game Refuge. In 1906 the elk situation became critical, and
when Cushman's bill failed, state and federal authorities cooperated in closing down
the area completely for elk hunting. This remained in effect until 1933 when the session
was again reopened. This was the same year that jurisdiction of the Mount Olympus National
Monument was turned over to the Park Service from the Forest Service by executive order of
President Franklin Roosevelt. This transfer insured a safe haven for the elk in the monument
while the surrounding Olympic National Forest was reopened to hunting. Representative
Wallgreen of Everett made repeated attempts to establish the area as a regular National Park.
Congress finally passed the law on June 29, 1938, transforming the Monument into Olympic
National Park. After addition in 1940, 1943, and 1953, the park now contains 887,986 acres.
The original purpose of preserving the elk was enlarged upon, to preserve the entire area
in its wilderness form. 15 The old-timers can now truthfully say that there are more elk
than when they first arrived. O'Neil had written, "We entertained one night in the latter
part of September, when the elk were beginning to run, with the whistles of the bull.
This is sweet music in the wilds." Now the sweet music will be there for generations to
After the area was closed to elk hunting, few people got into Enchanted Valley.
Occasionally the Olson's entered the valley either on camping expeditions or as guides to
other camping parties. In 1899 Herbert and Ignar Olson, with Chester Wilson hiked up
the House Creek to the headwaters of the Wynoochee, then to the high Duckabush-Skokomish
divide and down into the Quinault in the area around upper O'Neil Creek. In 1904 John and
Jasper Bunch entered Enchanted Valley and carved their names on a tree. Several years
later, Earhart and Ignor made a trip into the valley and saw the names on the tree. In
1906 Ignor guided a party up the Quinault River. Each night they would establish camp at
some stream coming into the main river. On the fourth night they camped at what is now
Ignar Creek. At each camp the name of one of the party would be nailed up to a tree, and
the given that name. It seems that the sign with Ignor's name on it remained and the name
remains Ignar Creek to the present time. When this party arrived in Enchanted Valley they
climbed up to Hart Lake on foot, and had a splendid view of the entire area. In 1909
Herbert guided Mr. McKenzie up the old O'Neil Pass trail to Hart Lake, and returning again
through Enchanted Valley. This McKenzie later became sheriff of Grays Harbor County and
then killed trying to capture a desperado in the upper Wynoochee.
The Olson's occasionally revisited Enchanted Valley in the years that followed. Ignar
and his brother trapped the area quite extensively during the period of World War I.
Their trap lines took them up the East Fork through Enchanted Valley to White Creek,
then up the high divide country, and down lower O'Neil Creek. They had constructed
trapper's shelters at O'Neil Creek, across the river from the present trail shelter,
also one in the upper Enchanted Valley, and one in the high divide country.
The Olson brothers became interested in obtaining permits for the construction of a
lodge at Low Divide on the North Fork Quinault in the early 1920's. Times were prosperous
and an increasing number of parties were being taken into the backcountry, many to the
Low Divide area. Five Olson brothers, Elvin, Ignor, Herbert, Richard and Teander along
with Mr. Charles Thomas who operated a store at Quinault, got together and organized
the Olympic Recreation Company for the purpose of making application for construction
of a lodge at the Low Divide. Others purchased stock in the company, including Dr.
Austin and a Mr. Welch from Port Townsend. It seems as though the application to the
Forest Service for this purpose arrived shortly after a similar application from the
Olympic Chalet Company.
The Olympic Chalet Company was an organization growing out of the industrious Hoquiam
Chamber of Commerce, the old Hoquiam Board of trade that Lt. O'Neil spoke so
enthusiastically about. Mr. F. W. Mathias, as present manager of the Olympic Chamber
of Commerce, was the secretary-treasurer of the organization. Permit was received from
the Forest Service authorizing the Olympic Chalet Company to construct a chalet at Low
Divide, a shelter at nine mile on the North Fork, and a bath house and cabins on Hourglass
Creek near Lake Margaret and the head waters of the Quinault and Elwha.
The Low Divide Chalet was constructed in 1926 under the supervision of Ernest Voorhies,
who leased the buildings from the Chalet Company and acted as manager, packer, and
guide for the organization. The Low Divide Chalet was operated for about twelve years.
