I may have fibbed just a little, telling them the hike to my favorite waterfall on Mount Hood was two easy miles.
But I figured the scenery along the way — the mountain views, the river, a stream or two — and the promise of just how majestic Ramona Falls truly is, would be enough to mask the real effort enough that my kids wouldn’t notice. The hike is actually closer to 3.5 miles one-way. In my defense, however, it’s been long enough since I’ve done it that I didn’t really remember. What I did recall was that the effort was more than worth it.
So we set out up the trail on a Sunday morning, before 11 a.m. because we’d camped at the McNeil Campground the night before. I worried a little about the Sandy River crossing, as not only had the Forest Service not yet installed the bridge for the season, but someone actually got swept away there last summer during a flash flood of sorts. Not one to risk too much, I knew we would turn around if it was at all unsafe.
But when we got to the crossing, a natural bridge, complete with a handrail, greeted us, and so we crossed.
Some mixed messaging on the signage led us to take the somewhat longer leg of the loop, though in retrospect I don’t think it’s all that much longer. It’s about 7 miles roundtrip one way, 6.8 the other. When you’re low on water and trying to convince a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old that the most amazing waterfall is not that much farther, though, it seems like much more.
Even so, when we at last rolled up on the falls, they got it.
The first time I ever hiked to Ramona Falls, my first Mount Hood backpacking trip back in 1998, I remember how incredible the water from the falls tasted. Like the newest snow. Back then, we had a filter with us; this time around, we didn’t. It was a gamble, but we had played up the water to Madeline too much not to indulge; we filled our water bottles straight from the falls. It tasted just as I remembered.
The hike down was longer than the kids would have liked, but I enticed them with ice cream and a return to Trillium Lake to catch newts.
That sealed the deal for them, so the belly aching on the way back down was minimal. And yes, we went back to Trillium to catch even more newts than we’d caught the day before, so to them, it was worth it.
I, personally, was just glad that they got to take in Ramona Falls. It truly is an incredible sight to see. Two years ago, when I passed it on the Timberline Trail with a few writer friends, one of them, John Morrison, had described it as luminescent. Exactly.
And when, a few days later, Madeline took a drink from her water bottle on the way to her horse riding lesson and said she could still taste Ramona Falls, I knew our hike had made its mark.
We got a late start on Mother’s Day this year. Not for brunch or lunch or a walk through the gardens, but for the mountain. I’m lucky, and so are the kids, that Amy is an adventurous mother, one who I think would rather be out skiing, climbing a mountain or creating some other kind of memorable experience on Mother’s Day — or any day.
This year’s plan was to chuck the canoe on the car, load up the fishing gear and head for Timothy Lake, a sprawling expanse of mountain lake that sits in the far off southeastern shadow of Hood. We didn’t hit the road until after 11 on Sunday morning, and with a stop at Joe’s Donuts, we weren’t looking to hit the water until well into the afternoon.
But our agenda was open, the day was clear enough and the hours of sunlight this time of year mean you can linger plenty long. With that in mind, we decided not to head straight for Timothy Lake, but to instead scout out a lake we’ve cruised passed countless times over the years but never stopped to see. Called Frog Lake, it’s just off Highway 26 past the Highway 35 junction. Though it’s a little more subtle than some of the other lakes around, Frog Lake has its own unique beauty, and a view of Mount Hood that’s all its own.
We didn’t stay long, but now we know Frog Lake.
Off we headed toward Timothy Lake, first veering a few miles off the route to grab a look at a fascinating little Oregon wonder: Little Crater Lake. This picture does it no justice — I’m not sure a smartphone will ever really be able to capture the true, natural turquoise and blue hues of this incredible spring-fed lake — but I grabbed a shot just for the record.
It’s been years since we’ve been back to Timothy Lake. In fact, we’ve yet to take the kids there, so it seemed like a good time to refresh ourselves and introduce them to it. I wasn’t expecting any surprises, but as we were driving around the lake’s southern shores looking for an easy access for the boat, what should tumble out of the forest but an honest to goodness black bear. Now, I’ve been all over the Mount Hood National Forest in my 18 years in Oregon, but I’ve only seen one bear in that time. That one was running up the Forest Service road ahead of a tour bus I was on during an exploration of the Bull Run Watershed back when I was researching for On Mount Hood. This one bounded right out of the trees about 50 feet in front of us, galloped across the road and plunged back into the woods. He was in view just long enough for all of us to see him and for me to drop a reactionary profanity underscoring my amazement. Crazy how exhilarating that 10-second snapshot was.
