Friday, October 17, 2008

Mt. Hood Scenic Drive: Part 2, Timberline Lodge

So many vivid memories from my youth belong to Timberline on Mt. Hood. Where do I begin?

A standout was the last day of ski race camp when I was just 15. A group of us racers and coaches climbed to the base of Crater Rock, which juts skyward below the summit like a massive fang, and skied several miles back down the mountain. While I tried to keep up with the mostly stronger skiers, including some former Olympic racers, the cold air tore through my light parka and teared up my eyes beneath my goggles. My teeth and skis chattered as I skidded fast and almost out of control over frozen sun-cupped snow. I was so happy to finally glide to a stop just above the lodge, my thighs and lungs burning. A few decades later, I'm still happy to come back to Timberline.

On this late fall afternoon, it's time to head up to the lodge and check in for the night. Leaving Government Camp, we turn off US 26 onto the Timberline road, which winds six miles up the mountain. As we climb higher, the Douglas fir forest transitions to smaller alpine firs, until we top out at elevation 6,000 feet, timberline at this latitude. A brisk blast of fresh mountain air hits us as we park in front of the lodge and hop out.

I’m in love all over again as we haul our bags into this vintage 1930s-era ski lodge. Timberline is a majestic testament to the artisans and craftsmen who built it as a Worker’s Progress Administration/Civilian Conservation Corps project during the Great Depression. President Roosevelt even came to Timberline to dedicate the lodge in 1938. An enormous circular stone fireplace anchors the central great room, with two wings on either side. Massive timber beams indicate Timberline was built when old growth Douglas fir was plentiful in the Pacific Northwest.

High-paned windows reveal a close up view of the mountain summit looming above. The jagged and imposing rock formations near Mt. Hood’s crown could be the Hall of the Mountain Kings of Norwegian folkore.

Timberline is a bit of an aging movie star itself. Although the lodge isn’t haunted, the outside was featured in the 1980 classic horror movie The Shining, based on a Stephen King novel. As a kid staying at Timberline for ski race camp, I shared the lodge with a Hollywood film crew for a pretty bad and mostly forgotten remake of The Lost Horizon.

“Hey, I’m smallest so I get the smallest bed,” says my niece as I head for the twin in the cute little nook in our room. So my sister and I share the double. With handmade bedspreads, rough-hewn wooden bed frames, and wood-paneled walls, the décor is straight from the 1930s, warm and inviting. We all sleep well.

"Mom, I'm hungry for a real breakfast," says my niece when we wake up to another brilliant fall day. We join other hikers and tourists in the lodge’s rustically elegant main dining room and splurge on the full buffet brunch. Eggs, waffles, muffins, sausage, fruit, pancakes, potatoes, oatmeal, granola, yogurt—it’s all there and all tasty. We don’t need lunch today.

After breakfast we hike up the mountain on the trails above the lodge. In fact, the Pacific Crest Trail skirts behind Timberline along the Timberline Trail that circumnavigates Mt. Hood. When I was 17 I backpacked the 41 miles around the mountain on the trail, starting and ending at Timberline. My badge of honor was a huge blister covering the whole arch of my right foot.

“Snow!” cries my niece as she takes off toward a remnant patch of crusty old snow in a big gully slicing down the slope. An hour later I’m racing her across the heated pool that was a later addition to the lodge. Then it's time to pack up and continue our journey. Next Post: Part 3, Northeast to Hood River.

When You Go
Timberline’s rates are comparable to a nice Portland hotel. We paid $155 for our room—a good deal considering it’s a National Historic Landmark full of beautiful art and craftwork. To view a map of this trip, click on Mt. Hood National Scenic Byway .


Anonymous said...

Although is a sort of rustic ski lodge and not a luxury hotel, my daughter and I LOVED our stay at Timberline Lodge. An adventurous 8-year-old, she enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies, discovering all the wood carvings, and snuggling in her very comfortable bed under a down comforter in our cozy room. She loved the daytime hikes and swimming outdoors in near freezing weather with the awesome Mt. Hood as backdrop. We had had a mother-daughter spa day in Portland several days before, but this was the highlight of our journey and a place she'll remember all her life. We plan to return!

Steven said...

Sunset city pictures were fantastic....made me want to live in Seattle (if it weren't for the fact that since I purchased a road bike in Portland, I've fallen in love with this city again.)

Love the blog Jill!