Sunday, March 2, 2014

Timberline Lodge Snowshoe Adventure

Timberline Lodge Snowshoe Adventure

So this is what you do. On Tuesdays and Thursdays every week skip that Starbucks(R) Grande Soy Latte and once a month put the resultant saved $40 in a jar. Then, once a year, take the $480 and buy yourself and your lover a romantic adventure weekend (or week night) at Timberline lodge. You will love the experience and you will look great in the ultra luxurious shower in your Fireplace King Bedroom missing that extra 10 pounds I just saved you by forgoing the lattes.

Here is why I think this is a good idea:

We got started a little later than we originally planned, but it was my birthday and we were determined not to rush. We rolled out of Portland on Sunday early afternoon just around 11:00. There had not been much snow up on Mt. Hood this year, but we had a storm go through in the last couple of weeks with additional fresh snow last night. So I was hoping that there would be good ground cover for some snowshoeing. The weather report was a little mixed. Some saying sun. Some saying rain. Dang weather guys. 50% chance of them giving you a weather report that has meaning. Like, what is the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny? Is it just your attitude?

Anyway, I think we had missed all of the traffic going up the mountain, but there sure were a lot of people up there when we arrived. Timberline snowpark was full (big electric signs assured us) and the parking lots for Snow Bunny and Trillium lake appeared to be full. But we were going to a little less traveled trail. We were headed for where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Barlow trail. You probably know all about the Pacific Crest Trail, it has received a lot of publicity lately. I believe there is a movie in the making, but perhaps you don't know about Barlow. The Barlow Trail is part of the old Oregon Trail that was used by settlers coming over in Conestoga wagons. I am betting they didn't come over this time of year. Or if they did, their bones are still there someplace, under the snow. This particular part of the Oregon Trail was designed specifically to get around the blockage caused by Mt. Hood on the one hand, and the Gorge falls and rapids on the other. Seems like once you got your wagon and oxen team to The Dalles you had the choice of either building a raft and floating down the Columbia through the gorge (with a 2 mil portage around Ciello falls) or paying your 50 cents a wagon and pulling everything due south and west around the mountain through the pass where now sits Government Camp. The Barlow pass was slightly safer. You and your live stock would end up in Oregon City all ready for a successful run at the free farm lands of the Willamette. Kind of makes you nostalgic to go play the computer game again, huh?

So, we arrive at the Trailhead. The parking is pretty limited when the snow is deep. They plow out a section, but the road ends pretty abruptly. Today the entire parking area was essentially full, but my Partner saw a little space at the very end of the run just big enough to back in our little adventure Subaru. Good Find, Action Adventure Girl !!

We were putting on our layers and shoes and gear when I heard the first boom. A deep rolling sound somewhat reminiscent of distance thunder. What was that? A storm coming? Boooooooooom. Hmmm, no.... something else. Then it happened close by where I could see it. Booooooom. It was huge clumps of wet snow falling out of the trees. Wow. Don't want to get hit by one of those. It wouldn't kill you but it might knock you down, and you would be very wet.

We got our snowshoes on and hiked back up the road a bit to the trail head. A bunch of people were now showing up at the end of their hikes. They were all very wet and red faced. One woman said, “It is a rain forest in there”. Another “Watch out for the falling snow, I got hit in the head”. (See, I told you so).

Snow Orbs

We climbed up the 6 foot ridge out of the plowed area and shoed over to the trail head signs. Looked like hiking on the Pacific Crest trail would be fun today. We would be hiking on the trail toward Twin Lakes, but we didn't really think we would get there today. It was already 1:30 and we had reservations for a very nice room at the lodge starting at 4:00. So.... A few hours of hiking then.

The forest was a regular set of snow sculptures. The snow must have just blown in, thick and wet, in the last day or so and large orb like clusters of the stuff were setting on the west side of everything sticking up above ground level. It was lovely. We had a hard time getting started because we kept having to stop and take pictures of some new thing. And all of the time the sun was hitting the trees over our heads and melting snow was falling like a heavy rain all over and around us. And all around us was the occasional but steady booming of the snow when it finally gave up its sticky hold from the top of the trees and succumbed to its gravitic fate.