Out on the lake, we were among just a handful of like-minded folks who decided that Mother’s Day was a great day for Timothy Lake. And it was.
The kids didn’t catch anything — no one did — but we didn’t need to. Being out on the lake, with the mountain in the background and the sun breaking through just enough to warm was plenty. We paddled back on the edge of a thunderstorm, loaded up and pointed homeward. But we had one more new experience to add to the day still: dinner at the Skyway Bar and Grill, a funky roadside attraction that, like Frog Lake, we’ve been passing for years but have never explored. We were told that It’s named after the famed Mount Hood Skiway, an old city bus converted into a cable tram that ran from Government Camp to Timberline for a few years in the 1950s.
After some incredible barbecue, fries and macaroni and cheese in front of a crackling fire, we’ve found a new mountain favorite.
And that was Mother’s Day 2015 — an adventure all around.
By now, most people with an affinity for Mount Hood, beer and cool craftsmanship have heard about North Drinkware and its wildly popular and successful Oregon Pint.
The small Portland startup launched a modest Kickstarter campaign on Feb. 1, seeking $15,000 to kick off production of its handcrafted Oregon Pint glass, which features a topographically correct imprint of Mount Hood in its base.
Courtesy North Drinkware
Five hours into its campaign, the goal had been met. A month later, when the campaign closed, backers had pledged more than a half-million dollars — $532,581 to be exact — and launched North Drinkware on a path to producing more than 13,000 glasses.
I’m a huge fan of Mount Hood, beer and cool craftsmanship, but I hesitated at the $35 price tag. Until, that is, I went and checked out one of the glasses for myself at MadeHerePDX, a Portland shop that features nothing but P-Town-made goods.
With just a few days left in the campaign, I gave in, willingly, and picked up two Oregon Pints, one for me and one for my dad, who lives in Ohio but who’s spent some time on Hood, too. (He’s in On Mount Hood, as a matter of fact.)
The latest word from North is that the first round of pint glasses will likely start shipping at the end of this month, with another round scheduled for September. On their Facebook page, North notes in a short video that they’re currently in production and making headway.
A cool project — and a great story — for sure. And, even better for folks who maybe don’t have that affinity for Mount Hood but still appreciate fine craft beers, artistic skill and high places all over the country: North has plans to create glasses for other states and mountains in the not-too-distant future.
Cheers to that.
Courtesy North Drinkware
On we go into 2015, but not before a quick look back at some of my favorite Mount Hood times of the past year. Here’s to all of them — and to all those that lay ahead in the new year.
A quick and last-minute list of some Mount Hood gifts for that alpine aficionado in your life:
- On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak — Shameless, I know, but sometimes that’s just the way the world works. If you’re in the Portland metro region, it’s not too late to get a signed copy for Christmas for just $15. You can also find it at Powell’s, Annie Bloom’s, Broadway Books and most other local bookstores. Here’s a list of stores outside of Portland, and you can always find it online at Powell’s, Abe Books, Biblio and Amazon.
A former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, co-founded Shred Hood in 2013 as a community news and information site to cover the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry on Mount Hood.
Subscriptions come in a couple different options, including one-time and ongoing. Each has its privileges, including a sweet T-shirt and bottle opener depending on your subscription.
Find out more at Shred Hood.
Feeling a little more philanthropic this holiday season? Consider making a donation to some of the environmental groups that have worked — and are always working — to protect the region’s wild places, including, of course, Mount Hood. (Bark’s mission is more Mount Hood-centric, while Oregon Wild covers the entire state; both have played major roles in protecting Mount Hood and the Mount Hood National Forest.)
And as a bonus: both organizations are all about getting out and exploring the places they protect, so each offers regular outings as well.
- Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Lidar Map of Mount Hood — DOGAMI released this double-sided, water-resistant map a couple years ago. It includes 75 trails around Mount Hood, wilderness areas, roads, campgrounds, information for climbers and hikers, and a geologic overview. Just $6 at Nature of the Northwest.
