Monday, September 10, 2012

Timberline Lodge - Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood
Elevation 5,960
Built mid-1930s

Timberline Lodge

Oregon's iconic Timberline Lodge has quickly become one of my favorite places in the country. Having grown up in a family that worshiped old National Park lodges (especially those of Glacier and Yellowstone), I immediately fell in love with Timberline Lodge the moment I first laid eyes on it. Everything right down to the smell of the inside of the Timberline reminded me of being an excited young kid arriving at, say, Many Glacier Lodge for a weeks vacation. All throughout my youth I loved these old lodges so much that I wished to one day live and work in one- sort of like the legendary Harry R. Truman of the now buried Spirit Lake Lodge in the Mt. St. Helens area. If I had walked into Timberline Lodge as a kid I probably would have moved to this area of the country long before I actually did.

Inside Timberline LodgeOne of the first things you'll very likely notice once you step inside the Timberline is how massive everything is. The stonework, the log beams, the front door, the solid wood furniture, the chandeliers- everything is here is solid and massive! The whole lodge feels as if it is carved out of solid granite. All of this only adds to the grandeur of the place. Considering the weight and size of the building materials, the steepness of the road leading to the lodge, and the quality/reliability of automobiles in the mid-1930s, the construction of the lodge really, to say the least, an engineering marvel.

And, of course, its not just the size and craftsmanship of the place that is marvelous, but also the way it is laid out and decorated. The Timberline is seriously one of the most beautifully decorated places I've ever seen. It has beautiful tapestries, wood carvings, wrought ironwork, light fixtures, antiques, furniture, even the curtains- everything flows together -the color scheme, the wood, the rock, the iron- to create that quintessential "lodge" experience. You'll love it.

Enough talk, time to let the photos themselves do the talking...

Inside Timberline LodgeThe first set of photos comes from early-August 2012, when my family and I spent the night in the Timberline. Though there was far less snow on the mountain, there was (and still is at time of writing in early-September) still a slope open to skiers and snowboarders. There is a square up on the mountain visible from Timberline which you can ski on almost year round. Below, you will see a photo of a snow-plow evening out the slope during sunset. Now that's a job I wish I had...

The second set of photos are of Timberline Lodge's magnificent interior.

The third set of exterior photos comes from a couple months prior, in mid-June 2012. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground. It was just a quick visit to the Timberline that day- a side trip we made with friends of ours while cruising along the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway heading back home to Portland from Hood River.

Here is the first set of exterior photos taken in early-August 2012:

Timberline Loge During an August Sunset

Timberline Lodge

View of Timberline Lodge's parking lot
View of Mt. Jefferson to the South from Timberline Lodge

Mt Jefferson from the Timberline Lodge
Mt. Jefferson from Timberline Lodge at Sunset

Lupine fields at Timberline Lodge
One of many Lupine fields you'll come across near Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge - Mt. Hood

Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge August 2012

Snow Plow on Mt. Hood in August
A snow plow grooming the slope in August

Here are shots of the interior:

Inside Timberline Lodge

Art inside the Timberline Lodge

Wood carving in a door at Timberline Lodge

Inside Timberline Lodge

Inside Timberline Lodge

Light fixture inside Timberline Lodge

Inside Timberline Lodge

Grab a drink on the third floor of the Timberline Lodge

a shoulder of Mt. Hood out the Ram's Head Bar's window on the third floor of the Timberline Lodge

a guest looks out over the Cascade Mountain range from the Ram's Head Bar, third floor of the Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge Chandelier

Second Floor Lobby at Timberline Lodge

Guests playing a board game in the second floor lobby of the Timberline Lodge

Glass of Wine Near the Fireplace at Timberline Lodge

Inside Timberline Lodge

Inside a Guestroom at Timberline Lodge

Inside a Guestroom at the Timberline Lodge

Here is the batch of exterior photos from mid-June 2012:

Timberline Lodge - June 2012

Snow removal at Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge - June 2012

Snow plow in June at Timberline Lodge - Mt. Hood

parking lot at Timberline Lodge with the top of Mt. Hood in the distance

My advice to you, Reader: Stay the night! Even if you only live an hour away in Portland, splurge at least once and spend the night here at the Timberline. Only then will you truly experience why this is arguably one of the greatest places to stay in the country. During the day the Timberline has a tendency to get crowded. Tourists jam the lobbies; skier and snowboarders jam the parking lots. During peak seasons Timberline can get very very crowded, but once dinnertime hits, the crowds fade away. Around sunset it will feel as though you have the place all to yourself. And I have never watched a more brilliant sunset than I have from the Timberline Lodge. Night falls. The Ram's Head bar is open until 11 p.m., there is a ping pong table and shuttle board on the first floor, there is a heated swimming pool and hot tub, there are a handful of places to sit down, play a board game, read a book, talk with friends, crack open a bottle of wine, etc.

