About the Hi-Lakers
Bringing people together who enjoy high lake fishing and hiking

Some Remembrances About Hi-Lakers

By Virg Harder

February 2006


The story starts in 1962. In early August, two of my colleagues and I decided to go to Twin Lakes, out of Monte Cristo. This was my first hike to mountain lakes; I had been a flatlander until then. It is a trip I have NEVER forgotten - 1962 four-door Oldsmobile on gravel road; the last 12 miles to Barlow Pass with driver-side wheels on berm in middle of road; two hours hike through freshly-cut logging slash from Lodge to Poodle Dog pass; deep snow on the way to upper end of upper lake, which required detouring to opposite-side-of-ridge rockslides; my WWII slick-sole paratrooper boots sliding around like I was on skis; "gunny sack" officer backpack (bought at Ed’s Surplus); brand-new Eddie Bauer rectangular synthetic sleeping bag (6-7 lbs); two guys arriving from Mineral City route at 8:30 p.m. so exhausted they could barely move; frozen water in our cups next morning, etc. Great trip!!!

Oh yes, trout. Did I catch any? Nope, but I tried. Saw a bunch of fish in the inlet, just sorta sitting there, slowly moving their tails. "Oh Boy," I thought to myself; "ANY lure should work in that crowd." Cast one lure several times, another lure several times, etc. Fish would move just enough to avoid the lure. Eventually, I gave up. Was only in later years that I learned I was looking at spawning trout.

Fortunately - for me - that trip educated me. Made me realize I better find someplace where I could get some advice about equipment, routes to lakes, and - naturally - which ones had big fish.

Introduction To and Education by John K. Higgins

I'm not sure when/how I learned about Hi-Lakers, but it had to be before 1964. John Higgins was "running the show" when I came to meetings in those days. My memory says there was no "formal" program for becoming a member. I know I did NOT think about becoming a member until 1966. That year, at a meeting, when I asked John what the requirements were for membership, he handed me a sheet of paper at the next meeting. This is a scan of the sheet (yes, I’ve saved it all these years).

The reason 1964 is still so fresh in my mind is I had a bilateral inguinal herniorrhaphy on April 2, 1964. That obviously put me on the shelf for a few months. At the August meeting I figured it was time to get to a lake for some fishing.

Walked up to Higgins after the meeting and asked “What lake or lakes do you recommend I go to, to catch some fish?” He stood there on one foot for a while, then said "Greider Lakes." "Where are they?" "In Sultan Basin." "Where’s Sultan Basin?" "Northeast of Sultan." At that point, I think, he walked away. Of course, in those days I knew nothing about topo maps; the best I could do was Metsker maps. I may have had Kent Hansen’s Snohomish County Mountain Lakes booklet, but I only knew "start here, and work my way up there." For a guy that had had two (rather disabling) operations about 5 months before, I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

Turned out pretty good, however. Actually, I should say LUCKED out pretty good. I hadn't had much experience in mountains. Did find the start, did find a trail at the start; however, it became no trail soon thereafter, and I had to "hmmm, guess I better go this way," (shortly thereafter) "hmmm, I better go that way." Also, I had to go over some snow patches, had to work my way carefully over some muddy, slippery places, had to work my way along the top of a ravine, then up through some more woods to what looked like an open space which might be a lake. Did so, and arrived at lower lake.

What kind of guy was John Higgins? After another year or two in the Hi-Lakers , I concluded that John was "that" kind of person: he offered only minimum advice (practically NONE about fish), and challenged a person to learn what to do himself. In other words, "You learn the mountains and fishing yourself, and you’ll appreciate it more."

John wore work clothes most of the time. He was a sturdy-looking man, and not much of a talker. Frankly, I didn’t know him very well. Thus, I may not be describing him the way some of his closer friends would. I understand he had horse/s; heard he lost one up in Jerry Lakes area--it went off the side of a steep trail and down hundreds of feet. When he couldn't put up with "all those people" in Washington, he decided to move to British Columbia, northeast of One Hundred Mile House. Over the years, I have done a lot of fishing in British Columbia. On one trip, I decided to stop at his place and see if he could/would give my any clues about where to fish. Guess I'm a slow learner. I stopped, We talked. I left. NO information about where to catch fish.

