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Spring saw a few nice
upgrades to the old Graydon
Reserve. We added two picnic
tables to replace the two that
went downriver with the
November 2006 flood. Muir
Woods is now more open and
walker-friendly thanks to a bit
of clearing. There we planted
some twinflowers, Solomon’s
seal, black lily and, believe it
or not, the ubiquitous bluebells. The route to Highview is
now clear of winter blowdown. The wetland garden
and rockery have a host of
new plants to join the old
favorites. The ping-pong table
is up and running. And six
little incense cedar are taking
root along the river.
In a place of beauty,
high hopes for the future
f you like what you see around here,
you’re in luck. The scene may look the
same far into the future. Much of the
landscape on all sides—a sparkling
river, jagged peaks, forested hills—is protected one way or another.
Last year brought two great conservation
victories. First came creation of the federal
Wild Sky Wilderness. And then Heybrook
Ridge, prominent in any view from around
here, was permanently saved from logging.
I’ve spent some of my best days over the
past 20 years scrambling up the mountains
that are now within the 106,000-acre wilderness. My favorite is Mount Baring, the
double-summit peak that stands in proud isolation just east of here.
In fact, without Mount Baring I don’t think
there would even be a Graydon Reserve. My
A panorama of rivers and mountains fills the view in this photo from the summit of
Mount Persis. The new Wild Sky Wilderness includes Gunn and Merchant Peaks and
Spire Mountain and many other high alpine areas and lowland forest.
son Andy and I were high in a snow chute beneath Baring one day in the spring of 1990
when the route got too dicey and we turned
back early—and this gave us time to check on
a realtor’s sign for land on the banks of the
Skykomish. I bought it.
The Wild Sky Wilderness that spreads out
north and east of Index also encompasses
Gunn Peak, a tasty lure for weekend alpinists, the meandering highland paradise of
Cady Ridge, old-growth forest, salmon
streams, hidden Lake Isabel, and a lifetime of
It even includes the point we privately refer to as Graydon Peak. My climbing buddy
Dick McConaughy and I trekked to the top
one day and realized that such an impressive
summit deserved a name, even though it’s
simply the western high point of the long
ridge leading from Gunn Peak, which is just
22 feet higher.
It took nine years of congressional ups and
downs to make the wilderness designation a
reality. The Senate approved the Wild Sky
twice, only to have it killed in House committee. For supporters of the Wild Sky, the villain of the story was the Republican chairman of the House Resources Committee,
After voters in Pombo’s California district
sent him home, the House passed the bill. But
it took a couple more years of political dealing
before the bill finally ended up on the desk of
President Bush, who signed it May 8, 2008.
Logging, mining and motorized vehicles
are prohibited in a wilderness area. Hiking,
climbing, hunting, fishing, rafting and other
recreational activities are permitted.
THE HEYBROOK RIDGE story was another cliffhanger. Would the town of Index —
population 157—be able to raise more than a
million dollars to buy the 129 acres before the
PLEASE SEE PAGE 8
Lake Serene. The name alone makes you
yearn to be there. But this high mountain
lake is much more than a pretty name. Its
spectacular place beneath the awesome eastern ramparts of Mount Index make it among
the most prized of Cascade lakes.
Hike through the snow in May and watch
from the lake as avalanches pour off the cliffs
The Lake Serene trail takes hikers to a dramatic
basin beneath the east walls of Mount Index. The
main trail ascends steep forest to the lake. A spur
trail leads to the base of the upper falls. An old
scramble route (dotted line) ascends from the upper
falls (for the fit and adventurous only).
and snowfields that rise 3,500 feet to the Index summit. Hike in summer to bask in the
immensity of the setting.
The lake is serene, but you won’t find serenity there on a sunny weekend. The fine
trail completed a decade ago attracts naturehungry lowlanders by the dozens. Try to go on
a weekday. If you must hike on a weekend,
To get to the trailhead, start at the Index
General Store. After stocking up there, drive
back to the main highway, U.S. 2, turn right
and cross the bridge over the river. Turn left
immediately past the bridge onto Mt. Index
Road. Take the right fork in less than half a
mile and pull into the parking lot. (You need
a parking pass, available for sale at the store,
or park along Mt. Index Road.)