- Timberline Lodge Ram’s Head Fire Poker — Fashioned after the larger fireplace tools used at the storied Timberline Lodge, this hand-forged wrought iron poker is classic Timberline through and through. I met Darryl Nelson, the blacksmith behind much of the ironwork that’s been installed at Timberline over the past 30 years or so, and he told me guests regularly try to heist these out of the rooms. Not good. Instead, find them at the Timberline gift shop for $75. (Looks like they might be sold out online, but they usually have some in the store.) The shop also has a nice array of vintage-looking posters and artwork, books, souvenirs and more. Check it out.
I got an email out of the blue in the early days of 2013 from a Portland writer named Mark Pomeroy who’d grown up with Mount Hood, spending time at his grandparents’ cabin in Brightwood. He’d just finished my book and had an idea to tackle the Timberline Trail with a handful of other writers, myself included. Not one to turn down an adventure on Mount Hood, I signed on. Last summer we did indeed have a four-day adventure on Mount Hood.
Since that first email, I’ve gotten to know Mark and followed him on his way to getting his first novel published. It’s a work more than 10 years in the making. Called The Brightwood Stillness, it’s only the second novel ever published by Oregon State University Press. (The first was Brian Doyle’s Mink River)
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the official invite-only launch of the book back in October. But tonight, Mark takes his book to Powell’s on Hawthorne for a more open introduction. He’ll be there at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Nov. 20.For anyone who loves good stories and books in general, it’s bound to resonate.
If you can’t make it tonight, keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for other appearances or, at the very least, pick up a copy of The Brightwood Stillness.
You can find out more at mpomerory.com.
Though it may be a touch early still, it is getting to be that time again on Mount Hood: skiing, snowboarding and, of course, sledding. The big hill’s got some nice sledding options, free and otherwise. Down below this picture of my own little sledder are a few of the best places to sled on Mount Hood:
- 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.
- 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, adults get a tube from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. M-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Weekend and holiday prices for the kids are the same, but for adults it’s $25. 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 $20 all day; kids under 48″ are $10.
- 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, $20 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.
Pretty sure I already wrote an end-of-summer-on-Mount-Hood post, but that was before we went to Lost Lake a few weeks later. It’s been a few weeks since that trip even, but let me tell you, from crawdads and newts to sunlit hikes, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and fishing, summer was alive and well on Lost Lake well into September.
Well, not officially, anyway, but it was the last official weekend before the start of school, so that’s a kind of ending at least.
We sent the last school-free part of summer off in style with a weekend on the mountain at our regular Sandy River hot spot. Surprisingly, not only was one of the prime campsites actually available on Labor Day Weekend, but it actually wasn’t a pigsty when we rolled up. The stars were aligned for us, I suppose.
The rain did little to dampen the spirits, nor could it interfere in the slightest with all the huckleberries that needed picking.
The sun returned in time for an afternoon hike along the Sandy River toward Ramona Falls.
We didn’t make it to the falls — hadn’t planned to — but turned around where the trail crosses the Sandy River. It was here, a few weeks ago, that a flash flood washed out a bridge, swept away one hiker and stranded 23 others.
We tried not to dwell on that too long but instead enjoy the walk and the woods and the water. We did.
The last few hours of the weekend we spent up at Timberline Lodge, where the Mountain Music Festival was in full swing. Eli West & Cahalen Morrison offered some sweet old-time harmonies, while the Black Lillies, who we’d just glimpsed at Pickathon last month, brought some tasty country flavor to the high alpine meadows surrounding the lodge.
Not a bad way at all to (kind of) end the summer, though it’s not truly over yet . . .
For anyone in the Seattle area looking to learn a little about Oregon’s signature peak, swing by King County’s Burien Library at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, August 20, 2014, for some photos, adventures and tall mountain tales.
The Sandy River starts high up on Mount Hood as runoff from the Reid Glacier, gathering side streams and the Salmon and Zigzag rivers on its way to the Columbia. It’s a wild river that’s played a big role in how we’ve enjoyed the mountain over the years, whether we’ve been crossing it on the Timberline Trail, camping alongside or cooling off in its silty waters high up, or exploring its confluence with the mighty Columbia at the west end of the Gorge.
