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Timberline Lodge

Another COVID-19 blow to Mt. Hood: Timberline lays off 471

Born as a project to create jobs and stimulate the economy during the Great Depression, Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood has found itself again in the throes of a worldwide crisis.

This time, however, the crisis has brought Timberline to a halt.

The Oregonian reported this week that Timberline has laid off 471 employees as a result of the statewide stay-at-home order prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RLK and Company, which operates the lodge and ski area, filed a notice with the state about the layoffs. The cuts encompass all areas of the operation, from servers and dishwashers to lift operators, groomers and even the hosts at Silcox Hut.

Images from the lodge’s webcams on Saturday depict a ghost town of a resort. (Someone asked on Twitter if the lodge might need a caretaker for the season, a lighthearted reference to “The Shining,” part of which was filmed at the lodge.)

Here are a couple pictures of the lodge from sunnier times — and here’s to those sunnier times returning to everyone at Timberline and elsewhere as soon as possible.

From the 2019 Timberline Mountain Music Festival

Spring skiing on Mt. Hood gets sick

Not sick as in sweet jumps or killer powder, but sick as in shut down due to the coronavirus.

Today, even as we were in the car on the way up to the mountain, both Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline announced they were suspending operations for a least a week.

Mt. Hood, pre-COVID-19.

The ski areas are just the latest in a growing string of business closures as the COVID-19 pandemic grows. (Soon after hearing about Meadows and Timberline, I saw that the famous Powell’s Books has decided to close all five of its Portland locations until March 31.)

Summit Ski Area on Mt. Hood is also closed, as is the ski area at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort on the mountain’s north side. That latter closure isn’t related to COVID-19; it’s a lack of adequate snow.

As of Sunday March 15, at 12:45 p.m., Mt. Hood Skibowl remained open and is the only ski area on the mountain to do so.

With the way things are going, that probably won’t be the case much longer.


Mount Hood Gifts for 2019

It’s been a Christmas or two since I’ve updated this list of great Mount Hood gifts for mountain enthusiasts out there, but here’s the 2019 iteration, complete with some old favorites and some new additions:

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Shred-Hood-shirt-previewA 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.  

bark_logoFeeling 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.)

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For more information about either of these groups, visit www.bark-out.org or www.oregonwild.org.

  •  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 $80. The shop also has a nice array of vintage-looking posters and artwork, books, souvenirs and more. Check it out.


Code 1244: The 1986 Mount Hood Tragedy — An Interview with author Ric Conrad

It’s one of the worst and most heartbreaking climbing accidents ever to happen on Mount Hood.

May 1986. Nine people dead, two adults and seven students from Oregon Episcopal School, a private Portland prep school. All of them had been a part of a climb of Mount Hood through the school’s Basecamp Wilderness Education Program.

A storm descended on the mountain. Some members of the climbing party turned back. Others didn’t and were pinned by the weather, forced to cram into a snow cave for shelter. When rescuers finally found the buried cave three days later, only two students were left alive.

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One of four Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters involved in the OES search and rescue mission on May 15, 1986 — the day searchers finally found a buried snow cave and two survivors. Courtesy Ric Conrad/Wright Collection.

It’s a painful story that’s been told in a few different formats over the years, largely in newspaper and magazine stories. A synopsis of it is in On Mount Hood, but no one’s ever attempted to retell the entire story as a standalone book.

Until now.

Portland-area author Ric Conrad, who also wrote Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers 1930-1942, spent the past four-plus years researching the OES tragedy with his wife, Sheri, poring over records and conducting close to 40 interviews to retrace the dramatic events that unfolded on the flanks of Mount Hood over four days in May 1986.

His new book about the disaster, Code 1244: The 1986 Mount Hood Tragedy, is an exhaustive and gripping dive into the OES disaster: what happened, who was involved, the mistakes that were made and how searchers managed to find a miracle of sorts just as their mission was on the verge of being called off for good. It’s also got new information and never-before-published photographs of the fateful climb and the rescue effort that ensued.

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Some of the photos inside Conrad’s new book. Courtesy Ric Conrad.

