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Timberline Lodge: ‘Every Oregonian's mountain home'
Timberline Lodge: ‘Every Oregonian's mountain home'

Mount Hood landmark offers skiing, hiking and history

By Jennifer Moody

Albany Democrat-Herald

MOUNT HOOD - There's something familiar about that picture, I'm thinking, as I'm staring at the framed black-and-white photograph on the wall just inside the entrance to Timberline Lodge.

It's of a woman on the Magic Mile chairlift, ski poles in hand, on her way to the snowy summit of Mount Hood. She is half-turned toward the photographer, smiling as if she can't wait to join the handful of skiiers carving turns below her.

I've seen that face before. I've seen that pose before. And then it hits me, even as my eyes travel up the photo to the deep yellow "All Season Portfolio" tucked inside the frame: It's the woman on the Pee-Chee!

(For the uninitiated, Pee-Chee folders - at least the ones my friends and I carried during the '70s and '80s - bore sketched pictures of high-school-age baseball and football players, track competitions and a woman in a skirt swatting at a tennis ball. I just never realized any of the pictures were real, let alone that one of them had been shot in my home state.)

Completed in 1939 at a cost of $80,000, the original Magic Mile chairlift was the first chairlift in Oregon and the second in the world. It became a Pee-Chee icon after the photo appeared in a 1948 edition of Life magazine.

The smiling woman, notes the article, is Merrie Douna. Douna has her skis on, but if the good Pee-Chee folks had wanted to, they could have used a photo of some equally smiley people cruising up the lift wearing hiking boots.

Every year, by the estimate of Timberline officials, some 18,000 foot passenger tickets are sold for the slow-speed chairlift. Some come for the scenery, which, at 7,000 feet, is breathtaking (and you can even ride right back down without having to hoof it). Some come to take on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail or one of the other 1,200 miles of trails in the Mount Hood National Forest.

Fall is one of the best times to hike at the mountain, said Jon Tullis, director of public affairs. Summer crowds have dwindled, skiiers are still restricted to the year-round Palmer Snowfield, and the weather is still beautiful - although check conditions and bring lots of layers, just in case.

One of the most popular hikes is the Timberline Trail, a 48-mile hike that circumnavigates the mountain. Day hikers just walk along it for as far as they like and then come back, he said.

For the day hiker, Timberline Cabin Trail is a two-mile loop beginning right outside the lodge. The resort's Web site also touts the Paradise Park Trail, a 5.8-mile wander that gains 3,000 feet in altitude and includes an overlook of Zigzag Canyon.

Hiking trails are part of Forest Service property, and trail maps are available at the lodge or at the Zigzag Ranger Station, 503-622-3191.

Visitors don't need to stay at Timberline Lodge to take advantage of either the hiking trails or the Magic Mile chairlift ride, but naturally, Timberline officials recommend a stay - and September is the month for deals, they add.

The lodge plans a series of acoustic fireside concerts Wednesday nights in October, beginning with Misty River on Oct. 5. Performances are free to lodge and dinner guests or $12 at the door.

The ski resort area as a whole logs some 1.9 million visitors every year, Tullis said. About 250,000 of those visitors are skiiers, and another 27,000 or so make reservations to stay at the lodge.

If you're a little chilled at the thought of staying at the place whose outer walls became the infamous Overlook Hotel in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of "The Shining," it may help to know that the inside bears no resemblance to that ill-fated resort.

Built entirely by hand in 1936 by craftsmen with the federal Works Projects Administration, the lodge, a National Historic Landmark, feels like a homey mountain cabin. Wood-paneled walls and a massive stone fireplace set the tone right inside the door.

Each of the 70 rooms is decorated with furnishings and artwork handcrafted by workers with the WPA. Some even have fireplaces.

Being a public landmark sited within a national forest, Timberline is "a very democratic place," Tullis said. "It's every Oregonian's mountain home."

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