Category Archives: Newsletter

The Construction of Timberline Lodge

Undated photo showing Timberline Lodge’s setting on the south side of Mt. Hood.

Timberline Lodge serves as the starting point for several of the most popular hikes on Mount Hood. The iconic around-the-mountain Timberline Trail starts and ends at the lodge. It’s now once again a complete 41.5-mile trail, thanks in part to the volunteers of TKO for helping to build a new section of trail at the washed-out Eliot Branch crossing. Hikes from the lodge lead west to Zigzag Canyon, further west to Paradise Park, north up the mountain to the Silcox Hut, and east to the White River Canyon.

Though most who hike the Mount Hood trails visit Timberline Lodge periodically, few are familiar with the details of the lodge’s construction. It was built as a make-work project by the Works Progress Administration, which was formed in 1935 to employ out-of-work men and women during the Great Depression. The WPA built roads, parks, schools, and bridges, as well as the beautiful lodge on the south side of Mt. Hood.

The WPA began construction on the lodge in the spring of 1936. A road to the site already existed, but it first had to be cleared of snow. Although snow removal was expected to take four weeks, it actually took three months. It didn’t help that new snow kept falling to replace the snow that had already been removed. Because summers on the mountain are so short, construction began before the June 14 groundbreaking ceremony. Building plans had not even been approved yet, but there was no time to waste.

Excavating land in preparation for construction of the east wing of the lodge in 1936.

Fifty stonemasons laid flagstone on the front steps and terraces. Stonemasons built the huge central fireplace inside, as well as the smaller fireplaces throughout the lodge and their chimneys. The main chimney weighs about 800,000 pounds. The brass and bronze weather vane that rises above the chimney weighs 750 pounds! Local cabin-builder Henry Steiner shaped the six huge columns that support the roof of the central section of the building, a 60-foot in diameter hexagon called the “headhouse.” Using only hand tools, a foot adze, and a broadaxe, he finished the columns in less than two weeks.

The lodge was framed by October. Interior finishing work continued through the winter. Decorative elements inside evoked Oregon’s history and wildlife. Light fixtures in the Cascade Dining Room resembled Native American drums. A wood carving depicted pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail. Newel posts were carved into the shapes of animals such as bears and owls.

On September 28, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the lodge for its dedication ceremony. Roosevelt delivered his dedicatory speech on the terrace that would later bear his name, looking out over the landscape to Mt. Jefferson in the distance. After a luncheon the president and his entourage left. Fortunately the weather had been beautiful and sunny, and a snowstorm held off until after the festivities, leading WPA administrator Emerson J. Griffith to declare, “I shall never again doubt the efficacy of prayer.”

The lodge opened in February 1938 and although it has closed several times over the years, it continues in full operation today. Visitors are welcome to explore the public areas, and many Pacific Crest Trail hikers look forward to the hearty brunches served in the Cascade Dining Room.

Learn More
For more history of Timberline Lodge, check out Sarah Baker Munro’s Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon. You might also consider taking a tour of the lodge with a US Forest Service ranger. The tours are free and informative. Check for more information.

Take a Hike
Follow the Timberline Trail west from the lodge for a 4.5-mile round-trip hike that takes you to an overlook of Zigzag Canyon. If you’re up for a longer and harder hike, a 12-mile-plus round-trip hike takes you to Paradise Park. The Timberline Trail is usually hikable in July, August, and September. Check for detailed hike descriptions and trail condition updates.

—Cheryl Hill

Developing “Trail Eyes”

Almost every hiking trail in the Northwest has been worked on by a volunteer group. Trailkeepers of Oregon’s robust network of volunteers maintain the trails that we all love to hike, correcting problems and improving the overall hiking experience. Most people who have done trail work say that they will never look at a trail the

Slough and trail creep on the Wygant Trail near Mitchell Point, Columbia River Gorge. The arrow shows where the uphill edge of the trail should be.

same way again. But you don’t have to join a work party to begin developing “trail eyes” (although we would love to have you!). Here are some things to watch for as you hike.


Trail creep
Trails on steep slopes tend to narrow over time. Dirt, rocks, needles, and leaves slough downhill onto the trail surface, narrowing the tread and forcing hikers to the outside edge. The trail slowly creeps toward the outside, making the trail narrower and, in many cases, more treacherous.

Brush on trail
Salmonberry and other leafy plants spread over many trails as they

Thimbleberry and other brush crowding Gorge Trail No. 400 near Moffett Creek, Columbia River Gorge.

grow their spring foliage, sometimes narrowing the tread width by half. Most hiking trails are designed to be three to four feet wide. New growth on the uphill side of the trail usually pushes hikers toward the outside of the trail, where they redefine the tread and create trail creep. Trees like alder or large vine maple sometimes hang down low enough to hit hikers or horse riders as they pass.




Water flowing down the trail bed on the River to Rock Trail, Beacon Rock State Park. The arrow shows the water’s path.

Noting the path of water along a trail is an important component of trail eyes. Astute hikers can see the path that water takes, even when hiking in dry weather. Look for evidence of rivulets or U-shaped layers of needles along a trail where running water has pushed them along the trail surface.

