Cover

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

General Introduction


Notes

Impressions of the North Cascades
Essays about a Northwest Landscape


Part II: Landscapes of Experience

Finding My Way Home
WENDY WALKER

The Stehekin Valley is tucked away in the North Cascades at the wild north end of Lake Chelan. No roads run to the valley from the outside world. The only way to get there is by boat, plane, or long hikes through the mountains.

Less than a hundred people live in this mountain valley. It takes planning, effort, and time to leave Stehekin: a full day's hike, a four-hour boat trip, or an expensive flight in a float plane. Members of the Stehekin community are committed by isolation to intimacy with each other and to the place.

Is it possible to be intimate with a mountain valley? Intimacy seems too human a word to wrap around rock cliffs, waterfalls, and winter storms. And yet I experienced intimacy with the Stehekin Valley during the two years I lived there. Intimacy taught me how to love a place and how to find my way home.

I first visited Stehekin in 1976 on my days off from my wilderness ranger job in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. I was eager to see the place I had heard so much about, this isolated and mountainous valley with just a few, hardy people. So I hiked over Cascade Pass into the Stehekin Valley, took the Park Service shuttle bus down the Stehekin Road, and spent one night camped by Lake Chelan.

Journal, August 1976

I'm sitting in front of my tent in the late afternoon sun. A fresh wind off the lake rustles the branches of pines overhead. It would be hard to ever tire of this view.

Across the lake, rock fortress mountains rise vertically from the blue water. To the right, the Stehekin River Valley yawns green, hemmed in by ragged rock ridges. Far away, at the head of the valley, I can see the snow capped peaks of the high Cascades. I was up there this morning.

Cascade Pass! I hiked up the trail at a see-how-fast-I-can-make-it speed, red-faced and sweating, feeling strong, exhilaration mounting. A few last strides and I crested the pass. I dropped my pack and felt like I could fly.

Sweet, heady smells rose from meadows warmed by the sun. Cool winds bathed my hot face. The glacier-hung crags of Johannesburg soared above on one side, Sahale Peak's meadowed shoulders rolled upwards on the other. And below, beckoning me east: the Stehekin Valley.

I followed the trail down through the headwaters of the Stehekin River. The stream trickled through mountain meadows, past wind-twisted clumps of subalpine trees, and then plummeted into a forest of hemlock and fir.

I rested for lunch beside a deep pool beneath a waterfall. The water was a clear lens magnifying pebbles on the bottom of the pool. I reached in for a speckled egg of granite. But the water was much deeper than it looked and my hand came up dripping and empty.

Hours later, I stumbled into Cottonwood Camp, the end of the trail. The river fans out there and flows slowly through the sunlit flat. I sat on the riverbank, my sore feet in the water, watching cutthroat trout shimmer in the shallows.

The Park Service shuttle rumbled up in a cloud of dust. I climbed in and we lurched slowly down the rutted dirt road. Out the dusty windows I saw Park and Agnes Creeks pour their milky glacier water into the river. Bridge Creek added clear snowmelt. The river grew into a raging turmoil of rapids and watetfalls. The roar of the water was louder than the roar of the old van.

The steep granite walls of the valley opened wider as we descended. The forest thinned and orange-barked ponderosa pine replaced fir and cedar. We rounded a curve to a sweeping view of green fields and grazing horses, with a large log cabin in the background. The driver told us this was the Courtney Ranch, belonging to one of the early homesteading families.

As we descended further, the river slowed and meandered away from the road and then back again. More houses peeked through the trees. We passed a 1950s car and a pickup truck that looked as if it had been built before World War II. Residents barge cars and trucks up the lake so they can drive up and down the one-lane bumpy road that goes nowhere at either end.

In the last few miles we could see Rainbow Falls, cascading for 300 feet off a valley wall, and we passed the little log cabin that houses the one-room school. The sunflowers and vegetable gardens of the Honey Bear Bakery seemed too orderly in such a wild place. Finally we glimpsed the blue expanse of Lake Chelan through the trees.

Our bus trip ended at the town of Stehekin which hugs the shore near where the Stehekin River flows into the lake. It consists of boat docks, a cluster of houses, a lodge and visitor center for North Cascades National Park, and some lakeside campsites.

After I made camp, I walked back up the road to the bakery and then strolled to the school, cinnamon roll in hand. The door was unlocked. Ten old-fashioned desks and a huge, old woodstove filled the room. I sat in one of the desks and ate my roll while I looked through student papers that had been left out for visitors to read.