Such organizations as the Seattle Mountaineers, Trail Riders of the Wilderness, and
many other groups made the chalet their headquarters.
When the Olympic Chalet Company received permission to build on the North Fork Quinault,
the Olson's were asked if they would be interested in development of the East Fork area.
It was at this time that the Olson's began to take an active interest in the Enchanted
Valley area and made several reconnaissance trips in 1926 and 1927 to explore the area.
In the summer of 1928, Supervisor H. L. Plumb of Olympic National Forest, F. W. Cleator
recreational examiner of Olympic Forest, Elvin Olson representing the Olympic Recreation
Company, and a man representing the Olympic Chalet Company packed into the Enchanted
Valley area. H. L. Plumb and F. W. Cleator were in the process of investigating the
entire forest for recreational purposes and development plans.
The group discussed the name of the valley at this time. The Olson's had always
referred to the area as "The Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls." And at certain times
of the year the name was literally correct were one to number all of the numerous
separate small cascades and falls. However, later in the season many of these falls dry
up as the snow melts in the high country. F. W. Cleator suggested the name be changed
to Enchanted Valley. All instantly agreed that this was perhaps a better name, and all
who visit the place will acknowledge the fitness of their selection.
In May 25, 1929, F. W. Cleator submitted a comprehensive report on the recreational
potential of the entire Olympic Forest. This report was so complete and well worked
out that many of the projects he suggested were put into effect. His is still the
basic report on recreation for the Olympic National Forest.
In his report Cleator
states that one chalet already existed at the Low Divide and that another was proposed
for the East Fork. He probably was referring here to the Chalet that was shortly
constructed by the Olson's at Graves Creek. On the possibility of a chalet at Enchanted
Valley, Cleator wrote, "With the possible construction of a trans-Olympic road down this
valley, it appears that a well developed resort and public camp would be well warranted."
Cleator was a man with a vision. He desired to keep this general wilderness nature of
the back county, yet he wished enough development so that the wilderness could be enjoyed.
This is in harmony with the multiple utilization program of the Forest Service. The
dilemma of the problem has plagued Park Service officials and Forest officials for some
time. How to keep the area essentially wild, and yet useful to our citizens?
Cleator had this approach to the problem in his report. Thinking not only of the
proposed chalet but also of trail shelters he wrote "It is the consensus of general
opinion that a large portion of the high Olympics should be kept as a primitive area,
as little modified as possible, but still not left to itself as a menace to the storm-ridden
traveler and a graveyard for the inexperienced. All primitive inhabitants demand
some measure of comfort. The marmot whistler has his secure haven in the rocks, the
bear his den, the hawk his nest. If the Indians were still in jurisdiction, he would
doubtless have his tepee. The white man will have to be allowed at least a tent or rough
shelter, and in particular places, as noted on the map, safety stations are recommended."
The fact that in 1928 there was a good possibility that a road would be constructed
across Enchanted Valley enters the picture. Lt. O'Neil believed that he was opening a
trail across the peninsula through Enchanted Valley, which he hoped would be a monument
for his expedition. This road was never built, or was the trail ever seriously used.
The Higley's were the only party to come into the Quinault Area over this trail, and
they on the heels of O'Neil himself. One terminus was at Hoquiam. The trail was 93
miles long. The main road finally came to swing around the entire peninsula. From
Hoquiam to Humptulips this old trail could accommodate wagons, then it demised to a
pack trail into Quinault. In 1904 the first wagon arrived in Quinault as the trail
In 1915 the first automobile reached the lake and the citizens of
Quinault celebrated the event with an elk barbeque at Bob Locke's landing on Lake
In 1917 the road was enlarged and improved.
