|The Women's Legacy Project of Snohomish
County, Washington seeks to honor our foremothers by recording and
sharing their personal histories, their ability to adapt to the forces
of change and their constant vigilance as stewards of the
diverse cultures of our society.|
|Enid Thrall Nordlund
~ Naturalist, Historian, Mountaineer
By Louise Lindgren
Enid Thrall Nordlund, born in 1906,
was steeped in the mystery of growing things from an
early age. In later years, the yard of her 1898 home
was filled with old-fashioned perennials and
delicate forest plants. Red and white trilliums grew
side by side with little-known mosses and ferns.
Birds flocked to the feeders with their varied menus
as her cat, trained to watch but not pounce, sat
idly by. Watching too, was this lady who spent much
of her lifetime nurturing nature’s offspring.
Anna Thrall in her garden.
a child Enid observed as her mother carefully tended
the perennials which brightened their modest home on
Everett’s “Riverside.” The family had inherited
eight lots with an orchard on the high end and
swampland lower. Slowly, the property was
transformed with gardens.
In 1920 her mother, Anna Thrall, opened the first commercial nursery in the
area, specializing in perennials and rockery plants. Enid became her mother’s
employee at age 14 and spent after school hours transplanting and learning.
Often she was observed studying the huge, unabridged dictionary at the library
with a long list of plant names in Latin on the table beside that tome. She
attempted to decipher pronunciation and find out why the plants had been given
such strange names by long-dead botanists.
In addition to normal nursery duties, Enid and her sister Dorotha
would spend hours each fall gathering holly for Christmas wreaths. Over 300
holly trees of various types were planted around the perimeter of the property.
Enid could make a wreath in six minutes flat. She said, “Our sign said ‘Holly
Wreaths – 25 cents – Delivered,’ Can you imagine that? Delivered!” The sisters
continued the sideline of making wreaths for 55 years.
| Sundays were days of
rest and family outings. A love of exploring and
hiking far hills was instilled early. One hard lesson
was learned in May of 1918 when Enid and Dorotha went on
their first serious hike up to Lake Serene on Mt. Index.
She reflects, “You know, that’s too early to go up there on
your first real hike. There was snow, and we had to
hike clear up from the Stevens Pass highway. We
crossed a swinging bridge and went two and a half miles just
to get to the start of the trail. We didn’t have
slacks in those days, just dresses. Of course, we were
soaking wet. It’s a wonder that experience didn’t turn us
off to hiking.” Clearly it didn’t.
| Enid and her friends continued to
explore mountain areas, including one that was to become very special to her –
Monte Cristo. In 1924, the Royal Hotel in the old mining town was the “place to
go.” Even the ride in was an adventure, aboard the gasoline excursion car along
the old Everett and Monte Cristo railway tracks.
When the railway bed washed out, groups of friends made
the pilgrimage on foot. She developed a habit of taking along flower seed and
planting all along the way from Granite Falls to Monte Cristo. Trays of leftover
sedum plants were carefully inserted in the crevasses of the natural “rockery”
walls of Robe canyon, at that time a treacherous stretch of abandoned train
tracks (now converted into the Robe Canyon hiking trail).
In 1934 she married Ed Nordlund, inviting him to share in
her love of the mountains and planting flowers in the wilderness. Their first
home was in Kenmore, where she started her own rockery planting service as well
as continuing to help in her parents’ Everett nursery several times a week.
However, they continued their mountain excursions, always taking plants and
seeds along, and with the seed of an idea germinating in their minds – to build
at Monte Cristo. In 1948 they purchased three lots on Dumas Street, where
buildings were left as deteriorating ruins.
Nordland Cabin, 1959
The Royal Hotel was no more, but the old Boston
American Mine cookhouse, converted to a resort,
continued to attract visitors. By 1951 the Nordlunds,
who had moved back to Everett, built a small cabin
at Monte Cristo entirely from salvaged lumber and
windows from snow-crushed buildings. Enid soon
became the old mining town’s volunteer naturalist,
leading trail tours and giving illustrated lectures
for resort patrons.
The cabin was decorated with artifacts dug from collapsed
structures of the old town site. Colorful, broken
bottle necks hung from strings like garlands framing
the windows. The Nordlunds collected, sold, and used
antiques all of their lives. The kitchen in their
Everett home sported a fine old woodstove with
warming ovens, a fancier cousin to the one they used
at their cabin.
Visitors to Monte
Cristo in succeeding years began to notice the
flowers Enid planted. Near the townsite, paths were
bordered by daffodils in early June (later than
normal because of heavy snow). Swiss blue-bells and
the non-native, but more colorful Russell’s lupine
lined pathways. In more inaccessible areas, she
planted edelweiss and trolius imported from
visitors, in those days before environmental
sensitivity, would dig up the flowers and take them
back to the city, prompting her to plant farther and
farther from established trails. “It has been said
that city people come to the mountains to pick it,
dig it or, if it moves, shoot it,” she observed.
a common sight and a joy. A marten would sit on the
woodpile, looking in the cabin window, waiting to be fed a
piece of banana or other treat. Mountain goats were visible
more than a thousand feet above their home, and the
chipmunks and birds would always be fed with a sprinkling of
seed atop an old pot-bellied stove beside the fir tree. Enid
recorded all in her journals – the animals, native flowers,
mosses, ferns, trees, mushrooms, even the insects. (An
entry, “deerflies,” has an exclamation point after it – they
| The loss of a favorite deer hit hard. They had named her
“Mercedes,” and though thoroughly wild, she was accustomed to spending time in
the area with her fawns on the way to the high country. Her visits continued
for 12 years until the game department decided to allow the shooting of does.
One summer she simply vanished, causing the Nordlunds to view every hunter in
the area with suspicion.
This woman of the mountains absorbed her losses over time. Her
husband died slowly of Alzheimers disease. Her sister Dorotha, who lived with
her in later years, preceded her in death as well. Still, in spite of failing
eyesight, she continued to help those who wished to learn. She sold the cabin
at Monte Cristo to close friends who maintain it as she left it, in her honor.
Her vast collection of historic photos was shared with both the Everett and
University of Washington libraries. The Snohomish County Museum in Everett was
the recipient of many artifacts from her collection.
Painting of favorite deer by Enid Nordlund [date unknown]
| Enid died at the age of 97 in
October 2003. Still, for those who drive the Mountain Loop
Highway or hike to Monte Cristo, there remain a few flowers
that have adapted and survived, tucked away in crevices to
puzzle and delight those who discover Enid Nordlund’s
| Source: Interview with Enid Nordlund by Louise Lindgren, December 5, 1991.
© 2006 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved