Forum Index > Pacific NW History > Fred Cleator, father of the Pacific Crest Trail
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RodF
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PostTue Dec 31, 2013 7:13 am 
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"I am beginning to think that a Skyline Trail the full length of the Cascades in Washington & Oregon joining a similar trail in the Sierras of California would be a great tourist advertisement.  For that matter it might be continued thru British Columbia and up the Alaska highlands.  This is a future work but it would be fine to plan upon."
- Fred Cleator, Field Diary, Aug. 1, 1920*.

Cleator field diary, Aug. 1 1920*
Cleator field diary, Aug. 1 1920*
Fred Cleator and Bob Marshall**
Fred Cleator and Bob Marshall**

This was written in camp at Summit Lake in Deschutes National Forest, during a pack trip from Crater Lake to Minto Pass, during which he mounted the first Skyline Trail signs.  It is clear evidence that Cleator was first to imagine the PCT.

Cleator had joined the USFS in 1909, and in 1919 became the first Recreation Examiner (planner) for USFS Pacific Northwest Region 6.

And plan he did, both the Skyline Trail in Oregon and Cascade Crest Trail in Washington, in extensive field trips, on horseback and on foot, from Lassen NP to Manning Park BC throughout the 1920s.  His plans for alpine trails designed purely for their "scenic and recreational values" was both out of step with the utilitarian goals of firefighting and grazing that put priority on trails in river valleys, but also out of reach of the relatively meager USFS budgets of the 1920s.  But the unanticipated wave of New Deal funding, both Public Works Administration grants for USFS trail crews and Civilian Conservation Corps manpower, made hundreds of Cleator's plans for campgrounds, ranger stations, roads and trails a reality in the 1930s.  He then pursued a dizzying series of inspection field trips, overseeing construction and suggesting needed improvements, through his retirement from USFS in 1943.

Cleator consistently championed scenic and recreational values.  He surveyed high alpine trail routes, insisted on scenic buffers around roads and timber sales, and successfully urged the designation of Primitive Areas (long before Wilderness became official) in forests throughout the northwest.

See John Caldbick's biography of Cleator on historylink.org and USFS' History of the Williamette National Forest, chapter 3 to appreciate Cleator's leadership on recreational planning and conservation.  Throughout his USFS career, he maintained a hectic travel schedule, recorded in his field diaries (at National Archives, Seattle), journals (at U Oregon Library, Eugene), recreational plans (in USFS R6 warehouse, Portland) and forest plans (in National Archives, College Park MD).  This had made it difficult for scholars to assess wide-ranging contributions of his career, chief among them: he not only conceived of the PCT, he made it a reality.

Frederick W. Cleator is the father of the PCT.  May all who cherish it honor him; may all who tread it remember him.

* Field Diaries: Frederick W. Cleator, box 37, USFS Region 6 Historical Collection, Record Group 95, National Archives, Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).
** undated photo (likely 1938-'39?), Frederick William Cleator papers, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene.  Courtesy of Barney "Scout" Mann, PCTA.


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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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ProfessorAlbusDumbledore
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PostWed Jan 01, 2014 4:57 pm 
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Cool! Thanks for sharing!  I hope to do a thru hike of the PCT someday!  up.gif
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wolffie
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PostFri Jan 10, 2014 10:43 am 
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Mt. Cleator (under the dog) would have been right on the PCT, but I guess they thought High Pass was too ice-axy for the PCT.  I also heard that there was difficulty keeping a bridge over the Napeequa -- but turns out, the Suiattle hasn't been any easier.
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Yana
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PostFri Jan 10, 2014 11:42 pm 
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Ever since a trip into that area, I've always wondered who Mt. Cleator was named after. Way cool!

Thanks, RodF!

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Matt
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PostFri Jan 10, 2014 11:49 pm 
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Well, now I'm extra glad I've been to Mt. Cleator.

Thanks for the interesting piece of history.

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RodF
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PostSat Jan 11, 2014 1:17 pm 
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Fred Cleator wrote many reports on the progress of the Pacific Crest Trail (the Oregon Skyline Trail and Washington Cascade Crest Trail) from 1920 through 1943.  This 1936 report is the best review of its history.
Source: National Archives - Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle), Record Group 95, Records of the U.S. Forest Service Region 6, Box 71, folder "U: Recreation, Activities: Pacific Crest Trail (Oregon Skyline and Cascade Crest Trail), 1938-39.

It's sad that the PCTA (see their PCT history) knows so little about the history of the PCT, and what little it knows is wrong!

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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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Jeb
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PostSat Jan 11, 2014 5:31 pm 
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Cool! Thanks for sharing up.gif

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RodF
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PostSat Jan 11, 2014 7:30 pm 
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The USFS issued the first map of the proposed Oregon Skyline Trail route in 1921.  It was reprinted by the state Oregon Tourist and Information Bureau, which was trying to promote the concept as a scenic highway route.

In 1925, the first USFS map of the actual Skyline Trail was issued to the public by Fred Cleator's recreation office.

Source: National Archives - Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle), Records Group 95: Records of the U.S. Forest Service Region 6, Box 70, folder "Oregon Skyline Trail Maps".

To ensure no road would ever mar the Skyline, the USFS designated two wilderness areas along it:
- the Mt. Jefferson Primitive Area in 1930, enlarged to 83,033 acres in 1933.
- the Mountain Lakes Primitive Area in 1930, adjacent to and south of Crater Lake NP, enlarged to 23,071 acres in 1940.

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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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Chico
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PostSun Jan 12, 2014 7:25 pm 
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A very good history concerning how the Wilderness movement got started. "Driven Wild - How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement"
http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/SUTDRI.html

Back in the early days of the automobile they wanted to put roads everywhere. If they could have figured out how to build a road to the top of Mt Rainier they would have.

I found the book somewhat dry but nonetheless rather interesting.

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Magellan
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PostSun Jan 12, 2014 10:22 pm 
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Great stuff, Rod.  Thanks for posting.  up.gif  up.gif
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contour5
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PostSun Jan 12, 2014 11:39 pm 
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Interesting documents, Rod.

Very intrigued by many of the quaint details, like the recommended clothing: A whipcord suit, canvas or leather leggings, buckskin gloves.

Also, the recommendations to leave a pleasant camp by burying your bottles and cans; and the "I promise" section where one is advised to fling ones cigarette stumps into the dust of the road.

Seems it was a given that most hardy adventurers would be making the trip on horseback, or with a string of mules. The pre-plastic, pre-nylon world had a number of limitations which are largely absent today.

Wanting a whipcord suit...
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