Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

Dale K. Allen - Personal Communication

Taped interview, 16 August 1974
by Harry Majors
UWSpecColl, Accession 2311, Tape 180 (ABC)
Notes by Lowell Skoog

Harry Majors interviewed Dale K. Allen at his Lake Wenatchee home as part of the North Cascades history project sponsored by U.W. and The Mountaineers. The interview runs about 3 hours. I listened to the tapes on 21 August 2003, taking notes by hand. The quotes included here are rough transcriptions at best. Lester Brown, an 85 year old neighbor of Allen's, participated during part of the interview.

Tape A, side A:

Dale Allen was born in 1910 on a homestead up the White River road from Lake Wenatchee. His parents settled there after coming west from Iowa. The Allen home was at the end of the road when Dale was born. (I believe their home may have been where the Napeequa River, then called the North Fork of the White River, joins the White River.) In about 1932, Allen started working for the U.S. Forest Service.

The Lake Wenatchee area was snow country. Heavy winters were to be expected. About 5 feet of snow on the ground was average. In a really heavy winter, they might see twelve feet. It was very unusual to have no snow on the ground in winter, but Allen remembered it happening once. Allen remembered Glacier Peak as mostly bare rock during summer in his youth. He said the glaciers and snowfields have increased since then on Glacier Peak and in the upper Napeequa.

The conversation turned to sheep herders using the Napeequa Valley, going in over Little Giant Pass and coming out over Boulder Pass. The interview also covered grizzly bears. Allen said there were grizzlies in the area when be was younger, but not a lot of them.

In March of about 1940, Dale Allen and Walt Anderson skied over the Cascade crest from Darrington to the Little Wenatchee River. (Presumedly they went up the North Fork Sauk River, crossed the divide somewhere near Kodak Peak, and then followed the Little Wenatchee River valley to the road. From Bedal to Lake Wenatchee is about 40 miles.) Allen recalled:

"Walt Anderson and I had come through from the coast, skied through from Darrington, and we had come over the mountain with our skis and were coming down the Little Wenatchee. We were about six miles up the road [near Mt Mastiff?]. There was about four feet of snow on the road, but this was March and the south sides were bare. It was raining. Right in the middle of the road was a big bear track. We followed the tracks down the road and there he was on an island in the river. He was definitely a grizzly. [...] That's the only one I ever saw in the mountains."
Allen recalled that Anderson carried a tiny movie camera on this trip and tried to get movies of the grizzly, but those scenes came out blurry. Allen also mentioned skiing the "Ashnola trip" [in the Pasayten] in 1941. He said they skied that trip several times.

In the summer of 1936 [but see below], Dale Allen assisted Nels Bruseth in locating the Cascade Crest Trail from the head of the Little Wenatchee River to near Cascade Pass, where they met a similar crew coming down from Canada. Allen worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the Wenatchee Forest, while Bruseth worked in the Mt Baker Forest. During that summer another crew located the trail to the south, between the Little Wenatchee River and Stevens Pass. Hugh Courtney of Stehekin was the cook for the Bruseth crew. Jess Stockdale of Twisp was the packer. Bruseth and Allen did the footwork. They loaded food for the whole summer on a pack string and stayed out continuously until their work was done in the fall. Bruseth and Allen enjoyed working out the high, tough route around Glacier Peak and Allen seemed proud of it.

Allen described Nels Bruseth as "a big Norwegian" and a "mighty fine fellow." He told a story of being caught out by nightfall during one of their survey days and sitting out the night without any food. Bruseth offered Allen a mouthful of "snuss" (Copenhagen chewing tobacco) to help pass the night. In the morning when they started walking again, Allen said the snuss made him feel dizzy and sick. He swore off snuss after that.

When asked why they avoided the crest between Dome Peak and Cascade Pass, Allen said that was rough country and the Crest Trail was designed for stock, not just foot travel. That's why they ran the trail down Agnes Creek instead of trying to stay higher. All their survey work was done in 1936. [Note that other sources, particularly beckey-2003 and dw-scrapbook record 1935 as the year of the trail survey and 1936 as a year of construction. I suspect that Allen's recollection is one year off.] "We hiked every inch of that country," Allen recalled. Allen described the route from Little Wenatchee River to Cascade Pass in more detail, using a map.

Tape A, side B:

Allen said the Crest Trail crew didn't apply any place names during their survey. The names had all been applied earlier. He mentioned that Nels Bruseth loved mountain goats and didn't want to designate a hunting season for them. Allen said he sort of felt the same way.

The conversation turned to who built various trails and when. Many, maybe most trails in the mountains above Lake Wenatchee were old sheep herder routes. The government inherited them. Allen said the government built few new trails in this area other than the Cascade Crest Trail.

The White River and Little Wenatchee River roads were built by the CCC in the 1930s. Allen didn't know why they were built. He thought it was probably just to put the boys to work. Magnus Bakke of Leavenworth was a road supervisor for the Forest Service. (Allen said Bakke reminded him of Nels Bruseth.) Bakke put in lots of work on roads and trails in the Wenatchee mountains.

Forest Service lookouts were all connected by telephone in the 1930s. The lookouts had to have their lines up each summer by July 4. Later they got radios.

Lester Brown joined the conversation at this point. The topic turned to Indians coming up from Yakima to hunt and pick berries above Lake Wenatchee. Lester Brown also talked about trapping in the winter. There were a handful of trappers in the Lake Wenatchee area in the old days. Typically just one trapper worked each stream feeding the lake.

Tape B, side A:

The Wellington train disaster was discussed, although it happened too far back for Dale Allen to remember it. Lester Brown offered some recollections. The conversation turned to Hal Sylvester and Gilbert Brown, early Forest Service supervisors. The Enchantment Lakes, the Icicle Creek country, and logging were also discussed.

