Editors Note: We recently received an email from the author of East of the Divide, Chester Marler, that his book is now free to the public on his new website. What an impressive resource and it is so nice of him to share it with the everyone. Our board chairman Andy Dappen has positive things to say about Chester’s book. See Andy’s introduction below to East of the Divide.
by Andy Dappen
Chester Marler starts the acknowledgements to his book about historical and recent journeys through the eastern slopes of the North Cascades thusly:
I owe a great deal to friends who have shared mountain trips with me over the years, often helping me see things I might otherwise have not noticed. My wife, Ann, more than any other person, has brought me to see the less obvious, pointing out and naming so many plants, and trying to keep me from rushing past interesting aspects of the natural world in my haste to climb a peak or reach a remote vista.
Most of us who are goal oriented and physically fit owe a debt to people who slow us down and help us appreciate the details of the places we visit. Initially we may feel frustration toward these anchors who bar forward progress by stopping to rave over every dog famn glower. If, however, we learn to absorb the details our companions are enjoying, nature becomes richer –it becomes more than a pretty background where we can max-out our heart sans auto fumes. If we learn, for example, how subalpine firs thrive at elevations that kill their competitors, or why larches populate the mountains east of the Cascade Crest, we better appreciate the intricacies and the complexities of our own back forty.
It’s this attention to the details of our own mountains that makes Chester Marler’s book, East of the Divide – Travels through the Eastern Slope of the North Cascades 1870-1999, such an enjoyable read. This book is clearly a labor of love for Marler who, having spent a lifetime hiking, backcountry skiing, and climbing in our nook of the Cascades, has brought some of his learnings, some of the area’s rich history, and some of his own stories into an unusual amalgam. Those of us living in Washington who devote a good portion of our time exploring the drier domains in the rain shadow of the Cascade Crest should consider East of the Divide required reading if we strive to better understand the region’s natural and human history.
Through the course of the book, Marler visits favorite haunts around the Stuart Range, Chiwaukum Mountains, Alpine Lakes, Pasayten Wilderness, Chelan and Sawtooth ranges, Stehekin country, High Pass, Ice Creek Ridge, Glacier Peak, and Phelps Creek. Then in a well-written style, Marler conglomerates the past with the present to tell us more about these places and more about the people who explored their nooks, named their features, mined their ore, and created their trails.
I’ve been impressed enough with this book–the geology it conveys, botanical and ecological information it shares, and history it reveals—to recommend carrying East of the Divide (or a photocopy of the appropriate chapter) when traveling in or around the places Marler writes about. If you’re a thoroughbred prone to racing through the mountains, stopping for the sake of a little learning may do you good. And if you’re overweight and out of shape, stopping under the guise of learning so that you can catch your breath may also do you good.