The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

Posts tagged “history

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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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 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.


On Mount Hood and the Sense of Place Series

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. On Mount Hood's Timberline Trail crossing the Sandy River.         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.

Event Details 
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)
About Gorge Owned
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

A night on Mound Hood with the Cascade Ski Club

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

Summit Ski

(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.)


On Mount Hood at the Cascade Ski Club

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

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

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

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


Mount Hood’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.

Ram's Head

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.


Friends of Timberline

For years now, I have been wanting and meaning to get involved in some kind of community service effort to give back a little bit with some of my free time. Sure, I’ve donated books here and there, I put a little time in at my daughter’s school, but it’s been pretty unfocused so far.

Part of that has to do with a limited amount of hours to spare from what seems like a pretty spoken-for supply. But part of it also has to do with the fact that I just haven’t quite found something that syncs well with what I care about and what I can do. It’s probably just that I haven’t thought about it hard enough, but who knows.

This summer, however, something stared me straight in the face and pointed me in the right direction. It came in mid August during a book event at Timberline Lodge with a few other authors. It was a beautiful summer day. The mountain was out in full, the lodge was bustling with tourists and summer camp skiers and Pacific Crest Trail hikers from all over the world. I sat outside on Timberline’s back patio talking about the mountain with people and feeling like a lucky person to have such a direct connection to the lodge and the mountain.

33. Timberline book signing

So I’m sitting there, on the back patio of Timberline Lodge, staring at incredible Mount Hood, not to mention talking to Sarah Munro, author of Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon, and thinking, too, about how I can get involved with something that really matters to me, and it finally dawns on me — Duh, how about the Friends of Timberline?

Founded in 1975 to conserve and restore the art and furnishings of the lodge, the Friends of Timberline have been involved in a range of projects that, essentially, care for the lodge, its artwork and furniture, and its history. Among their more recent efforts, they completed the first phase of a project to light up some of the artwork in the lodge, and they restored the outdoor amphitheater and front steps. Over the years, the Friends have also been involved with public outreach, story and photo archives, and pathways and landscaping outside the lodge, among many other projects.

It’s such an obvious choice for me, for all the reasons already mentioned, but also because the Friends had invited me to speak at their annual meeting and fund-raiser at the lodge this past Saturday. Amy and I went up there on Saturday — another beautiful mountain day — and had a great time talking with so many fans of Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge. We also explored parts of the lodge we’d never seen before, and came to appreciate the lodge and the mountain even more than we already did.

To top it off, we were lucky enough to spend the night at Timberline, wake the next morning for a swim in the pool, and then enjoy a fantastic breakfast in the Cascade Dining Room. It was hard to leave when we had to, but the entire experience gave us even more cause to support Friends of Timberline and to continue enjoying and taking care of not only the lodge, but the amazing mountain it sits on, too.

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Mount Hood, Timberline, and The Shining — again . . .

It only took a couple of exterior shots of Timberline Lodge to forever link Mount Hood to Stephen King’s classic novel, The Shining, or, more appropriately, Stanley Kubric’s interpretation of the book. Most of the movie was shot in a sound stage in England, but there are a few opening scenes that are unmistakably Mount Hood.

I’ve been a Stephen King fan since middle school and a long admirer of The Shining. Even more so since writing On Mount Hood. 

So it was with great excitement that I heard about King writing a sequel to The Shining, which just came out a week or so ago. It’s called Doctor Sleep and centers around the now grown up Danny Torrance, the clairvoyant little boy from the original story.

I bought a copy at Powell’s over the weekend and am anxious to get into it. I read the original every couple years, and every year around this time I watch the movie, so it’ll be nice to add a new chapter to the Shining story. . .

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A little more on McNeil Point

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

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

Oliver at McNeil Point.

Oliver at McNeil Point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

McNeil Plaque


Atkinson Memorial Author Fair

Enjoyed being part of this event so much last year that I’ll be back there with dozens of other authors again this year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 22.

Atkinson Authors flyer--2013

This year’s fair also ties in with the 100-year anniversary celebration of the Oregon City Public Library. On hand for that will be some big guns in the Oregon writing world, including author Matt Love and Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen.


On Mount Hood — in good Oregon company

It’s always flattering and honoring to come across On Mount Hood in local bookshops. This one came from Graham’s Book & Stationery in Lake Oswego, where the book has found a home amidst a great selection of Oregon books.

OMH Graham's Book & Stationery

One of the things I really like about this picture isn’t just On Mount Hood though, but some of the other books that are there as well.

One row up and to the right is Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges by Judy Fleagle and Richard Knox Smith. What I love about that is that 12 years ago, Judy Fleagle was the editor of a magazine called Oregon Outside, and I was a furniture truck driver and an aspiring writer looking for a break. Judy gave me that break by publishing one of my very first pieces ever, a story about canoeing some of Oregon’s alpine lakes. The layout and design and editing were so nicely done that I still use that clip whenever I’m pitching other outdoor stories.