The Sandy is a river that a lot of people care about, including the Western Rivers Conservancy, which over the past few years has done much to protect the river. In 1999, the nonprofit partnered with Portland General Electric to help restore the Sandy and the Little Sandy, which led, in part, to the removal of the Marmot Dam and returned both rivers to complete free-flowing status. The conservancy has also purchased properties along the Sandy to help ensure its protection.
A few weeks ago, the WRC contacted me to see if they could use one of my Sandy River photos for a commemorative poster they were issuing. The poster commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided funding to WRC over its decade-long effort to create a wildlife and recreational corridor along 13 miles of the Sandy and the Little Sandy.
The picture they used of mine was from our trip on the Timberline Trail last summer, right when we were crossing the Sandy, Mount Hood in the background, with a Pacific Crest Trail hiker who was four months into his trek.
When I heard about what the WRC has done for the Sandy over the years, of course I sent the picture over right away. That, indeed, is work that’s worth it.
Because of the snow still piled on the Timberline Trail and the looming high clouds above, and just maybe because of the far-off thunder in the distance, I had my eyes focused on my GPS, which was supposed to be guiding us toward Dollar Lake, a tiny tarn tucked into the northwest shadow of Mount Hood. It’s a lake I’ve always wanted to explore but that in 18 years of traipsing all over the mountain, I never have. It’s not that hard to find, but it’s not super straightforward either. No matter, I had my GPS and we would find it.
“There’s a cairn right back there,” said my friend, Wyatt, pointing out a tidy pile of rocks marking a side trail that I’d just completely blown past, Hmmm. Yeah, that’s probably the way.
We’d decided to hike to Dollar Lake on Sunday as a way to have a cooling destination to counter the heat that’d been baking the metro region for the prior few days. Thanks to a quick change in the weather, we didn’t really need the cooling off, but we headed for Dollar Lake anyway, setting out up Hood’s Vista Ridge trail, one of the classic access points to the mountain’s northwest reaches.
The trail slopes up a scenic ridge marred by the 2012 Dollar Lake fire — marred, or rejuvenated, depending on how you look at it. There were just a few avalanche lilies on display.
Higher up, we ran into plenty of snow and some ominous clouds, but they were high and the mountain was out, so we pressed on, determined to find the lake.
The GPS pointed us in the right direction, and Wyatt’s keen observation found the trail up to the lake. It was just a ways beyond a sign that brought back a very clear memory from our hike on the Timberline Trail last year. I’ve not written about that yet, but it’s coming.
We thought the lake might have still been frozen over or buried in snow. It was, but only partially. In fact, the lingering snow and ice actually made it even more of a sight than we’d expected.
The views of the mountain from up near this little lake are also pretty amazing.
Oliver, too, seemed to enjoy it. I knew he would. He always does.
We didn’t tarry, though. Not only were the mosquitos happy to see what might very well have been their first meal of the season, but the looming clouds and thunder ceased to loom and actually started to rumble. There wasn’t much else we could do other than high-tail it back down the ridge to the car, where the lightning cracked, the hail pelted and the icy lagers refreshed.
Summer’s back. Sweet! Sunshine, riversides, campfires, trails and, of course, trashed campsites on Mount Hood.
We headed out for this year’s first night in the tent a few weeks ago, that beautiful first weekend of June that felt like the last weekend of July. Since the Forest Service closed our favorite Sandy River campsites a couple years ago after John Q. Public couldn’t seem to stop using them as trash pits, we’ve branched out a bit and found some other keepers.
We spent the first 20 minutes or so cleaning up the pit that the prior campers had left behind: broken glass, cheap beer cans, shell casings, a rusty grill grate, blah, blah. It’s always the same. This site, a nice one with plenty of room, privacy and a killer Sandy River beach, was actually one of the cleaner ones around. It makes no sense to me the way people treat these incredible places. It’s so trashy, so redneck, so downright piggy.
The Forest Service will end up closing these sites pretty soon, too, I’m sure. But no matter. After we’d cleaned ours up, we were able to settle in for a great weekend on the mountain, along the river. We soaked in some sun, hiked for the first time to Little Zigzag Falls and broke in the kids’ new pie iron.