I'd like to teach in that school someday. I long to live in a place like Stehekin. It almost seems as if I could go back in time here, to a simpler, safer era, where I might belong to a real community and live more in touch with myself and my surroundings.

Magic Mountain from Cascade Pass

The next day I asked about the school and found out that the teacher was well liked and planned to stay there for the rest of his life. I left my lakeshore campsite, took the shuffle to the Agnes Creek trailhead, and hiked the forested 20 miles to return to work patrolling the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

By 1982, five years later, I had acquired a teaching certificate, a husband, a daughter, and a job at a tribal school in northwest Washington. When funding was cut at the school, my principal suggested I start searching for another teaching position. There was only one job posted at the college placement office—at the Stehekin School.

So I applied, with my husband Carey, and we were hired as a teaching team. In August we barged an old pickup full of household gear up the lake, and moved into a Park Service house with our two-year-old daughter Erin. A week later we began teaching nine children, from kindergarten to eighth grade, in the same little log school I had found so enchanting years before.

Many of my memories of Stehekin have to do with travel—walking to school each day, biking the 5 miles home at night from my Park Service evening program, toiling up endless switchbacks to the valley rim, cross-country skiing with a new baby riding behind, bundled into a sled. I think I first got to know the place by traveling through it in the course of my daily living.

The Stehekin River became almost a sentient being for me. The river ran near our house; it ran near everybody's house. The river created the valley and we were living in its course. I never felt it begrudged us a flat spot, but then, I never lived through a flood. Old-timers told stories of the river pouring through houses, sweeping away bridges, and tearing up much of the roadbed, carrying it miles downstream. During my time in Stehekin the river stayed pretty much in its banks.

But the river talked to us. Day and night we listened to its voices.

Journal, September 1982

I'm sitting by the woodstove at the school in the early morning. The students won't be here for over an hour. I built a fire so the school will be warm by the time they arrive. It felt good to split wood; now my arms are as awake as my legs.

I walked to school this morning along the one-lane road wedged between dark rock cliffs and the clear, green river. I walked before sunrise. In the darkness, the sounds of the river guided me—so many different voices in the moving water—like watery conversation. I marvel that I only really seem to hear the river when my eyes aren't working.

Smells rose from the water, smells with no words to quite fit them—cold, fresh river smells. Morning breezes tossed around the sweet scent of ponderosa pine. A sudden gust of cold wind down from the cliffs brought the smell of snow.

I was breathing hard, coming up the hill before the school. My eyes registered a large, dark shape ahead. It moved. I sucked in my breath. A bear—a very large cinnamon black bear was lumbering across the road in the dawn light. Thick fur bunched and relaxed with each stride. Small eyes peered in my direction but the bear didn't slow down, just padded off into the trees, heading for the apple orchard.

I ran the rest of the way to school, adrenaline pumping. What a way to start the day!

The fire is crackling in the stove. I need to look over my lesson plans so I will feel centered and ready for the kids when they come through the door.

The Stehekin Valley changed the way I taught. The log school building was very different from the modern structures down lake. The woodstove provided the only heat and outhouses were the only bathrooms. The school had no bells, telephones, or computers, and the electricity was erratic. We kept kerosene lanterns on hand so classes could continue whenever the power went out.

But the changes involved more than adjusting to a rustic school building. The valley itself influenced the educational process. Stehekin was safe enough that many children walked or rode their bikes to school each day. Even first graders walked several miles to school and back. The kids arrived awake, alert, and often full of stories about what they had seen on their way to school.

School field trips were easy in Stehekin. We studied stream ecology right out our back door in Rainbow Creek. We found inspiration for creative writing and drawing by walking a quarter mile to sit in the roar and mist of Rainbow Falls. In the fall we hiked up into the mountains to study timberline ecology and abandoned gold mines.

One sunny October morning, we walked the half mile to the historic Buckner Orchard and pressed apple cider.

Journal, October 1982

We went to the Buckner Orchard today. The kids played tag as they ran down the trail along the irrigation ditch. We left the woods and entered the orchard to see McGregor Mountain rising skyward behind the rows of apple trees. Its summit was white-tipped with new snow. I wonder how long before snow falls down here in the valley.

The cold air smelled of wood smoke and rotting apples. There are windfall apples all over the ground under the trees. I'd like to come back at night to see bear and deer feeding. An old horse-drawn plow was leaning against a rusting steam tractor at the edge of the orchard, as if the farmer just stopped in the middle of a workday and walked away.

