The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.


Mother’s Day on Mount Hood

We didn’t make the annual St. Helens climb for Mother’s Day this year, but we celebrated on a mountain nonetheless with a great day of spring skiing and tailgating on Hood. Glad my kids have such a cool mom!



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On Mount Hood at the Cascade Ski Club

More than 85  years ago, a group of Norwegians gathered together near Mount Hood to do what they loved best: ski jump.

Today, their legacy is still around in the form of the Cascade Ski Club, a non-profit dedicated to helping people have affordable and accessible  mountain experiences all year long. The club came to be in 1928 in Government Camp as a way to boost Mount Hood as an ideal escape for winter sports like Nordic skiing, ski jumping and downhill skiing. Among some of the club’s more notable members over the years: Hjalmar Hvam, an expert skier and the inventor of one of the first safety ski bindings, and gold medal Olympic skier Bill Johnson.

Since 1947, the club has had its CSC Lodge right in Government Camp. It’s a friendly place where members gather after long days on the mountain. They can have meals there and even stay overnight in the lodge’s variety of dormitories.


This weekend, they’ll also be able to get a little On Mount Hood at the lodge, too. Back in October, I did a slideshow for the book out at REI in Hillsboro, and there I met one of the club members. He invited me to come up sometime this winter and share some Mount Hood stories with the club. Not one to ever decline an invitation to the mountain, I accepted. The show, open to CSC members and guests, is at 7:30 p.m. at the CSC Lodge, 30510 E. Blossom Trail. For more information, checkout the CSC website.

Mount Hood bread?

Sure, why not…


Shred Hood’s Mount Hood Book Recommendations

In case you’ve not come across it yet, a former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, launched a site this fall called Shred Hood. Co-founded with Bjorn van der Voo, Shred Hood is a community news and information website that covers the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry scene on Mount Hood.

On Mount Hood This week, it’s also covering some mountaineering books by way of a gift recommendation list. Appreciate seeing On Mount Hood on the list, right there among some other great titles. 

Check it out. 

Stevan Allred – and Silver Man – at Powell’s Books

A great book event at Powell’s for Stevan Allred’s A Simplified Map of the Real World. And a special guest to accompany the reading of “The Painted Man.”


On Mount Hood at Timberline Lodge

The Timberline Trail has come calling again, and myself and three other writers will be treading its path in just over a week. It’s been eight years since Amy and I first knocked it off the list, so it will be great to see it all again and compare it to that hike, which happened in what almost seems like another lifetime.

On the same day that we’re going to kick off the hike, I’ve also been invited to be part of a book signing at Timberline Lodge with a few other authors whose books are also in the gift shop at the lodge. I’ll be there — on the back patio of the main lodge — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, along with Sonia Buist, author of Around & About Mount Hood, Sarah Munro, author of Timberline Lodge: The History, Art and Craft of an American Icon, and Stephen Weston, author of In the Wild Chef, who will also be doing a cooking demonstration. 

It will be a great way to get in the Timberline mindset before hitting the trail. Stop by if you’re up on the mountain that day…


Photo courtesy of Timberline Lodge.



On Mount Hood at REI

OMH Paperback coverREI’s not the easiest nut to crack when it comes to getting on their shelves or in their store for an event, but every once in a while you get a little lucky. For those who missed the paperback launch at Powell’s, swing by the Portland REI for a slideshow and reading from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 1405 NW Johnson St, Portland, OR 970209.

Got a few other events coming up, too.


On Mount Hood in Sandy — Feb. 24

An upcoming event at Lori Ryland’s art studio in Sandy, Or., with some other great writers, filmmakers, artists, and creative folks.

On Mount Hood — On Sale

Know a fan of Mount Hood? A skier, a climber, a camper, a hiker? Someone who loves Timberline Lodge, Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Meadows, Hood River Valley apples and pears? Someone who loves to read about amazing people and places?

If so, On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak may be the perfect gift this Christmas.

And between now and Dec. 31, 2012, signed copies of On Mount Hood are available for just $15 (plus shipping, if applicable) direct from this site. Simply get in touch through the contact page and you’ll be on your way to making someone smile big this Christmas.

The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum

It’s late tonight, so we’re just going to keep in simple and make sure we get a post in for the 2012 Blogathon.