When it was at last time to head home, we packed up and, as most civilized people would do, cleaned the site almost spotless. Almost. We did, after all, leave one thing behind:
Somebody once said something to me about the classic mountain shape of Mount Hood that I thought summed it up perfectly; so perfectly, in fact, that I put it in the book:
If you ask a little kid to draw a mountain, he will draw Mount Hood. Every time.
Madeline reinforced that idea to me when she showed me what she had drawn at school this week. Granted, she’s got both Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson here, but the gist is the same.
Back in 2010 when I was researching On Mount Hood, one of the scores of people I connected with was a high tech professional, climber and Mount Hood fan named Bill Mullee. I’d been referred to him because he was working on a climber’s guide to Mount Hood at the same time I was working on my book. Unlike On Mount Hood, Bill’s book was to be a climber’s guide to the mountain, complete with pictures, routes, and write-ups from some veteran climbers, including Fred Beckey, the renowned alpinist who, along with Leo Scheiblehner, was the first to climb Hood’s notorious Yocum Ridge.
Bill and I talked back then and a few more times over the ensuing years about the mountain, our books and what was to come. Each time we spoke, he was that much closer to having his book come to fruition. And now, it’s truly coming to be.
Bill landed a publisher with the Colorado-based Sharp End Publishing, and in June it will release Mt. Hood: A Climber’s Guide.
Here’s the write-up about the book from the publisher’s site:
The unsurpassed beauty of Mt Hood awaits. Drawing on the vast experiences of over three dozen veteran Hood mountaineers, Mt Hood: A Climber’s Guide provides in-depth, firsthand descriptions of the mountain’s many routes. Contributors, such as the venerable Fred Beckey, write about weather, objective dangers, and how to stay safe and succeed. Routes are clearly illustrated on exceptional aerial photos, while stunning scenic and action images will inspire visitors and regulars alike.
The guide is likely to fill a long-standing need for some great, up-to-date information about all the different routes up Mount Hood. Nicholas Dodge’s classic A Climbing Guide to Oregon, which has a 12-page chapter dedicated to Hood, was published in 1975 — and, it seems, only in 1975. (Actually, Seattle climber Wayne Wallace, who’s in On Mount Hood and who also contributed to Mullee’s book, tells me that Dodge’s book was also published in hardback in 1968.) And Jeff Thomas’ great Oregon High: A Climbing Guide to Nine Cascade Volcanoes, first appeared in 1991 but has been hard to come by in recent times.
Mt. Hood: A Climber’s Guide is now available for preorder, which includes a free two-year subscription to the ebook version, for $23.05. For anyone looking to explore Hood’s upper reaches, it’s destined to be a classic.
Stay tuned for more about the book and any events related to its release.
Last Sunday, Mother’s Day, was a great day for spring skiing: two feet of new snow, warm temps and, up high anyway, blue, sunny skies. I took the above picture just after I got off the chairlift at the top of the Magic Mile. It was a gorgeous view, the kind that made you stop and soak it in and be grateful for where you were right then. Then I turned around, pointed my skis down the mountain and skied right into this: No complaints, by the way. Just a big difference depending on which way you’re looking…
It’s Mother’s Day, and every year on Mother’s Day, I not only remember to call and send my love to my mom in Ohio, but I also think about a particular Cascade mountain. Not Mount Hood (though we’ll probably be skiing up there and celebrating Amy today!) but St. Helens, which lies about 60 miles northwest of Hood.
There’s an incredible tradition that happens every year on Mount St. Helens on Mother’s Day. Amy and I have been part of it twice during our time in the Northwest, and I have to say, it’s one of the most unique ways to express appreciation for the mother in your life that I’ve ever come across.
In honor of Mother’s Day 2014, here’s a column I wrote about that tradition back on May 18, 2002, when I was honing my chops as a reporter and photographer for the Canby Herald newspaper.
Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day.
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, and in honor of my wonderful mother, I sent a card, made the ritual phone call, and donned a blue and green tie-dyed dress for a climb to the top of Mount St. Helens.
Indeed, it was not your average Mother’s Day tribute.
But like all of those faithful sons and daughters who either bought Mom a bouquet or made her breakfast in bed on Sunday, I was not alone in my gesture of appreciation.