Hi-Lakers Club Evolution

My conclusion about the Hi-Lakers club is that it started as a club interested in mountain lake fishing. If it had an objective, it was a multi-objective. Members were interested in obtaining information about where to catch trout, how to catch trout, route/s to lakes, and in socializing. In short, it did NOT have a primary club objective like the Trail Blazers have had (primarily, stocking mountain lakes to provide opportunities for catching fish). Of course, Trail Blazers also had the objectives the Hi-Lakers had, but its primary objective in finding routes to lakes was so they could stock the lakes.

My most vivid remembrance is attending an annual "social" at someone's house (adjacent to canal next to Montlake Bridge) during a winter month. No program, no movies, no chairs, just tables in a person’s living room with snacks on it, another table with liquid refreshments--BYOB, thick smoke in the air, and lots of yak-yaking male voices. That was during the early years.

Rumor has it (and an "old-time" Trail Blazer or two still claims) that, for many years, Hi-Lakers obtained (surreptitiously or otherwise) information about lakes that the Trail Blazers had stocked each year, and three years later, started cleaning out fish from the lake/s.

As a HiLaker/Trail Blazer

I don't remember when the Hi-Lakers AND Trail Blazers started their combined "Annual Winter Social." My conclusion is that if it had not happened, the Trail Blazer "Annual Social" would have gone into the past. When the two organizations combined on the Winter Social, locations were found where tables and chairs were available at which to sit/drink/eat/yak/etc., and included programs of various kinds: (Belly Dancers early on, until female attendees rebelled). Over time, several programs have become "standard," including auctions (flies/rods/reels/ gear of various kinds, etc.), as well as door prize awards. The equipment and materials have been donated by stores and members. Since sometime in the 1990's, the annual social has become a well attended event, sometimes with over a hundred people. Oh yes, where does the food come from? It comes from attendees. Ranges from recently caught steelhead to salads to desserts to you name it. Some items disappear FAST, given the number of people in attendance.

Thus, until the late 1990's, the Hi-Lakers were mainly an informal club for interactions, fish talking, and (informal) annual get-together. Early on (starting in the 1940's), the Trail Blazers also had a lot of informal get-togethers ("socializing"), but did have an overall objective: keeping mountain lakes stocked with trout.

Many people (including me) who started as Hi-Lakers, heard about the Trail Blazers one way or another, became interested, and joined. I have said a number of times that the Hi-Lakers were a GOOD "farm club" for GOOD Trail Blazer members. In the late 1990's, the Hi-Lakers became more interested in doing something that made it a type of club like the Trail Blazers have been for decades. In other words, it developed an overall objective: obtaining information on lakes (survey reports) that can be used for better fish stocking management. The survey forms are available on web site and at meetings and by email. They ask for lake/condition/etc. information, but not just fish catching information. The goal is to try to keep lakes clean - minimal fire rings/no garbage/no plastic tarps/etc.

By early 2000, Bill Henkel headed a committee (mostly of one) that "twisted members' AND visitors' arms" to submit survey reports. This information is vital to good management of fish stocking, good fishing, and lake cleanliness.

A Little About Me

I'm a transplanted Mid-westerner. Born July 19, 1923 and grew up in Kansas. Wound up with 40% disability in WWII. Graduated from University of Iowa (BA, MA) 1950, and University of Illinois (Ph.D) 1958. Joined University of Washington College of Business Administration 1955. Over the years, have caught Carp, mudcats, Channel Cats, Walleye, Northern Pike, Cutthroat/Golden/Rainbow trout, Salmon, Halibut, und so weiter.

Retired in 1986.

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Virg Harder

Virg Harder, Vic Cohrs, and Vern Cohrs hiking in snowy woods
Virg Harder, Vern Cohrs, and Vic Cohrs. 6 Oct 1990. Photo by Brian Curtis.
Huckleberry bushes in the Fall that are exploding with color.
Photo by Yanling Yu.
A sharp tree trunk contrasting with a soft, foggy valley beyond.
Photo by Roger Werth.