FROM LOW IN THE Skykomish Valley,
the trail climbs 2,000 feet to the lake in about
four miles. The first mile or so follows an
abandoned roadbed, crossing a stream near
the start. If you don’t like the narrow, angled
footbridge (no railing), just rock-hop across
Soon after leaving the roadbed and entering deep forest, a right fork in the trail climbs
steeply in half a mile to the base of the main
Bridal Veil Falls. Head on up if you want a
close look at the most dramatic of the falls fed
by Lake Serene.
From the base of these upper falls, an old
fisherman’s track ascends sharply to the lake.
Old-timers who know the track sometimes
Citizens go to work, and a park is born
FROM PAGE ONE
chainsaws went to work? The answer is
yes, but only after residents led by
Louise Lindgren ignored the odds and
set to work like the Little Engine that
Across the river from Index town,
the forested ridge dominates the lower
half of the view, with that behemoth
Mount Index high above. A huge denuded hillside would not be a pretty
sight. Owners of the ridge put their
clearcutting plans on hold to give the
town one year to find the money.
Donations trickled in. But you can’t
raise a million dollars from barbecues,
raffles, T-shirt sales, and bluegrass hoedowns. Louise and her hardcore activists also blitzed the media, government officials, potential big-money donors, conservation groups, anyone and
everyone who could help the cause. The
Association of Professional Book Indexers took a fancy to the town’s name and
The breakthrough came with a halfmillion-dollar gift from an anonymous
Seattle donor. And they went over the
top August 4, 2008, when the Snohomish County Council voted to contribute $700,000. Heybrook Ridge will
now become a county park.
HERE AT THE Graydon Reserve,
we’re bounded high on the north by
land set aside for Forks of the Sky State
Park and on the south by the Skykomish River. No room for Costco or WalMart.
The North Fork of the Sky is not a
federally designated Wild and Scenic
River, but it most certainly is a wild
and scenic river.
From our house, we hear the kayakers and rafters shouting as they ride
the whitewater past Emily’s Park.
Government constraints on such activities as tree cutting and habitat destruction give considerable protection to
the river. I found this out rather abruptly some years ago when the state
forester ordered my contractor to stop
cutting trees near the river, where I
wanted an open picnic area. I got off
without a fine but had to come up with
a revegetation plan.
With the state’s current budget
woes, there’s no telling when Forks of
the Sky State Park will be developed.
We don’t mind. The steep forests are
wonderful as is. And on the river we
have our own park, a half-acre with a
frisbee field, firepit, picnic tables. Emily
Graydon, born a century ago, would
have the time of her life in the park
named in her memory.
take this scramble route up and the tourist
A short distance beyond the trail fork, hikers on the main trail reach a footbridge that
affords a fine view of Bridal Veil Creek as it
plunges over a large lower falls. A bit farther
on, you’ll come to yet another impressive cascade, a channel of the creek that pours over
great smooth rock slabs.
For the next mile and a half, the trail
switchbacks relentlessly up and up. A long
traverse near the top takes you to the lake
basin. You’re in a new world here, quieter,
calmer than on the exposed trail.
Cross the long log bridge over the lake’s
outlet for a walk along the northern edge of
the water. When the trail starts to head
steeply upslope, keep going. You’ll arrive in a
few minutes on the big rounded Lunch Rock
that rises from the lake, the perfect place to
sit and savor the scene.
For climbers, Lake Serene is only the
starting point. Technical climbers with an eye
on the North Peak of Index continue on up
the northern shoulder to the start of the
climb. Adventurers aiming for the easier (but
not easy) scramble route to the main peak
will hike all the way around the lake (or walk
over it during freeze-up), climb the steep
ridge at the end of the lake, then make their
way to the base of a great chute, or couloir,
that climbs another 1,300 feet to the broad
open ridge that leads to the summit.
THE LAKE SERENE TRIP is only one of
many glorious hikes around Index. Favorites
for family hikes are Wallace Falls, Barclay
Lake, Heybrook Ridge and Tonga Ridge. More
ambitious day hikers trek to Eagle Lake or
Malachite Lake. Some of the prime hikes, like
the trails to Blanca Lake and Cady Ridge, are
now less accessible with closing of the IndexGalena Road due to flood damage.