For one, my fiancée, Amy, was with me on the mountain. She, too, paid homage to her wonderful mother — my soon-to-be mother-in-law — by wearing a dress for the long slog up the Pacific Northwest’s most infamous volcano. (By the way, St. Helens, also known as Loowit, blew its top exactly 22 years ago today.) I reluctantly concede that Amy’s dress, with its purple, blue and pink floral patterns, was much more flattering on her than mine was on me.
And then there were the literally hundreds of other climbers who made their way up and down the mountain on Sunday. The majority of them were bedecked in dresses, skirts and gowns similar to those no doubt on display at Mother’s Day brunches — or weddings, proms, square dances or Scottish caber tosses — across the country.
On our way up and down, we saw polka dots and stripes, flowers and paisleys. There were miniskirts, bridesmaid dresses, kilts, and old schoolmarm frocks. We also noticed costume pearls, a hot-pink feather boa, and at least one blonde wig.
Lest the reader be mislead, these garments were worn, in most cases, over the standard climbing ensemble. Under the sunshine and blue skies of last Sunday, that included stiff boots, synthetic pants and shirts, backpacks, sunglasses, and the most essential of accessories, the ice axe.
There were, of course, those fellow climbers who were unaware of the fashion protocol of the day. One bewildered alpinist heaved up to us just below the summit, a perplexed look on his face.
“Can you explain something to me?” he asked. “What’s with all the dresses?”
We smiled between gulps of water and wished him a happy Mother’s Day.
Rumors abound as to the origin of the Mount Saint Helens Mother’s Day tradition. Perhaps it began with the Bergfreunde Ski Club, a Portland-based ski club formed in 1966 to promote skiing and other recreational activities. I called these “mountain friends,” but they weren’t sure if their club had formally come up with the dress idea or not.
I next tried the Mazamas, one of the larger and more well- known mountaineering groups in the Northwest. Their club, the name of which is Nahuatl for mountain goat, has been associated with the local mountaineering scene since July 19, 1894. It was on that date that prospective members of the club first convened on the summit of Mount Hood.
“It may have just been one of those spontaneous things that caught on,” one club member said of the Mother’s Day tradition. “Who really started it, I don’t know.”
There’s also the Ptarmigans, another climbing club that has been exploring the Cascades since the mid 1960s. Mike Dianich, a member and longtime mountaineer who has climbed Saint Helens 22 times as of Sunday, said other than the local climbing clubs, he didn’t know who may have slipped into the first Mother’s Day dress on Mount Saint Helens.
But if the origin of the tradition remains a mystery, the reasoning behind it is a bit more definitive. Simply put, those who climb the 8,300-foot volcano in a dress on Mother’s Day are honoring their moms, thanking them for all they have done over the years.
It is also a gesture of obeisance from those sons and daughters who live far away from their mothers; from those who, like me, cannot express their gratitude in person every year on Mother’s Day.
So this year, as Amy and I plodded more than 5,000 feet up the flanks of St. Helens in our dresses, I thought of my mother and how she has helped me become who I am; how she has shared her kindness with me and given so much of herself — all so that I can enjoy the life that I do.
And when we got to the top of the mountain, with Spirit Lake down below and Mount Rainier and Mount Hood floating in the distance, I looked east toward Ohio, and waved to my mom.
In the picture of my office below, can you pick out the Mount Hood fixtures? There are two, not including the print on the wall. OK, the first may be kind of a stretch. It’s my black lab there on the floor, Oliver, who’s a fixture in my office all day long as I’m working away. He loves getting up on the mountain as much as anyone, so that’s his connection. The other is the actual light fixture that hangs from the ceiling. It once lit one of the fireplace rooms at Timberline Lodge. Amy and I won it at a fund-raising auction for the Friends of Timberline last fall, and after finally updating my office earlier this spring, I installed it overhead. Even though it’s a super unique fixture, largely because of its history, it’s not one that is original to Timberline Lodge. According to Linny Adamson, longtime curator at the lodge, these lights were in many of the rooms in the 1970s if not before. She sent me a picture that shows one of the rooms with this fixture in 1976. As Amy and I left the Friends event last fall with the light in our hands, Jeff Kohnstamm, president of RLK and Company, which operates the lodge, joked that it might have been the very light that lit his bedroom growing up. Son of Richard Kohnstamm, the man largely credited with saving Timberline from ruin in the 1950s, Jeff grew up at Timberline in the 1960s and spent many a night there as a kid. Adamson said that in about 1986, she and others working at the lodge found some of the original light fixtures in the attic. The Forest Service gave them permission to remove the newer ones and re-install the originals, which they did just in time for Timberline’s 50th anniversary celebration. And because of that, one of the replacement fixtures now lights my office with a little bit of Timberline glow.
