Stephen’s Garland Story

I’m Stephen, son of Curtis who is the middle son of Cameron Sharpe Sr. this is my story of Garland.

Curtis Sharpe's 53 Chevrolet at Garland
Curtis Sharpe’s 53 Chevrolet at Garland

My folks Mary Beth and Curtis were living in cabin #1 during the winter/spring of 1962-63. Cabin #1 was the largest of the cabins and had a 2nd floor sleeping loft and apparently it was quite romantic up there during the chill of the winter nights… I was born in Seattle in November of 1963. This was the last time my family lived at Garland.

Fast forward nine years and in 1972 my father resigned his sales career at Best Lock in Chicago Illinois with the dream of rebuilding Garland. I remember he had a place mat drawing of the cabins with the boardwalk. Each cabin restored into village of shops. He was sure Garland could be returned to a working camp.

Sharpe's Service in Goldbar WA - Circa 1973
Sharpe’s Service in Goldbar WA – Circa 1973

Dad sold our home in Oak Park and invested the proceeds in a Mobil station and two small houses in Goldbar. His plan was to use the station as an economic base while he figured out a way to rebuild Garland. He put Mom, my sisters Kim and Kris and myself to work, pumping gas and dipping ice-cream. He worked several jobs, driving bus, hauling alfalfa from east of the mountains. We private labeled honey we sold at the market, basically anything to generate a buck.

Visits to Garland during these years were very exciting for nine year-old boy. It was the end of the hippie era and Grampa had permitted a small group of free spirited young adults to live in the cabins. Needless to say there were quite a few natural bathers in the springs during that first summer.

Camping with the 68 Buick Skylark and popup camper at Garland in 1972
Curtis, Marybeth, Kim, Kristin and Stephen Sharpe camping with the 68 Buick Skylark and popup camper at Garland in 1972

At the time Garland had two rows of cabins. You would cross a small bridge over the creek to get to the lower row of cabins. There was a small paddle wheel in the creek that generated power. At the end of the row of cabins was a dilapidated stable, Dad would tell me stories of taking visitors on horseback rides up into the mountains. There were also two rusty visible gas pumps which were already relics in 1972. The foundation of the Lodge was  still visible and the swimming pool was still there but it was filled with the mineral rich seepage from the springs. During this time the soda spring was still accessable and Mom would let us make Tang with the soda water. Wow, all the Orange Soda a kid could drink, it was like Heaven on Earth!

Each of the “big” cabins had a cast iron stove that were used for cooking and heat and several of the cabins were inhabited. I remember there was a boardwalk along the front of the cabins that would allow you to stay out of the mud when it was raining. The cabin residents had small chicken wire and wood cages with pet chipmunks. On one visit, I had my first taste of cast iron skillet grilled rattlesnake. The “mountain man” who shared this delectable treat with me told me he would catch and kill the snakes, clean them for the meat, drive a nail through the head on a piece of wood and throw the skins on the roof of the cabin to dry. I can still remember the sight of a rattlesnake skin on the roof.

The prominent attraction in the former parking lot was my Grandfathers D8 Catepiller tractor. Someone had spray painted “Noah’s Arc” on the blade. Presumably a reference to the time Grandpa got stuck in the middle of the river with it. By 72 the tractor was disabled and I never saw it run but I “drove” it many miles those summers. I’m not sure when it lost its motor, but years later Grandpa told me someone came in (he thought by helicopter) and stole the motor out of the Cat.

I will always remember Grandpa filling up bottles with the Mineral Water to take home as he would drink some everyday. He lived to 92, I’d say that stuff works just fine!

During the winter of 1973/74 a family friend, Danny and his wife Jerri had moved into Cabin #1 to act as caretakers. I remember thinking to me they looked like Sonny and Cher. They had two Doberman Pincers and two Tennessee Walker show horses. That winter there was a big snow storm that blocked the Index-Galena Road with a slide. After a couple  of  weeks Dad decided we needed to take them groceries and hay for the horses. Dad had a friend with two snowmobiles so they packed them with supplies and piled on their two young sons to make the day trip up to Garland on snowmobiles.

It was a sunny winter day and was a beautiful trip. When we got the slide we dismounted the snowmobiles and climbed to the top of the pile of debris. As I stood waist deep in the snow with my father knee deep about 6 feet away, we could hear the roar of the first snowmobile as it ascended the hill. Then much to our surprise the snow machine appeared over the crest with the skis in the air… headed straight towards me! My father realized there was nothing he could do as I was just out of reach and he was too deep to get to me in time. The machine landed with a thud and veered off spraying me with snow as it brushed by. My father finally scrambled over and held me in his arms. We finished our trip and delivered the supplies then returned home that evening without incident.

The last fall we lived there I remember my Dad taking me up to Bear falls to see the Salmon jump the falls to spawn up near Garland. The Salmon were so thick in the great clear pool at the bottom of the falls, it looked like you could poke a stick in the water and spear four fish  in one thrust. Watching these majestic creatures swim up the fall was a sight I will never forget.

By the summer of 1974 the economic reality of rebuilding Garland had finally sunk in to my Dad’s head. He’d spent two years barely scratching out a living. With my Mom’s encouragement, he resumed his sales career with Best Lock and we moved to Pennsylvania. Visits to Garland after that were far and few between. But the memories were  fixed in my mind  forever.

Kylen Sharpe at Garland in 1988
My Daughter Kylen Sharpe at Garland in 1988

About 25 years later I brought my young family to visit Garland. My wife Karen had heard my stories, the fond recollections and the joy of my childhood growing up in Goldbar and going to Garland. By then the reality of Garland had caught up. The cabins had been looted, the  cast-iron stoves were all gone, the gas pumps had been long added to someone else’s collection, Noah’s arc had sailed away. At the time cabin #1 was still standing but the cabins were in ruin and the river was running through the pool.

Stephen, Stephen Jr. (Scooter) and Cameron Sr. (Grandpa) at Garland in 2001

Now it seems we only visit once every ten years or so. On our last visit the Index-Galena road was wiped out so we took the back way over Jack’s pass. Grandpa had passed so we made the trip alone. When we arrived we found Cabin #1 had quietly slipped into the river over the winter.

Karen and Stephen Sharpe at Garland in 2009

Digging around in the bank of the river that day I found a steel bracket that was part of the fireplace in Cabin #1. I have this bracket on my work bench in my garage. It is my “precious souvenir” of the glory days of Garland.

I guess its time to go back!

Grandpa Sharpe telling me were the soda spring is buried. "It's not here."
Grandpa Sharpe telling me were the soda spring is buried. “It’s not here.” 1988
Curtis, Stephen, Cameron Sr. 1988

Cabin #1 in 1988. Ah the memories!
Kylen, Scooter, Stephen 2001 with big growth trees washing into the river

The “small” cabins closest to the road in 2001
Drinking the Mineral Water at Spring #1
Stephen drinking the Mineral Water at Spring #1 in 2001

Scooter Sharpe crosses the river in the Summer of 2001
By 2009 the river had taken Cabin #1

The small cabins in 2009
The two cabins closest to the river in 2009

The view across the “parking lot” in 2009. Noah’s Arc used to sit there.
The North Fork of the Skykomish river heading down to Index. There are Salmon and Steelhead trying to get to Garland.

Stephen and Scooter on the Index-Galena road in 2009
The washout circa 2009. As of 2015 it’s still not fixed.