Timberline Cabin confused with Timberline Lodge
Recently, a Government Camp cabin owner brought a photograph to the museum and asked if we could tell her anything about the building in the photograph? We were happy to share the history of the building know as the Timberline Cabin. She said, do you mean Timberline Lodge? No, Timberline Cabin and Timberline Lodge are two different buildings from two different eras. The buildings both were located at the ecological line at which conifers trees cease to grow above, which is 6000’ on Mount Hood, commonly referred as the timberline.
Timberline Cabin on the right. Timberline Hotel to the left. Photo date is 1924.
Joel Palmer visited the area in 1845 following a Native American trail, as he scouted the route for the San Barlow wagon train attempting to cross Mount Hood on the south slopes. Later the climbing parties climbing the mountain from the south side in the 1850’s camped here in the shelter of the highest trees on Mount Hood. Judge James Blossom pioneered a wagon road from Government Camp to this spot in 1888. The Judge built a small cabin here and spent his summers here to avoid the heat in Oregon City. After the Mazamas were formed in 1894, Camp Blossom became their favorite last campsite before making the final ascent of Mount Hood. A Mazama climbing party in 1907 found the camp site occupied by a Government mapping party, so they setup camp a few yards to the west. This spot became known as Camp George, as the leader was M.C. George. The Forest Service felt a need for a base here to support their Forest Fire Lookout to be built on the summit of the mountain. The agency was also actively supporting and assisting mountain climbers. Forest Service employee Lige Coalman built the Timberline Cabin and the Summit Lookout in 1916. This cabin was built a few hundred feet west of Judge Blossom’s cabin and apparently used some of the boards from the dilapidated Blossom Cabin. Coalman installed a telephone in the cabin to have communications to booth the Summit fire lookout and the Ranger Station at Government Camp. The site became so popular with climbers that in 1924 the Government Camp Hotel opened a hotel annex here for climbers. They had a lunch counter in a small building and used tents furnished with real beds and mattresses for sleeping accommodations. Now it was possible for climbers to eat and sleep in style before their final climb to the summit of Mount Hood. These facilities were three miles from Government Camp and most visitors hiked or rode a horse.
The Forest Service had an initiative in the early 1920’s to increase the recreation use of the National Forests. They did this by building roads, campgrounds and issuing permits for outdoor clubs to build cabins. A nice auto road from Government Camp to Phlox Point was opened in 1930. Here, just east of Camp Blossom, Wy’east Climbers, Nile River Yacht Club and the Boy Scouts built cabins. This marked the end of the Timberline Hotel tents and overall use of the Camp Blossom area. Climbers could drive to the end of the road at Phlox Point and begin their climb from there. Later in 1937 Timberline Lodge would be sited just above the end of the Phlox Point Road, known today as the Westleg Road.
Written by Lloyd Musser, Curator, Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum. 2019
TRAIL SKIING ON MOUNT HOOD
A LONG STANDING TRADITION
By Lloyd Musser
Ask any Mt. Hood skier over the age of 25, to recall a memorable skiing event on Mt. Hood and they likely will recall fond memories of skiing the Glade Trail. Should the skier be older that 50, they might also recall skiing the Alpine, Cascade, Mazama or West Leg skis trail. The real old timers may reminisce about skiing the Blossom Trail. Downhill skiing from timberline to the village of Government Camp has been a popular activity for over 100 years. It all began when the Mazamas made that first ski trip to Mount Hood in 1900 and continues today although on a limited unsanctioned basis.
The Blossom Ski Trail evolved from the hiking trail that followed natural openings from Government Camp to the summit of Mt. Hood. Judge Blossom, in 1888, opened a wagon road along this route to his Camp Blossom, located near the site of Timberline Lodge. Timberline Cabin, constructed in 1916 by the Forest Service as an administrative site, was used as a bunkhouse by hardy skiers who loved to hike up to this area, ski around the openings at timberline and stay overnight in the cabin. This form of skiing was so popular that the Mazamas convinced the Forest Service to build a winter trail from Twin Bridges to Paradise Park, where skiers could ski in the open glades at the timberline.