Folks who like some routefinding challenge in their hikes try the rough trails to the
Index Town lookout and the top of the upper
Index Town Wall. Starting at the Graydon
Reserve are short, strenuous ascents to the
Skyview and Highview lookouts.
Mountain scramblers take on the standard
routes up Mount Persis, Mount Baring and
Merchant Peak. For a bit of technical challenge, there’s Gunn Peak and Mount Index.
I’d be happy to point the way to any of
these hikes or climbs. I might even tag along.
Check out the endless hiking possibilities
in the neighborhood in “55 Hikes Around
Stevens Pass,” from Mountaineers Books, by
Rick McGuire with photos by Ira Spring. Buy
a copy, or read the one at the reserve.
INDEX ARTS FESTIVAL
BEST IN THE UNIVERSE
The annual Index Arts Festival fills
downtown Index (the whole block) with
arts and crafts, music, food and more
art. Saturday, August 1, 10 a.m. to 6
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Barbara
Kingsolver and her family set out to
spend a year eating only the food they
could grow or buy locally. In beautiful
prose Kingsolver outlines our national
“eating disorder” and tells how she
found a better way to eat. [LISA and DANA]
AT THE GRAYDON RESERVE
This week’s special:
Help create the Serpentine, a monumental piece of land art in Emily’s Park,
using the mounds of flood debris collected over the past 12 years. Saturday,
July 4, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. No experience
Garden the climbing crag with wire
brushes, from ground or on rappel.
Bushwhackers special: Help discover a
new route from the hut to the Dark
Tower. For the very hardy.
Splash the interior of Cantina del Rio
with gallons of gaudy color. Cerveza?
Randonee alpine touring skis. Kahru
175 cm skis with Ramer bindings. Good
gear, fine shape, 14 years old, lightly
20-inch Stihl chain saw, model 034 AV
Super. With chains, files, case. Excellent
shape, though not run in several years,
so will need cleaning and tune-up. 18
years old, but it is a Stihl. $100.
Four-step collapsible stairs, for entry to
a small camper. Heavy hammered metal, with bracket. Free to a good home.
Contact Don for all. 360-793-9148
”This place is peaceful,
cozy, green, and a
great place for kids!”
Preaching the Blues, with Johnny Horn.
Sundays 9 a.m. to noon, FM 90.3. Mellow
blues, new and old. Music, not commercials. [JORDAN]
Ode magazine. A hymn to the possibilities for individual and social progress.
Ode tells the success stories of people
and ideas that make a difference.
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the
Beautiful Basics of Science. Baffled by
science? Let New York Times science
writer Natalie Angier make you actually
care about—maybe even understand—
physics, chemistry, biology, geology and
Roman Holiday. Gregory Peck is the
newsman who finds his princess in this
sad and funny film about yearning, duty,
love and heartbreak. Has anyone else
ever been as sweetly beautiful as Audrey
OUR WORLD ON THE WEB
Index town: indexwa.org
N. Fork Skykomish: skyko.org
Index artists: indexartsgroup.org
Washington Climbers Coalition:
IN THE NEXT ISSUE (if any)
● More dismal rainfall statistics
● Bob Hubbard’s beetlemania
● The Serpentine revealed
● Italian stew recipe
● The latest natural disaster
● Secrets of the Swirl
● Relativity explained (if space permits)
RAIN BY THE BARREL
Now you see it,
now you don’t
Recurrent rumors of heavy rainfall in Index
appear to be true. These monthly statistics for
2005 through 2008 plus the first five months of
2009 are from the home rain gauge of Index
resident David Cameron.
The big boulder known as Beer Rock appears and disappears at the whim of the
river. On May 30, competitors in the Trioba
adventure race had to go over or around
the submerged rock. But last summer,
Anya Henning just swam to it and climbed
on board. Until November 6, 2006, Beer
Rock rested placidly on the shore at Emily’s
Park. The great flood of that day sent it
about 80 feet downstream and out into
the current, where it sits today.
UNIVERSAL LOCATOR MAP
Use this handy guide
to find your way here
in the cosmos
N. Fork SkykomishRiver
NGC 1333 nebula: Stephen Leshin (then manipulated).Earth from space: Reto Stöckli, Nazmi El Saleous, Marit Jentoft-Nilsen. State map: USGS. Index aerial: Google Earth.
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