The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

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Finding Summer on Mount Hood’s Lost Lake

I probably shouldn’t share this, but I think a few of my Mount Hood stories already have: the weekend after Labor Day can be one of the most glorious of the summer.

The past couple Labor Days, for us anyway, have been ripe with the first signs of the season to come: chilly, gray, damp; the kind of weather that makes it feel OK to stay inside for a change. But that transition can be a hard one to make, but at least the first weekend of it is usually just a fleeting reminder to get the rest of your summer in while you can.

And how we got it in this past weekend at Lost Lake. I won’t share exactly why this annual trip to the mountain’s Northwest side this time of year sits so high atop the list, but I think it’s plain to see.

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It can be tough to get the popular lakeside campsites in the campground at Lost Lake, but luckily many of the other sites, tidy and surrounded by soaring Doug firs and lodgepole pines, leave little to groan about. Even so, it’s not really about being in the campground at Lost Lake. It’s all about being on the water.

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And that goes for everyone.

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Our escape to Lost Lake this summer found us there for three nights. The first two days on the lake were summertime at its best, with sun and swimming and heat and barely a care in the world. I thought repeatedly about doing the three-mile hike around the lake or the 4.6-mile one up Lost Lake Butte, which I’ve never done, but the lake just kept pulling me back and making me stay. Why leave the sunny shoreline when days like this are as numbered as they are?

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As if on cue, Sunday morning dawned breezy and with an unexpected chill in the air. The trees swayed with high mountain wind and white clouds swirled with the blue sky. The sun shone, but it never warmed above 65 degrees — a difference of at least 15 degrees from the days prior. Out on the wrinkled lake, tiny whitecaps sprayed off the waves, and where, days earlier, scores of rowboats, canoes, kayaks, rafts and standup paddle boards plied the waters, now only a handful bobbed around. Still, we lingered all day, chasing the sunshine and crawfish, soaking in just one more view of the mountain and hanging on to what might have been the very last drop of summertime on Lost Lake.

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Stubborn Writers Return to Mount Hood

It’d been two years since we had stood there together, high on the northeast shoulder of Mount Hood near the stone shelter at Cooper Spur. The first time was day three of a circuit around the mountain on the Timberline Trail and we’d just made a pretty epic crossing of Eliot Creek. Then, though, we’d already been hoofing it for a few hours and still had another five or six miles to knock off before we could call it a day — and not all that much sunlight left before the day would be called for us.

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We — myself and my writerly friends Mark Pomeroy, John Morrison, Joanna Rose and Morrison’s son, Jackson, the Stubborn Writers — stumbled into a darkening camp that night back in 2013, spent and hungry and barely able to enjoy a cocktail and a fantastic pasta dinner before crashing. We’d hiked hard that day, all four days of the trek, actually, and it felt like we didn’t really get to soak in Cooper Spur or Gnarl Ridge the way we should have.

So this summer, we went back. Only this time, we took it relatively easy, hiking briefly up from Cloud Cap Saddle Campground, finding a site and setting up a base for two nights.

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And up there, with no real schedule, no set number of miles to log to make sure we were winding our way around the mountain in decent time, we were able to relax, to gaze at the sunset and watch lenticular clouds flow over Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, to ponder Jim Harrison, to spend time there, together, high up on Mount Hood again.

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Sunset and dinner.

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Breakfast and Jim Harrison. 

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A stroll over to Gnarl Ridge. 

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Lunch and Gnarl Ridge and Newton Creek. 

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A panorama from a solo hike up to Tie-In Rock on Cooper Spur. 

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Mark laughing big on Mount Hood in 2015. 

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Mark (and the rest of us) laughing big on Mount Hood in 2013 at the end of the Timberline Trail. 


On Mount Hood: The best of 2014

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.

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The Best Mount Hood Sledding

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:

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  • 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.