Often trails are designed with drainage ditches along the uphill edges. The ditches collect water and direct it into drain dips that cross the trail or go downhill at switchback turns. These ditches often fill with organic debris, impeding water flow and forcing water to take new paths, sometimes across the trail itself. The downhill edges of drain dips also collect organic material, slowing the flow of water off the trail.

How you can help

A drainage ditch clogged with debris and plant growth, Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge.

Land managers and volunteer organizations such as TKO rely heavily on trip reports from hikers to plan and prioritize work parties. A large log across a trail or a slide blocking it are obvious problems often reported by hikers. They are high priority. Lower-priority problems such as trail creep, foliage crowding the trail, or blocked drainage are less obvious but are still important enough to mention.

Hikers can report trail problems on the Oregon Hikers Forum Trip Reports site. Pictures are always helpful, and so is a note about where on the trail the problem is. GPS coordinates are great, but even without coordinates, a description of landmarks or the approximate distance from the trailhead helps managers and crew leaders to scout the trail, evaluate the situation, and plan the work needed.

Next time you hike, put on your new trail eyes, enjoy your hike, and report any problems that you see. Enjoy!

—Elaine Keavney


Summer Hike of the Season: McCully Basin

Looking across McCully Basin to Mount Melissa.

In summer Oregon hikers dust off their backpacks and stray far from their urban bases in search of an immersive experience in the outdoors. The Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains is a favorite choice with its fault-block peaks and open ridges and lake basins. If you’ve already spent a summer backpack or two in some of the popular Wallowa destinations, you’ll appreciate the solitude of this summer’s hike of the season—the somewhat un-Wallowa-like hike in the McCully Basin.

Hidden Peak from Mudpatch Meadow.

The formations and peaks around McCully Basin are Columbia River basalts, more similar to the strata in the Columbia River Gorge than to the distinctive slopes of marble and granite in most of the Wallowas. There are no lakes. The area sees a few hunters in the fall and telemark skiers in winter, but remains somewhat off the radar for hikers. The lake and granite junkies will have coagulated elsewhere. You’ll share McCully’s high meadows with the elk and the deer. There are numerous excursions to consider while camped in the series of meadows that, pre-World War II, once grazed flocks of sheep. McCully Creek and McCully Basin are named after Frank D. McCully, a merchant, banker, politician, and sheep rancher in Joseph, Oregon, who once drove his herd up the valley for summer grazing.

The approach to the basin is short—about five miles to a campsite—but you’ll have to put up with a somewhat diseased forest of Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and western larch. There’s a lot of deadfall, but since the trail is also used by horses, it should get logged out fairly early in the season. After about four and a half miles, you cross McCully Creek and the first of the camps and meadows appears to your right. Wait another 0.6 miles after the creek crossing, though, and, before the slope begins to steepen, head cross-country off to the right and cross McCully Creek again. You’ll enter the first of several meadows on the west side of the bowl. (There are other meadows on the east side.) Look around the verges of the meadows in the trees for a suitable place to set up your camp.

Aneroid Mountain from Wing Ridge.

The fun begins when you begin to plan your day trips from camp. On the east ridge is Mount Melissa (9,128 feet), best reached by taking the trail south to the pass leading to Big Sheep Basin and then by working your way along Wing Ridge and high alpine fells. From the summit, you’ll get views to the Seven Devils in Idaho. At the southwest corner of the basin is Aneroid Mountain, Oregon’s ninth highest peak at 9,702 feet, and easily approached across the meadows and up past rugged formations to the ridge. Aneroid supports Oregon’s highest trees, some stunted krummholz whitebark pines in the summit area. The entire Wallowas’ panorama lies before you, including the well-known peaks of Eagle Cap, Matterhorn, Sacajawea Peak, and Pete’s Point. Aneroid and Dollar lakes sparkle below.

A more ambitious day hike will take you into the lovely Big Sheep Basin to the south to join the Tenderfoot Trail up along the Middle Fork Big Sheep. Then head northwest on the Bonny Lakes Trail past the lush, swampy Bonny Lakes to ascend to Dollar Pass. From here, you’ll have to head cross-country up and over Aneroid Mountain or its shoulder to get back to your campsite. Another cross-country loop will take you north from Aneroid to two other 9,000-foot prominences, Hidden and East peaks, on the long ridge west of McCully. Below East Peak, a user trail heads along the open slopes back to McCully Basin. A more grueling return to the McCully Trailhead would be to follow this ridge north to Mount Howard, and then to take the service road down from the tramway terminal to the trailhead. An overnight camp could be at a big spring on the northeast flank of East Peak, right on the user trail. This is favorite congregation spot for the local elk. And if you want to avoid those tramway crowds at Mount Howard, veer off the footpath from the last prominence before civilization and drop down an open ridge, passing above the dynamited adits of the Transvaal Mines, to intersect the maintenance track farther down.

Mountain goat on Wing Ridge.