Thanks to a Living Social deal, we hung out yesterday afternoon at the Columbia Gorge Wine and Pear Festival in Hood River at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. It’s kind of a tucked-away place, but it’s one worth checking out. Not only does the museum have an incredible view of Mount Hood, but it also has an impressive collection of old airplanes, automobiles and motorcycles, most if not all of which are in functioning order and get used somewhat regularly. Throw in some great wines from wineries like Marchesi, Phelps Creek and Viento, a little live music, and some bits for the kids, and you’ve got the makings for a great afternoon — and a geat story.


An eruption reminder

It was 32 years ago today (May 18)  that Mount St. Helens blew its top in the most destructive volcanic eruption in the recorded history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed, hundreds of homes, bridges, miles of highway, and more were obliterated, and the landscape of the region was forever changed.

St. Helens erupting on May 18, 1980. Image accessed through Wikimedia Commons.

This day is always a good one to remember. Not just because it’s the birthday of one of my very best friends, but because it serves as a good reminder of just what these mountains here in the Pacific Northwest might be capable of. According to a 2010 USGS top ten list of the most dangerous volcanoes in the U.S. based on size and potential damage of an eruption, seven of the them are Cascade Peaks. In order on the list: St. Helens (2), Rainier (3), Mount Hood (4), Shasta (5), South Sister (6), Lassen Peak (7), and Crater Lake (10).

According to the geologists that I talked to for my book, there’s a good chance that we won’t see Mount Hood erupt in our lifetime. It’s been a while since it’s erupted — about 230 years — and even though there are constant rumblings deep underneath the mountain and active fumaroles up higher, there don’t seem to be any major signs that the mountain is coming back to life anytime soon. That said, it doesn’t mean that people haven’t planned for the possibility of an eruption or that the door isn’t always open for the possibility. With volcanoes, it has to be.

“Until the volcano chooses to give us some indication that unrest is beginning, things motor on and are just fine,” said Cynthia Gardner, a geologist at the Cascades Volcano Observatory, who I interviewed for the book. “And then one day they aren’t fine anymore.”


The 2012 Lake Run. A glorious day for a run today: sunny, warm but breezy, crystal clear. I met a personal goal and resolution of mine to break 24 minutes  again in the 5k. The kids loved the inflatable slide, and Madeline even partook of the running aspect herself this year, joining in the Kid’s Dash.

Whether today’s run will ultimately lead any of us to climb Mount Hood later this season remains to be seen. No matter, though, it was a glorious day for a run.

(Funny, too, to look back on this post from my very first blog and our very first Lake Run four years ago…)

On Mount Hood Events

When the book first launched last year, I had a full schedule of events going on. Places like Powell’s, Wy’East Book Shoppe & Art Gallery, OPB’s Think Out Loud up at Timberline Lodge. It got busy again around the holidays, with the Mazamas, the Oregon Historical Society, the Audubon Society and others.

This was from a brief talk I gave back in October to a group of Mt. Hood Ski Patrol veterans who meet every few months for lunch. Paul Kunkel, a former member of the patrol, graciously invited me to attend after reading the book, which he’d received as a gift.

I try to keep my schedule at least regular when it comes to events now. I’ve done a few over the past couple weeks, and I’ve got another one coming up next month at the Eugene Public Library. It’s a great way for me to get out, spread the word about the book, and meet other people, like Paul and his wife, who have a real fondness for Mount Hood. More to come, I’m sure.

Mount Hood and Mink River

Earlier this year, I read a fantastically Oregon book. Called Mink River and written by Lake Oswego author Brian Doyle, it’s a creative and excellent book that captures the essence of Oregon and the unique communities and characters that reside here. It’s also got a direct link to Mount Hood and some of its storied ice caves. I’ve never explored any of those, but they’re up there.

One of my favorite books of all time is Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, in part because when you read that book, you are experiencing Oregon in the written word. If I ever leave this wonderful corner of the country, and I don’t plan to, I will read that book again and again to bring me back. I can now also turn back to Mink River, which imparts that exact same soggy, verdant, enlightened, dreary, glorious, natural, awe-inspiring, and absolutely singular spirit of this place. Loved the book.

Mount Hood stories

One reason that a book about Mount Hood seems like such a natural fit is that just about everyone here in Oregon and, really, the Northwest, seems to have a story about it. Theirs may be that they climb it or ski on it, look at it from afar, or simply spend time up at Timberline Lodge every so often. Whatever it is, I’ve found that just about everyone I come across has a story to share about the mountain.

Today, at the Atkinson Book and Author Fair, I talked to a great bunch of authors, who’ve written books about everything from the Civil War and the history of Estacada to being paralyzed and in a wheelchair for nearly 30 years.

