In his 11-plus years with me, Oliver has been all over Mount Hood:
Along the Sandy River . . .
Up to Paradise Park . . .
Through the snow of White River . . .
All the way around the mountain on the Timberline Trail, up to McNeil Point and right up to the icy chill of Dollar Lake.
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.
Summer’s back. Sweet! Sunshine, riversides, campfires, trails and, of course, trashed campsites on Mount Hood.
We headed out for this year’s first night in the tent a few weeks ago, that beautiful first weekend of June that felt like the last weekend of July. Since the Forest Service closed our favorite Sandy River campsites a couple years ago after John Q. Public couldn’t seem to stop using them as trash pits, we’ve branched out a bit and found some other keepers.
We spent the first 20 minutes or so cleaning up the pit that the prior campers had left behind: broken glass, cheap beer cans, shell casings, a rusty grill grate, blah, blah. It’s always the same. This site, a nice one with plenty of room, privacy and a killer Sandy River beach, was actually one of the cleaner ones around. It makes no sense to me the way people treat these incredible places. It’s so trashy, so redneck, so downright piggy.
The Forest Service will end up closing these sites pretty soon, too, I’m sure. But no matter. After we’d cleaned ours up, we were able to settle in for a great weekend on the mountain, along the river. We soaked in some sun, hiked for the first time to Little Zigzag Falls and broke in the kids’ new pie iron.
When it was at last time to head home, we packed up and, as most civilized people would do, cleaned the site almost spotless. Almost. We did, after all, leave one thing behind:
One place it’s not been yet, however, is Central Oregon. That will change this weekend with two events at Paulina Springs Books. The first is tonight at 6:30 at their store in Sisters; the second is tomorrow night at 6:30 at the Redmond store. Always love spending time in this beautiful part of Oregon, so we’re looking forward to a fun weekend…
When it comes to hiking, I’m ideally a fan of the alpine environment. I like to start out in the trees and hike up out of them, above timberline, to where the mountain views are widest. High up places like the Goat Rocks in Washington, Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, and on Mount Hood spots like Cooper Spur, McNeil Point and Gnarl Ridge, define my kind of a walk in the woods.
In the winter, however, a lot of the alpine country is much harder to access. And so, for hiking, we’re pushed downward to the river trails, maybe out to the Gorge or just east of the Cascades. This past weekend, we logged a few easy miles among the towering cedars and firs along the Salmon River trail in the Mount Hood National Forest, and while its views are much more subtle and understated than, say, the top of Old Snowy Mountain —
— it’s still among the best winter hiking to be found around Mount Hood. A few to consider:
- Salmon River Trail — An easy stroll along a beautiful and wild river — one of the only ones in the nation to be designated a Wild and Scenic River for its entire length — the Salmon River trail makes for a nice winter walk no matter the weather. It’s relatively flat, so it’s great for kids, and the moss-draped old growth Douglas firs and western red cedars that rise from the forest floor absolutely tower overhead, making you feel as if you’re walking through some kind of prehistoric era. The trail can be up to 7 miles long and there are lots of good places to stop for a break and turn around. To get there, take Highway 26 east from Portland to the town of Zigzag. Turn south on Salmon River Road and drive five miles to the trailhead on the left, just before a bridge over the river. More info.
- Hood River Mountain — This one’s a little ways away from the mountain, just outside Hood River, but its view of the peak and the entire Hood River Valley is simply jaw-dropping. Just three miles roundtrip and 600 feet up, Hood River mountain affords you a view that usually takes a lot more effort to attain. From Hood River, drive south on Highway 35 for just under a half-mile to East Side Road and turn left. According to Doug Lorain’s book, Afoot and Afield, “follow it 1.5 miles to the turnoff for Panorama Point County Park. Keep straight on East Side Road, and .4 mile after the park turnoff, turn left on Old Dalles Road. Drive east . . . for 2.1 miles to a saddle beneath a set of power lines. Park on the side of the road.” More information.
- Lower Creek Falls (Wash.) — Even farther from Mount Hood but still within reach for a day hike from Portland, Lower Creek Falls follows a serene Falls Creek, heads over a stunning suspension bridge, and tops out at the three-tiered Lower Creek Falls. Another great hike for kids and hounds. From Portland, head east on Highway 14 (in Washington) to milepost 47 and turn north toward Carson. Drive 14.5 miles on Wind River Road, pass the Carson National Fish Hatchery, and stay right on Wind River road for another 3/4 mile. Turn right on FS 3062 and drive 1.5 miles to the trail head. More information.
Mount Hood, in early spring or late fall, when it’s bright and white with new snow and sharply defined in the sunlight against an incredible blue sky, is one of the most beautiful sights to see. It’s not something you can adequately describe with words or that a photograph even begins to capture.
I remember the first time I saw Mount Hood like that — it’s in the book — and I love to share that view and experience with friends and family who come out to visit. For the most part, I’ve been lucky and my guests have been treated to memorable first views of the mountain. But occasionally, some get gypped. Occasionally, clouds hide the mountains for days on end, to the point that you’d never even know it was there if you’d not seen it before.
One of my best friends came out for a long weekend this weekend from Atlanta, and though he’s been out here before and seen the mountain in all its glory, it’s been probably close to 10 years since he’s been out. His wife, who came out this time too, had never been to Oregon, so I was excited for him to get to see the mountain again and for her to see it for the very first time.
No such luck.
From the night they flew in through tonight, the mountain never once showed its face. Not on our way to or back from the coast on Friday, not during a kid-free escape to the Dundee Hills for some fun and fabulous wine tasting and a quick jaunt to see the Spruce Goose on Saturday, not during a round of golf at Edgefield this morning nor during a tour of downtown Portland, a stop at Powell’s and a couple beers at Rogue tonight.
They flew out tonight on a redeye at 11:00, so even if the clouds were low enough to reveal the mountain from the air, they wouldn’t have seen it.
A running joke with my friend’s wife through the long weekend was that this Mount Hood doesn’t really exist. Unfortunately, thanks to this unrelenting gray and wet spring, it almost seemed that way this weekend.
But it does. It’s there. It’s beautiful. And now Cathy and Ryan will just have to come back out to see it for themselves.