Photos courtesy of Trimet
Portland’s transit agency went through a pretty extensive public process to solicit possibilities, finally narrowing it down to four at the beginning of this year. The finalists: Abigail Scott Duniway; Tillicum Crossing; Cascadia Crossing; and Wy’East. The latter of those is believed to be one of the Native American names for Mount Hood. (I spoke on OPB’s “Think Out Loud” with some other folks earlier this year about the history behind the name.) Whether or not Hood will get the honor — and whether people will even call the bridge by its technical name or not — Wy’East is still a pretty intriguing name, one with some dramatic Northwest mythology behind it. So, what does Wy’East mean and where did it come from? Here’s how I wrote about it in On Mount Hood, based off research I did, including a reading of C.O. Bunnelll’s 1933 book, Legends of the Klickitats:
According to the lore of the Klickitat, who lived along the north shores of the Columbia River, native peoples used to be able to cross the river over the sacred Bridge of the Gods. (Various landslides throughout time — one as recent as a few hundred years ago — have actually dammed the river and allowed fleeting passage by foot, so this part of the story may not be entirely legend.) Upset by tribes that began to feud, the Great Spirit first doused all sources of fire, save for the one kept burning by an old and ugly woman named Loowit. She would share her flame with those who came in need of a spark. Pleased by Loowit’s kindness, the Great Spirit granted her wish of everlasting youth and beauty. The new dish, however, soon became quite the target, and two of the Great Spirit’s sons, Pahto, who ruled the north, and Wy’east in the south, unleashed a terrible war to gain her affection. They hurled fiery boulders at each other and torched the land all around.
Furious at his offspring, the Great Spirit destroyed the bridge over the river and turned all three of the feuding lovers into volcanic peaks: Loowit became the mountain we know today as Mount St. Helens, Pahto is Mount Adams, and Wy’east is Oregon’s Mount Hood.
Sonia Buist invited me to give a little real-world look at the Timberline Trail at a Mazamas presentation for her book, “Around & About Mount Hood: Exploring the Timberline Trail, Access Trails, and Day Hikes.” I’d say about 70 people or so, including quite a few folks interested in taking on the 41-mile trail themselves, turned out for the event at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center in southeast Portland.
This weekend, I’ll be back with the Mazamas, but not in Portland. This time, it’ll actually be up on Mount Hood at Mazama Lodge, the club’s rustic abode up in the trees above Government Camp and on the way up to Timberline.
The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, and will hopefully be preceded and followed by some stellar spring skiing like we enjoyed earlier this week.
Last summer, the morning that we kicked off our 2013 hike around Mount Hood on the Timberline Trail, I had a quick book signing event at Timberline Lodge with a few other mountain writers. One of those was Sonia Buist, a physician whose book, “Around & About Mount Hood: Exploring the Timberline Trail, Access Trails, and Day Hikes,” is one of the most detailed guides for the trail.
She’s giving a presentation on her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, for the Mazamas and has graciously invited me to share a few pictures and stories from our epic trip around the mountain last summer. The free event will be at the Mazama Mountaineering Center at 527 SE 43rd Ave.
If you’ve ever wanted to hoof all 41 miles of the Timberline Trail in a single backpacking trip or explore this classic trail in digestible segments, this night should provide information — and inspiration — aplenty.
We’ve tried this winter to ski, we have. But conditions have not been all that conducive, at least not for us and the time we can commit. Rain soaked us out the day after a book event in Hood River and, earlier, the morning after a fun night at Timberline Lodge after we’d gotten in some good runs at Summit.
But finally this past Sunday, the mountain shined on us in full.
And it worked out. The day was an incredible one on Mount Hood: absolute bluebird sky, nice spring conditions at Timberline, and just a sense of gratitude for being up there on the beautiful mountain.
Madeline — and Amy and I too —skied the Magic Mile for the very first time. Pretty impressive for a seven-year-old who just started skiing last year.
