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Marion Hessey - Personal Communication

Taped interview with Marion Hessey and Phil Dahl (nephew), 29 March 2001
At the Hessey home near Naches, Washington
by Lowell Skoog

Charles D. (Chuck) Hessey, Jr. and Marion Monter were married in 1954. Chuck Hessey died in 1989, according to Marion. Marion introduced me to her nephew Phil Dahl. Phil's mother was Chuck Hessey's sister. Phil explained how important Chuck was to him as an outdoor mentor in his youth, even more important than his own father. Phil said he learned everything he knows about the outdoors from Chuck and from his grandfather, Charles D. Hessey, Sr. Chuck Hessey learned to ski on Bald Mountain, which is just across the road from where Phil and Marion live. He started out with huge skis and a single pole. Chuck would come barrelling down the hill riding the pole like a witch's broom. Since he couldn't turn he would fall down to stop, re-aim the skis and start off again. Later Chuck learned more about skiing from books. Phil remembered his uncle being perfectly balanced on skis with flawless technique. In the 1950s, when strong shoulder swing was still common for many skiers, Chuck skied with a quiet upper body and an economy of movement more typical of today's skiers. Phil remembered how hardy Chuck was, and how his calves were huge, "like Arnold Schwarznegger legs."

Charles D. Hessey, Sr., Phil's grandfather, came to Washington in 1876 with his family when he was 1 year old. His family crossed the U.S. to San Francisco on the trans-continental railroad. From San Francisco they came up the west coast on a steamer to Astoria, then up the Columbia River to Ft. Walla Walla in a covered wagon. The family settled at Ft. Walla Walla initially, then moved to Yakima. Charles Hessey, Sr. remembered seeing pow-wows at Ft. Walla Walla involving ten thousand horses and thousands of Indians. The Indians traded horses and held races. The number and quality of horses that a man owned was important. When Phil's grandfather was only 11 years old, he left home to work in Tacoma, where he assisted a doctor in his office.

Gold Hill

The original Gold Hill cabin in Morse Creek was built by miners in the late 1800s. Fog City was established in the 1860s or 1870s. According to Phil, it was located on a flat spot just below Crown Point. Most of the old miners cabins were gone by the 1930s. There are still many small prospects up there and some of the claims are still active.

There have been several cabins at Gold Hill used by people like Clarence Truitt, who led Boy Scout Troop 1 in Yakima for many years. (The cabin at Gold Hill today is the C.F. Truitt Memorial Cabin.) Phil said that Troop 1 was the first Boy Scout troop in Washington. (Note: I have received subsequent e-mails from Gordy Holt and Jim Hopper about Troop 1 and Troop 9, which was led originally by Curtis Gilbert and later by his son, Cragg, beginning in the early 1950s.) Chuck Hessey was involved in scouting activities for many years.

Phil went to Gold Hill for the first time in 1946, at age six, making the trip on skis. He remembered how long and hard the two mile ski in seemed to him then. A few years ago, he brought his sons, then 5 and 7 to the cabin. The trip stirred many fond memories because the old 1946 logbook was there during his sons' visit. Otto Lagervall designed both the current Gold Hill cabin and Chuck and Marion's house on the Naches River.

Chuck Hessey wrote outdoor and camping stories as well as some fiction. He spent four winters at the Gold Hill cabin starting in 1938. He was in Burma for several years during World War II in a medical support role. William O. Douglas mentions Chuck in his book Of Men and Mountains. Phil told how one of the stories in that book was not quite as dramatic as Douglas made it sound. Douglas described camping out in snow and relying on his wilderness skills to survive the night. Phil said that Chuck was invited to join Douglas for that outing, but turned him down. Instead, Chuck rested comfortably, just a few minutes away, with his feet on the wood stove in the Gold Hill cabin eating ice cream freshly churned by hand.