Conrad was kind enough to keep interested parties apprised of the progress of his work, from its initial days through its publication earlier this month. He was also up for what I’m going to call an exclusive interview about the book. (We did a similar one back in 2015 for the Wy’east Climbers book.)

Enjoy that here, and then pick up a copy of Code 1244 if you’re someone who wants to know just how the OES tragedy on Mount Hood unfolded.

What motivated you to write about what’s considered one of the saddest and most memorable tragedies on Mount Hood? If anyone has a touch of gray in their hair, we remember the tragedy, yet scores of questions continued to linger in the halls of our regional climbing clubs. The family members of the missing climbers also had their questions and concerns. There were mysteries here that I wanted solved, answers that could benefit others. The fact that the search and rescue (SAR) volunteers were aging also had to be taken into consideration. If I waited too long to begin this project, the leaders of this large operation might not be around to share their stories. The timing just seemed to be right. 

This story has been told and retold over the years, but never like this. What are some of the biggest revelations or new pieces of information that came from your research and that appeared in the book? For family and friends of the missing climbers, the two biggest questions were: Why did it take so long to locate the snow cave and why was there so much confusion on Wednesday morning? I believe I was able to provide answers to both of those important queries. 

I was able to outline the perfect storm of miscommunication that occurred on Wednesday morning, May 14, 1986. Equipment malfunctions, two different handwritten logs being kept at the same time, and Air Force military protocols — which prevented certain messages from being transmitted over an open radio channel — all contributed to the agonizing confusion among family members.  

The book clearly explains why it took so long to locate the snow cave. Throughout Tuesday morning, SAR workers were exploring the route the missing climbers had taken during their ascent. A consultant then hiked out of the blizzard and advised authorities that the missing party was holed up in a snow cave — on a completely different glacier. Even though multiple search teams tried in vain to reach the glacier through the storm, they were unable to even see the terrain clearly until the following morning. As the missing climbers didn’t have an altimeter with them, it was anyone’s guess as to what elevation the snow cave had been constructed. Members of the public had no idea how much terrain the searchers had to cover. Differences in snow probing techniques — coarse versus fine—additionally factored into minor delays, which all added up to additional hours spent on the mountain. 

Was it hard, 33 years after the tragedy, to find and interview the people who were involved in it? Surprisingly, no. I began by interviewing the three members of Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) who are still serving their organization. They were able to provide me with the contact information of other key rescue personnel, and it sort of snowballed from there. From the families of the missing climbers’ perspective, it began with Frank McGinness, whose son was on the climbing team. Frank put us in touch with a former student at OES, who put us in touch with another member of the climbing team. That man put us in touch with yet another climber and, again, our network of contacts expanded, until my wife and I had interviewed thirty-seven people. 

Who were some of the personalities that stuck out most as you were compiling interviews?  Barry Wright certainly stands out. He was co-chief for PMR at the time. After our first recorded interview, he handed me a duffle bag, filled with primary source material. “I’ve been waiting for you for thirty years,” he remarked. It was an incredible compliment, but also a charge — provide an accurate version of events. I took that responsibility seriously. 

Interviewing Barry Wright

Author Ric Conrad (right) with Barry Wright, a search and rescue volunteer with Portland Mountain Rescue who was involved in the search for the OES climbers in 1986. Courtesy Ric Conrad.

Were some folks reluctant to talk? Naturally. For some family members, the tragedy might as well have taken place yesterday, and we certainly understood that. We respected their privacy. Having said that, one father was overjoyed to assist, stating that “No one is talking about my boy anymore. I want him to be remembered.”

Did you try to talk to Brinton Clark, Giles Thompson or Ralph Summers (three of the survivors of the tragedy)? Yes, all three. Dr. Clark gave a brief interview in 1996, but to my knowledge, she has declined to be interviewed ever since. We learned from Thompson’s mother that he declined to be interviewed. We tracked down Summers and mailed him a packet of information and a request for an interview. We never heard back from him but respect his privacy — his right to keep his memories to himself. 