Two years later it was extended
to the county line between Grays Harbor and Jefferson County and slowly extended to
about a mile south of the present park boundary where it remained for years. The
road was pushed up the East Fork Quinault until in 1931 the Forest Service completed
it to the Graves Creek Inn at Graves Creek. In 1928 Cleator anticipated a road when
they considered construction of a chalet at Enchanted Valley. All of the brothers
interviewed, readily granted this. The possibilities of a road were still very good
until Mount Olympus National Monument was transferred from the Forest Service to the
National Park Service. A Bureau of Public Roads Survey crew had reached O'Neil Creek
when the transfer took place and were immediately withdrawn. It seems as through the
Olson's were aware that a road through Enchanted Valley was becoming less likely, for
on February 9, 1939 Ignar Olson wrote a letter to Superintendent Preston P. Macy of
the Olympic National Park in which he stated, "We wish to discuss the East Fork Road
and the river hazard and the possibility of the National Park Service purchasing the
resorts in the Olympics." Cleator in his report of 1929 after mentioning the proposed
road through the area said, "The building of such roads would be inimical to the
generally accepted wilderness idea of the high Olympics as a whole." Two months
after the bill passed congress in June 1938, creating Olympic National Park, Secretary
of Interior Ickes announced that the National Park Service would maintain this new
park essentially as a primitive area, free from hotels and other commercial
Today tourists sometimes inquire why a road isn't constructed into Enchanted Valley.
I am happy to reply that it probably never will, that the wilderness retreat will
perhaps always remain a wilderness retreat, accessible to those who will pay the
price to visit it. For those unfit, unable, or unwilling to hike there are scores
of areas accessible by automobile.
Having been denied permission to build on the Low Divide, the Olympic Recreation Company
comprising the Olson's and associates, received special use permits for developments
on the East Fork Quinault watershed. The Graves Creek Inn was constructed in 1928
and completed in 1929. It was to be a halfway station from the road end to Enchanted
Valley. The road arriving at the Inn in 1931 changed the picture, and it was now
possible to arrive at Enchanted Valley directly in one day. The special use permit
for building in Enchanted Valley was issued in 1928.
A survey party consisting of Robert D. MacLay, surveyor; J. Fulton, district ranger;
and Wallace Osborn and Leonard Andrew as assistants, surveyed the site of Enchanted
Valley Chalet in May 1928.
The survey entitled Enchanted Valley Recreational Unit located the site in Jefferson
County, Washington: Section 21, Township 26 North, Range 5 West, Willamette Meridian.
Lot one was a 4.63-acre plot reserved for the chalet, lot two was reserved for any
administrative site, and lot three was classed as garden soil. Near the lower entrance
of the valley an area was set aside for a proposed public campground. Adjacent to the
campground site directly to the north and just east of the river was a proposed landing
field. Directly north of the chalet site was a natural park area reserved for future
resort expansion, and in the upper reaches of the valley was an area designated for
pasture and stables. A power site was also located. Running parallel to the timbered
east wall was the proposed road site.
Building plans were drawn up by the Olympic Recreation Company and submitted to the
Forest Service for approval. This approval was granted in July 24, 1939. Construction
began immediately under the supervision of Elvin Olson. Mr. T. E. Chrisswell assisted
by his son Glenn did the actual building. The building was to be 2 ½ stories high,
42 feet long, and 28 feet wide. The walls were built of Alaska and Red Cedar logs.
The first story logs were hewed to 10 inches, the second story to 8 inches for reasons
of strength and to utilize the smaller logs in the area. Construction continued through
September of 1930, and began in May of 1931. By August 6, 1931 the building was complete
and officially opened to the first party of guests. This party consisted of: Mrs. J. R.
Douglas, Mrs. R. D. Coons, Mrs. Carl T. Nelson, Mrs. Donald R. Charleson, Mrs. F. Frederic
Wuenschel, Mr. Helen Habi, and Mrs. Charles A. Middleton all of Aberdeen, Washington,
and Mr.and Mrs. Ray Dumett of Seattle, Washington.
Mr. Elvin Olson did most of the packing for the construction of the chalet. Additions
were made for several years after the chalet was opened for guests. A water system was
added, and the apex of civilized comfort, a bathtub, was installed in 1934. Packing in
such an awkward fixture as a bathtub has never stopped amazing visitors to the chalet.
Ignar and Herbert Olson took the bathtub into the site in 1934. The feat was accomplished
by harnessing a horse and a single tree to a wedge shaped sled mechanism that skidded
along the trail on two runners. Behind were two v-shaped poles to guide the tub. It seems
that the whole procedure was quite a strain on the arm muscles and the bathtub was deposited
besides Pyrites Creek for the night while to two men went to the chalet. It must have
been a rather incongruous sight to trail hikers suddenly coming upon a bathtub besides a
turbulent little wilderness stream.