Carey met us in the orchard with our old white pickup truck. The kids chose a tree laden heavily with red apples gleaming amidst clusters of green leaves. We backed the truck under the tree and everyone started shaking the branches. Down thumped the fruit, filling the bed of the truck.

We drove the apples to the cider press and the younger kids began washing them and shoving them into the press. The older ones took turns turning the crank. Amber juice gushed out. What a tangy smell. We couldn't wait and slurped long drinks from the first jug. Ahhh! Each of us took home a gallon of cider from school today. I don't know if I'll ever be able to drink store-bought apple juice again.

In winter, the kids cross-country skied for physical education, built snow forts at recess, and produced an elaborate Christmas play. Half a dozen adults volunteered to help with the play and every person in the valley came on the snowy night of our performance.

When the snow melted in the spring we hiked along the lakeshore to study limnology and rattlesnake life cycles. We studied the history of the valley and created an exhibit for the Park Service visitor center, with photographs and student writings about the history of the school. In May, when tourists began to visit the national park, students gave guided tours through the school each afternoon.

Sometimes I felt the Stehekin Valley did more of the teaching than I did. The valley certainly amplified, illustrated, and made memorable many of the lessons.

There were unspoken requirements for staying year-round in Stehekin. The human community let us know in many subtle ways that we needed to learn how to take care of ourselves. I knew it would take a lifetime to really learn to be self-sufficient, but we began to be aware of what our responsibilities might entail.

Most of our food was delivered by boat, from the grocery store in Chelan, 50 watery miles away. We tried to grow food in our garden and gather it from the wild. But gardens were meager in the rocks and sand of the mountain valley, and our palates, accustomed to romaine lettuce from California, had trouble adjusting to steamed stinging nettles.

But each fall we picked as many apples as we could use from the old Buckner Orchard. This historic site, now managed by the Park Service, had once been a commercial orchard, the only profitable farming ever done in the valley. The old trees were still producing common delicious apples, a tasty ancestor of red and golden delicious. We stored apples for the winter in a cool shed and made gallons and gallons of cider.

Our house was heated by wood, like most houses in the valley. After we learned early on from friends that getting our own firewood was one of the requirements for acceptance into the Stehekin community, we bought a chain saw and learned how to cut down dead, standing trees.

Firewood was rare and valuable because most of the valley was within the national park where no woodcutting was allowed. I soon found myself eyeing any dead tree as potential winter heat, as did all other valley residents. People applied to the Park Service for woodcutting permits for particular trees. If you noticed a dead tree, you rushed to the park office to lay claim to it before someone else did.

Journal, November 1982

This morning, we picked up the permit for a big, dead pine next to the road near our house. Then we headed out to cut our first firewood. Carey fired up our new Stihl chain saw and started cutting. Erin and I stood behind him at a safe distance and gave silent moral support.

He had cut the tree almost all the way through when the wind blew it back toward us and it started falling in the wrong direction. We all ran for dear life. The chain saw stalled as the weight of the tree pinched the cut closed. But the tree didn't fall. It just stood there, swaying in the wind.

The tree swayed back and forth, held upright only by a few inches of wood. The stalled saw stuck horizontally out of the tree trunk, looking like a bow tie. A stray gust from the wrong direction could have toppled the tree down onto an unsuspecting passing car or truck.

Erin and I stayed with the tree, ready to flag down any vehicles that tried to drive past. Carey drove to a neighbor's and sheepishly asked him to come help us free the saw. The neighbor thought it was hilarious that we greenhorns had gotten ourselves in such a fix.

He showed us how to use a wedge to remove the saw and stayed to help buck up the tree once it was down. We learned today that helping your neighbor is also highly prized in this valley. But I suspect that it will take a long time before we outlive the stalled chain saw jokes.

The seasons mattered in Stehekin. The weather was more extreme than down lake, and we were less buffered from it than people who lived near shopping malls, movie theaters, and bus lines. When it snowed the drifts piled up enough to bury the picture window in our living room. The electrical lines from the little valley hydroelectric plant would sag and short out, leaving us living by candlelight.

When freezing rain fell, we couldn't drive to the landing for the mail. When it rained the river swelled, the roar of river growing louder, and sometimes we thought the bridge would wash out. Sun, heat, and wind all made a difference in our daily patterns. We had to adjust, adapt, to pay attention.