I was fortunate enough to stay here once with my wife and my family. We had such a great time that we hope to make it an annual thing. I hope you, too, Reader, can experience the Timberline Lodge the way it is supposed to be experienced: by spending the night. That is my recommendation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oneonta Gorge - Columbia River Gorge

Oneonta Gorge
the Horsetail, Ponytail, and Triple Falls Loop
4.5 miles round trip | 550 feet elevation gain

Oneonta Gorge
Oneonta Gorge

The cold, wet, refreshing trek deep into mossy Oneonta Gorge to the hidden waterfall is not only my favorite activity to do in the Columbia River Gorge, but arguably one of my favorite outdoor activities of all time. I am obsessed with Oneonta Gorge. As a kid I had two favorite outdoor activities: climbing obstacles and getting wet. This is exactly what you will do if you follow Oneonta to its end at the falls. But as if the whole scaling obstacles and getting your feet wet thing weren't enough to excite me, there is a cherry-on-top: the sheer beauty of Oneonta.

Hikers at the log jam - Oneonta GorgeNow I love deep, dark old-growth forests, panoramic mountain views, vast oceanscapes, etc- but there is something about wading through cold calf-deep water through a narrow, mossy, rocky slit in the earth with huge boulders and old fell trees to climb over that makes those other things seem slightly inferior. Maybe it's the kid in me that is so attached to Oneonta Gorge; and, undeniably, you will feel like a kid again when you're here. Even though the distance you scramble and splash back into the gorge isn't great, there is a sense that you are on a great adventure. Something about Oneonta makes me feel.... really, really happy and very, very nostalgic.

To come to Oneonta properly prepared, and to get the fullest experience possible, expect the following:

1. To climb up and over 2 large boulders
2. To tip-toe, balancing-beam-style, over several large old growth tree trunks.
3. To get wet, at the very least, up to your knees.
4. To get wet, at the very most, over your head if you're shorter, up to your chest if you're taller.
5. To wear some sort of footwear that you don't mind getting soaked. I would not recommend bare feet or flip-flops.
6. To wear clothing you don't mind getting soaked.
7. To have a dry pair of shoes to change into if you plan on doing the Horsetail Falls hike afterwards.
8. To not be in a hurry, because your inner-child is not going to want to leave, but, rather, splash around for an hour or more.
9. To see one of the greatest sights of your life.
10. To have some of the most fun of your life.

Treking upstream through Oneonta GorgeOkay, so experiencing Oneonta Gorge does require some physical activity. Climbing up and over the boulders and scaling the log-jam isn't something everybody can do. But rest assured, I've seen my 58 year old mother, as well as countless children, do it with ease.

Oneonta Gorge also requires you to get wet. Unless you're standing on the shoulders of a giant, you're going to get wet. So expect it and dress appropriately. But trust me, you're going to have the time of your life. And don't be a wuss! Jump in! Yes it's cold, but once you're in there you will have a smile plastered on your face! Even the crustiest, grumpiest curmudgeon will feel like a kid again while wading through Oneonta Gorge.

Here are photos from the trek into Oneonta Gorge, quite possibly the most fun you'll have in the wilderness surrounding Portland, Oregon!

Historic Columbia River Hwy at Oneonta Gorge

Old Columbia River Highway tunnel now pedestrian only - Oneonta Gorge

at the entry into Oneonta Gorge

down this way from the bridge to get into Oneonta Gorge

Hikers coming over the log jam at Oneonta Gorge

a hiker contemplating the best way over the log jam - Oneonta Gorge

a hiker carefully navigates the log jam at Oneonta Gorge

At the Oneonta Gorge log jam

the log jam - Oneonta Gorge

The start of Oneonta Gorge just after crossing the log jam

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

Crystal Clear Waters in the Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

Rock Wall in Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

"The Deep Part" just before the waterfall at Oneonta Gorge

The Studly way to do Oneonta Gorge vs. the Wussy way to do it

a brave hiker ferrying dry hikers across "the deep part"

Crystal clear water at Oneonta Gorge

The waterfall at the end of Oneonta Gorge

A young hiker at the waterfall at the end of Oneonta Gorge

A hiker about to take a cold plunge at the waterfall at the end of Oneonta Gorge

a Cold Plunge at the waterfall at the end of Oneonta Gorge

The waterfall at the end of Oneonta Gorge

Once you reach the waterfall you've gone as far as you can go. My suggestion: don't leave right away. Stay a while, wade, splash around, relax, get some sun, take a dip, have a picnic (if it didn't get soaked), talk to a fellow hiker about how f-ing cold the water was back there at "the deep part," etc. Because, in all honesty, this area back here by the waterfall is, in my opinion, quite possibly the perfect place to be on a hot late summer's day.