Each of the authors I talked to, however, also had their own stories to share about Mount Hood. One recounted a climb he made years ago that found him in a complete whiteout on the descent, all the way back down. His party couldn’t tell they’d returned safely until their ice axes scraped against the asphalt of the parking lot at Timberline Lodge. Another woman had a brother who climbed Hood years and years ago. The person in front of him on the rope fell into a crevasse and died, but he himself was fine. Another author, who ended up in a wheelchair after a tragic accident more than two decades ago, remembered with humor a trip to Timberline Lodge that found her crammed into a tiny elevator full of tables and chairs, that being the only way she could access the main area of the lodge. 

The stories are great — and just keep coming and coming. To me, it says something about just how influential Mount Hood is in the lives of so many people. 

Remembering Steiner Cabins

Reading the Oregonian this morning, I came across a bit of sad news: John Steiner, a master craftsmen who, along with his father, Henry, built some of the most unique mountain cabins up near Mount Hood, passed away on Friday. He was 99.

I never got to meet him, but I’ve talked to some people who have. And I’ve also been lucky enough to spend a little time in one of his unique and charming Mount Hood cabins. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind legacy, here’s a post I wrote up last year about a memorable weekend in a most memorable Steiner Cabin.

Father’s Day weekend this year was a rainy and gray one. The water came in a nearly unending stream and the wooly clouds parked overhead and didn’t budge.

I’d had a book signing at Wy’East Book Shoppe & Art Gallery in Welches that Friday night — the last sign of sunshine for a few days — but rather than head back home afterwards, we decided to make a weekend out of it.

We did so in a Steiner cabin up in Government Camp, thanks to some very generous friends who were lucky enough to come across one of these unique little getaways a few years ago.

Built over two decades by a German craftsman named Henry Steiner beginning in the late 1920s, Steiner cabins stand apart from other alpine hideaways on Mount Hood for their singular accents and ingenious incorporation of natural elements. Steiner and later, his son, John, built the cabins by hand — without power tools — and used nearby materials as much as possible: glacial stones, river rocks, Douglas firs and other on-site timbers they hewed themselves. (Henry Steiner also hand-hewed the towering fir columns at Timberline Lodge over just two weeks in the late 1930s.)

One of the most unique features of many of the 30 or so cabins sprinkled between Rhododendron and Government Camp are snow-bent timbers that the Steiners used for rounded doors and other architectural elements.

The Steiners also fashioned natural, functional accents for their cabins, using burls from trees for doorknobs and hand-carving pegs and lever mechanisms to open and close doors and windows. 

The weekend we stayed in a Steiner, raindrops slid off the overhead boughs outside and a crystalline stream gushed without end. An ugly mist kept us from venturing out beyond a few trips to the general store and a quick jaunt up to Timberline Lodge for an afternoon outing. Inside the cabin, the rustic smell of woodsmoke permeated the timbers in a welcoming way. A fire in the stone fireplace added warmth and a glow to the room. We stayed close inside the Steiner for nearly two days straight, and it was just right.

Lakes of Mount Hood — and Oregon

Mount Hood and the Mount Hood National Forest are home to an absolute trove of hydrological resources: creeks, streams, rivers, hidden tarns, ponds, and, of course, lakes. Add up all the surface water across the entire national forest, and you get something close to 71,000 acres — about half the size of Lake Tahoe. There’s so much important and pristine water around Mount Hood that I wrote a whole chapter about it in my book.

Bull Run Lake

With the spring sun shining and hints of the coming season in the air, today seems an ideal day to share Portland State University’s new Atlas of Oregon Lakes. The online index, which I read about this morning on Terry Richard’s blog at The Oregonian, contains 215 lakes all over Oregon. The majority of the entries include maps, detailed descriptions, interesting stories and lore, photos, and other great information for either planning a trip or just broadening knowledge.

It’s not comprehensive by any means, but it is fairly extensive and includes some of the gems around Mount Hood: Lost Lake, Bull Run Lake, Trillium Lake, and many others. Another great resource for exploring not only the mountain, but the national forest and the entire state.

Shorty’s Corner

On the way to Mount Hood from Portland, there’s a little gas station and cafe just southeast of Sandy on the right side of Highway 26. I’ve passed it countless times on the way to the mountain and back over the past 15 years, but never stopped there. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve just never needed gas or a quick bite to eat right then and there. (And to be quite honest, whenever we’re coming back from a hard day on the mountain, a day on which we’ve earned it, we’re stopping for Mexican at El Buro Loco in Welches or burgers and beers at Calamity Jane’s in Sandy)

But I’ve almost always been intrigued by the name of this little roadside stop: Shorty’s Corner.

