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Austin Pass Warming Hut

Known today as the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, it was constructed in 1940 by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers to serve as a ski shelter. Built to support a ski area developed by the Mount Baker Development Company, the 2½-story, masonry and wood frame building originally included a large warming room, waxing and drying room, and sleeping loft. Knotty pine paneling, a soaring cathedral ceiling, and a massive fireplace finished the interior of the warming room. Despite these amenities, the warming hut was not successful in its intended function as heavy snowfall made use difficult, and food and other supplies had to be skied in. With the advent of the Second World War and gas rationing, the highway ceased to be plowed in 1942, leading to the financial collapse of the ski area. Even when operations resumed at the ski area after the war, use of the warming hut was limited until it was converted into a field station by the University of Washington in 1972. Many of the interior alterations made at that time have since been reversed with its later conversion to a seasonal visitor center operated by the U.S. Forest Service.

In summer the Heather Meadows area is green with heather and native plants between clumps of mountain hemlock; in autumn it is a riot of alpine flowers. Dozens of small streams, eddying in pools or dashing down the rocks, hold Dolly Varden, cutthroat, rainbow, and blackspotted trout. Ruffed and blue grouse and white-tailed ptarmigan take cover in the tall grasses. There are also marmot, beaver, otter, wildcat, deer, black bear, and mountain goat. Heather Meadows was the “shooting site” of the motion pictures The Call of the Wild and The Barrier, because its scenery so much resembles that of Alaska.