Dale Allen said he had been all through the Ashnola, Spanish Ridge, and Pasayten country in winter on skis. "There was nobody in there but me and my friend," he said. (Presumedly he was talking about Walt Anderson, but he didn't mention him by name.) He continued: "I don't know how I ever come out of there alive. But I made it. We made all those trips in the winter time."

Allen recalled a February 1941 trip going through Harts Pass, traveling almost to the Canadian border, then crossing the Ashnola country and coming out at Loomis. He said they spent a night or two in one of the shacks at Barron on this trip. "We made so many trips through there in the winter time..." he said. (This sounds like the "Pasayten trip" described in marler-2004-p197. That trip ended at Winthrop and I wonder if Allen's reference to Loomis was a mis-statement. I also wonder if he got the dates for the trips crossed--see below.)

Another trip went from Winthrop up the Chewack River, eventually reaching Spotted Creek and the Spanish Ridge country. They continued to the Cathedrals, past the old Sheelite mine, Bauerman Ridge, Windy Peak, and down Toats Coulee to Loomis. (This seems to match the "Ashnola trip" recorded by Marler.)

When asked by the interviewer, "What was the purpose of going in there?" Allen laughed and said, "Well, just to see what it looked like! We loved it. We wanted to see what the wildlife was." Allen had heard that Canadians were coming over the border to poach, but the only poachers they ever found were Americans.

Allen described a 1941 trip during which they spent nine nights out. (Perhaps the Ashnola trip was in 1941 and the Pasayten trip in 1942. Marler's account gives the date of the Pasayten trip but not the other. It's hard to know what dates to apply, given the inconsistent accounts.) During the last four or five days of the trip it turned bitterly cold. "I mean it was cold!" said Allen. When they arrived at the service station in Loomis at 9 p.m. on the last day, they found several fellows staying warm around the old pot bellied stove. They asked them what the temperature was. Checking the thermometer out by the pumps they found it was -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Allen said:

"My partner and I, we'd team up. We'd put his little sleeping bag and mine together. I'd keep the fire up so long, then we'd change--it was just that cold--in order to get any rest. We got enough rest that way, by digging into the snow. We made it through fine."
He added:
"But it isn't so bad where you're out in the cold all the time. If you'd go into a cabin where it's nice and warm, and then go out, you'd freeze to death. But where you stay out, you could stand it much better, stay out in 'er."
The conversation turned to early settlers in the Lake Wenatchee area. Allen talked about how the old-timers felt when the Forest Service arrived and asked for a road right-of-way across their land, for nothing, threatening to condemn the land if the settlers refused. The interview also discussed big fires, particularly the White Mountain fire of 1929.

Tape B, side B:

The conversation turned to the old Bates hotel on Lake Wenatchee. Dale Allen's first job as a kid was greasing skids used to haul cedar shingle bolts to the river. His father was logging at the time. He enjoyed the river drives. Shingle bolts where driven down the Wenatchee River through Tumwater Canyon to the mill at Leavenworth. There was also a shingle bolt mill at the foot of Lake Wenatchee at one time.

The interview covered logging, electrification at Lake Wenatchee (in 1942), telephone service, supplies, and the lack of medical care. The White River school, which Dale Allen attended in the 1910s, was a single-room framed house up-river from Lake Wenatchee.

Tape C:

The conversation turned to trapping. "That's the way to make a living in the winter," said Allen. "When those banks went broke [during the Depression], I stayed in the mountains. There was no work. I'll tell you, I could eat by trapping."

Allen said he knew where all the trappers' cabins in the White River valley were. He took over several old-timers' cabins in the 1930s after they quit trapping. He spent the summer of 1919 up at Indian Creek helping drive sheep. He recalled more old-timers.

Dale Allen was a supervisor for the state Game Department for many years. He recalled stocking mountain lakes with fish by airplane, beginning in the 1950s. Before that stocking was done by pack string. He was a game supervisor in 1948, the year of the big floods.

The conversation turned to prospectors, including "Red Mountain Ole," whose real name was Smith. Ole's cabin up Phelps Creek burned down in 1937 and he died a few days later from the shock of it. Allen discussed moonshiners in the Lake Wenatchee area. Dale's parents never had anything to do with moonshiners. They taught him that if he minded his own business he wouldn't have any trouble with them.

Allen mentioned that his family's house was at a fork in the river where there is now a church camp. He was married in 1938. The conversation turned to Leavenworth in the old days, more early settlers, and Indians. The tape ends abruptly, not at a logical breaking point.

Notes from a conversation with Dale Allen in the 1970s
by Chester Marler (condensed by Lowell Skoog)

Chester Marler sent me a copy of his notes from a 1970s conversation with Dale Allen. I've highlighted a few items here.

A Song to the Bear, Old Man Winter, and the Cascades

Selected stanzas "approved, grunted and growled by the badger and the bear this 10th day, second month of the 42nd year A.D."

The years may have more than one season
Yet I can remember but one,
The time when the rivers are freezin',
And mountains with whiteness are spun,
When snow flakes are tumbling so fast,
And winter has come then at last.

Two boards upon cold powder snow, Yo-ho!
What else does a man need to know?
Two boards upon cold powder snow, Yo-ho!
What else does a man need to know?

I care not if government taxes
Take everything else that I own;
Two hickory boards and some waxes
And I'm free in the mountains alone.
If death finally finds me in Spring,
Inscribe on my tomb what I song:


Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page

Copyright © 2003 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Tue Sep 29 10:22:07 PDT 2009