The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

Posts tagged “writing

Mount Hood Gifts for 2019

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

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Shred-Hood-shirt-previewA former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, co-founded Shred Hood in 2013 as a community news and information site to cover the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry on Mount Hood.

Subscriptions come in a couple different options, including one-time and ongoing. Each has its privileges, including a sweet T-shirt and bottle opener depending on your subscription.

Find out more at Shred Hood.  

bark_logoFeeling a little more philanthropic this holiday season? Consider making a donation to some of the environmental groups that have worked — and are always working — to protect the region’s wild places, including, of course, Mount Hood. (Bark’s mission is more Mount Hood-centric, while Oregon Wild covers the entire state; both have played major roles in protecting Mount Hood and the Mount Hood National Forest.)

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

  •  Timberline Lodge Ram’s Head Fire Poker — Fashioned after the larger fireplace tools used at the storied Timberline Lodge, this hand-forged wrought iron poker is classic Timberline through and through. I met Darryl Nelson, the blacksmith behind much of the ironwork that’s been installed at Timberline over the past 30 years or so, and he told me guests regularly try to heist these out of the rooms. Not good. Instead, find them at the Timberline gift shop for $80. The shop also has a nice array of vintage-looking posters and artwork, books, souvenirs and more. Check it out.


On Mount Hood at the Lake Oswego Library

This weekend, looking to drum up some early holiday cheer while also focusing on local creativity, the Lake Oswego Public Library is hosting Keeping It LOcal. 

Held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, the event will bring 20 local authors and illustrators together to share their work, both in conversation and in commerce. Among the authors scheduled to be there: Brian Doyle, who’s book, Mink River, is one of my favorite Oregon books of all time, and Scott Sparling, whose great  book, Wire to Wireis set in a northern Michigan locale that I know and love.

I’ll be there with On Mount Hood, too.

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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. 


Stubborn writers on the Timberline Trail and Mount Hood

It is a spell that comes once you’ve finished walking all the way around Mount Hood. I’ve experienced it twice now, and I’m pretty sure that’s the right word for it. A spell.

When you are done, or maybe just before, as you’re swinging one foot in front of the other for the last quarter mile or so before you get close enough to Timberline Lodge to start crossing paths with folks out for a leisurely stroll, you are in a mental and, really, a physical place that belongs only to you and those who are there with you. This is your mountain. This has been your four-day, 41-mile trek. The rest were not part of this experience. As much as you may want a cold beer and a hot meal, you don’t want to hear the cars, see the iPhone-locked gazes, think about the work and the responsibility and the real world that awaits.

You want, instead, to drop your pack in the parking lot and crumple to the asphalt. You want to listen, all of you together, to the ice that is somehow still slushing around in the cooler and taste the cold Tecate. You want to prolong the sensation that you’re still on the Timberline Trail, under that spell, and so, even though it is bound to break at some point, you do.

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By the time I set my foot on the Timberline Trail just behind Timberline Lodge again in August 2013, it had been eight years since Amy and I set out on the very same trip back in 2005. Not the exact same trip, though. One thing I realized after the second time around: you’ll never have the same experience on the Timberline Trail, no matter how many times you do it.

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No kids, no job. Camping near Cooper Spur during a five-day trip on the Timberline Trail in 2005.

This one came about thanks to Portland writer Mark Pomeroy, a lifelong Mount Hood fan who’d connected with me after reading On Mount Hood when it first came out in 2011. At work on a novel set largely on the mountain himself, Mark invited me early to accompany him on a circuit of the mountain along with a few other writers: poet John Morrison and novelist and writing teacher Joanna Rose, someone I’d gotten to know through Brave on the Page.

When Amy and I finished the Timberline Trail in 2005, it felt like something I’d crossed off my list, that I’d never need to do again. But in Mark’s invite, there was a pull to revisit that I couldn’t resist.

We set out on August 24, an incredible summer day on Mount Hood — but not as a team. I’d been invited to a book signing event at Timberline the same day, so my plan was to catch up with the crew at the first night’s campsite along the Sandy River. Morrison’s 21-year-old son, Jackson, who joined in as well, had accidentally grabbed the wrong boots that morning. I picked up the right ones for him before I left Portland, and after the book event, he and I set out.

We got a late start, not hitting the trail even until 3 p.m., so we hoofed it but still took in so much: incredible scenery, stories from friendly PCT and Timberline hikers, unreal moments of natural beauty. A few of the latter, before we met up with the crew on the other side of the Sandy River:

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                                                      Fading bear grass near Zigzag Canyon.

