The Ancient War Scars of Hooknose Mountain


 Do you ever get self-conscious about your nose? What if your nose looked so weird that people named you after it? That’s what the early people of what is now known as the northern Pend Oreille County area did to a mountain. While the adjacent mountains of the area were named after people like the neighboring Abercrombie Mountain, Hooknose Mountain looked so weird that it was given the name Hooknose after the shape of its peak. Now this name may seem like mockery, but it's more like the nickname given to a valiant war hero, as its shape is a battle scar left from a long ago between earth and ice.

Imagine a world covered in snow and ice, sometimes the ice formed structures so massive that they can dam rivers and create lakes so large that when they finally break through their ice dam they cause mega flooding across Washington State. These massive structures of ice are known as glaciers, or during the Pleistocene they were Ice Sheets. These glaciers would slowly move across the earth carving trails in their wake as they continued on their path ever downward some 30 to 10 thousand years ago, during the Fraser glacial period (WADNR, 2019). While there were signs of these massive continental glaciers in the area, Hooknose mountain and the nearby Abercrombie mountain were seemingly untouched by them. (USDA Forest Service, 2009) Instead it seems alpine glaciers formed on the tops of these mountains. Over time these alpine glaciers formed cirques, a cirques are bowl shaped depressions in the sides of mountains. (Marshak, 2015) These cirques are what gives Hooknose its iconic shape, carved in the strong Gypsy Quartzite that makes up the mountain (Lindsay et al., 1990). (See Figure 4) Cirques seem to form mostly on the north-side of mountains in this area, likely due to the sun’s power being focused from the south during winter leaving the north side of the mountain on the shady and cooler side. However, that doesn’t mean that water in the peaks did not freeze and break them down, which must have happened due to the density of sharp boulders laying across the over-steepened peaks. (L. Joseph, 1990) (See figure 3) One of these cirques is home to the Hooknose Lake, that feeds to fence creek down the mountain. (See Figure 2) These alpine glaciers also did not reach the very top of the mountain, leaving exposed rock at the top referred to as nunatak peaks. (Kiver et al, 2016) A combination of the nunatak peak and cirques created a natural pyramidal structure of exposed rock too neat to build a complex over.

So just like the tough and rugged locals who gave the mountain its name, Hooknose Mountain was shaped by the harsh weather typical of the area.