Similarly, did you reach out to OES? If so, what was their response to you writing this book? The current headmaster of OES took my wife and I out to lunch, where we had a very frank and open conversation about the topic. I wanted to assure her that I had no agenda here. This was a search and rescue book and, now that it’s published, I am confident I have allayed any fears or reservations the school might have had. I think Tom Stringfield, of Portland Mountain Rescue, says it best. “The death of children is a difficult subject, and the author strikes a good, delicate balance between sensitivity and objectivity.”

Do you feel like you included everything in this book that you could, or did you have to leave a lot out? Oh, this book could have easily ballooned to 800 pages or more. The interviews were so interesting, we could have kept on going, but where do you draw the line? We felt we did a great job of what I call targeted interviewing. We tried to interview at least one member of each of the SAR teams, to obtain a feeling of what it was like to be in their boots, on their specific mission.

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Ed Hall and Mark Kelsey on the summit of Mount Hood. The longtime climbing partners were later involved in the OES search and rescue mission.   Courtesy Ric Conrad/Kelsey Collection.

Can you talk a little about your approach to writing and your style? This book reads very much like a detailed police or incident report; curious if you thought about taking any other approaches and why you ended up going with this one?  I started writing this book as if it was current day, and the witnesses were recalling their experiences. I was jumping back and forth, so many times between these two timelines —2014 and 1986 — that the writing became jumbled and difficult to understand. My wife suggested I try narrative nonfiction, and it was clearly great advice. With narrative non-fiction, as you read the book, it “is” 1986. Everything is in the present tense. I think that style makes it easier for the reader to follow the rescue and recovery operation. 

How did you land on the title? (I know what the code is, but curious about how you ended up with that as the title)?  I kept coming back to the fact that there were two logs being kept in real time. Deputies from the sheriff’s department were maintaining one, while PMR handled the other. Without giving away too much of the story, I always found it amazing that at least one deputy recorded in his log the awful truth of what had been discovered. Somehow, that information was not relayed to PMR leaders who were only a few feet away. That Wednesday morning was the epitome of madness and confusion, and Code 1244 just seemed to encapsulate the entire tragic affair. 

I know you know the mountain really well. Have you climbed it yourself? Oh, sure, but after reaching the summit three or four times, you recognize it’s just an incredibly small slice of real estate.  The mountain has so much more to offer. You begin to branch out and explore all manner of pockets of terrain: Langille Crags, Illumination Rock, Paradise Park, Cooper Spur, Mississippi Head, the Timberline Trail, etc.  

What do you think is the legacy or lesson of the ’86 tragedy, if there is one? I think the lesson learned was that even teenagers are simply too young to speak up for themselves and turn around when they feel they should. In 1986, the kids followed their designated leader who — probably suffering from the onset of hypothermia — kept moving the team higher and ever higher. 

What else do you want people to take away from this book? Although people will learn a lot about the search and rescue efforts by reading my book, we can’t overlook the incredible efforts demonstrated by the children themselves. Susan McClave, for example, shared her body heat with a fellow teen suffering from hypothermia. She also held the compass and led the team down from the upper reaches of Triangle Moraine. She barked orders inside the snow cave, ensuring people continued to shift their body positions in order to maintain circulation in their limbs. That’s a seventeen-year-old girl we’re talking about. Incredible presence of mind and strength of will. These kids deserve to be remembered. 

Front Cover

Courtesy Ric Conrad

 


Timberline’s sweet Cyber Monday deal for 2019

Buy one, get one? Nope.

Try buy one, get two.

That’s the smokin’ deal that Timberline Lodge has offered on Cyber Monday for the past few years, and it’s hard to beat. For the price of just one single mid-week lift pass, you get the pass you paid for, plus two free mid-week passes that are good almost anytime Monday through Friday  between December 2 and May 25, 2020, though not during winter break between Dec. 20 and Jan 1.

Even with those restrictions, there’s little complaining here. We’ve taken advantage of the deal in the past, and plan to again this year.

The sale runs through midnight Monday, Dec. 2.

You can also get the same deal in person on Black Friday, when Timberline will be at evo Portland from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

What’s more, Timberline announced that, thanks to some recent new snow, it will open for business on Thursday, Nov. 28. None of the other resorts on Hood have announced plans to open this week, but Meadows is harvesting snow and may have a few preview days this weekend. 