Mount Hood from just beyond Paradise Park.

                                        Mount Hood from just beyond Paradise Park.

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             Crossing the Sandy River with a PCT hiker who’d been on the trail since April.

The beginning of  day two dawned cloudy and heavy, not like a normal August morning in Oregon. But on the mountain, you never know. Breakfast and breakdown got us on the trail a little later than we’d idealized, but at that point, we had the whole day in front of us: Ramona Falls, the Muddy Fork, McNeil Point, Cairn Basin.

I’d not been back to Ramona Falls in years. It was every bit as majestic as I remembered. We stopped to fill our water bottles and soak it in. Morrison chose just the right word to describe the falls: luminescent.

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The first 7 or so miles that we initially set out to hike that second day were quiet and enjoyable. We clambered across the Muddy Fork on a huge double-tree bridge and broke for the first of many canned meats just after the first sprinkles had started then stopped.

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Our lone glimpse of the mountain for the day came just before we hit McNeil Point. By then, the rain had stopped altogether, and it felt good to take a load off and gaze up, even though it wasn’t the most comforting of mountain views.

Mount Hood from just below McNeil Point

Now, I have been in the rain before. Light drizzles, sudden downpours, one 24-hour deluge in the Gorge that sent Amy and me running for the car. I have been in whiteouts, too, wandering around Mount Adams for hours in search of camp,  knowing that I was on the summit of Mount McGloughlin only because I had a GPS in hand. But the elements that blasted us on the Timberline Trail over the next 12 hours were among the most trying I’ve been through outside.

The cold rain started just beyond McNeil Point. It came down easy at first but soon soaked and chilled. There was a distant clap of thunder that we tried to ignore. We passed a big group crossing Ladd Creek who looked like they’d had enough already. On the other side of the creek, we topped our waters and pressed on, yet to be stifled by this tightening storm. The whipping wind, the chill, the water, it always has a way of invigorating me. Such conditions engage the senses so acutely that you can’t help but feel completely alive. Throw in the eerie scenery created by the fog and the remnants of the Dollar Lake fire, and the entire experience became nearly surreal.

No worries, however, as we were close to the stone shelter at Cairn Basin where, if we were lucky, we’d be able to step out of the rain, fire up the stoves, and regroup. It should have showed up any minute there as we marched on and on.

It never did.

When we stopped at the next trail junction and finally lifted our heads up, we realized we’d plowed right past Cairn Basin without ever seeing the shelter. By then, we were a mile beyond it.

Gigantic thunder clap.

Cold, soaked, and nervous, there was nothing to do but power on to Elk Cove and hope for the best.

We knocked off the mile-and-a-half or so to Elk Cove in relative silence — I think Morrison and Joanna maybe were chatting about the meter of some line in some poem —  and in no time came to the sign I remembered directing us left to the campsites off in the woods on the edge of the meadow. Ideal thoughts of a couple empty sites sheltered by fir bows deflated as we strolled up to find two other campers already buttoned up in what should have been our spots. We chatted briefly, scoured the surrounding area for a plan B, then came back and, in so many words, crashed the party.

Thankfully our hosts, Angela and Heather, were incredibly inviting and accommodating, sharing not only stories but hot chocolate and hand warmers as we rushed to set up our tents in the pouring rain and swelling puddles. There would be no dinner that night, no cocktail hour, no star gazing. I know my main goal was to get out of the rain and get dry. It was not an easy thing to do. My pack was soaked, as was just about everything in it: sleeping bag, long underwear, fleece. I for some reason have always scoffed at the pack cover, but there in my soggy tent, with a damp and heavy sleeping bag and a fleece that felt like it’d just come out of a washing machine, I saw the light. My night — all of our nights — would have been a lot different if we’d had them.

We didn’t, though, and so we spent 12 wet, cold hours wishing for a little relief from the morning and catching soggy fits of sleep. I have spent many a night outside, and I can say with full certainty that this was one of the very worst I have ever endured. I am usually one to accept and endure, to find something positive to see me through. On this night, I just about surrendered and accepted the despair. Just about.

They may not know it, but Heather and Angela helped save the day for us. Their willingness to let us crash their space, their eagerness to share advice and hot drinks and friendly voices — I never even saw the friendly face that matched Angela’s sweet voice  until she unzipped her tent the next morning — added the best possible end to the afternoon that we could have hoped for. Sometimes, a little unexpected optimism and some stripped down, genuine human interaction is all it takes to persevere.

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Thankfully, day three dawned dry and, though not normal Oregon August, blue enough here and there to allow a regroup.