Weather was unpredictable and powerful, and human contrivances couldn't always protect us from it. Walking to school helped me notice the weather and the seasons as they turned. And I learned that sometimes it is better to let the weather dictate my actions, to go with it instead of trying to stand up against it.

Journal, January 1983

I woke up today to discover that more than 3 feet of new snow had fallen in the night. Snow nearly buried our old pickup. The truck looked organic, as if it grew where it stood. There was no choice about transportation. The weather had decreed that I would walk to school. I didn't even consider staying home. The teacher I'm replacing never missed a day during his seven-year tenure.

It was dark when I walked out the door. There was no wind. It was very quiet. All I could hear was the muffled hiss of snowflakes falling through the air. The snow poured down like a powdery curtain, parting to let me through and then closing, seamless, behind me.

I plowed my way through the soft, wet snow, leaving a wide furrow. My legs began to ache. I felt no cold, only the weary heat of deep, gasping breaths and burning muscles. My feet felt very heavy, each step lifting clumps of wet snow.

The going was slow. It took me half an hour to travel the forested half mile from home to the stretch along the base of the cliffs, usually a ten-minute journey. At the cliffs, I lost track of time and just focused on short-term destination. "I can rest at the big boulder up ahead" or "count 150 steps and then stop."

Soon I was floundering in hip-deep snow, oddly chunked and icy. Forward motion was nearly impossible; my legs felt imprisoned. The only way to move was to lurch forward, flinging myself up, bellyflat on the snow, and then crawling over the lumps for fifty feet until reaching smoother snow.

I stood up as soon as I could and stumbled over to a tree where I could lean and rest. I looked up in the half-light of dawn to see that the snow had stopped falling.

After I caught my breath, I looked back at my tracks and realized, with horror, that I had just crossed the path of a fresh avalanche. It must have roared down from the cliffs above sometime during the night. Tons of snow had smashed into the roadbed and spread into a thick apron of snowy chunks, ice, and broken trees.

An urgent question swept over me: "What if it happens again?" Without wasting time for thought, I ran clumsily through the snow toward the school, my legs powered by fear.

Two more fresh avalanche piles blocked the final half mile. But turning back was just as dangerous as going forward. So I clambered over the lumpy surface of each, looking upward, listening for an ominous roar.

When I finally reached the porch of the school, I fell through the front door and collapsed into a chair with exhaustion. What a commute to work!

It is now midmorning. The snowblower just came by, clearing the road. The kids should be able to get here by lunchtime. The driver slowed down and yelled to me, "Are those your tracks in the snow up the road?" I shouted back, "Yes!" He bellowed, "Were you trying to kill yourself? An avalanche came down and covered your tracks."

Experiences like this taught me it is impossible to ignore geography when you live in a place like Stehekin. Weather and avalanches and rivers and mountains force themselves into your life. People make their livings within and because of the place. It has daily, hourly significance. It is part of the way the valley defines who you are and how you will live.

It was hard to leave Stehekin for a weekend, so we rarely went down lake. We committed ourselves to staying in one place for most of the year. And there was not much room to move around in that place, at least compared to the 100-mile jaunts to Seattle I had thought of as day trips. We traveled up and down the 20-mile road, mostly within the lower 5 miles, and explored a mile or so on either side of the road before hitting impassable cliffs.

When we did leave to visit family in Seattle I found it hard to readjust to the frenetic pace and gray walls of the city. The noise and stimuli were overwhelming. I could not wait to get back home to Stehekin.

Journal, April 1983

The Lady of the Lake just passed Moore Point and the Stehekin Valley came into view. I heaved a great sigh of relief. The familiar shoreline, trees, and mountains give me a powerful sense of contentment and safety. I am coming home.

We've changed houses twice since coming to live in Stehekin, but I find that houses don't matter too much to me here. The whole river valley is my home, not just the four walls of a house. I have never felt this way before about a piece of geography.

I wonder if my sense of the whole valley as my home is similar to how Native Americans used to feel when they returned to a regular place on their seasonal round. I imagine them paddling up this lake in their canoes, coming within sight of the valley and knowing that this place offered food, shelter, and safety, that this place would take care of them, that they were coming home.

