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Remembering Don Hanson

Posted by Susan Elderkin at Mar 04, 2013 01:30 PM |

On Saturday, the hiking community lost one of its stalwart ambassadors. Don Hanson, owner and proprietor of Scottish Lakes High Camp, died when a tree dropped a giant load of snow on him while he was working outside the lodge.

On Saturday the hiking community lost one of its stalwart ambassadors. Don Hanson, owner and proprietor of Scottish Lakes High Camp, died when a tree dropped a giant load of snow on him while he was working outside the lodge.

Don is described by those who knew him as a "force of nature." At 65, he had more energy than most people half his age. He and his wife Chris, transformed the Scottish Lakes High Camp in the their 18 years of ownership, building and renovating several cabins, expanding the lodge, building and maintaining extensive new backcountry hiking, ski and snowshoe trails and much more. But what made High Camp such a unique and special place was the care and hospitality that guests enjoyed from their hosts during their stays. Don was always generous and gracious, becoming lifelong friends with many of his guests.

When not working on the High Camp, Don loved nothing more than an epic backpacking trip. Guidebook author Craig Romano fondly recalls many hiking adventures with Don and his wife. Don was along for several of Craig's research trips for his Backpacking Washington book, including marathon days of 20 plus miles hiking to Chiwaukum Lakes and traversing The Enchantments. It's safe to say that there are few people who knew the east side of the Alpines Lakes Wilderness like Don did.

A Celebration of Don's Life will be held at 3pm this Thursday, March 7th, at Festhalle in Leavenworth. Details can be found on the Scottish Lakes High Camp website.

All of us at Washington Trails Association sends our sincerest condolences to Don's family.


A Great Man and Camp Host

I had the pleasure of hiking last fall with a group staying at the Scottish High Camps. Don and his wife were our host for the day as we hiked across McCue Ridge. I very much enjoyed the hike and their hospitality. He will be greatly missed. Our sympathy goes out to his family.

Posted by:

fox15rider on Mar 05, 2013 12:03 AM

He was truely a Backcountry Ambassdor

Don was one of those guys that you liked from the moment you met him. For me, my regular trips to High Camp just wont be the same.

Posted by:

"Don The NorthCascadesWanderer" on Mar 05, 2013 12:03 AM

Grieving and Remembering Don Hansen

I was fortunate to be a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service out of Lake Wenatchee in the last 1970’s and early 1980’s while I continued my college education on the 10-year plan for a 4-year degree. I first visited High Camp as a guest in 1980 when I skied in 8 miles with my girlfriend and set up a tent near the lodge Bill Stark had built. Bill came out after dark and “knocked” on the tent and asked if we didn’t want to come inside for some fellowship. We were served roast leg of lamb and freshly baked pie by Peg out of the propane oven. Bill served us “Yardarms” which consisted of tumblers mixed with half Tang and half rum. We all adopted each other and became friends for life that evening. I returned to High Camp annually and as Bill and Peg contemplated selling it they chose me to buy and operate it. When I told Bill that I really couldn’t do that he somehow brokered it and caught Don Hansen’s eye as he was retiring from the Snohomish County School District. I had told Bill that the only way he could sell such a place was to find someone who operated on a one-way forward vision. It was not necessarily a risk-free or attractive business opportunity. Bill just smiled with that twinkle in his eye that had charmed the County and the Forest Service into granting him the 20-acre lease that would be impossible to acquire today.

Don, Chris, and partners were aligned with the one-way vision, but Don personified it. He knew the place was as much an idea as a business and the idea is grand. High Camp has become a necessary part of the psyche of the thousands that have visited it since Don Hansen took the helm. After a bleary, stressful week as an ER doctor or nurse in a busy Seattle hospital one can pack a cooler and a back pack, grab skis, and within 5 or 6 hours be in one’s own cabin at 5,000 feet in the Ponderosa pine forest on the east slope of the Cascades about 17 miles SE of Stevens Pass. People from all over the planet have found their way to High Camp. Whether you spend your stay pulling your toddlers around the lodge area on a sled or gear up for a 14-hour day in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Chiwaukim Mountains skiing randonee or telemark, the magic of being there enthralls. As does the fellowship in the lodge, the wood-fired hot tub, and the sauna each evening.
I have read that roof and tree avalanches kill more people than those triggered while skiing or snow-machining. There are many hazards associated with using High Camp, too many to be aware of at all times. This is the first death I remember however. I am sorry it had to be anyone, but especially sorry because it was Don. He was probably the 50,000th person to walk beneath that tree on Saturday. Like Bill and Peg he will leave a legacy in the Leavenworth area. High Camp has been a post-industrial community of wonderful connections and people for over 35 years, 18 of them under Don and Chris. It is a weekend commune for all of us who wish they could live there all the time. A Disneyland for skiers. Don and Chris were crazy enough to buy it from Bill and Peg, and that is what I have always loved about them. Don got it. He knew it was bigger than a collection of cabins and a lodge. It is a place to really free your mind and let the high country settle into your dreams. It is Cascadia personified. May it continue after Don as it has after Bill and Peg. I can’t believe they would want it any other way.
In the years since I first visited High Camp I have returned almost annually as both a guest and an employee. I have been fortunate enough to work for Don and Chris and their partners and I am looking forward to my next visit. I can’t imagine not being there.

Posted by:

"Vallindakoff" on Mar 06, 2013 07:14 AM

a force of nature

I felt a great disruption in the "force" when that happened. More than a force of nature, Don was the most positive person I've ever met. It's not my nature to be that positive, but I'm going to try. It will, however, take a lot of us trying real hard to make up for even a part of that force. Nevertheless, I'm going to try...

Thanks Don you are a rare combination of mountain man and people person but mostly inspirational!

Posted by:

jaga on Mar 06, 2013 07:14 AM

Remembering Don

For over 18 years a small group of us have been going to Scottish Lakes. The enthusiasm Don and Chris showed for High Camp was infectious. We were always welcomed as part of their extended family. Hearing of Don’s passing was just heartbreaking. He passed away too early. My only consolation is - right up to the end - he lived his life to the fullest. We should all be so lucky. Don left many of us with fond memories that will last a lifetime. He will be greatly missed.

Posted by:

"GreyJay" on Mar 06, 2013 04:08 PM

Fond memories

I was so very saddened to hear the news. I've only visited High Camp a mere handful of times, yet I certainly would call it home. Don was both the most gracious of hosts and a great proponent of the eastside of the Crest environment I love so much. As one writer here said, Don personified positivism. I will also plan to take that attitude he offered, and try to emulate it more often. My condolences to his family, both "legal" and of Scottish Lakes.

Posted by:

"cathorse" on Mar 06, 2013 06:40 PM

A poem for Don and many of you mountain types

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

 My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Robt Burns

Posted by:

jaga on Mar 07, 2013 07:41 AM

Don as a Principal

I am not a hiker, but a teacher. Don was my Principal at Thoreau Elementary in the lake washington School District. The personality and enthusiasm mentioned on this site about hiking is the same Don I knew as an educator, I was so very sorry to hear of his accident. Charlotte Hill

Posted by:

"elkriver3" on May 04, 2013 05:51 AM