Full-on Summer on Mount Hood’s Lost Lake

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. IMG_2258.JPG IMG_2289.JPG IMG_2276.JPG IMG_2283.JPG IMG_2287.JPG IMG_2296.JPG IMG_2300.JPG


On Mount Hood Heads to Seattle

OMH Paperback coverOK, I know Seattle’s got the king daddy Cascade in Mount Rainier and all, but Mount Hood’s not too shabby itself.

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.

 

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This little piggy went to Mount Hood

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.

Unfortunately, so has John Q.
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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.

And sometimes it’s just laughably unbelievable.
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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.

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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:

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Mount Hood Climber’s Guide

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.

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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.

 

 


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…


Happy Mother’s Day 2014

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.

Amy making her way up St. Helens on Mother’s Day 2002. 

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.


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, the Mazamas and the Timberline Trail

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.

Crossing the White River on the last few miles of the Timberline Trail, Aug. 2013.

Crossing the White River on the last few miles of the Timberline Trail, Aug. 2013.


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.

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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 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.


Fred Beckey Returns to Mount Hood (sort of)

If you’re at all familiar with Northwest climbing, the name Fred Beckey likely rings a bell. And if you know of Fred Beckey, then you also probably know that his list of first ascents across the mountains and crags of the Northwest is among the longest out there. (This interview from climbing.com says he’s got more than anyone in the world.)

That should come as no surprise, really. Not only because Beckey is renowned for his  prolific and active climbing career, but because he’s now 91 — and he’s still climbing.

One of his most notable first ascents on Mount Hood was the dreaded Yocum Ridge, which he climbed with partner Leo Scheiblehner in April 1959. Yocum, named for climbing guide and Government Camp hotel and resort developer Oliver Yocum, is the prominent, serrated ridge that runs pretty much right down the middle of the mountain’s west face. In the photo below, by Zigzag-based photographer Robert Brownscombe, Yocum is the ridge just left of center.

Photo by Robert Brownscombe

In his book, Challenge of the North Cascades, Beckey describes the climbing as “easy in some places,” “delicate and exposed” in others, and in still others “it was unpleasantly difficult and dangerous.” He talks of climbing his way up a 30-foot section of vertical ice where “the wrong slash of the ice ax might have brought the whole chimney down.” On another section, he could see daylight “through the frost feathers 2 feet under the veneer surface.” Summing it up, he calls it “a nightmare of ice problems instead of a route to the summit.”

Beckey returns to Mount Hood in February, in a way. The seasoned mountaineer will give a presentation about some of his climbing adventures over the past 60 years in the Visual Arts Theatre at Mount Hood Community College. The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27. It is free and open to the public, though guests are asked to bring food or cash donations to support Barney’s Pantry, a student-run food bank on the campus.

This should be a great show. I saw him give one back in 2003; actually recruited him to put it on for the annual banquet of the Ptarmigans, a mountaineering club that wound down a few years ago. I’d also hoped to get an interview with the notoriously gruff climber, who’s also known for not being into interviews, a touch hard of hearing and somewhat of a casanova. All those traits were in full force that night out at Edgefield 11 years ago, and while he didn’t seem to have many words for me, he had no problem chatting up the young married lady sitting next to him.

Even so, his presentation was great. Back then I felt lucky that I got to see him when he was still climbing at 80. I’m hoping to catch him again at 91 because, you know, you figure he’ll have to stop climbing at some point. Right?


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


Mount Hood Sledding

It’s 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. Here are a few of the best:

Sledding at White River Sno Park, Jan. 2012.

  • 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.

The Mount Hood Quarter

I knew they were out there, but until a couple weeks ago, I don’t think I ever came across one. Then, while we were down in the Sisters area for two On Mount Hood book events at the Paulina Springs book shops, I got one back in a handful of change from the general store.

mthoodquarterThere’s nothing incredibly valuable about this quarter. It’s simply part of the United States Mint’s  “America the Beautiful” quarters program, which kicked off in 2010. Through the program, the Mint is releasing 56 different quarters — five a year through 2021 — depicting national parks and other sites from all over the country.

The Oregon quarter showcases the Mount Hood National Forest through a view of Mount Hood over Lost Lake. For a little reference, here’s the vista in real life:

Hood qt shotI’d say they chose a pretty grand representation of some of the beauty of the state and the country.

