On the Timberline

We raced out of town on a weekend getaway for all of the obvious reasons, not the least of which it’s gotten very hot in Walla Walla. Even worse, it’s uncharacteristically humid, so 95 and 98 degree days feel powerfully worse than they should. At least in drier heat one can take actual solace in the shade. Now the shades just mock the old-timers into second guessing their memories. We began on our usual route west along the gorge of the Columbia River, and past the creepy tree farm on I-84, stopping briefly in The Dalles for our regular visit to Burgerville. Then at last we were on the winding, scenic highway to Mount Hood. And there it is that we encountered a species of human very new to me: the skier.

We didn’t realize there would be so many people hitting the slopes on this mountain, and perhaps worse, I for one didn’t know there was any such thing as summer skiing. Sure, it wasn’t 95 degrees like in Walla Walla, but it didn’t feel exactly cold, either. One hotel employee at the Timberline Lodge said it was 52 out. By my reckoning that was 20 degrees above the temperature where water becomes ice.

We hiked around in what stood for woods that wouldn’t bring us in contact with anyone going 30 miles an hour, and when we came upon a scat pile that was obviously created by a beast larger than either of us, we called it a day.

In our first evening at the top of Mount Hood we saw a few adventurous skiing souls hanging around—20-something men wearing squeaky pants and thick Alpine sweaters who drank themselves into long chains of laughter at the table next to us. Though they spoke German, I just so happen to know a little German. Her name is Susanne.

“Trust me,” she told me later, “their conversation was just as boring in German as it would have been in English.”

We left the bar and surrendered to the sweet waters of the outdoor jacuzzi, looking up at the last bit of the mountain and noting that at 9:30, it was just approaching dusk.

Through the night the snow trucks traveled around creating what I presume were acceptable skiing conditions like so many free range Zamboni machines.

Dawn broke early, and in flocked the day’s worth of ski junkies, some with snowboards balanced on their very hip shoulders, and others carrying precision performance skis. The image of lemmings streaming to a precipice came to mind. What had been an empty, vast parking lot the night before was now packed with vehicles, none of them run down. At least three ski camps for kids brought something like 50 vans and buses that were hitched up on the outskirts of the asphalt, boasting really friendly looking cartoons of exquisitely happy people racing down white powder. What these people were about to submit themselves to was more like tasteless sno-cone, but hey, I wasn’t the one buying the lift tickets, or whatever it is that they purchase for the right to experience gravity.

Don’ think that I’m poo-pooing skiing, even though I’ll note it’s on Susanne’s bucket list of Activities Everett Is Not Allowed to Attempt. I only suggest that a person who craves hurtling him or herself over snow on the side of a mountain when there is no natural reason this should be possible, is capable of possibly anything else.

For my part, I shall stick to typing about skiing, rather than skiing, and I think we’re all better off for that.

Timberline Lodge

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2 Comments on “On the Timberline”

  1. hsofia
    July 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Skiing scares the crap out of me! Too much speed. Have you been to the Blue Mountains? I hear they are called the Alps of North America (or maybe just The Alps of Washington).

  2. July 29, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    About the only thing I knew about..Oregons highest mountain was that I didnt want to start the climb at a ski..resort. Unfortunately that was exactly where I ended up starting although the..Cooper Spur Ski Area with its 500 T bar lift hardly qualifies.

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