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Dried out as best as we could be, we hit the trail that morning an hour or so behind Heather and Angela, glad for the sun breaks and scenery. From Elk Cove east, the Timberline Trail winds endlessly  in toward the mountain, over streams, back out over a ridge, and back in again, over and over. It’s repetitive, but it’s a kind of sameness that’s not hard to appreciate.

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Though the weather was much more promising than it had been the day before, something else weighed on my mind, adding a touch of dread and uncertainty to the day: the Eliot Creek crossing. Back in 2005, the bridge over the creek had long been washed out, but getting across the creek was still manageable. But in 2006, a massive washout rearranged the terrain up there so much that the Forest Service rendered it off limits, thus eliminating any legal way of completing the entire Timberline Trail without setting up some lame car shuttle and bypassing the off-limits section.

But as the years passed, reports sprouted up that the crossing was again doable. Some said to go up high onto the Eliot Glacier itself to cross; others shared pictures of ropes down into and up out of the gully. Some hikers made it sound like it was no big deal; some turned back because they couldn’t make it across. Had we encountered something that turned us around, we had no plan B other than to stop and hoof it back to Timberline.

What we found when we finally made it to the edge of the crossing was not very encouraging.

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Beyond that sign, however, was a very prominent trail, and it led (at least it did in August of 2013) very steeply to the way across the Eliot. We trudged up and up till a small clearing to the left revealed one of the rumored ropes illuminating the way down. Picking our way down one at a time took a while — the rock and scree are so loose that to descend in a group would invite unnecessary danger — and finding the right place to actually  cross the creek added some time. In the end, however, crossing the Eliot was possibly more time-consuming than some of the other crossings, but it seemed no more perilous than anything else we did on the entire trail. That said, I crossed the actual creek three times to help shuttle packs, and I can safely say that no mountain stream has ever chilled my feet to the point of numbing pain the way the water of the Eliot did.

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Instead of sticking to the Timberline Trail up out of the Eliot, we trudged up the incredible ridge on the creek’s east side, an exposed, amazing spine that puts the glacier and the mountain in full perspective. Up high, you can cross-country it over to the stone shelter below Cooper Spur, merge back in with the Timberline Trail, and head on around the northeast side of the mountain on your way to Gnarl Ridge.

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Breaking out onto the ridge gave us a taste of some burly, frigid winds. When, not a few minutes earlier, we had been stepping along in still air, now the winds whipped and gusted like freight trains,  knocking us off balance and drowning us in the sounds of ocean surf.

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We ticked off 10 miles this day, ending up in a campsite just across Newton Creek at dusk. Heather and Angela were just off in the woods nearby. Despite the long and late day, Morrison immediately whipped up one of the best and most memorable backcountry meals I’ve ever had: pasta with wild mushrooms and a red sauce with red wine. Talk about comfort.

The final day’s hike was a warm and sunny one; mild initially in terrain, marked by some musical conversations, a joke about the Pope driving a cab, and a couple startled grouses scaring the bejeezus out of Mark — and giving the rest of us a nice, big laugh.

Lunch as we passed through Meadows. We’d carried the SPAM the entire way, so I insisted on opening it.

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From there, it was on to White River, the last major river crossing, which was little more than a step or two across, but amazing nonetheless.

I’ve always related how the hike up from White River to Timberline, even though it’s just a couple miles, is the longest of the Timberline Trail because you can see Timberline Lodge, the cars in the parking lot, the people milling about, almost the entire way. But the elevation and the sandy terrain and the fact that you’re knocking off the last 2 miles of a 41-mile trail somehow make all that distance last and last. By that point, there wasn’t a whole lot of chitchat. More of a determined march to get those last steps behind us, take the packs off, and savor the accomplishment. I remember passing the first tourists out for a little stroll east of Timberline and catching their curious glances as we clopped by, smelly and set on nothing more than being done hiking for the day.

And then, as we stepped and stepped our way up to Timberline Lodge, we were done with hiking for the day. A few people milled about, heads drooped to their phones, and someone in our group asked if that’s all we’d been missing. Maybe we should just turn around and do it again.

We didn’t though. We posed for a picture. We closed in as a group on our walk back to the cars, not wanting to invite anyone else in to break the spell and to just prolong that sense that we all were sensing. We’d been gone just four days, but being back felt different just then; odd, and as if we’d been overseas, somewhere foreign, and were just getting back.

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Morrison had iced Tecates in the car, but on our way back to them, we heard voices from across the parking lot. Angela and Heather. We’d just caught up with them.