Update 11/27/19: Meadows has made it official: It will open a few runs over the Thanksgiving weekend starting on Friday. In addition, Skibowl plans to open its tubing hill on Friday, Nov. 29, as does the Summit Ski Area in Government Camp. 

 

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Labor Day Weekend 2019 on Mount Hood

Summer’s going to fade fast. We know it is.

So around here, we do our best to make the most of all that we can, even if it sometimes makes us a little rough around the edges. Case in point: A three-day weekend on Mount Hood at the close of the first week of school.

We headed to a favorite area near the Sandy River and Zigzag, which was super crowded but not entirely crammed. It served as our home base for the weekend, which found us doing everything from picking early huckleberries, shooting BB guns and exploring a now-off-limits Sandy River beach to taking in “The Princess Bride” at Mt. Hood Meadows, hiking Tamanawas Falls and enjoying a tribute to the Grateful Dead at Timberline Lodge during their annual Mountain Music Fest.

The weather was amazing, the mountain bare but scenic and all of us having an escape that we’ll be thinking about once all this sunshine fades and we’re bundled up inside on a sofa in late January.

A few photos to illustrate the weekend:

Our secret Sandy River spot remains.

Picking huckleberries near the Sandy River.

Watching “The Princess Bride” like we’re at the drive-in at Mt. Hood Meadows.

 

This is when we first hiked Tamanawas Falls all together in 2012.

And here they are today.

 

Madeline’s Tamanawas selfie.

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Timberline’s Mountain Music Fest.

 

 

 


The 2019 ski season starts on Mount Hood

For the most part, we’re fair-weather skiers. Springtime. Blue sky. Sunshine.

Softer snow, sure, but we’re largely OK with that. img_0223

But every year, we do get a couple winter runs in, usually thanks to Timberline’s Cyber Monday deal, which is a buy-one-get-two free pass deal they run every year the Monday after Thanksgiving. You have to use them midweek and not during the winter break, but otherwise they’re fair game.

We cashed in a few of those freebies on a cold Presidents’ Day this year — a day that shifted from bluebird skies to eerie whiteout conditions depending on where you were on the mountain and when.

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It was a great way to start our 2019 ski season on Hood.


The 2018 Ski Season on Mount Hood (so far . . .)

It’s been an up and down year for snow on Mount Hood thus far.

Back in February, some parts of the mountain had just 50 to 60 percent of their normal snow. We were skiing then, and you could tell. Even high up on the Magic Mile, rocks were exposed in a way that usually doesn’t come until late April or so.

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February

Since then, however, the snow has piled up. The snowpack is still below annual averages, but there’s plenty more of it now than there was earlier this year.

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March

And this past weekend, on Sunday, it was coming down like January. All day long it fell, creating amazing conditions for skiing all afternoon long.

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April

We’ll see what the rest of spring brings to Mount Hood.

 


Spring Skiing on Mount Hood 2017

I suppose this is the season we should have bought spring passes for Timberline Lodge & Ski Area, seeing as how it’s still flush with snow in June while all the other resorts have long since closed.

But there’s no complaining. We spent a snowy, snowy weekend at Timberline back in March for Spencer’s birthday, stayed for a week in Government Camp for spring break and skied at Mt. Hood Meadows five of seven days, and made the most of an epic spring ski season that went strong until Meadows closed for the year on May 6.

It was a great season. On Mount Hood, they all are.

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The snow piled up at Timberline Lodge in early March for Spencer’s birthday weekend.

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Tons of snow made for deep powder skiing at Timberline in early March.

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Spring break at Mt. Hood Meadows was largely socked in, but the sun broke through every now and then.

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Madeline cruising down Vista at Mt. Hood Meadows, a favorite run on the mountain.

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Another great ski season on Mount Hood.

 


Timberline’s sweet Cyber Monday deal

Buy one, get one? Nope.

Try buy one, get two.