In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the Mount Olympus National Monument
area to the jurisdiction of the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior.
This single act did much to alter the subsequent history of the entire area. While
this transfer took place the Bureau of Public Roads was busy surveying for a new
trans-peninsula highway. This survey had penetrated as far as O'Neil Creek (lower),
and when news of the transfer reached those in charge, they immediately terminated the
work and withdrew. Mr. Ignar Olson had been packing supplies to the survey crew, and
now took over management of the Olympic Recreational Company and the supervision of the
chalet at Enchanted Valley while his brother Elvin went to work as a CCC foreman.
Thus the closing of the proposed road and the deepening of the great depression in the
1930's combined to make the chalet no longer economically feasible. Enchanted Valley
was not in a National Park area. Superintendent O. A. Tomlinson of Mount Rainier National
Park was in charge of the area at the time while Preston P. Macy was resident custodian.
The Olympic Recreation Company was notified that it could continue operation of the
chalet at Enchanted Valley under exactly the same conditions as previously granted by
the Forest Service. The term of the lease required payment of $125.00, which was later,
reduced to $50.00, and use of the Park Service telephone and trails although these
services were not guaranteed.
The National Park Service lease stated that, "The Olympic Recreation Company makes a
specialty of fishing and camping trips in the Olympic National Monument or Olympic
National Forest with experienced guides in charge of parties. Hunting trips in Olympic
National Forest may also be arranged. This service includes food, saddle and pack
horses, guides, packers, and all necessary camp equipment except blankets or sleeping
bags." The chalet season was from June 15 to October 1, and the following were typical
rates charged at that time: meals cost $1.00, single beds $1.50, double beds $2.00.
For parties of five to fifteen persons a total charge of $9.00 per day or $54.00 per
week was made. This included the cost of the rented stock. Ignar Olson received an
endorsement from superintendent Tomlinson to the American Forestry Association in a
letter to that organization dated November 11, 1936. It stated that, "Mr. Olson has
had long experience in operating pack, saddle, and other services in the Olympic Mountains."
Although the chalet was economically doomed, it continued to operate quite successfully
for a number of years as far as the number of guests accommodated. The best years of
operation seem to have been the period from 1932 through 1936 from the reports turned
into the park headquarters at Port Angeles. It seem that many people hiked into the
backcountry in those days, and only recently is there again a steady increase in the
number of trail hikers. Ignor Olson reports that all of his chalet accommodations were
filled in 1936, and that tents had to be used to accommodate the numerous guests.
Many foreigners were still touring the Olympic backcountry, and Ignor reports taking
several parties of Englishmen into Enchanted Valley on fishing and picture taking trips.
The Olson's have many interesting stories to tell of this period. His or her safety
record is excellent as no one under his or her guidance was injured in the period
of chalet operation. Elvin remembers coming suddenly upon a mixed herd of elk. The
herd bolted and six thoroughly confused calves followed Elvin down the trail until
they were sent scurrying after their mothers. Another interesting occurrence with an
elk concerned a cow elk originally belled by Jasper Bunoh. A large herd of elk kept
breaking into Jasper's grain field in the lower Quinault Valley. One of the cows
became mired in the mud, and Jasper conceived the idea of belling it so that he would
be awakened when this marauder herd prowled into his field at night. He also slit
the animal's ears. The belled elk was seen often around the chalet area over a
five-year period, and then suddenly was seen no more. Some time later Ignar was
packing a group into the chalet when they came upon a sow elk on the trail, which
apparently had just dropped her calf. The group waited and took pictures of the young
calf nursing when it was discovered that the cow ears were both split, and that the
animal was none other than the belled elk who had finally been freed of its bell.
Hikers into the area may see many deer, elk, and bear grazed around the chalet, and
still be seen. Ignar Olson told the prize bear story. Mr. And Mrs. Ignar Olson
guided editor J. W. Clark of the
Gray's Harbor Post
into the chalet on July 4, 1934.
Mr. Clark was accompanied by his fiance and wanted very much to show her some bear.