Lyman Lake

Phil and Marion didn't remember Lynn Bennett, the Holden mine assayer who was mentioned in one of Chuck's stories about Lyman Lake. Phil went to Lyman Lake twice, in 1953 and 1956. He remembered deep snow and very hard trail breaking on one of the trips. The only thing visible when they reached the cabin was the ridge pole with a tin can and shovel tied to it. It was nighttime and stormy when they arrived and Tom Lyon did much of the shoveling to get in. The cabin had a porch with an overhanging roof and when Tom dug down to it he free-fell onto the porch. He had to shovel snow off the porch onto the snow ledge above, then repeat the process to shovel the snow out of the hole they had made. Phil recalled that the cabin was 24 feet high and the snowpack must have been 30 feet deep.

They made the film "Skiing Cascade Wilderness" during the 1956 trip. Since they carried a lot of movie gear they didn't pack much food. They relied on a civil air patrol plane to airdrop food to them after they arrived. Because of bad weather, the airdrop was delayed and they ran out of food. So they started looking around the cabin. There wasn't much but they found a can of dog food and another of Dinty Moore's. They opened the Dinty Moore and ate it and it tasted awful. Still hungry, they talked about opening the dog food but hesitated. The next day they decided to open it and at least try a sample. Lo and behold it was Dinty Moore's! "We'd eaten the dog food the day before," said Phil. "Someone had very meticulously swapped the labels." Phil and Marion couldn't remember the names of the perpetrators, but they were members of The Mountaineers and Chuck and Phil found out who they were a few years later. (See rose-gary and lyon-tom.)

The Lyman Lake cabin was used for snow surveying by the Washington Water Power Company. Snow surveyors went there once or twice a year, and they had priority. In later years the cabin got vandalized and was torn down. Phil and Marion didn't know any details of Chuck's 1948 solo trip to the cabin, after which he attempted to ski the Chickamin Glacier on Dome Peak.

Mountain films

We watched three films on rather worn-out videotapes:

We didn't watch "Skiing Cascade Wilderness," which was shown on the Seattle KOMO-TV program Exploration Northwest. They didn't have a version of the film with picture and soundtrack together. Several of these films were produced in cooperation with the North Cascades Conservation Council. While watching the Glacier Peak film, which had a shot of Silver Star Mountain, I asked Marion if they ever skied it and she said no.

After more contacts with Marion over a period of three years, she allowed me to borrow these films and transfer them to videotape for The Mountaineers. (See hessey-movies.) Marion was eager to show me the films, but unsure if I had time to watch them. I said, "If you're willing to show them, I'm willing to look at them." She replied, "I always enjoy it. It's nice hearing Chuck's voice you know." Marion said that she kept a journal of their trips that she meant to type up, but she has been unable to find it recently.

Visit with Marion Hessey, 17 July 2002
by Lowell Skoog

I spent a long afternoon visiting Marion, looking through slides, and cataloging movies. There were several slides from a one-week ski trip from White Pass to the Goat Rocks (McCall Basin) and back in late March 1953. The party included Chuck and Marion Hessey, Tom Lyon and Dorothy Egg.

Visit with Marion Hessey and Phil Dahl, 6 May 2004
by Lowell Skoog

I visited Marion and Phil to return the Hesseys' 16mm movies and to watch new videotapes made from them.

In Skiing Cascade Wilderness, Jim Sullivan is seen briefly helping the party load their equipment into the Holden bus. (He is a young, dark haired man.) Chuck Hessey met Sullivan, who worked at Holden, for the first time during one of his Lyman Lake ski trips. Chuck helped Sullivan get a job as the first White Pass ski area manager.

Marion said that Chuck made his own ski wax, which they often used for climbing instead of canvas climbers. You could climb well on this wax, shuffle your feet at the top to rub the wax clean, and ski down immediately. (In a January 2012 email, H.J. (Jim) Whitaker said that Chuck kept his wax formula a closely guarded secret. Marion once confided to Jim that ingredients were pine tar, beeswax and vaseline, but even she didn't know the proportions.)

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