North Cascades

Loved the article in Washington State this issue, on Cascade Pass archaeology, with Bob Mierendorf. The big mystery at the end, comparing the photos from 1910 and today and showing MORE trees NOW than back then, implying that nothing was “pristine” when whites arrived is probably fine, but the answer is also probably quite simple: FIRE suppression by whites (the cult of Smokey the Bear) has allowed smaller trees to live in places that fire would have burned them routinely over the millennia. Natives also burned, but natural fire was enough to do the job, most agree.

Philip Fenner


I really enjoyed the article on Bob Mierendorf’s work in the North Cascades National Park.

However, a couple of the photos raise some questions. On page 29, the top two photos show a large culturally modified stone. In the left photo Bob has his hand on it, in the right hand photo it is next to his arm.

How did that stone become so modified? And what do you think its purpose was? There are no hints in the article or the caption for those photos. My personal guess is the stone was used as a whetstone? Am I close?

I enjoyed the whole article as well as the photos on page 33. However, the caption on page 32, of the photos on page 33, was very unprofessional and stands out as a piece of personal propaganda. Not the quality I would expect of WSM.

The black and white photo from 1916 is looking north, the color photo that it is being compared to is looking south. One photo is in black and white, one photo is in color. It is not possible to compare how “lush” the pass is, or is not, or come to any other conclusion when the photos are not of the same subject, and in the same medium.

Herman R. Goetjen


Regarding the rock, Bob Mierendorf replies: “The quick answer is that we’re not yet certain about the stone’s function, but we are investigating this. The longer answer is: this is one of several ‘tabular rocks’ that we found that had been carefully placed in horizontal position around the edges of two heating pits. Possible functions for these tabular rocks might be as cooking feature furniture; alternatively, as a griddle; and then we will be identifying other possibilities. As for the ‘whetstone’ idea, this is a viable possibility, at this point. The rock does have some broad, shallow, subparallel grooves that immediately attracted our attention, and we thought this could be a grinding stone of some sort, but the rock surfaces are so weathered and pitted that I cannot with confidence support one hypothesis over the other, given current data, but we are still collecting data, so we’ll see.”

Regarding the “personal propaganda,” Tim Steury replies: “The comment regarding warming, which was, I admit, offhand and unsubstantiated in context, refers to another feature at the pass and related analysis. For more on this, and Mierendorf’s analysis of the rock, go here.”


Your picture of the North Cross State Highway (the name we used at the time) brought back lots of memories. While an engineering student at WSU I worked summers (1961 to 1965) on a survey crew surveying the North Cascades Highway. We packed back in on pack trains of mules and horses and lived in tents. Compared to today’s survey equipment we had very primitive tools. We took sun shots with transits to locate our positions and used metal chains to measure distance. My dad worked on a survey crew in the 1930s surveying the same road. It was amazing how close we came to their survey monuments both horizontal and vertical. If I remember right that is Liberty Bell Mountain in the picture.

Bob Bell ’66


And thank you

I am not an alumna of WSU. Sorry… But a few years ago a friend who lives in Richland told me about a Labrador dog found abandoned and severely injured, and I donated to the dog’s care. I have been receiving your Washington State Magazine ever since. I intend to donate as I can, usually toward the end of the year. The WSM is wonderful. This last issue was enthralling. The Cascade Pass got me hooked once again on our ancient history in this state.

Gwen Nixon, Anacortes


My son is a senior at WSU. I began receiving the magazine when he was a freshman and after donating to the alumni association.

I received this quarter’s edition Tuesday and I finished it on the elliptical machine this morning. I have enjoyed each one and read from cover to cover. Where else would you get information on bees to cougar mascots? The articles are informative and fascinating. I appreciate the money involved to publish anything at this point in time and am grateful it’s still continuing. Thank you, I truly enjoy the magazine.

Gail Atkins


I may wince at times on the near religious tone for evolution in some of the articles (!), but I also applaud the quality of your magazine. The background research for the articles appears well done, and the presentation of topics is executed with a good balance between useful, deep information and readability for us non-experts. The graphics are pleasing and useful as well—not something we always find in the consumer magazines. To open up a copy of WSM is more than just entertainment.

Maybe I’m prejudiced by being a WSU alumni, but I find the Washington State Magazine more interesting and meaningful than some of the national magazines covering history, science, etc! As an example; the Fall 2009 issue was a real winner, front to back.

I am sorry that budget constraints will reduce the paper issues per year, but please don’t sacrifice the quality.

Keep it going!

H. Molony ’77


Leave it to the beavers

I was recently loaned an old book called Three Against The Wilderness. The story is of a family in British Columbia in the 1920-50s and their experience replanting beaver in an area that had not had beaver for years. There were still old beaver dams left and the new beavers in a few short years changed the whole ecosystem, including flood control, on parts of the Frazier drainage system. Anyone against beaver should read that story and what it did for a small part of B.C. If the researchers haven’t run across that book it would give them even more proof and good feelings about what they are doing.

David R. Smith DVM