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Scenes from a Ski Season on Mount Hood

Sure, it’s been over for us for just about a month now, but it was a good one this year, the ski season on Mount Hood.

For us, not hardcore skiers by any means, it didn’t even start until early March, when Amy and I took a day on the slopes to ourselves to mark our 20 years together while the kids learned away. We sampled Timberline’s new Phlox Cabin and just got our ski legs on for the season.

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While we’ve done Timberline’s spring pass in the past, we decided to branch out this year and check out just what Mt. Hood Meadows had to offer. Lame, I know, that in our nearly two decades here in Oregon, we’ve never skied at Meadows, even though we’ve hiked through it and sledded just down the road at White River.

From the first go at it, though, we were hooked.

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Wow. We’d heard some rumors about Meadows compared to Timberline: that it was overcrowded, full of attitude, expensive. None of that came to light for us.

Instead, what we found  all spring season long was a flood of new terrain and vistas that we’d never taken in before, friendly folks all around and just a fun, mountain atmosphere. Some scenes from this season as we look forward to next (but head into a sunny summer first) . . .

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Timberline’s new Phlox Point Cabin

It’s not like Timberline needed anything to make it even more enjoyable, even more charming, even more appealing than it already is.

But this year, the lodge upped its attraction for the winter crowd with the addition of the Phlox Point Cabin.

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A former Boy Scout cabin that Timberline renovated last year, Phlox Point Cabin is the perfect place for a midday lunch, a warming spell on a chilly ski day or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Amy and I made ourselves comfortable inside Phlox Point a few weeks ago when we marked the day we’d met 20 years ago in Clearwater Beach, Fla., with a ski day on a mountain thousands of miles away from those sandy shores.We’d skied for most of the morning, sans kiddos, and decided to break at the cabin for lunch. It was the right call, and the cabin and its offerings — tacos, IPAs, wine by the glass, a roasting fire inside and seating areas inside and out — are just about all you could ask for a mid-mountain hideaway.

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The best Mount Hood sledding for 2016

Last year, it was all we could do to find a little snow for sledding. This year, thankfully, that’s not the case.

According to state hydrologists, we’ve already exceeded last year’s snowpack, and it’s only January.

That’s good news for skiers, snowboarders and sledders, who’ve been flocking to Mount Hood to partake. We did as much last weekend on an annual sledding foray to White River.

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While there was plenty of traffic, there was also plenty of snow, and that’s really all that mattered.

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Here’s a list of some of the best sledding spots on Mount Hood for 2016.

  • White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun and free sledding on Mount Hood with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $3; most vendors that sell them jack them up to $5.)
  • Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year the pickings can be slim. But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut. The Forest Service only allows plastic sleds and tubes.
  • Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $20, you get a tube from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s $15. frM-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Summit is just east of Government Camp. Summit also operates Snow Bunny, a little Sno-Park next door, where you can tube (not sled) for $15 all day.
  • Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.
  • Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $25 for adults for three hours, $19 for juniors; an all-day tube ticket is $50. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.
  • Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.

Mount Hood — for a deal

There is no denying that North Drinkware’s Oregon Pint — and its second glass, the Washington Pint — is pretty sweet, especially if you’re a fan of Mount Hood and the Cascades.

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But the now $45 price tag is a pretty big commitment. Not to discredit all the labor and craftsmanship and creativity that goes into each glass. I appreciate that and treat the glass I got this summer with great care. I love it. The price is, nonetheless, part of the equation.

This weekend, though, North is offering an opportunity to grab some of its fine pints, albeit in slightly different conditions, at a smokin’ deal — just $20 each.

The Portland company is hosting a two-day “When North Goes South” sale, which will offer 800 second-quality Oregon and Washington pints for sale for $20 apiece. According to the company, the glasses “may have slight imperfections such as being a little too heavy, having a wider or slightly wavy lip, bubbles in the glass, etc… and did not meet production standards to be a first quality glass.” Many of the imperfections, North notes, are hardly recognizable.

“I personally prefer the seconds, as the glasses have a little extra character from being handmade,” said North co-founder Leigh Capozzi in an email to me this morning.

For $20, it sounds like a deal to me.

The sale is happening from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1219 Southeast Ivon Street in Portland. For more info, visit http://northdrinkware.com.

On Mount Hood at the Lake Oswego Library

This weekend, looking to drum up some early holiday cheer while also focusing on local creativity, the Lake Oswego Public Library is hosting Keeping It LOcal. 

Held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, the event will bring 20 local authors and illustrators together to share their work, both in conversation and in commerce. Among the authors scheduled to be there: Brian Doyle, who’s book, Mink River, is one of my favorite Oregon books of all time, and Scott Sparling, whose great  book, Wire to Wireis set in a northern Michigan locale that I know and love.

I’ll be there with On Mount Hood, too.

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Doggie Dogs at Timberline Lodge

In his 11-plus years with me, Oliver has been all over Mount Hood:

Along the Sandy River . . .

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Up to Paradise Park . . .

Through the snow of White River . . .

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All the way around the mountain on the Timberline Trail, up to McNeil Point and right up to the icy chill of Dollar Lake.

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But the one place he’s never been allowed to come along so far is Timberline Lodge. Save for the quasi-resident St. Bernards, Heidi and Bruno, Timberline has largely been off-limits to the four-legged among us.

Not any more.

Though they’re not yet marketing it full-on, Timberline has modified its pet policy to allow some rooms to be pet-friendly. At present, you have to call to get more information, but it is now an option, according to Jon Tullis, the lodge’s director of public affairs.

If he could understand that, I’m sure Oliver would be thrilled.