Then it was to the car, the asphalt in the parking lot, then the bar in Timberline. Inside, it all seemed so loud, so unnecessary, so threatening to the spell. Because that’s what comes once you’ve finished walking all the way around Mount Hood.

Endnote: I publish this now, nearly two years later, as the stubborn writers and I head back up to Mount Hood this week for another escape, this one more measured, possibly less epic and, hopefully, much drier.  


Mount Hood Gifts 2014

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

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A former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, co-founded Shred Hood in 2013 as a community news and information site to cover the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry on Mount Hood.

Subscriptions come in a couple different options, including one-time and ongoing. Each has its privileges, including a sweet T-shirt and bottle opener depending on your subscription.

Find out more at Shred Hood.  

bark_logoFeeling a little more philanthropic this holiday season? Consider making a donation to some of the environmental groups that have worked — and are always working — to protect the region’s wild places, including, of course, Mount Hood. (Bark’s mission is more Mount Hood-centric, while Oregon Wild covers the entire state; both have played major roles in protecting Mount Hood and the Mount Hood National Forest.)

And as a bonus: both organizations are all about getting out and exploring the places they protect, so each offers regular outings as well.

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

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

  •  Timberline Lodge Ram’s Head Fire Poker — Fashioned after the larger fireplace tools used at the storied Timberline Lodge, this hand-forged wrought iron poker is classic Timberline through and through. I met Darryl Nelson, the blacksmith behind much of the ironwork that’s been installed at Timberline over the past 30 years or so, and he told me guests regularly try to heist these out of the rooms. Not good. Instead, find them at the Timberline gift shop for $75. (Looks like they might be sold out online, but they usually have some in the store.) The shop also has a nice array of vintage-looking posters and artwork, books, souvenirs and more. Check it out.


The Timberline Trail, Mark Pomeroy and Powell’s Books

I got an email out of the blue in the early days of 2013 from a Portland writer named Mark Pomeroy who’d grown up with Mount Hood, spending time at his grandparents’ cabin in Brightwood. He’d just finished my book and had an idea to tackle the Timberline Trail with a handful of other writers, myself included. Not one to turn down an adventure on Mount Hood, I signed on. Last summer we did indeed have a four-day adventure on Mount Hood.

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Portland author Mark Pomeroy crossing the frigid waters of Eliot Creek along the Timberline Trail in August 2013.

Since that first email, I’ve  gotten to know Mark and followed him on his way to getting his first novel published. It’s a work more than 10 years in the making. Called The Brightwood Stillness, it’s only the second novel ever published by Oregon State University Press. (The first was Brian Doyle’s Mink River)

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to the official invite-only launch of the book back in October. But tonight, Mark takes his book to Powell’s on Hawthorne for a more open introduction. He’ll be there at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Nov. 20.For anyone who loves good stories and books in general, it’s bound to resonate.

If you can’t make it tonight, keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for other appearances or, at the very least, pick up a copy of The Brightwood Stillness.

You can find out more at mpomerory.com.


On Mount Hood Heads to Bend

From Seaside and Seattle to Hood River and Sisters, I’ve taken On Mount Hood all over Oregon and into Washington for slideshows, readings and more. One place I’ve not yet been with the book: Bend.

That will change this week with a couple slideshows on Wednesday and Thursday:

See you there . . .

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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 to a Little Kid

Somebody once said something to me about the classic mountain shape of Mount Hood that I thought summed it up perfectly; so perfectly, in fact, that I put it in the book:

If you ask a little kid to draw a mountain, he will draw Mount Hood. Every time. 

Madeline reinforced that idea to me when she showed me what she had drawn at school this week. Granted, she’s got both Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson here, but the gist is the same.

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

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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.

 

 


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.


Rain, rain, go away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Some nice Mount Hood artwork

I took a quick little trip to the Lake Oswego library tonight to brush up on some lore behind one of the Native American names for Mount Hood and found some unexpected inspiration in the kids section, courtesy of the students from Our Lady of the Lake.

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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?


Shred Hood’s Mount Hood Book Recommendations

In case you’ve not come across it yet, a former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, launched a site this fall called Shred Hood. Co-founded with Bjorn van der Voo, Shred Hood is a community news and information website that covers the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry scene on Mount Hood.

On Mount Hood This week, it’s also covering some mountaineering books by way of a gift recommendation list. Appreciate seeing On Mount Hood on the list, right there among some other great titles. 

Check it out. 


On Mount Hood in Sisters and Redmond

OMH Paperback coverI’ve taken On Mount Hood all around the mountain, into the Gorge, across Portland, and even out to the coast for different readings and events.

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…


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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