One thing that the still mostly fluffy snow and the sunshine reminded me of is the cool ice blue color effect you get when sun shines through snow. Anyplace there is a good footprint or other foot deep hole and the sun hits just right you get this marvelous penetrating blue color. I tried for a picture. It doesn't give the same sunny blue effect but you can see it some. Blue snow. Better than yellow snow.

The Blue in the Snow

The pre-lunch part of our hike was pretty much all up hill. We have not been doing our hiking this winter. We were feeling the steps. And you use a slightly different sort of muscles when you snowshoe and those muscles were quickly warning us about how much we were going to need a hot tub later.

At this part of the Pacific Crest Trail we really were near a local crest. We were mainly in the tress (pine and such) but we got occasional glimpses of snow capped ridges off to the east. We met maybe 20 other people on the trail. Many just out on the shorty snow shoes (good for groomed trails, but probably not so good for going off track) and also a few cross country skiers (going really fast, the bastards. Though they were going down hill. I wonder how they did going the other way?).

At around the 90 minute mark we reached a local maximum in altitude and decided to go off trail a bit and set up for lunch. We tramped an area down flat and spread out a tarp. When I am in the snow, I like to carry a good emergency tarp and one of those self-inflating sleeping pads. My partner and I could sit on the sleeping pad and it would insulate us from the snow. Otherwise, even on the tarp, it would be very chilly sitting down. Since we were no longer moving, I put on another layer. You cool down quickly when you quit walking. I started some water to boil, adding some snow to fill up my little coffee pot. We were planning on having turkey sandwiches and some hot soup (and tea). We had been sitting for about 10 minutes, and the water was just starting to steam, when my partner looked up hill and said “Oh”. I looked up expecting a polar bear or an avalanche or something else I would have to kill, but what I saw was wind sweeping through the trees. The sun was gone. The wind had started blowing. The temperature dropped 5 degrees. And just like that it was a different deal. Things were not looking so pretty. Things were getting cold.


We both decided to pack up and head back to the car.

It was snowing a little by the time we hit the trail again and the clouds had dropped down into the trees. Luckily the way back was downhill. You can go a lot faster downhill than uphill. We pretty much just coasted back to the car. We even had enough energy to do a little bit of off trail stuff, just for fun. When we got back to our car, the parking lot was pretty much empty. We saw a few more very wet people. I think most people were dressed in warm cotton and such. We were wearing rain gear and we were fine and dry underneath. So we climbed back into our trusty Subaru and got back on the main road.

Just in time to hit a very strange traffic jam that lasted all of the way back up the hill to the turn off to Timberline lodge. Very strange. We were guessing that there was either a car wreck someplace or this was just the congestion of everyone leaving the various snow parks and ski resorts and heading back to the city. Everyone else had to go to work tomorrow.

We were spending the night on the mountain in a glorious room in Timberline Lodge.


Because it was my birthday.

I really like the idea of staying in historic lodges and Timberline is a real treat. My partner and I have stayed there in the summer before (insert link) but this is our first trip up in the winter. This was set up as a special celebration so we were taking one of the nicer rooms in the establishment. Our room was big and rustic. It had a king size bed, two chairs around a table, a couch in front of a little table, an absolutely gorgeous old wood burning fireplace and a large bathroom with a walk-in all tile shower. It was such a great room. Everything is done either in actual historic items (like the bed frame and the fire poker) or in modern but historically reminiscent manner (like the push button telephone and the couches).

Timberline lodge was built in 1936 using WPA workers and funds. President Roosevelt dedicated it in 1938 with a speech that said (in part):

This Timberline Lodge marks a venture that was made possible by W.P.A., emergency relief work, in order that we may test the workability of recreational facilities installed by the Government itself and operated under its complete control.”

Now doesn't that seem like a strange thing for an American President to say?