We got one step closer to stopping at Shorty’s Corner this past weekend. Not because we headed up to Mount Hood, but instead because we were toasting the times at Wurstfest,  an annual mini Oktoberfest held in tiny Mt. Angel every February.

After a few hours of music, dancing, and a couple nice pilsners from Silverton’s 7 Brides, we walked up the road for a fantastic dinner at the Mt. Angel Sausage Company.  Just as we were ordering up, in came three of the members of the Greg Meier Bavarian Quartet, who’d just finished up a great set over at the fest. But they weren’t done playing yet. And because we were one of the only tables in the place at the time, we ended up getting pretty much a private, table side concert from a talented and spirited group of authentic musicians.

The tie to Shorty’s Corner came as we traded words with Meier, the accordion player and leader of the group. Over a round of “Ein Prosit” and a German-infused medley of Disney tunes, I told Meier about my book and he told us about Shorty’s Corner. His parents have owned it for 33 years.

“Stop by and say hi next time you’re up there,” he said.

Now, we definitely will.

The Mazamas

Probably no other outdoor organization has a closer or more unique tie to Mount Hood than the Portland-based Mazamas.

Now close to 3,000 members, the Mazamas started out much more humbly, with 105 charter members way back in 1894. What’s incredibly unique about the club’s founding is that it happened on the very summit of Mount Hood.

An advertisement in area newspapers invited committed mountaineers on a climb set for July 18, 1894. More than 300 people turned out at various base camps; close to 200 of them summited that day. This picture, probably my favorite historical photo of the mountain, shows a long string of climbers making their way up the Cooper Spur route on that inaugural climb.

Courtesy of the Mazamas

Since that day, the Mazamas have grown and flourished as an organization, teaching thousands of people how to climb, leading countless trips into the Cascades, conducting and supporting scientific research, standing up for the environment, and educating people about all things alpine and outdoors. The club offers more than 700 hikes and 300 climbs annually, has an incredible library and historical archives packed with tens of thousands of documents and photographs — a huge resource during my research for On Mount Hood — and also hosts regular Evening Travel Programs every Wednesday between October and April.

I gave my presentation about On Mount Hood to more than 50 Mazamas and others who turned out at the Mazama Mountaineering Center last night. One of the best turnouts I’ve had so far, and by far one of the most enjoyable. There’s something about being among so many other people who have such a personal connection with the mountain, as I do.

Thanks much to the Mazamas.

Weekend of books

It starts today with the first of three events and runs through 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. It’s a great way to find great books — and not just On Mount Hood —  on sale for Christmas.

Book signing, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at The Willamette Store’s annual book blowout in Salem.

Book signing, 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at Chapters Books and Coffee during First Friday Art Walk in Newberg.

Book signing, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at The Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer author celebration in downtown Portland.

On Mount Hood Events

It’s shaping up to be a busy season of books around here, with On Mount Hood scheduled for five events in the next few weeks. There’s one slideshow, a couple big author/artist festivals, a Friday night art walk, and a 30% off sale at a great college bookstore. Surely one of them will help check a name or two off your Christmas list . . .

Book signing, 12-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Audubon Society of Portland’s annual Wild Arts Fesitval.

Book signing, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at The Willamette Store’s annual book blowout in Salem.

Book signing, 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at Chapters Books and Coffee during First Friday Art Walk in Newberg.

Book signing, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at The Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer author celebration in downtown Portland.

Slideshow, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at The Mazamas in southeast Portland.

Mount Hood questions — and answers

Every time I give a slideshow or presentation about On Mount Hood — the next one’s coming up on Saturday, Nov. 19 — I get some questions near the end. A lot of them I have answers to; some take a little more digging, and still others find me punting altogether or simply admitting that I have no clue.

My ultimate goal is to be able to answer any question about Mount Hood or, at least, On Mount Hood, that comes my way. That’s a steep goal, considering just how much material Mount Hood, the mountain, encompasses. But to me, it’s also a fascinating goal worth pursuing.

A few questions from recent events:

Q: What does Wy’east mean?