That’s the smokin’ deal that Timberline Lodge has offered on Cyber Monday for the past few years, and it’s hard to beat. For the price of just one single mid-week lift pass, you get the pass you paid for, plus two free mid-week passes that are good almost anytime Monday through Friday  between December 1 and May 29, 2017, though not during winter break between Dec. 19 and Jan 2.

Even with those restrictions, there’s little complaining here. We’ve taken advantage of the deal in the past, and plan to again this year.

The sale runs through midnight tonight.

Mskiing mile 4.8.14

 


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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Doggie Dogs at Timberline Lodge

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

Along the Sandy River . . .

Oliver on the Muddy Fork

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.

 


OMH Halloween Edition: Timberline Lodge and The Shining

It’s Halloween, a great day for watching Stanley Kubrick’s classic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. It is a great and eerie film that within the first few minutes spotlights a couple famous Oregon landmarks — Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge. 

It’s a fleeting glimpse, though, because other than the brief glance of the mountain, the lodge and a couple other minor exterior shots, there wasn’t much of the movie filmed on Mount Hood. Instead, most of it was shot at London’s Elstree Studios using massive sets, sound stages, and a full-size mockup of the lodge’s exterior.

No matter though. All it took was that short little cameo to forever brand Timberline Lodge as the Overlook Hotel from King’s book. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

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The Shining (and some other books…) in the gift shop at Timberline Lodge.

One other interesting fact about The Shining at Timberline Lodge: in the novel, room 217 of the Overlook Hotel is a haunted one, tainted by scandal and suicide. Rather than spook guests who might have ended up in room 217 at Timberline, the filmmakers were asked to change the room number in the movie to one that didn’t exist at Timberline. That’s why, in the movie, little Danny Torrance asks, “Mr. Hallorann, what is in Room 237?” — not 217.


Mount Hood Gifts 2014

A quick and last-minute list of some Mount Hood gifts for that alpine aficionado in your life:

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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.  

bark_logoFeeling 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_Wild_LogoOn tap on Mount Hood from Oregon Wild at the moment: snowshoeing to Twin Lakes and White River, all in January. And from Bark, its monthly hike in the Mount Hood National Forest in January.

For more information about either of these groups, visit www.bark-out.org or www.oregonwild.org.

  •  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.


The End of Summer on Mount Hood

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.

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The rain did little to dampen the spirits, nor could it interfere in the slightest with all the huckleberries that needed picking.

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The sun returned in time for an afternoon hike along the Sandy River toward Ramona Falls.

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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.

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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 . . .

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Mount Hood to a Little Kid

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.

Madeline HoodEven better to me, someone who’s written and writes a lot about Mount Hood, is the back of the sheet and Madeline’s own little take of a day on the mountain.

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Two views from the top of Mount Hood’s Magic Mile

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. 20140515-122727.jpgI 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: 20140515-122716.jpgNo complaints, by the way. Just a big difference depending on which way you’re looking…


Mount Hood fixtures

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. fixture 2 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. fixture1 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. Lodge Fixture 1976 rm 108 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.


Finally skiing on Mount Hood

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.

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palmerWe rose Sunday morning early with one main goal: skiing. No lingering in bed, no Joe’s Donuts, no nothing not related to the goal.

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.

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Spence on lift

 

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.

M Palmer

 


Rain, rain, go away

Twice in the past two weeks now, we’ve had grand plans to spend the day skiing on Mount Hood, only to have those plans flooded out by unending rain. It’s been a pretty bad snow year so far, but still, we never counted on two outings to be so thoroughly saturated that we wouldn’t even be able to set foot or ski on the slopes. (Nor did we find any humor in the fact that the days immediately after each of our rainouts were sunny, bluebird days on the mountain.)

While those days may have taken an unexpected course, we still made what we could of them, which was hardly anything to complain about.

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Sneaking in a day’s worth of runs at Summit before the evening rains set in.

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Late-night around the fire at Timberline Lodge, eager for an early ski morning.

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Thwarted by rain, we opted for the lodge’s storied Timber Toast instead.

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Celebrating Spencer’s 4th birthday in Hood River after giving an On Mount Hood presentation to around 100 folks for Gorge Owned’s Sense of Place lecture series.