Right above Judy’s book is Timberline Lodge: A Love Story, which was edited by Jon Tullis, spokesman at Timberline Lodge. Jon not only provided a blurb for the paperback of On Mount Hood, but he also helped launch the book two weeks ago at Powell’s.

And just to the left is Hood River Valley: Land of Plenty, and below that, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, both by Janet Cook — now the editor of The Gorge Magazine — and photographer Peter Marbach. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both of them at past book events and have long admired their work spotlighting some of the beauty of Oregon, the Gorge and, of course, Mount Hood.

Great company to be in . . .


Last-minute Mount Hood gifts

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

1. 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.

2. A donation to Oregon Wild or Bark —

Bark_11th_black+PMSFeeling a little more philanthropic this holiday season? Consider making a donation to some of the great 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 for Mount Hood from Oregon Wild at the moment: snowshoeing to Twin Lakes, Lost Creek and White River, all in January. And from Bark (in partnership with Cascadia Wild), a winter tracking snowshoe in the Mount Hood National Forest on Jan. 13.

For more information about either of these groups, visit www.bark-out.org or www.oregonwild.org. Note, too, that all donations to Oregon Wild through December 31, 2012, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Mountain Rose Herbs.

3. Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Lidar Map of Mount Hood — DOGAMI released this double-sided, water-resistant map last November. 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. 

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


Kids on Cooper Spur

For starters, let me tell you this: It is completely possible to go backpacking on Mount Hood — or anywhere for that matter — with kids who are 2 and 6 years old.

Let me also tell you this: it is not easy.

And thirdly, I will say this: backpacking on Mount Hood with kids is not easy, but it is worth it. Entirely.

We started our recent excursion with a night up at the Cloud Cap Saddle Campground, where we explored the remnants of the Gnarl Ridge fire, which came close to roasting not only the campground but also the historic Cloud Cap Inn, the Snowshoe Club Cabin, and a few other irreplaceable gems back in 2008. Thankfully, crews back then were able to halt the fire just outside the historic structures while also allowing nature to run its natural course.

The next afternoon, we loaded up and started up the trail toward Cooper Spur, quite possibly the best day hike on all of Mount Hood. With Spencer on my back, heading above 30 pounds even before I added any gear and leaning this way and that, I do believe I can say I’ve carried the heaviest and most cumbersome pack I ever will. But the going was slow and steady, and eventually he fell asleep, which added a nice touch of stabilization.

Madeline’s gripes started about 15 minutes up the trail, but a little break and the promise of a stone fort just up ahead kept her spirits in check.

We made the camp site in decent time and set up for an evening of bouldering, sunset and mountain gazing, and simply soaking in the greatness that is life more than halfway up Mount Hood. It sounds relaxing and idyllic, and in a way it was, but let me also say that it was so nice to have an attentive aunt along for the ride.

The next morning, we set out for a little walk up the spur, knowing full well that not all of us would make it. The kids are troupers, to be sure, but all the way up Cooper Spur is not exactly a walk in the woods. It’s tough, it’s scrambling, and it’s  a touch dangerous if you’re not completely careful. Even so, when I turned around with them at about 7,600 feet to head back down, I couldn’t help but think: Wow, how cool is that?

I wish I could say that every minute up on Hood was a smile and a grand view, but these pictures, they lie. Or at least they leave out the parts of the trip that weren’t incredible. The burden of the packs, the tantrums, the tumbles off the rocks, the spilled milk . . . But though we may remember those bits of this and any trip, there are other images, like those captured here, that we remember most, that make us smile in retrospect, entirely glad that we made the effort and the trip in the first place.


Climbing Hood — another time

As I’ve mentioned before, everyone around here seems to have their own connection to or story about Mount Hood.

I got to talking with Kim Cooper Findling, an Oregon writer and author of Chance of Sun: An Oregon Memoir and Day Trips from Portland, Oregon, the other day at a local book and author fair, and she shared one of hers with me. In a way, though, it wasn’t entirely hers, but that of Marion May, her grandmother, who climbed Mount Hood in 1938.

(All photos in this post courtesy of Kim Cooper Findling)

Kim said her grandmother, who was born and raised in Portland and lived most of her adult life in Forest Grove, was 28 when she made the haul to the summit of Mount Hood in a group led by her pastor. It was a time of old-school alpenstocks, wool clothing, fedoras, and fixed ropes running up Cooper Spur.

It was also back when a lookout cabin still crowned the summit of Hood. (That’s Marion at the far right, in profile.)