 

 


Timberline Trail 2013 — a sneak peek

Just over 40 miles — and lots of huge vistas, rushing rivers, deep creeks, raindrops, knock-you-aside wind gusts, friendly faces, and alpine adventure — later, and the Timberline Trail is behind us. There will be plenty of details and images to come, but for now, just a quick look from another epic trek on this classic Mount Hood trail.

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The views from Hood River Mountain

There’s no doubt about the views from atop Hood River Mountain.

The hike up this little hill just outside of downtown Hood River covers just under 2-miles roundtrip and goes up 600 feet or so pretty steadily. So it’s not going to blow you away in terms of exertion or exhaustion.

The view from up top, however, is another story.

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Yet sometimes, despite the grand views like this, there are other, more subtle sights that can have just as big of an impact.

We hiked up to the top with the kids a few weeks ago, and even though the day was gorgeous, the flowers in bloom, the mountain and all of the Hood River Valley in big, full view, it just wasn’t enough to keep the little girl happy.

But then she started looking around a little more and found something much more enchanting than a jaw-dropping mountain view. And all of a sudden, Hood River Mountain became a much better place.

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Lizard Hood River Mountain(Thinking this is a Western Fence Lizard; knowing that it is inside an empty Stack Wines glass — great for the trail!)


On Mount Hood at Powell’s City of Books

When On Mount Hood initially came out two years ago, we launched it at Powell’s on Hawthorne. And while that was a great event and a great venue to launch a book — and while this may sound a touch petty and ungrateful — I’d be less than honest if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was really hoping it could have happened at the real-deal Powell’s, Powell’s City of Books on Burnside. It’s kind of the dream spot that a lot of writers have in mind.

Well, maybe for the next book, I remember thinking at the time.

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The next book did come along — the paperback version of On Mount Hood — and with it the incredible opportunity to kick it off at Powell’s on Burnside.

We did it last night in the storied Pearl Room, and it was great.

But it wasn’t just me and it wasn’t just On Mount Hood.

 

Gary RIt was also Hood photographer and artist Gary Randall, who shared some of his favorite and most amazing Mount Hood images.

Gary’s been photographing the great Northwest outdoors for decades, and his work has been published and posted and shared all over the place.

He’s got amazing pictures from all around the mountain, and some engaging stories too, from shooting a fierce lightning storm from inside his truck one stormy night to catching the Dollar Lake fire two years ago right when it  blasted a massive mushroom cloud up into the sky.

 

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The night was also Jon Tullis, the spokesman for Timberline  who’s worked at the landmark lodge for more than 26 years. Long a huge fan of the lodge and the mountain, Jon shared some thoughts and a couple short videos celebrating the lodge, including one on the book he wrote and edited, Timberline Lodge: A Love Story.

And last night was also the 70 or so people who turned out to celebrate the beauty and glory and the singularity that is Mount Hood.

There are a lot of people out there who love and enjoy and revere that mountain, and a bunch of us got together at Powell’s last night because of it.

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(Thanks to Sue Bartz and John Burton for some of the event pictures.)


Writers Night at the Springwater Grange — this Saturday!

A little press release about a great writing event happening this weekend:

The Estacada Area Arts Commission is sponsoring its eleventh annual Writers Night at the Springwater Grange on April 20th at 7 pm.  The Springwater Grange is located at  24591 S. Springwater Rd, near the town of Estacada.

mthood-4This year’s event will feature Jon Bell, author of On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak.Bell will read from his book, and show slides of the mountain from his extensive collection of images.

Jon Bell will be joined onstage by hosts Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose, and by Portland based writer and publisher Laura Stanfill.  Stanfill’s Forest Avenue Press has recently published its first book, Brave on the Page:  Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. All four writers are included in this anthology.