On top of all that, Spence, who’s been dying to get on a chairlift and skim down a slope, had his wishes granted, too.
UPDATE: Because it’s spring break, and because today was another gorgeous day, Amy and Madeline headed back to the mountain for another session. Deadlines kept me and Spence at home working, but the ladies enjoyed a day on the hill. And though I was super impressed by Madeline’s skiing yesterday on Hood, today she apparently cranked it up another level — to the 8,500-foot level on Hood to be exact, otherwise known as the Palmer.
Gorge Owned presents Sense of Place Lecture Series featuring author Jon Bell
Gorge Owned and sponsors Hood River Valley Residents Committee and Mt. Hood Meadows welcomes author Jon Bell to the Columbia Center for the Arts on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Bell is the author of “On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak.” He will present slides about Mount Hood, the volcano in our backyard that has shaped the local landscape, provides valuable drinking water, and lures adventurers from far and near. Bell will tell the story of Mount Hood through its trails, wines, fruits, forests, glaciers, accidents, triumphs and much more. Hikers crossing the Sandy River on Mount Hood’s Timberline Trail, August 2013.
Bell, an outdoor enthusiast whose work has appeared in Backpacker, The Oregonian, The Rowing News and Oregon Coast lives in Lake Oswego with his wife, two kids and a black Lab. He is co-author of the climbing guidebook, Ozone, and is a former president of the Ptarmigans Mountaineering Club. Waucoma Bookstore will be selling copies of his book at the lecture.
Sense of Place is an annual lecture series sponsored by Gorge Owned that seeks to foster a deeper understanding of and connection to our landscape and to one other. All lectures are held at the Columbia Center for the Arts, 215 Cascade Ave. in Hood River. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. Come early to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and meet others in the community.
What: GO! Sense of Place Lecture Series featuring author Jon Bell
When: Wed., March 5, Columbia Center for the Arts, 215 Cascade Ave., Hood River
Cost: $5 (free for GO! members)
Gorge Owned is a 501.c.3 member-supported organization based in Hood River. With more than 160 individual and business members, GO! delivers year-round programing that informs and inspires people to invest in a vibrant community, healthy environment and strong local economy. Programs include the Gorge Green Home Tour, Gorge Green Drinks, the Sense of Place lecture series, GO! Local Month and Gorge Earth Day. Sense of Place is an annual lecture series sponsored by Gorge Owned that seeks to foster a deeper understanding of and connection to our landscape and to one other. Learn more and find a full listing of Sense of Place lectures at GorgeOwned.org
Their lodge right in the heart of Government Camp is undeniably centered around one primary focus: skiing. Historic pictures of ski jumping competitions on the Multorpor hill. Old-school wooden skis from Mount Hood giants like Hjalmar Hvam. Ruddy-cheeked skiers lounging around the fireplace after a day on the mountain. Spartan wooden bunks mostly filled by 9 p.m., emptied almost entirely by 6 or 7 a.m. because of, well, skiing.
We spent a night with the Cascade Ski Club earlier this month, not only to check out the lodge and the club, but to share a bit of On Mount Hood around the evening fire. Some folks had already read the book, and some members are actually in it. One, Joe Schuberg, had been manager of the Ram’s Head bar at Timberline Lodge when I was interviewing Steve Buchan for the chapter on Silcox Hut. “This guy’s a character,” Schuberg had said. “Bigger than Ben-Hur.” That’s the kind of descriptor you take note of. Schuberg now manages the CSC lodge.
The next morning, we were up early with the rest of the lodge, albeit a touch more slowly than the real early birds. We started the day with our first visit to the Huckleberry Inn for breakfast and one of their storied maple bars.
After that, it was on to another Mount Hood staple, Valian’s Ski Shop, for a quick adjustment from Bud Valian himself, and then it was off for a refresher day on the slopes and some skiing of our own at Summit Ski Area.
Sure, it was Super Bowl Sunday, and I had kind of wanted to see the game. But we were having fun, we were on the mountain, and we were skiing.
(For the record, we ended up catching some of the second half of that terrible football game at a Mount Hood favorite in Welches: El Burro Loco, home to the best IPA list and Mexican food anywhere close to the mountain.)