Kim said she’s not climbed the mountain herself. But she’s written about it a bit in her books, and she’s snowshoed high enough on it to be inspired to go the rest of the way someday:

I myself haven’t climbed. The closest was when my husband and I stayed at Timberline years ago. I, being not much of a skier, hauled a pair of snowshoes out to the flanks of the mountain and climbed straight up for a good long while before I got tired and it started to get dark. Even that small experience gave me a sense of the stillness, beauty, steepness, and peace of the mountain. I loved being alone in that stillness. I’ll have to work through my fear of exposure, but climbing Hood is definitely on my list. 

Many thanks, Kim, for sharing both your grandmother’s photos and your stories of Mount Hood.


Another climbing anniversary

In recognition of the 11th ninth year since one of Mount Hood’s most memorable and tragic climbing accidents, which happened on May 30, 2002, I was going to offer up another short excerpt from On Mount Hood.

The passage would have come from a chapter I call Accident that looks at the tragedies that have unfolded on and around Mount Hood, from the very first time a climber met his maker on the mountain — it was a Portland grocer named Frederic Kirn, who in 1896 was swept off Cooper Spur by a rockslide — to a trio of climbers who tried to sneak in a climb up the Reid Glacier Headwall during a brief weather window in December 2009. In between, the chapter touches on everything from the Mount Hood Triangle and the OES tragedy to a freak accident in the volcanic vents high up on the mountain and a tragic slip that cost a married couple their lives. When the latter happened, I was a few hundred feet below the summit on my very first climb of Hood ever.

But the highlight of Accident, for me anyway, is a story about something that happened eleven nine years ago today. It involved several different climbing teams, a renowned Portland physician climber, a U.S. Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter, and a pararescue jumper named Andrew Canfield.

But rather than share an excerpt from the book here, I instead decided to embed an unbelievable video that captures a dramatic part of the story.

The rest is in the book.


Money Mountain

There are so many different sides to Mount Hood: skiing, climbing, hiking, the surrounding forest, the water, weather, history, people and places. All of which I at least touched on in On Mount Hood.

But there’s also an entirely different side as well: the business side. And while I included a lot of that in the book, I focused on that aspect entirely for a 2,500-word article in the latest issue of Oregon Business magazine. Enjoy.


Hood History

Some of the most interesting stories about Mount Hood come from the early days of its exploration by the people who came to live in Portland and its surrounds. Like the disputed first summit by  Thomas J. Dryer, publisher of what became The Oregonian, in 1854. (Three years later, one of Dryer’s employees, Henry Pittock, was part of a team that bagged the official first ascent.) And the reason that Illumination Rock, a prominent outcropping at about 9,500 feet on Hood’s southwest shoulder, is called Illumination Rock. (Various parties in the 1870s and 1880s hauled a substance known as red fire to the rock and the mountain’s summit and set about illuminating the peak for the masses back in Portland to see.)

One of my favorites is the story of where the Mazamas, a long-standing mountaineering and outdoor club based in Portland, got its start in 1894. From the group’s web site:

Responding to an advertisement run in the Morning Oregonian of June 12, 1894:  “To Mountain Climbers and Lovers of Nature . . . It has been decided to meet on the summit of Mt. Hood on the 19th of next month …” more than 300 people encamped on the flanks of Mt. Hood on July 18. By 8:00 am the next day, the first climbing party reached the 11,239’ summit, followed by the rest of the 193 men and women who were to reach the summit that day. One hundred and five climbers became charter members.

And here’s a photo from that very day, courtesy of the Mazamas.

Mazamas on summit


25 years ago . . . the OES tragedy on Mount Hood

Today marks 25 years since the worst climbing accident in all Mount Hood history: Nine dead, seven of them high school students from the Oregon Episcopal School. They’d been part of a team climbing the mountain for OES’ annual Basecamp Wilderness Education Program. The weather turned hellish, they didn’t turn around, the climb fell apart. Searchers found three bodies two days later; six more the next day in a snow cave buried under five feet of snow, but also, miraculously, two survivors.

For a number of reasons, I didn’t dwell too deeply on the OES disaster in On Mount Hood. I did touch on it, of course, and I also wrote briefly about its legacy on Mount Hood 25 years later for Portland Monthly this month. The latter story included an interview with Rocky Henderson, a well-known search-and-rescue volunteer whose very first mission ever with Portland Mountain Rescue was the OES climb.

“It was so frustrating,” Henderson told me of the search efforts. “When the weather finally cleared, we thought, ‘OK, now we’re definitely going to find them.’ But we didn’t. By then, there were no clues as to where they were. They had been completely obliterated by the storm.”

Something about climbing accidents intrigues people, myself included. And Mount Hood has had its share of them. But even though I was 12 and living in Ohio when it happened, there’s something singular about the OES accident. The scale of it, the what-ifs, the age of the victims. It’s heartbreaking. I read The Mountain Never Cries, a book by Ann Holaday, mother of Giles Thompson, one of the two OES survivors. I read all of the stories in the Oregonian from during and after the accident, the People magazine story, the piece in Backpacker, and on and on.

It is a sad but incredible story. One worth remembering, always.