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Sunrise from our room at the Hood River Hotel was promising.

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But the rains returned in full force, leaving us to stroll the streets of Hood River and hope for another, snowier day to head back to the mountain.


A perfect sledding day on Mount Hood

All week, Spencer and I had been planning on ending our week of bachelorhood with a trip to Mount Hood for some epic sledding. He had his snowball maker ready, the sled was out of the attic, the weather looked prime. Then, he got sick.

It was just a minor cough at first, but it worked its way into a good old winter cold. So instead of the mountain on Saturday, we stayed in town, toured the submarine at OMSI, grabbed a drink at Hair of the Dog, and otherwise laid low.

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But come Sunday morning, cold or no, he was going sledding on Mount Hood, so we went. And it was great. Just great.

We started off with the obligatory Mount Hood stop in Sandy.

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White River Sno-Park was jammin’, but that’s to be expected when it’s almost 50 degrees and sunny on Mount Hood in January. On this low snow year, I wondered whether there’d be enough for some good runs and snowballs. There was.

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He was relentless, up and down, up and down again, and only when the sun sank below the forested horizon did he finally agree that it was time to hit it. I thought for sure he’d be asleep by the time we came to the turnoff for Timberline, but the lodge’s hot chocolate is a siren song worth staying up for. He made it up to the lodge for that, but not much more…

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The lowdown for anyone looking for free sledding on Mount Hood (free, except for the $5 Sno-Park permit): Head to White River West Sno-Park. It can be crowded, but people tend to spread out in their activities, and there are plenty of great options for all kinds of sledding, fort-building, snowballing and everything else. The snow is low this year so far, but the conditions at White River Sno-Park are still plenty adequate for a full day in the snow on Mount Hood.


Mount Hood’s Little Lodge — Silcox Hut

(A year ago this coming weekend, we headed up to Mount Hood’s Silcox Hut to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but I never really wrote about it or shared pictures save for a short story I did for The Oregonian. Here’s an alternate version of that story and some pictures from one of the mountain’s truly unique places.)

A glorious day on Mount Hood: sunshine, blue sky, bright white snow and forever mountain views — in January.

We skied all afternoon in this bliss at Timberline, high above the inversion clouds that chilled and socked in Portland for days. But while nearly everyone else on the mountain headed back down into the gray at the end of the day, we got to stay. And not just at Timberline Lodge, which would have been grand itself, but at someplace a little more removed, a little higher up, a touch more intimate.

Someplace called Silcox Hut.

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Originally built in 1939 as a warming hut and the upper terminus of the Magic Mile ski lift, Silcox Hut today is a rustic and welcoming alpine lodge on the south side of Mount Hood. Perched at 6,900, it sits at the base of Hood’s best late-season runs on the Palmer Snowfield.

The hut sleeps up to 24 in six small bunkrooms redolent of train berths from a bygone era. Its great room boasts hand-carved tables and chairs, wrought iron accents and a roaring stone fireplace. Characteristic hosts — when we were there it was the hut original, Steve Buchan — blend humor and lore with fantastic meals you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else on the mountain.

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But Silcox has not always been like this.

Before a dedicated group of climbers, architects, craftsmen and other mountain fans formed the Friends of Silcox Hut in 1985, the old stone and timber building had fallen into such neglect and disrepair that the Forest Service reportedly considered burning it down. But the Friends rallied, landed at least one $50,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust and overhauled the hut in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

DSC_0078In 1993 — 20 years ago this year — Silcox reopened to the public. Timberline operator RLK and Company now runs Silcox Hut, but the Friends still volunteer to tackle maintenance issues and special projects, and artisans like blacksmith Darryl Nelson help preserve the lodge’s classic flair.

Originally open to passing climbers and skiers for a little mid-adventure respite, the hut today is only open to private parties, who often must book their stay well in advance. We looked forward to our night at Silcox for almost a year before it became a reality, plunking down a bit of cash throughout 2012 to guarantee our place with the crew celebrating a friend’s birthday in January 2013.