To celebrate the publication of Brave on the Page Allred, Rose, and Bell will read work that explores and defines this evocative phrase.  Stanfill will speak about her own creative life, and the pleasures and pitfalls of being a writer, an editor, a publisher, a wife, and the mother of two small children, all while bootstrapping Forest Avenue Press from nothing to a going enterprise in less than a year.

In September Forest Avenue Press will release Allred’s short story collection, A Simplified Map of the Real World. “It’s a suite of linked short stories set in a small town I call Renata,” says Allred.  “For me, being brave on the page has meant writing about the place where I live, fictionalizing it of course, but always running the risk that my fellow Estacadans will feel like I’ve gotten it wrong.”

Rose will read from her novel-in-progress, Everybody’s Rules for Scrabble.  Her novel takes on the controversial issue of abortion.  “There are lots of things we’re scared to talk to each other about, like sex, and death, and religion,” says Rose. “Writing about them takes some courage.  It helps if your parents have already passed on, which mine have.”

As always, host Stevan Allred will invite the entire audience to his home for a reception after the reading.

Forest Avenue Press will release Stevan Allred’s A Simplified Map of the Real World in September of 2013.  Allred has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  He has survived circumcision, a tonsillectomy, a religious upbringing, the 60’s, the break-up of The Beatles, any number of bad haircuts, the Reagan Revolution, plantar fasciitus, the Lewinsky Affair, the the Florida recount of 2000, the Bush oughts, the War on Terror, a divorce, hay fever, the real estate bubble, male pattern baldness, and heartburn. He is the editor of the zines Dixon Ticonderoga and The Intentional Ducati, and together with Joanna Rose, is the leader of the writing workshop known as The Pinewood Table.

Joanna Rose writes poems, short stories, long stories, and really long stories, true to life and also imagined. Some of them have been published (Bellingham Review, Windfall Journal, ZYZZYVA, High Desert Journal, Story Magazine, and the Oregonian newspaper.)  One of them was so long it became a novel, Little Miss Strange.  She teaches writing in classrooms all over the state, and with Stevan Allred at the Pinewood Table, which is in her living room in a small blue house in southeast Portland.

Laura Stanfill believes in community. She’s the founder and publisher of Forest Avenue Press and the editor of the anthology Brave on the PageOregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, a Powell’s Small Press Bestseller. Laura, an award-winning journalist, has been published in local newspapers and magazines in New York, Virginia and Oregon. She earned her English degree from Vassar College and she’s at work on a nineteenth century novel about bobbin lace, music boxes and a fainting pimp. See forestavenuepress.com for more information.

An outdoor enthusiast and wordsmith, Jon Bell has been writing from his home base in the Portland, Oregon, area since the late 1990s. After growing up in Mansfield, Ohio, Jon got a bachelor’s degree in history from Michigan State University, then traveled extensively across the American West before landing in Portland. His first published pieces were about some of his backpacking and climbing excursions in the Northwest, including countless weekends on Mount Hood. His work has appeared inBackpacker, The Oregonian, The Rowing News, Oregon Coast, and many other publications. He is also co-author of the climbing guidebook, Ozone, and a former president of the Ptarmigans Mountaineering Club. Visit his freelance writing web site, www.jbellink.com. He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with his wife, two kids, and a black Lab.

 

 


A Mount Hood viewpoint

They’re everywhere, really. Flying into Portland, driving up I-5, from the chicane at Portland International Raceway or the tram at OHSU, out in Hood River, from the top of Mount Adams or halfway up Hood itself. The list of incredible views of Mount Hood is seemingly endless.

There’s one that I came across recently, though, that I’d long seen in photographs but never taken in myself over my 15-plus years as an Oregonian. I don’t know how many people know about it, even though it’s actually a formal, designated viewpoint. There are no signs for it as you pass through the town of Sandy on your way to or from the mountain, but the name of the road it’s on — Bluff Drive — hints at something.

It’s called the Jonsrud Viewpoint — named for a local family who helped establish it — and to get there, you head north on Bluff Road off of Highway 26 in Sandy for just a few minutes. It’s on the right, but don’t worry. You can’t miss it.

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Photo courtesy of the Sandy Historical Society.