Of course, with all of this history comes a few problems. For instance, even an old Eagle Scout may never have run into the a situation where the east blowing wind makes the chimneys not draft correctly and so when you put a match to the pre-laid kindling, instead of getting a nicely drawing fire, you get a rapidly growing out-pouring of smoke which quickly fills your room, sets off the smoke detectors, and has you calling the front desk begging for rescue.

Evidently this sort of things happens all of the time, because the young bellman was there in an instant, told us to close the windows, open the doors, and he appeared with a big fan which he used to empty the smoke while he got the fire going and the flu sucking. Later he came back and lit another fire for us and this time he demonstrated the method of getting the flu to draft. You hold a burning piece of newspaper up high in the chimney until enough of a suction is created to pull the paper up into the chimney. Then you quickly light your tinder and away goes your fire. At that point, the chimney is drawing so efficiently that when you close the glass doors to the fireplace you get a forced air stoked fire.

Note the Snow out the window

Fire Bunny

Just a Little Smoke Damage

Such excitement.

And we had dinner reservations for 7:00.

Time to change. One of the things I like to do is to get all gussied up and go have a nice dining experience. As luck would have it, my partner also likes good food and charming atmosphere, so we put on our suit and dress and headed over to the Cascade Dining Room to see what the chef had going for the evening.



Now I have eaten at the Cascade on a few other occasions and it has always impressed. Tonight was no exception. When you go there, go all out. Don't chintz on the appetizers or anything like that. We had a half salad half scallop and salmon roe creation that was very yummy. And then while you are waiting for your main course, they bring you other little things. Some great fresh bread, of course, but also some little sample of something they are trying out. Tonight is was a little taste of salmon and prosciutto mixed with some fun sauce. Small but tasty. To “clear our palette” they brought us a little egg cup full of raspberry sorbet. Very palette cleansing. For our entre I had lamb cheeks and my partner had tenderloin. Both came with black mushrooms and butternut squash and a number of other fun little things. For desert we had coffee and a chocolate almond cake. Did we get wine? No. My partner didn't care for any and I didn't want a bottle by myself. I did have a couple of very find pints of a local IPA.

After dinner we went and sat by our newly rejuvenated fire for a bit to let our dinner digest, and then we put on our lodge supplied spa robes and headed down the hall to the outdoor pool and hot tub. That is right. Out doors. Even in the middle of the winter and even though surrounded by snow, there is a wonderful large and HOT (maybe 103?) hot tub. No chairs though, cause they were all covered in snow. We wallowed in the tub for a while. A good chance to stretch our legs out after the snowshoe. We did not go into the pool for a swim. True it was heated, but the cold wet wind blowing around was NOT. 

Luckily the moon was out. From my seat in the hot tub I could just see the rays of the full moon as it shown over the roof of the historic old lodge sending crystal moon beams down the...

"That isn't the moon"


"The light, that isn't the moon. Look, the light is too close. That is a flood on the front of the building"


I stole this from Wikipedia. But I give them money.

Anyway, there was light and you could see stuff.

The next morning we had planned on doing another snowshoe, but it was raining. So we decided to laze around, have a huge brunch and then do some blogging in the main lounge.  The main lounge of the lodge is this big circular room that runs 4 floors up with a circular stone fireplace in the middle. On the ground floor is a sort of area for wet and cold skiers to hang out. They have their own part of the fireplace, but I have never seen a fire lit there. On the second floor is the main sitting area. Lots of couches and mini seating areas surrounding the fireplace. Big wrought iron everything everywhere. And Fires going. Lots of guests reading, using computers (yes, Virginia, there is wifi) and playing board games. The next floor up is a balcony around the edge of the room with more sitting a bar and light eats place in the evening.

We had a seat up in the bar area (not open yet) because that was where the nice seats were. You also had to be up that high to be above the snow level and able to see out onto the mountain. Strange to have the snow piled up over the windows on everything except the top floor. 

But, oh, the pretty blue color.

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