The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

A little more on McNeil Point

Before we camped in the McNeil Campground along the banks of the Sandy River with some friends from Atlanta last weekend, before I hiked the Timberline Trail with four other adventurers a week earlier, and before Oliver and I returned to McNeil Point up the Mazama Trail back in July, I felt like I knew a decent amount about Fred McNeil.

A journalist for The Oregon Journal for nearly 45 years, from 1912 to 1957, McNeil was a huge fan of Mount Hood. According to the preface of McNeil’s Mount Hood: Wy’East the Mountain Revisited, a 1990 re-issue of McNeil’s classic Mount Hood book, the Cascade Mountains captivated him from the day he arrived in Portland from Illinois in 1912. He “pursued and reported events on the peaks with a passion” and “became personally involved in their protection as well as their development, especially for skiing.” If something happened on Mount Hood — someone got lost, a plane crashed, a fire broke out — McNeil would instantly turn his news focus to the mountain, no matter what else was going on.

Oliver at McNeil Point.

Oliver at McNeil Point.

He also enjoyed the mountain, hiking all over it and climbing to its summit long before the road was blazed to what would become the site of Timberline Lodge. He was a member of The Mazamas, the Cascade Ski Club, the Wy’East Climbers and other mountain organizations.

According to the preface of McNeil’s Mount Hood, written by journalist Tom McAllister, McNeil made sure that a story about the long closure of Lolo Pass Road landed on the front page of The Oregon Journal. The closure had been designed to keep people out of the original bounds of the Bull Run Watershed. Even after those boundaries changed, however, the closure remained,  blocking access to some of the mountain’s most incredible west-side geography. After several stories and photos and a supporting editorial, the gates to Lolo Pass were opened.

Which is a great legacy, because otherwise it would be much harder to get to places like McNeil Point and the quiet McNeil Campground, both, of course, named for Fred McNeil.

Most of this I kind of remembered from my own research. But I’d forgotten something else about McNeil.

As we rolled out of the campground last week, headed toward Timberline Lodge and then Lost Lake, I stopped to read a plaque near the campground’s entrance. It sums up nicely McNeil’s life and his love of the mountains. It also notes that McNeil “rests four miles eastward and upward at McNeil Point.”

His friends hiked up to the point and spread his ashes there in July of 1959.

McNeil Plaque

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6 responses

  1. penwoodtable

    “…four miles eastward and upward…” captures the mountains secret ways, how they are not simply there for the taking.

    September 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm

  2. I love McNeil Point. Not quite as much as Barrett Spur, but it is a gorgeous spot too. Interesting history on the man himself. Might have to look for your book. Cheers.

    September 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

  3. Thanks for checking out the post, Josh. Barrett Spur is great, too, and my favorite area of all is Cooper Spur. You can find my book all over — recommended for all Mount Hood fans!

    September 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm

  4. Pingback: Hiking Ramona Falls with the kids | On MOUNT HOOD

  5. Gretchen McNeil

    I have on good authority that my Dad, his sister, and their step mother were in attendance when my Grandfather’s ashes were spread at the point. You said “friends” were there. I would love to hear any more information you have on my Grandfather.

    October 25, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    • Hi Gretchen,
      Thanks much for the contact about McNeil Point and your grandfather. The information I got about Fred McNeil for this post all came from the preface to the book I reference in the post. It’s an updated version of McNeil’s original book and its’ called “McNeil’s Mount Hood — Wy’East the Mountain.” In the preface for that book, Tom McAllister wrote this about McNeil Point:

      “This is the final resting place for Fred H. McNeil. His friends from the mountaineering and ski clubs and the Forest Service placed his ashes where he succumbed to what he called, ‘the mystic spell of the snowcap.’”

      The preface is dated Feb. 25, 1990.

      Hope that’s helpful. If it is incorrect, or if it was instead your family members along with some of your grandfather’s friends referenced above or just your family members alone, I will happily fix that in my post and
      do what I can to make sure the correct info is out there going forward. Thanks again. Appreciate it. (And I appreciate what your grandfather did for the mountain. McNeil Point is an incredible place.)

      October 25, 2015 at 2:39 pm

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