After a day on the slopes, we piled into the snowcat, all 16 of us full of smiles lumbering up from Timberline to Silcox. Buchan welcomed us, then we grabbed photos of Hood and the hut and the mountains all around in the golden light of sunset. A pasta buffet dinner was warm and fulfilling, whiskey and wine around the fire just right after a day on the mountain, and another morning of the same sunny glory the next day more than anyone could ask for of a January Monday in Oregon.

The single flaw? We only stayed at Silcox one night.

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Details for Staying at Silcox Hut

Booking: Weekends and holidays fill up fast. Call the number below to check availability. The hut is also available for weddings and other events.

Rates: Sunday-Thursday, 12-person minimum, bring your own bedding, $145 per person; $165 with bedding. Friday-Saturday and holidays, 16-person minimum, bring your own bedding, $165 per person; $185 with bedding. Includes snowcat ride to and from the hut, as well as dinner and breakfast.

Bonus: Guests at Silcox also have access to the pool, sauna, spa and showers at Timberline Lodge.

Friends: To find out more about the Friends of Silcox Hut, find the group’s page on Facebook or call 503-219-8134.

More information:

503-272-3251

www.timberlinelodge.com/visit/meetings/silcox-hut


Early Mount Hood Gift

I hate to hop on the gifty bandwagon and all this time of year, but I got a super cool early Christmas gift a couple months ago that I’ve been eyeballing for years now. And to me, it’s one worth sharing.

Amy got it for me when we stayed up at Timberline Lodge back in October as part of the Friends of Timberline annual dinner, which was just grand.

I’ve seen and admired them in the gift shop at Timberline for years, and then when I was working on the Mount Hood book, I actually met the guy who makes them — and he ended up in the book, too. So that, along with the fact that I love nothing more than an a blazing fire this time of year, made this particular gift pretty unique.

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It’s the Ram’s Head Fire Poker, a hand-forged wrought iron beauty fashioned after some of the larger fireplace tools at Timberline. (Glad I got one, as it looks like they’re sold out right now.) I’m not 100 percent sure, but there’s a pretty good chance this one was made by Darryl Nelson, the renowned Northwest blacksmith who has done much of the restoration and replication work at Timberline, including these fireplace tools.

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It was Darryl who I met up at Silcox Hut one day while researching the book. He shared some great stories with me, including one about people occasionally stealing these pokers out of the guest rooms. (A few folks have even reportedly tried to hustle them out of the lodge by tossing them out their window into the snow; they often can’t find them after they’ve checked out, and only in the summer, when all the snow melts, do lodge staff come across them.)

The ram’s head is, of course, one of the animal symbols prominent throughout the lodge, along with beavers, eagles, marmots, coyotes, deer, and so many others.

So anyway, I’m set for this year already. I’ve used my gift quite a few times already this season, and no doubt will put it to good use throughout the rest of the cold weather this year, next year and many more to come.

I think it’s the kind of gift that’s going to be around and appreciated by myself and others this time of year for a long, long time.

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Timberline Lodge and The Shining

It’s Halloween week, my time of year for watching Stanley Kubrick’s classic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. It is a great and eerie film that within the first few minutes spotlights a couple famous Oregon landmarks — Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge. 

It’s a fleeting glimpse, though, because other than the brief glance of the mountain, the lodge and a couple other minor exterior shots, there wasn’t much of the movie filmed on Mount Hood. Instead, most of it was shot at London’s Elstree Studios using massive sets, sound stages, and a full-size mockup of the lodge’s exterior.

No matter though. All it took was that short little cameo to forever brand Timberline Lodge as the Overlook Hotel from King’s book. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

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The Shining (and some other books…) in the gift shop at Timberline Lodge.

One other interesting fact about The Shining at Timberline Lodge: in the novel, room 217 of the Overlook Hotel is a haunted one, tainted by scandal and suicide. Rather than spook guests who might have ended up in room 217 at Timberline, the filmmakers were asked to change the room number in the movie to one that didn’t exist at Timberline. That’s why, in the movie, little Danny Torrance asks, “Mr. Hallorann, what is in Room 237?” — not 217.