The pace of life slowed during our sojourn in Stehekin, maybe because we lived close to organic rhythms and there was not a lot of urban "noise," like freeway traffic, shopping malls, and television ads, to drown the rhythms out. On some days I spent hours writing long letters to friends and family or reading books. Other days were spent wandering the lakeshore, building mud castles with Erin by the river, or weeding the garden. I do not remember ever being in a hurry.

We spent much of our time out-of-doors. There were fewer distractions than in the outside world. I became more aware and responsive to subtle meanings and events. I noticed when a tree lost its leaves in the fall. I woke at night when rock slides clattered off nearby cliffs. I learned to tell winter temperature by the sound of the river. When it was warm up high, snow melted, swelling the river and making it roar more loudly.

Stehekin had no phones and no television during our time there. Well, that is not quite true. Two families had installed satellite dishes, but most of us survived quite well without Perry Mason reruns and Super Bowls. No phones meant messages had to be delivered in person or by mail. People showed up at each other's doors without warning, and dropping in on your neighbor was a welcomed and well-practiced art.

No television meant we had to entertain ourselves. It was a big event just to go get the mail and it was very exciting to play bridge on Tuesdays. And . . . wow! What a heart-stopper to see a rented, 16mm movie once a month at the old fish-hatchery building. We held a square dance once or twice a winter, and even those who hated each other or were on opposite ends of an argument would do-si-do and allemande together.

We had a second child during our time in Stehekin and the place gave us precious time to get to know our newborn son. I did not work at the school the second year. I stayed home and enjoyed being a mother animal.

I have felt my animal connections most powerfully during pregnancy, child-birth, and the first few months of my babies' lives. Instincts kicked in and overrode all the cerebral chatter about humans being logical, superior, independent beings.

Journal, November 1983

The cool fall sunshine is filtering through the tangle of brownish-red maple leaves that are left on the tree in our yard. I just spent a blissful hour lying in the leaves with one-month-old Alden sleeping on my stomach. I could look up and see the rock teeth of Sisi Ridge chewing on an iridescent blue sky.

I felt euphoric and content lying there. I didn't need to go anywhere, I didn't need to do anything. My task was to let go—to lie there and breathe, to feel my baby's heartbeat, to feel my breasts swell with milk, and to wrap my arms around my soft, yielding bundle of baby to protect him from tumbling into the fallen leaves.

I am enough. My animal self is enough. Time stands still. I am at peace.

Children lived outside much of the time in Stehekin and were free in a way most children never experience. Parents might not have even known where their offspring were playing during the day, but it did not matter. Because if a child was old enough to stay away from rattlesnakes and out of the river, there was nothing else likely to hurt them. Kids who lived in Stehekin developed a strong sense of personal freedom which allowed them to feel comfortable exploring their place.

Our daughter was two when we moved to Stehekin. She came to awareness in a place where she knew everyone by name, where every truck that went by had a driver who waved. When we attended community meetings she went too, and played hide-and-seek with the other kids outside while the adults deliberated. When we had a square dance, the kids danced too. Children were expected at every community event; they were welcomed and celebrated.

Border Peaks, sunset

Journal, June 1984

Erin wanted to walk to her friend Corey's house by herself today. She is four years old and he lives a quarter mile away via dirt road. If we lived anywhere else, I wouldn't even consider letting her go. But what can hurt her here? She has a chance to try out her fierce new sense of independence. I wonder if kids were physically independent this early in the olden days?

I watched her heading off down the dusty road wearing her little backpack. I kept my eyes on her until she turned into the wooded driveway to Corey's house. I ran to the turn in time to see her knocking proudly on his front door.

I treasured the friendships we made while living in Stehekin. It took months, even years, before some people accepted us as part of the community. But when it happened we felt honored. I had not experienced a real community before then, at least not at the level of intensity offered by Stehekin.

Those of us who lived there had chosen to share the same small, contained piece of the Earth. We had to pay attention to each other and we could not run away from conflict. Most valley residents planned to stay for their whole life, so relationships were, by definition, long-term. But that didn't mean we always got along.

Only eighty people lived in Stehekin year-round while we were there. It was an explosive mix of varying values: Park Service employees, resort workers, middle-aged hippies, property-rights activists, and the descendants of the original homesteaders. Valley residents rarely agreed on any issue, and tempers flared regularly, with greater frequency in midwinter when cabin fever made all of us more irritable.

Our first winter there erased any illusions I had held about people living in harmony in this mountain paradise. What I found instead was a microcosm of the same problems and conflicts played out in larger scale in the outside world. But problems in Stehekin took on greater intensity due to the intimacy forced on us by the walls of the valley.