Detailed plans by the Forest Service for the construction and development of Timberline Lodge in 1936 indicated that access to the lodge would be by bus from Government Camp. Skiers could return to their cars via the new ski trails to be constructed. Alpine Trail, the first of the proposed trails, was completed in December 1936, with its terminus at Summit Ski Area. Glade Trail followed some of the old Blossom Trail and used the open glades to reach the core of Government Camp. Trail skiing was so popular that as many as 15 buses worked on weekends transporting skiers back to Timberline so they could ski the 3.5 miles, 2000 feet vertical drop trail several times in a day.
Mondays were often a good time for local residents to ski the trails. If the snow was good, some people would skip work, or like Maryellen Loveland, skip high school, hop the Timberline Taxi and ski the Glade Trail. One local state highway worker called in sick on a Monday and got a few days off without pay when it was learned he was skiing all day. Local Forest Service rangers also joined the Monday outings, with the rational they needed to check the trail conditions. Skiing the trail by moonlight was another local tradition. The only problem was at least two skiers needed to be designated drivers so they could retrieve the cars from Timberline.
Nighttime ski trail runs were not always for pleasure. The most vivid trail skiing memory Keith and Barbara Petire have involves running a ski patrol toboggan loaded with an injured skier, in the dark. The cutoff between Alpine and Glade was called the corkscrew and full of washboards. Ski Patrollers guided the toboggan by straddling it and hanging on to the frame. It was a little painful when you met the toboggan coming up between your legs as you were going over the washboards.
The number of injured skiers on the trail system was a continuing concern of the Forest Service and Ski Patrol. Skier use and injuries reached a very high level in the 60’s. Ski schools, safer equipment and ski area snow grooming had lowered the number of serious injuries in the ski areas. However ski injuries on the trails continued to be a persistent problem caused by Portland neophytes attempting to ski on the cheap. Many tried to take advantage of this free skiing by borrowing some old skis; father would drive the group to Timberline and send his children down the trail with outdated equipment and no concept of skiing techniques. Sometimes there were so many injured skiers on the trail, that the ski patrol would load two skiers on the same rescue toboggan.
The number of the ski accidents on the Glade Trail dropped drastically when Lou Russell started grooming the trail in early 1960’s. Using a Tucker Sno-Cat, Lou and his family packed the trail for over 20 years, as a hobby. Lou would pick up the novice or injured skiers and give them a Sno-Cat ride and gentle lecture on the merits of skiing without proper equipment and instruction.
Perhaps the most unique skiing experience on Mt. Hood during this period would be the SWEEP. At the end of the day, the Forest Service Snow Rangers and Ski Patrol needed to make sure no skiers were left in peril along the trail. After waiting an appropriate time, in the Blue-Ox bar, the Sweep team would ride the Magic Mile chair lift or hitch a Sno-Cat ride with Lou to the Silcox Hut area. There the crew would wait until all the other skiers were out of sight. The crew would push off in a tuck for the non-stop run to Government Camp. The first Sweeper to break out of a tuck was the loser and expected to buy the first round at the Ratskeller. The Ratskeller also served as the terminus for the most famous or infamous Mt. Hood Ski race. The annual Kandabeer Ski Race was sponsored by Schnee Vogeli Ski Club was timed race from Timberline Lodge to Government Camp. The ribald tricks and chicanery associated with this ski race are legendary.
Downhill trail skiing today is not a very popular activity. The trail is not groomed. Trees and brush are slowly encroaching on the clearing. The trail makers are all gone. A few adventurous snow boarders know where the trails are and use them when snow conditions are favorable. Telemark and cross-county skiers use portions of the trails. The Timberline Taxi is but a memory and a line is a local song. Trail skiing thrills have been replaced with high-speed quad chairlifts, half-pipes, terrain parks and freestyle aerials.
Annually, the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum holds a Glade Trail Day as a living history event. Under permit from the US Forest Service, the trail is groomed by Timberline Lodge. Participants get a history lesson and a full day of trail skiing. Participants ride airport type shuttle buses to Timberline Lodge, ski with local trail guides and are supported by members of the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol. Skiers are treated to lunch and Apre’s Ski party at the end of the day. The museum has been recreating this historical trail skiing experience for 10 years. A whole new generation of skier have now experienced trail skiing on Mount Hood.
