Days 53-54 (September 20-21)
Cascade Locks | Mt. Hood, Oregon
I almost wept at the thought of leaving Washington. After almost four weeks of touring the state’s natural wonders, it had come to feel like home. Spurring me on was the knowledge that we’d soon be in California – my native state, yet one that I’ve seen so little of. I’m getting ahead of myself though, because first we’ll explore a bit more of Oregon as we head south.
At the end of a long, twisty, bumpy drive from the Eastern side of Mount St. Helens, we cross the Columbia River at dusk via the beautiful, historic Bridge of the Gods, entering Cascade Locks, Oregon.
Too exhausted to set up camp at the KOA, just up the road we find the Cascade Motel – an affordable 1940’s motor court. We rent a tiny no-frills-but-immaculately-clean cottage with a comfortable bed, microwave, mini-fridge, and circa 2000 box TV for our viewing pleasure. The management could not be friendlier, offering lots of interesting info about the area and suggested stops en route to our next camping spot.
We find out that due to the reliable wind, tiny Cascade Locks is a popular sailing area for dinghies, with numerous regattas held each year. It is also the only town that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs directly through, and that hikers walk right across the Bridge of the Gods to pass into Washington. The larger (though still small) more touristy town of Stevenson, Washington is right across the river. I like this area. Perhaps we will be back through one day while there is a regatta going on.
Early re-routing in our PNW itinerary due to wildfires had forced us to nix our long drive through the Columbia River Gorge, so on this trip we will only get to drive the gorge’s length from Cascade Locks to Hood River. Hopefully a future trip will allow us further exploration of the gorge.
Hood River looks really cute, compact, and walkable. That said, we only take the time to stop for gas and gaze at big mountain views (Mt. Adams to the north and Mt. Hood to the south).
We turn south on OR-35, nicknamed the “Fruit Loop” for the numerous orchards and wineries found along this route.
A right turn down a short drive takes us to Pearl’s Place orchard & store. Oh look, there is Mt. Adams again. Pearl’s is a charming stop, complete with welcoming hanging flower baskets and a fresh picked selection. We come away with as much as we think we can eat in the next couple of days: pears (3 varieties of the 7 they grew), apples, nectarines, plus regionally grown hazelnuts, new potatoes, and a Walla Walla onion.
I came into this trip knowing little about Mt. Hood and it’s famous Timberline Lodge. Aside from the knowledge that the lodge’s exterior was used for some shots in Stephen King’s movie The Shining, we have no idea what to expect.
Of course the vistas of and from Mt. Hood are incredible, but having an interest in New Deal architecture, it’s the lodge that we find remarkable.
The Timberline Lodge was a CCC/WPA project. The structure was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who was well-known for his lodges in Yosemite, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Parks. Interior details were carefully chosen and overseen by the assistant state director of the Federal Arts Project, designer Margery Hoffman Smith.
The Timberline is warm and cozy and filled with hand carved wood detailing and WPA paintings that were commissioned specifically for the lodge. The lodge is an arts and crafts masterpiece.
Bedspreads, draperies, upholstery, and rugs were woven with yarn spun from worn-out CCC uniforms. Most of the furniture was hand built on site, and included a special armchair for President FDR’s visit, made in just days due to the short notice of his intended dedication. By the way, the dedication was recorded so you can listen to it in the visitor center.
Art and exhibits line the walls of the first floor hallways.
The game room / community room walls are adorned with charming murals depicting skiing and other outdoor activities, and what appear to be the original ping pong and shuffleboard tables are still here.
We find a cozy and cute watering hole tucked behind the lobby: the Blue Ox Bar. A bar was actually not included in the lodge’s original architectural plan (pretty big oversight), so during construction the Blue Ox was created from a wood storage closet.
Perhaps because we are visiting in shoulder season, the bar – which also serves pizza and pub fare – is not open right now. Bummer. However, a kind staff member allows me to sneak in and snap a few pics after they had hosted a private lunch.
In the common areas there are two restaurants and another bar. Huge central fireplaces, intimate conversation areas (perfect for apres-ski relaxing), and shelves full of books invite overnight guests and day visitors to rest for a while and enjoy the space. Everywhere one looks, there is more art, or another perfect little detail. For instance, I just noticed the Native American motif decorating the stone fireplace below.
The Timberline was built for Mt. Hood’s ski resort, which was already thriving in the 1930’s. This is still a busy ski resort, and while we are there the staff is gearing up for ski season. Although we are not skiers, I think it would be so fun to stay here when the area gets famously socked in with many feet of snow.
The patio provides an inviting respite for PCT through hikers and guests alike.
The Timberline Lodge has been lovingly maintained over the decades, and underwent a careful restoration in the 70’s to preserve its character.
Of all of the grand old park lodges that we tour on this Western road trip, Timberline will go down as our favorite.
Next up…Smith Rock State Park and crunchy-yet-polished Bend, Oregon..