No bear was seen by the group for several days until Ignar spotted three of them
high on a snow slide on the west side of the river under the waterfalls. Everyone
quickly came to watch, and witnessed quite a spectacle when the papa bear proceeded
to grasp his hind paws with his front paws and slide several hundred feet to the
bottom of the slide. This performance was repeated three times over, and by this time
the peals of laughter from the concealed observers interrupted this wilderness
The relationship between the Park Service and the Olympic Recreation Company was
not always on the highest terms. Funds for trails and telephone maintenance were
not always available in the amounts necessary. Snow in the high country kept the
backcountry trails shut up until late in the season. Although the Park Service
offered the organization the same permit that they had received from the Forest
Service, it was not always possible to maintain the same standards of trail maintenance
that was possible under the period of CCC appropriations for such purposes. The
purpose of the National Park Service was to reserve the area intact as wilderness
in character. For ultimate survival the chalet needed a road, and it was against
Park Service policy to build one. Neither was the Park Service responsible for the
depression or the coming of World War II, which finally finished the operations of
the company. The Olympic Recreation Company was a commercial venture, interested
naturally in returning a profit to its shareholders. The Park Service was interested
in making available, without charge, a wilderness area for the people of the United
States. Again on June 29, 1938, the Olson's were advised "it will be the policy of
the National Park Service to continue the privileges granted by the Forest Service
which do not conflict with the National Park administration objectives." Certainly
the Olson's had not anticipated the area becoming a National Park, or could the Park
Services do that which conflicted with their policy. The properties of the Olympic
Chalet Company had already become involved in legal disputes, and finally the
Low Divide Chalet was turned over to R. S. Voorles for one dollar per year until a
snow slide obliterated the building.
The directors of the Olympic Recreational Company also saw the handwriting on the
wall and wrote to representative M. C. Wallgren of Everett on March 29, 1939 as
follows: "The stockholders of the Olympic Recreation Company have unanimously decided
that it would be better for all concerned if we sell our buildings at this time to
the Park Service and do not operate after this year." Previously on March 14, 1939,
O. R. Austin, vice-president of the Olympic Recreation Company, sent representative
Walgreen a letter requesting that Congress pass a bill appropriating money for the
purpose of purchasing the company's property at Enchanted Valley and at Graves Creek.
Thus began a long series of negotiations, claim and counter-claim, estimates and
counter estimates, negotiations and compromise that at last resulting in the
National Park Service acquiring the property. Two years later in 1942 the Enchanted
Valley Chalet was still being operated on a partial basis. On April 11 of that year
Ignar Olson wrote Park Superintendent Macy that, "things look rather difficult to do
much operation this year due to military regulations, shortage of gas and tires, and
fire dangers, but we will do our best."
However, 1943, was the last season any operation was attempted. The next
correspondence dated August 21, 1945, stated succinctly that, "we have had no guests
this year and are not operating."
That summer the Enchanted Valley was put to war use suggested on April 17, 1943 in a
letter from Park Superintendent Macy to regional directors of the National Park Service
in San Francisco. He stated as follows: "The properties of the Olympic Recreational
Company with particular reference to the Enchanted Valley Chalet would be highly
desirable from a defense standpoint. Enchanted Valley is in use at present time by
the Aircraft Warning Service and it will be desirable in the interest of protection
to military installation in the Puget Sound area to also place a fireguard in this
building during the coming summer."
The Aircraft Warning Service continued to man
the chalet for the duration of the war.
In the meanwhile negotiations continued between the Park Services and owners for
purchase of the chalet. A bill was passed in Congress on December 6, 1944, which
authorized purchase of both properties of the Olympic Chalet and Olympic Recreational
Company holdings. The actual transaction was withheld while price negotiations
continued. Finally the bill of sale transferring title of the property from the
Olympic Recreation Company to the United States Government was recorded at Port
Townsend, Washington, on January 27, 1951.
In the interim that occurred between the use of the chalet by the Aircraft Warning
Services and its final purchase by the Park Service, it was apparent that many trail
hikers to the Enchanted Valley area were using the chalet. Cleator had stated that
the Olympics should "not be left to itself as a menace to the storm-ridden traveler
and a graveyard for the inexperienced."