Lloyd Musser was a Forest Service Snow Ranger is the 60’s, serves on the museum board and volunteers as museum curator.
FIRST OVER THE PASS
This interesting story is based on a Maupin Times Newspaper article dated April 26, 1918. I like this story as it demonstrates how tough people were 100 years ago. The young men involved were raised on farms and ranches in rural Oregon and they knew how to work and wanted to work. This story demonstrates the adversity they would endure to get to a job. The words, phrasing and locations used in the original article make it difficult to comprehend if the reader is not a historian. The original article is in italics followed by text added by the author for clarity and historical interest.
We Eastern Oregon boys being employed by Forest Ranger Dee Wright on some county work between Wapinitia and Camas Prarie after completion were assigned a timber planting job across the mountains. Preparations were made by Dee Wright and Joe Graham to move our camp as far as possible by muleback which proved to be only five or six miles.
These boys, one of whom wrote the newspaper account, but is not identified, were from Maupin and Tygh Valley area. Dee Wright was a Forest Service packer that also owned the Summit House in Government Camp where his wife operated a restaurant. Joe Graham was the first Ranger hired by the US Forest Service at Wapinitia. His District spanned the Forest from the east Forest Boundary above Pine Grove to the Clackamas River and from Government Camp south to Mount Jefferson. He worked from his home in Wapinitia in the winter months, and from the Clackamas Lake Ranger Station in the summer months. He served as Ranger from 1905 to 1935.
Wapinitia was a thriving community at the time of this event, located just south of the present Walters Corner store on OR 216. Camas Prairie was the site of an early Ranger Station located on the Oak Grove Wagon Road that ran from Wapinitia to Government Camp where it joined the Barlow Road that accessed Sandy and points west. It is not known what County work they were doing in that area, but most likely some road work.
We had no skies and did not wish to be bluffed so took two blankets each and a lunch and proceeded. We were the first to cross the Oak Grove pass this year as the snow was very deep and drifted between the top of the hill east of Frog Lake and the Summit House. We had some trouble finding the road. We had only one accident, which was not serious. One of the party, Mac, broke through the mush ice on Frog Lake while looking for a better foot path. We arrived at Government Camp April 13. Jack Whaite, Clyde Oliver, Wm. Smith, Mac Holloman and Elmer Munier all of Wamic, Tygh Valley, and Wapinitia, arrived a 5 o’clock PM, having made the entire trip across the mountains in the remarkable short period of twelve hours, a distance of nineteen miles all of which was covered with snow to a depth of from three inches to ten feet. On arrival we were very wet and tired, but we had good luck and made it fine considering the conditions. There was from three to six inches of new snow and the old snow was very mushy. We will proceed to hike west on when the weather permits.
Oak Grove Pass is today known as Blue Box Pass on US 26 above Frog Lake and is the divide between the White River watershed and the Sandy River watershed. A good day’s hike on a well-maintained trail is 15 miles. To travel 19 miles in deep snow without skis or snowshoes is incredible.
April 16 – Twenty inches of snow has fallen since our arrival and it is still snowing. Owing to the hospitality shown by Mr. and Mrs. Pridemore, we are perfectly content to stay here indefinitely. Mr. Pridemore furnished us each with a dandy pair of skies and we went up the slope toward Mt. Hood where he gave us some lessons. We will continue on our trip to Camp Creek on skies when the weather clears.
The boys apparently are staying at the Government Camp Hotel operated by the Pridemores. They are likely the only hotel guests as the road to Government Camp was not plowed in winter until 1926. We wonder who was paying their hotel bill? To reach the tree planting site they will need to travel about 6 miles west. The first four miles will be steep and snow covered. They should make good time if the can manage to stay upright on their borrowed snow skis. We hope the tree planting job paid well as they went to great lengths to get to the job site.
Transcribed and interrupted by Lloyd Musser, Curator, Mt. Hood Museum March 2018