Washington Trail Blazers

Gene Rose

by Virg Harder, October 2002.

Gene Rose

Gene Rose


This biography is based partly on an interview I had with Gene, and partly on my trips with him.

Primary jobs

Three years in Leavenworth area during 1930’s, bailing hay. WWII, worked in ship yard. Worked about 9 years at a lumber yard, then wrecked his back. Sometime in 1960’s until retirement, he was a school bus driver and school janitor. (Although he averaged only 4-5 hours of sleep a night, that didn’t keep him from going on numerous hikes to lakes in the Cascades.)

How did you learn about the Trail Blazers?

(Things got a little confusing here; thus, I may not have all exactly right) Dave, Gene’s son, was a friend of Grant Barrie--son of long-time Trail Blazer Don Barrie; they spent time together, and did some hiking together. Gene knew Don and Bob Barrie (Don and Bob were brothers, and both long-time Trail Blazers). Don told Dave about the back door route to Carole Lake. Dave and a friend made it to the lake, but got lost coming out; had to bivouac for the night. (Note: on the way out from Carole, in those days, the back-door route out was down the left side of the outlet; otherwise, one could get hung up in cliffs, which Dave and his friend did. As the years went by, the outlet washed soil from rocks on the "up-down side" and ropes had to be installed. Eventually that portion of the back-door route became too dangerous. One had to go up left outlet toward Judy, then bushwhack over to Carole.)

What does that incident have to do with Trail Blazers?

Dave took Gene back to Carole. Nice fish came out of Carole. A football player went along. They figured he’d have no trouble staying up with them. That didn’t happen. “The football player couldn’t hike worth a darn,” Gene said. Actually, that was understandable, since Dave couldn’t find the outlet, and they eventually wound up back at the car--enough wandering to tire anyone who had never hiked in the mountains before. So, they immediately turned around and tried again. This time Dave found the creek, but the football player was a drag. “Had to wait all the time for him,” Gene said. They finally made it.

Gene, on way to Carole Lake

Gene, on way to Carole Lake.

Gene became a Trail Blazer, and was initiated, in 1967.

Until about 1970, new members were Initiated with a Capital I. A spring picnic at Cottage Lake was the usual initiation location. Tortures to which he was subjected included having a 5-gallon fish can, filled with water (and probably lots of ice), strapped to his back. He then was given a route to travel, which included his having to get onto his hands and knees so he could squeeze under a log--the result of which obviously was icy water running down his back. Another event was, blindfolded, holding onto a rope and “feeling” his way into the lake, where he eventually reached a boat--after he had waded almost to his neckline into the water. Other initiation procedures also were administered.

By the time Gene became a member, he had become good friends and frequent hiking partner with George Lewis, a Trail Blazer known as Devil’s Club George, who strictly followed the principle “never go around when you can go over.” The initiates had to write something (exactly what, he couldn’t remember, but what he did remember including in his writing was) “I would follow George Lewis anywhere.”

What was your first trip with Trail Blazers?

Williams Lake. (This trip, in 1958, was published by Ira Spring in the Seattle Times).

Most memorable trip?

“Don’t know. Have too many. Loved them all.”

The rest is information and anecdotes that are provided by the biographer, with no topical headings...

Gene went on *many-many* hikes to lakes, especially those between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. He never used a map; but, once he found a route to a lake, he remembered it. He had an uncanny route finding ability.

He also was a *very* outgoing person; he was a person who, to use the trite expression, “would give you the shirt off his back, even if he got sunburned as a result.”

Carole Lake

Carole Lake, with about 1/4 of the rocky area showing above it

Carole Lake probably was Gene’s favorite. I remember one VERY MEMORABLE trip we made to the lake. He wanted to check a lake in the Garfield Lakes area, but we spent our first night at Carole Lake in the rain. The next morning the sky was very foreboding. We moped around camp until about 11:30, when the clouds quickly vanished and the sun came out. We decided to head for the other lakes--lakes I had never been to. George Lewis had told us there was a shortcut up an old avalanche slide to a helicopter pad on the ridge; “easy hike, no brush to speak of.” he told us.

I quickly threw a few snack items in my fish backpack--no jacket, no rain gear, no survival blanket, nothing for emergency. Gene did essentially the same. Then, we walked about half-way around the lake and started looking for the non-brushy route George had told us about. All we saw, and fought our way through, was brush, brush, and more brush. About 2 1/2 hours later, we finally reached a treeless meadow just below the ridge that had a helicopter pad on it. The word “George” was accompanied by rather unrepeatable terms by then. Anyway, we went down the other side of the ridge to the Garfields--a lot faster than we had come up from Carole Lake to the top of the ridge. Gene wanted to go to a nearby lake, so we agreed to meet at 5 o’clock at a certain spot on a rockslide at the head of the upper lake. About 4 o’clock, I saw clouds rolling over the top of the ridge that we had come down from. By 5 o’clock I was socked in SOLIDLY by clouds; couldn’t see more than 15 feet. Six o’clock was rolling around, and no Gene. I was about ready to panic. Then, I heard a soft voice saying “Virg,” . . . “Virg” . . . “Virg” . . . I answered, but couldn’t see him. We eventually found each other and headed for top of the ridge. That was no problem, since the route up was obvious, even in dense clouds.