A: The mountain’s modern name, Mount Hood, comes from an Englishman, Samuel Hood, who never saw the mountain and who actually fought against the United States during the Revolutionary War. William Broughton, a member of an expedition under the command of Captain George Vancouver, is credited with naming the mountain after admiral Hood in 1792. But for hundreds of  years before that, many Native Americans who lived in the area supposedly called the mountain Wy’east. Lewis McArthur’s invaluable Oregon Geographic Names, says that Wy’east does not appear in any available books on on native dialects of the area, but the term nonetheless found its way into Native American folklore. Nobody seems to know exactly what the word Wy’east means, but according to the lore of the Klickitat tribe, who lived along the north shore of the Columbia River, Wy’east was one of the mythical sons of the Great Spirit. He got into a massive and fiery fight with his brother, Pahto, over a beauty named Loowit. Their battle scorched the land and so infuriated their father that he turned all three into volcanic peaks: Loowit is Mount Saint Helens, Pahtoh is Mount Adams, and Wy’east is Mount Hood.

Q: What’s so bad about the fact that the glaciers on Mount Hood are shrinking?

Courtesy of the Mazamas

A: In the very near term, maybe not much. But if global warming continues on pace and the scientific models play out they way geologists suppose they may, glacial shrinkage on Mount Hood could have some very noticeable effects. Shrinking glaciers mean less water to irrigate orchards in the Hood River Valley. The ice that currently blankets the mountain also helps cement its unstable volcanic mass together. Less ice holding Hood together means more landslides, erosion and flooding, which already comes into play whenever Highway 35 washes out on the mountain’s east side. Mountain maps are already highly inaccurate because they depict glacial coverage that simply doesn’t exist anymore, which can be challenging for climbers and other folks working their way up or around the mountain. And as the temperatures rise, so do the snow levels. Eventually, Hood’s renowned ski and snowboard industry could feel a mighty pinch.

Q: What kind of skis do you use?

A: Rentals. (See the “Down the Hill Chapter” of On Mount Hood.)

Q: What’s the latest on the Cooper Spur land swap?

Cooper SpurA: At present, the Forest Service is reportedly moving slowly through the process that will likely approve a swap of 770 acres of land owned by Mt. Hood Meadows on the north side of the mountain for about 120 acres of developable property in Government Camp. The swap, which is dependent upon environmental reviews, appraisals and other considerations, will ultimately protect the acreage on the north side of the mountain from development and will give Meadows the opportunity to develop land in Government Camp. The original timeline for the process appears to have extended past its deadline, but last I was told, the process is still moving forward, albeit slowly.

Good stories

One of the things that I’ve found really interesting and unique in my time with Mount Hood is that almost everyone seems to have their own stories and connections with the mountain.

I met a guy on the beach in Clearwater, Florida, last spring who used to make annual skiing trips to Timberline Lodge with his college friends. Another guy, Rocky Henderson, kicked off a long stint of search and rescue missions on Mount Hood in 1986. His first mission ever was the search for a group of Oregon Episcopal School students lost in a storm on the mountain’s south side in 1986.

A sister of an editor I work for used to work up at Timberline Lodge, and she put me in touch with the guy who’s been running Silcox Hut for Timberline since 1993. One woman who read my book contacted me about a brief passage where I mentioned a plaque left on a boulder up near Cooper Spur. The plaque, which reads in part “Walk gently, friend, you are walking in the path of those who went before,” memorializes five Mazama climbers who were killed in a fall while descending Cooper Spur in 1981. One of those climbers was the woman’s husband. She herself helped place the plaque.

With Mount Hood, the stories go on and on.

Just the other day, a reader from Bremerton, Washington, Tom Blakney, dropped me a note to share some of his Mount Hood recollections. He remembered watching his father and other climbers through a telescope at Timberline Lodge in the 1940s as they made their way toward the summit. His father, an amateur climbing guide on Hood and St. Helens, once found himself on the summit of Hood with a frightened Irishman who refused to walk back along the exposed summit ridge when he saw how steep the north side drop off was. With no other options, Blakney’s father and another guide blindfolded the man and led him, tied between the two guides, across the ridge.

Blakney, who twice climbed the mountain himself, also sent along a couple great old photos of his father on the summit of Mount Hood, back when there was a lookout up top.

Courtesy of Tom Blakney

Courtesy of Tom Blakney

Ever since I first started exploring Mount Hood back in 1997, I’ve been fascinated by not only the mountain, but by all of the stories that help make it the spectacular peak it is. That’s part of the reason that I wrote a book about Mount Hood, and it’s a big part of the reason why I’ll keep exploring the mountain and writing about it.

Have your own Mount Hood story to share? I’d love to hear it. Drop me a line. 




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