To anyone who hiked in the rugged Olympics
at the mercy of the elements these words have special significance, and it is quite
understandable that hikers were utilizing the chalet. District Ranger Dewey Webster
than stationed at the Graves Creek Ranger Station reported on this matter to the
Superintendent. On June 11, 1951 Webster wrote: "someone had reported to him that
several windows were broken out and that the doors were not locked and that there
were two fellows staying in the building when he was there. I have never been
officially notified that the park owns the building nor have I been given the keys."
The last letter in the voluminous file at Olympic Park Headquarters on the Enchanted
Valley was a short note dated June 29, 1951 from Ignar Olson to the Park Superintendent.
It requested that some Park Service employee pick up the keys. Written in longhand
across the bottom of the letter was a terse reply by district range Webster, "Will
call for the keys W. D. W."
District Ranger Lee Sneddon had replaced Dewey Webster in the Quinault District by
the summer of 1953. The trail traffic into the Chalet area was increasing and
it was obvious that the chalet was being used by most of the hikers. The Park
Service lacked proper funds to station its personnel at the Chalet in order that
the building use should be regulated. However, the danger of fire by unauthorized
use was great. Several suggestions were made to open the building officially to
hikers while putting them on their honor for proper careful usage.
On June 5, 6, and 7, 1953, an important trip was made into Enchanted Valley by Park
Superintendent Fred J. Overly accompanied by his wife and two daughters, Assistant
Chief Ranger Floyd Dickinson and wife and daughter, and associate editor of the
Ross Cunningham. Of the trip Superintendent Overly wrote:
"The decision to repair the building and open it to the public use was stemmed
from the fact that the structure was serving no useful purpose, when with but
little work it could be made available to the public. So far as I can determine
the public use has been satisfactory."
The chalet was made safer from a fire hazard view, a list of regulations was
posted, and the building was thrown open officially for public usage. In that
season alone a reasonable estimate is that over three hundred hikers utilized
the building with at least that many the following season. On July 27, 1954,
fire permits were issued at Graves Creek Ranger Station to 36 persons who hiked
to the Chalet. A seasonal ranger was moved into the chalet in August 1954, in
order to accommodate the heavy usage. A typical day in the summer of 1954 would
find all of the seven rooms utilized on the second floor, with perhaps a party of
boy scouts sleeping on the floor in the dining room downstairs.
Life at the chalet was never dull. Always there was the magnificent view of
the rugged jagged mountain wall rising to the northwest, and Mount Anderson,
white awesome, at the upper end of the Valley. There was excitement also. On
August 25, 1954 a wilderness party of hikers from Steilacoom, Washington
consisting of Clifford R. Densmore and sons, Paul 20, Frank 13, Don 11, and
Marvin Kasmire age 11 were hiking on the O'Neil Pass trail to Hart Lake. The
trail rises above Enchanted Valley and switches back against the face of the
rugged high divide escarpment overlooking the entire majestic valley below and
sown the Quinault Valley as far as Lake Quinault. The trail to Hart Lake had
not been opened because of lack of funds, and huge snowfields covered much of
the trail. It was here that the party lost the trail temporarily over a snowfield
and Paul Densmore, a University of Washington Art student, slipped and hurdled
down into a ravine, sustaining a severe puncture in his right leg and a badly
bruised and injured ankle. Such an accident is close to disaster twenty-five
miles by rugged trail from a road end, and high in the backcountry. Paul was
carried to a dry camping spot under a large cedar tree. He was put into a
sleeping bag, and his brother Frank remained with him to keep a fire going.
Father Clifford and the others started down the trail early the next morning.
Seasonal Ranger Robert Rand set out immediately from the chalet for the Graves
Ranger Station where horses and a Park Service radio were available. He arrived
at Graves Creek around 4:30 P.M.