Next it's on to a hike that includes 3 more waterfalls: Horsetail, Ponytail, and Triple Falls. All three are accessed via the Horsetail Falls trail.

A short walk from Oneonta Gorge is the Horsetail Falls trailhead, which just so happens to start right at Horsetail Falls itself. Horesetail Falls pales in comparison to Multnomah Falls, but it is a pleasant (and less crowded!) waterfall right off the Historic Columbia River Highway. There is a miniscule "beach" (if you can call it that) with a chilled pool of water right at the base of the falls. Take a dip if you'd like, but trust me, it's going to be cold. This would be a great place to plop down a lawn chair and read from a good book.

Here are photos of Horsetail Falls and the trailhead area:

Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Horsetail Falls

at Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

A short half mile hike from the trailhead will bring you to what I think is the most exciting waterfall of the three: Ponytail Falls. Ponytail Falls is one of those unique waterfalls that you get to walk underneath and behind. The cavernous area underneath the falls is a great, cool spot to have a picnic, take a load off, or people watch (as it can get a little crowded under here on a summer weekend). Also, if you're feeling adventurous, there are rocks you can climb out onto to get a little closer to the action, but doing so will more than likely get you pretty wet. Not soaked (unless you fall in) but wet. Like I said though, Ponytail Falls is by far the greatest waterfall on this hike, so if you make this your final destination, you won't be too sorry.

Here are photos of Ponytail Falls:

Trail from Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls - Columbia River Gorge
a view of the trail connecting Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls

a glimpse of Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain from the Horsetail Falls Trail - Columbia River Gorge
a view across the river of Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain from the trail up to Ponytail Falls

Ponytail Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Ponytail Falls

Ponytail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Ponytail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Ponytail Falls - Columbia River Gorge

If you're looking for a longer hike you can continue on another mile and a half roughly to Triple Falls. It isn't a difficult hike by any means, but chances are you'll break a sweat doing it. At one point you'll cross a bridge which gives you a view of the top of the hidden falls seen from within Oneonta Gorge. If you listen closely, you'll probably hear the hoots, hollers, and "holy shit that's cold!"'s from those down below in the gorge. And, if you're like me, you'll wish you were back down there in the water instead of up here on the bridge. A short ways past the bridge you'll come to an intersection. Hang a left uphill if you're looking to see Triple Falls.

Triple Falls is really only viewed from a cliff across from it. You'll reach the cliff before you reach the fall itself. Be careful on the ledge, it's practically a straight drop down. It's no mystery why this waterfall is named Triple Falls. Now, chances are you will see people lounging around in the area on top of the waterfall. There are large rocky sections that jut out alongside the creek that are great for picnics, lounging, getting your feet wet, etc. Just exercise caution. You are, after all, just yards away from a slippery drop of 120 feet.

At one point, while sitting out on the rocks about 7 yards from the ledge, a couple of young kids came running up to the ledge to peer down below. In my opinion, they got irrationally close to the ledge, to the point where a slip of the shoe (one was wearing sandals!) would almost certainly have resulted in a fall over the ledge. There is a big, BIG difference between bravery and stupidity, and these two definitely fell into the latter class getting this close to the ledge. If the reward isn't worth the risk, do not do it. And in this case, I doubt the view looking down Triple Falls was worth the risk of death, which almost certainly would've resulted from a 120 foot fall into shallow water below. The top of Triple Falls is a neat place to walk around and relax, but don't stretch your luck by buying into the temptations to get really close to the edge. I doubt it's worth the risk. 

Here are photos of Triple Falls:

Hike to Triple Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Trail connecting Ponytail Falls to Triple Falls

Bridge over upper Oneonta Gorge en route to Triple Falls
Bridge over the upper section of Oneonta Gorge (basically above that waterfall at the end of Oneonta)

to Triple Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Hike to Triple Falls

Triple Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Triple Falls

Triple Falls - Columbia River Gorge

Hikers getting up close and personal with the edge of Triple Falls
Hikers getting up close and personal with the sloped, slippery edge of Triple Falls. Please don't do this.

at Triple Falls - Columbia River Gorge

If you're really looking for some exercise I would recommend walking all the way to Triple Falls. If you're a little worn out from your wet trek up Oneonta Gorge and your hike to Ponytail Falls, then I would recommend saving it for another day. Honestly, Oneonta Gorge is so much fun in and of itself that I would almost suggest just making half a day out of cooling off and splashing about in its crystal clear waters. Save the other three falls for the colder months, when Oneonta Gorge is no longer doable. Something tells me Triple Falls looks even better in the Fall. If it's summer, set your sights on Oneonta Gorge!! You won't regret it!