When we originally reached the top of the ridge after leaving Carole Lake, we had sworn we were NOT going down the way we came up. That swearing now generated three key problems: (1) when we reached the top of the ridge, we couldn’t see 30 feet, (2) we had no ideas about how we were going to find a way back to Carole in dense fog, and (3) neither of us was equipped to bivouac; I had never been anywhere on top of the ridge, and knew of no other route back to Carole, and had left my map at the lake.

Gene said he once had gone up the valley from Carole Lake to top of ridge, but that was 5 years ago. We had no choice, so he led. The 1st thing to find was a small pot shortly beyond us, on the ridge. Gene hit it directly. We went around it, and climbed up the rockslide to the top of the ridge, then walked along the ridge line--no compass, no map. As we went by ridge after ridge angling one direction or the other from the one we were on, I wondered how Gene knew which ridge to take; I was scared. And, we saw nothing beyond 20-25 feet. About an hour later, when dusk was settling on us, Gene says “I think we should go to our left.” “Shucks,” I said to myself, “that’s just another ridge; how does he know that one is the one?????” But, with no choice, I followed. About 200 feet later, he says “We need to go down this chimney.” It was not dangerous, but it was steep; on both sides was nothing but steep slope--too steep to negotiate, and with nothing to hold on to.

Down I go behind him. We do come to a fairly nice valley, and head down it. Still no visibility because of the foggy clouds. About 20 minutes later, we come to a rocky, boulder area. We can barely see. We slowly move from one boulder to another, and work our way through. After about 25 minutes in the rocks, we see the lake a few feet ahead of us. We work our way around the lake to our camp, and are back at flashlight time. We eat dinner in the dark, and collapse. That is but one illustration of Gene’s route finding abilities.

Gene, placing fry into lake.

Gene, placing fry into lake. The plastic jug he is using illustrates the “aerator era.” Originally, Trail Blazers carried fry in a 5-gallon can that looked like a “Rube Goldberg” modified milk can that was strapped to a Trapper Nelson packboard. In early 1970’s, some members still used the combination 5-gallon container/Trapper Nelson packboard. Others used a one-gallon jug and aerated the water with a battery-operated aerator; they carried fry in the combination jug/aerator in their regular pack.

On one of Gene’s many other trips to Carole, he went with George Lewis. They went over to the Garfields. On the way back, they took some pictures of each other at the helicopter pad. When they got back to the car, George realized he had forgotten his rod; he’d set it on the ground for the pictures, and forgot to pick it up. He was teaching watch classes (horology) at North Seattle Community College, and had to teach the next day. So, without saying anything to George, Gene headed back the next day to get George’s rod for him. He made a lengthy trip out of it. He went to Carole, then up to the helicopter pad, retrieved the rod, then headed for Greenridge Lake, from there to Rock Lake, and from Rock Lake to the Nordrum Lake trail. The time then probably was about 5 p.m. He met some people at Nordrum Lake, and they wanted him to stay. However, he had a date, and wanted to get back for it. He made it back, but too late. His date went with someone else to the dance.

Gene’s retrieval of George’s rod illustrates just how willing he was to help other people.

Some of the results of his plant

Some of the results of his plant.

I also benefited from Gene’s helpfulness. My plan was to stock Marc’s Lake, a lake I had named after a friend of my son. (His friend was killed on the Northwinds route at Castle Rock in Leavenworth when he was only about 16 years old.) I had named an isolated lake for him because he had hiked with my son and me in areas near the unnamed lake. Gene and I were going to stock the lake, then spend the night at a lake in the (currently) proposed Wild Sky area.

We crossed the river on the cable platform at Skymo #3, hiked up to the abandoned gold mine, then up the skid road to the clearcut area. Across the clearcut area we went, dropped down about 150 feet to a creek, crossed, climbed up through a 25-foot cliff (using brush for pitons), and began contouring along the side of the ridge to Marc’s Lake. I had thought I was in pretty good shape, so I didn’t pay attention to how much my pack weighed; I brought everything I thought I might need or enjoy. The day was plain, unadulterated hot. By the time we reached the top of the cliff, I was paying the price for my heavy pack.

Shortly thereafter, I just plain ran out of gas. I could barely move. The fry in the jug (with battery aerator) had about reached the limit of their survival time; they needed to be put in the lake, and soon. Gene volunteered to go to the lake with the jug NOW; he made it in time. We eventually rendezvoused at another destination lake.

After recovering somewhat, at the destination lake, I began removing things from my pack and “stashing” them in a spot where I could recover them on a later trip. I must have removed at least 10 pounds of stuff. Gene had brought along two T-bone steaks, and charcoal. I was too exhausted to eat more than about two bites :-( We spent the night, then hiked the reverse of our previous day’s route back to our car. At the car, Gene opened his pack and said “Here, Virg, I have a few things for you.” Yes, he pulled out all the stuff I had “stashed” the day before. That’s the kind of person Gene is.

His hiking days, like mine, are over. But that doesn’t keep us from enjoying the nostalgia of remembering many enjoyable--as well as tough, demanding, challenging--trips. As Gene said during the interview, when I asked him which was his most memorable trip, “Don’t know. Have too many. Enjoyed them all!”