So when to go? Normally, from mid-July to the first part of October are the prime months for McCully. In September and October, you may be sharing the basin with a couple of adventurous bow hunters. Mosquitoes tend to fade away after mid-August, but they can still be vicious in swampy areas like the Bonny Lakes until the first freeze. In a big snow year like 2017, it’s worth waiting a little longer until you head to the high country. In the last few weeks of summer, there will still be blooms: Lupine verges the main trail, grass-of-parnassus flowers in swampy areas, monument plants (gentian family) thrive near the McCully-Big Sheep Pass, arnica brightens the many seeps and springs, and buckwheat and mountain balm adorn the stony ridges. If you’re planning on doing cross-country travel, make sure you take emergency equipment and extra food with you. Keep yourself properly oriented at all times: It’s easy enough to follow the high ridges on a clear day, but should the clouds come down, you may have to resort to a GPS or compass to find your way back.

—John Sparks

Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry

Join Now: Become a Trailkeeper

Trailkeepers of Oregon has been working to enhance the Oregon hiking experience for ten years now. As we look to the future, we see critical opportunities to protect and improve our connections to the natural and scenic wonders of Oregon. We are poised to seize these opportunities to preserve our state’s trail legacy, build new trails today, and advocate for the trails of tomorrow. We need your support to expand our programming and volunteer-driven stewardship activities. With no paid staff we have accomplished much in our ten years as a trails nonprofit. But Oregon’s hiking trails need more than we’re currently able to provide, due to increased use of trails by a growing population, deterioration of trails from age, and damage to trails by extreme weather events. We need more members to expand our ability to care for the hiking trails across Oregon. We cannot do this without your help. As we build our membership, we can speak as a united voice for the Oregon hiking experience. Please make a statement of support for our work and for your natural and scenic wonders of Oregon. Join us by becoming a member today!

Steve Kruger

Executive Director, Trailkeepers of Oregon

Big Changes at Trailkeepers of Oregon

The author at Owl Point.

Trailkeepers of Oregon will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year.

This important milestone marks not only ten years of our work, but some big steps to buildthe foundation for our next decade. Chief among those is the hiring of our first Executive Director, Steve Kruger. You will hear more from Steve in the coming months, which brings us to a second announcement—our newsletter. You are now reading the first issue of what we intend to be a quarterly newsletter. We hope that you find value in keeping up with our ongoing work and reading the fun and informative articles we have planned for you. This leads to our third announcement—a new membership program. We depend on your support to continue our work, and a great way to do that is by becoming a member. There are some fun rewards, and you can start your membership now by clicking here.

As we look ahead to some very big changes for the organization, it’s also a time to reflect on how far we’ve come. In the summer of 2007, I began posting trip reports on the Portland Hikers Forum, a new but rapidly growing web community, about a “lost trail” on the north side of Mount Hood. The trail was a little known extension of the popular Vista Ridge Trail. It toured some of the most scenic country in the Mount Hood area but had been abandoned for decades. Worse yet, the trail was being considered as part of a possible large motorcycle “play park” that would destroy many subalpine meadows and huckleberry fields in this remarkable area.

And so it was that volunteers from the Portland Hikers Forum organized an impromptu trip to clear the old trail in hopes of bringing more hikers to appreciate and defend what would soon be dubbed the Old Vista Ridge Trail. That trail work on Old Vista Ridge was the beginning of what would become Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO). The founding members from the Portland Hikers Forum recognized the crisis facing trails on our public lands and the need for organized advocacy for both trails and hiking in Oregon.

As we celebrate our first decade much has changed. TKO now sponsors dozens of trail stewardship projects each year, totaling thousands of hours of volunteer work. We are gradually expanding our service area in an effort to become a truly statewide organization. And as part of our education and outreach mission, we continue to sponsor the Oregon Hikers Forum and the Oregon Hikers Field Guide, which now has information on 900-plus hikes, online and free to the public.

Now, ten years on, TKO will also be hiring our first Executive Director this summer to continue our growth and expand our protection of trails and construction of new trails. We hope you will take this next step with us, and, if you haven’t already, become a member of TKO. Your membership support will help ensure that we can continue our work as advocates and stewards for Oregon’s trails.

This summer, our journey as trail advocates will come full circle at Old Vista Ridge. The US Forest Service has agreed to formally recognize this beautiful trail after nearly fifty years of being officially abandoned. TKO is adopting the trail to ensure its ongoing maintenance. We’ll be leading stewardship projects there this summer to celebrate our first decade and continue bringing this old trail to life. And this time the work will be sanctioned!

We have much more planned as we move into our second decade, including brand new trails on Mount Hood, in the Columbia River Gorge, and around Oregon as part of our “20 Trails in 20 Years” campaign. Anyone can join us for one of our volunteer work parties! No experience or equipment is required, and you’ll feel great participating in the care of your trails.

In the meantime, stop by our Oregon Hikers Forum and Oregon Hikers Field Guide to learn the latest on the best places to hike. We hope you’ll also consider supporting TKO and become a member.

Thanks, and see you on the trail!

Tom Kloster

President, Trailkeepers of Oregon