Controversy swirled around issues like trapping animals, hunting, land ownership, and water rights. Most of the arguments had to do with whether the valley's future should be decided by the National Park Service or the local residents.

Locals felt they ought to be trusted to develop a community that would not spoil the character of the place. The Park Service argued that outside developers could come in and turn the valley into a commercial nightmare. Neither side trusted the other.

While we were in Stehekin, Park Service wildlife experts began pointing out that dead trees in the lower valley should be left standing for wildlife habitat. Environmentalists from outside the valley demanded that residents in Stehekin barge firewood up the lake instead of cutting dead trees.

Most people who lived in the valley thought it was ridiculous to barge wood up to a valley that was covered with forest. A huge debate raged, and I think still rages, over who has the rights to dead trees. And this is just a mild example of environmental debates in Stehekin.

Carey and I often were caught in the middle of valley controversy. At first, since neither of us worked for the Park Service, locals would talk to us. We were environmentalists and did not own land and Park Service families invited us to dinner. For awhile, we were perceived by both sides as being somewhat neutral. As a result we had friends with widely divergent opinions on valley politics.

By the end of our second year in Stehekin, I had begun to understand some of what it meant to live there. It was no Shangri-la, no place to escape the harsh realities of life. The valley was a home for our small clan of the human species. We were all very different, but we shared a common bond: we had chosen to live here. And that was enough of a connection to make community possible.

I discovered community did not mean a group of happy-go-lucky friends living together in harmony, but rather a group of animals who shared the same habitat. We all derived our livelihood from the same place, which also gave us our shelter, food, water, and safety. And we shared responsibilities toward each other and toward the place, even if we did not like it.

Journal, July 1984

Intimacy with this mountain valley has taught me how to live close to the ground, to pay attention to the details, and to respond to natural rhythms. I am learning to love this place.

Everywhere I've lived has changed me, but Stehekin is working a major revision on my soul. I'm at peace here in a way I have never been before. My place defines me and gives me value. I have meaning because of where I live, not because of anything I have done or will do. This place has slowed me down, turned up my senses, and helped me to stop striving. I feel content just to be, to live, and to let events happen instead of having to control what happens.

I am taken by the giant processes so obviously at work in Stehekin. Rock slides and avalanches and slow erosion have put me in my place. I am hungry for experiences that belittle me. I crave the epiphany that comes with the realization that I don't really matter very much in the big scheme of things. Why do I find this reassuring? It baffles me, but I do. Maybe because I am in charge too much and need the balance of being overwhelmed by things bigger and more powerful than myself.

Like all animals, I am molding myself to the wild habitat in which I flourish. My body, personality, and soul are adapting to this place. My children are being poured into this valley while they are still young enough to be fluid. I know they will wear the imprint of Stehekin for years to come.

I wonder who we will become if we spend the rest of our lives here?

But we didn't spend the rest of our lives in Stehekin. One July day we got word that a family was moving away, taking three children out of the school. The regular teacher had returned from his leave of absence and had first rights to the head teacher job. There were not enough children left to justify two teachers.

Carey was ready to leave anyway. He was uncomfortable with valley politics—especially when he and I took different sides on an issue—and he wanted to go to graduate school in Seattle. But most importantly, neither of us was willing or able to make the commitment to stay without a full-time professional salary. Staying would have meant earning a meager living doing odd jobs and seasonal work.

That fall we moved from Stehekin, with eighty people, to Seattle, with half a million.

Journal, September 1984

We left Stehekin by floatplane today. I had trouble holding back tears as we climbed from the dock into the plane. The engine roared and the plane skimmed up the lake, taking off into the wind. I took one last look up the valley that has been my home. The plane banked and turned down lake, toward civilization. I felt part of myself being ripped away. I felt pulled up by the roots. I couldn't bear to look back. It hurt too much.

That evening we sat in the living room of our new house in Seattle. Four-year-old Erin looked out the window at a pickup truck roaring by on the busy street. She asked, innocently, "Who was that, Mama?"

WENDY WALKER teaches environmental education at Western Washington University's Huxley College of Environmental Studies in Bellingham. She has published two books and numerous articles. She has lived in the shadow of the North Cascades for over thirty years and attributes what sanity she retains in midlife to time spent hiking and camping in these mountains.

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North Cascades Conservation Council
P.O. Box 95980
Seattle, WA 98145-2980