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Sunday, November 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Longtime friend of the forest is honored with her own trail
By Dan Wheat
LAKE WENATCHEE, Wash. It was 69 years ago, when she was just 13, that Mary Nelson found her special place.
It was a warm, early September afternoon in 1935. The Seattle girl was hiking in the White River Valley while her brother, Ross, was grouse hunting. They were staying with their cousin who lived at Lake Wenatchee.
Mary heard a slap to her right and left the trail to investigate. Through a stand of Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock, she discovered a pond. She could see two beaver lodges. The slap had been a beaver tail whacking the water.
"I laid there on my belly, probably for two hours, and then a little head popped up. It was a beaver. Then another head popped up and then another and another," said Mary now Mary Ware, white-haired and 82 from her wheelchair at the head of a new, 500-foot trail going to the same pond.
Thirty people gathered recently at the trailhead called the Ware Walk Interpretive Trail at the new end of Sears Creek Road, some seven miles northwest of the upper end of Lake Wenatchee.
Friends, Lake Wenatchee residents and U.S. Forest Service personnel, they had come to honor Ware and celebrate the White River Restoration Project, virtually complete.
They joked about it being a day for hardy souls. A cold wind blew fluffy white clouds across a blue sky, past the swaying tops of tall fir trees. Dirtyface Mountain shone white with fresh snow. Sunshine fought sprinkles of rain.
The project, started in 1998, included wetland habitat restoration, removal of three-fourths of a mile of the end of Sears Creek Road, removal of 2-1/2 miles of upland roads, relocating part of the White River Road and forest thinning to give remaining trees space to get larger, faster.
Glenn Hoffman, district ranger of the Wenatchee River Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, thanked nine agencies, groups and a business for contributing $163,000 to the project, which he said cost between $250,000 and $300,000.
Murphy and Bob Sheehan, now district ranger of the Chelan Ranger District but then district ranger of the Lake Wenatchee Ranger District, were driving along the Sears Creek Road in 1996.
They saw a car parked at what's now the Ware trailhead and spotted a woman trying to walk through the woods on crutches.
That was how they met Mary Ware, then 74, who had just been released from three months in a hospital and was determined to make it to the pond. They gave her a ride to the pond and heard her stories about it.
She remembered the Sears brothers and many of a dozen other homesteaders who lived in the White River Valley in the 1930s. She recalled Indians who came to pick huckleberries in autumn.
The pond became her favorite spot, especially after she married John Ware and moved to Lake Wenatchee in 1946. The Wares built Lake Wenatchee State Park in 1949, and he was the first ranger.
They helped build Chiwawa River campgrounds, portions of the Pacific Crest Trail and he worked as a welder on the first chairlift during the construction of Stevens Pass Ski Area.
Mary Ware was named national Forest Service volunteer of the year in 1995, Murphy said.
"I just thank God for the early years that we were able to live here and those early families," Ware said.
"Everybody helped each other and trusted each other. It was a wonderful place to live."
The Wares visited the pond many times during their 53 years of marriage. John Ware died in 1994. Mary Ware now lives in Leavenworth.
"I know the animals knew I was there. They finally accepted me as long as I was still. That was such a thrill," she said.
Longtime friends of the Wares, Karen Gray Arnold and Ralph and Betty Newell, were at the ceremony.
Another friend, Corky Broaduss, public-affairs officer of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, called Ware "the matriarch of Lake Wenatchee."
"She and John were a pair of the most giving and community-oriented people. They welcomed people with open arms. They knew Lake Wenatchee like the back of their hands," Broaduss said.
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