The seasonal ranger at Graves Creek received immediate orders from district
Ranger Jim Hartzell to accompany seasonal Ranger Rand back to the chalet and
attempt to reach the injured man by horseback. At 6:00 p.m. the two men set
out riding the horses, one of which, Old Spike, was minus two shoes from a
previous backcountry trip. The chalet was reached at about 11:30 p.m. The
horses were allowed to graze and the men rested for a few hours. Daybreak
found the rescue party, now consisting of Clifford Densmore, the injured man's
father, and Ward Brumfield, a scout leader, at the Chalet from Aberdeen,
Washington, joining the two Park Service men. When the party reached the
junction of the well-maintained Anderson Pass trail and the hazardous O'Neil
Pass trail it was necessary to clear the trail of logs and debris, and use
extreme caution in crossing the snowfields. The injured man was finally reached
around 11:30 a.m. His foot was splinted and he was gently placed on Spike,
the sure-footed old mountain-wise Park Service packhorse. It was a painful
experience for the injured boy, yet he grimly clung to the saddle horn.
Experience soon proved that Spike should be given a free hand in the matter,
and he carefully negotiated snowfields, crossed logs and windfall finding his
own way, taking his own time, and often stopping and looking several ways before
choosing a route, one which always proved to be the best. The party arrived
back at the chalet around 6:00 p.m., and the next noon, which was Saturday,
August 28th, the party arrived back at Graves Creek. The injury had occurred
on the previous Wednesday.
My last trip into Enchanted Valley for the summer was for the purpose of packing
out the seasonal ranger. I topped the last rise that clears the timber about
8:00 p.m. just after dusk. The awesome beauty caused me to stop my horse and
sit in silent admiration as a thousand stars twinkled over the hulking jagged
peaks, and the murmurs of cascades added its music. One could not help but be
deeply moved by this beauty and splendor of God's world. This truly was an
Mr. Raymond Geerdes
Consult a good highway map for approaches to the area. The best topographic map of the Olympic
Peninsula is the Olympic National Forest Map, Willamette Meridian, and 1948 edition.
F. W. Cleator, Recreational Examiner Olympic National Forest,
Report on Olympic Forest Recreational Plan
, May 25, 1929. A copy of this report is on the files at Quinault Ranger
Station, Olympic National Forest, in Quinault, Washington.
Lewis Canaday and Jan S. Doward,
. "Over the Top". Chapter XI. Pacific Publishing Association, Mountain View, California
See Lt. O'Neil's report. A copy is located at Park Headquarters, Olympia National Park,
and Port Angeles, Washington. This report was referred to the Senate Committee on Forest
Preservations and Protection of game on January 8, 1896, and printed of that time.
A full account of the Seattle Press expedition was published in that paper on July 18,
1890, and can now be checked in the files of the
Mr. Orte Higley will be 84 years old in September, 1954. Higley Peak is named after him.
He still resides in the Quinault area. District Ranger Lee Snoddon interviewed him at his home.
O'Neil mentions this incident. Mr. Higley also recalls it.
Interviews were held with Elvin Olson, Herbert Olson and Ignar Olson. The above information was received from Herbert.
Both Herbert and Igner recall this incident.
Wallace Osborn now operates a garage at Lake Quinault and was interviewed there.
Gunner O. Fagerland,
, handbook, page 64. National History Handbook Series No. 1.
Herbert and Ignar Olson.
F. W. Hathias gave me this information in a letter dated July 28, 1954. Mr. Hathias is now manager of Olympia Chamber of Commerce. He is a leading authority on the Olympic backcountry.
Supervisor Plumb was called back to headquarters due to the severe fire conditions of that year.
See Cleator report.
The date of the first wagon arriving in Quinault was received from Mr. Hanson Higley, an early
Much of this information on roads was obtained from Wallace Osborn and Herbert Olson, the last
named has been employed by Grays Harbor County as road maintenance for many years.
The old wagon road into the Quinault dropped to the lake directly behind Osborn's garage in
Quinault and traces of it may still be followed.
P. 370, University of California Press,
Berkeley and Los Angeles.
This information was taken from survey of Enchanted Valley area taken by Robert D. Maclay in May, 1928.
Mr. and Mrs. Elvin Olson have the original signatures of the first official party on a cedar board.
All of the reports and correspondence on the chalet are in the files at Park Headquarters in Port Angeles, Washington.
. files: Ignar Olson has also spent much time packing Geological Survey parties around the Olympics.
Files on Chalet, Headquarters.
Superintendent Fred J. Overly in letter dated Aug. 26, 1954.