The siren who beckons, Mt Hood

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“Are not the mountains, waves and skies, a part
Of me and of my soul, as I of them?”

Lord Byron

I’ve spoken before concerning my love for the mountains, pretty much any and all moutnians–their towering majesty and stately beauty. Rocky or green, I feel both awe and fear in their presence. I’m no climber—just a mere hiker. I’ve hiked small portions of the Appalachians, vowing that one day, as a bucket list entry, I would make the trek from Georgia to Maine….but the older I’ve become, the less I see that actually coming about—and I’m okay with that because I can still relish in their glory.

Last week my husband and I had the opportunity of visiting Oregon with our first destination being Mt. Hood—or rather the lodge, Timberline, perched at about 7,000 ft up the nearly 12,000 foot tall mountain whose claim to fame was taking part in Stanley Kubrick”s movie The Shinning….not that I am a fan of Stephen King’s twisted spook tales, I’m just stating a fact.

We had flown in from Georgia, where the temperatures had been hovering around 90 degrees, so I was dressed as a wilting Georgia flower would dress…sandals, sleeveless top, shorts. Landing in Portland I immediately note the zero humidity—or at least that’s how it felt to me… It seemed like zero humidity—however as it was drizzling, equating to some humidity in the air, it was nothing compared to being back home—hit you in the face like a brick can’t breathe humidity.

We grabbed our luggage, picked up the rental car and headed immediately out of town making our way toward the beautiful Cascade Mountain range, ominously laying in wait in the distant landscape. Mt. Hood lies about an hour and a half slightly southeast from Portland. One minute you’re in the urban hub of a major metropolitan city, then poof, you’re in the wilds of nature. Oregon is great that way!! And mind you this area is nothing but a once very active volcanic sea of activity… now dormant, or so they say– how long till things “wake up” is anybody’s guess……I try not thinking about that—just like I tried not thinking about all of those tsunami and earthquake warning’s when we were in Ucluelet, British Columbia two summers ago……….

The weather begins taking a turn for the worse the closer we get to our destination. Fog, drizzle and now I suddenly find the car’s outside temperature gauge…Atlanta was 88 degrees when our plane departed, Portland was 67 when we arrived..this car is telling me it’s 54…a couple of more miles, it’s 48…climbing up the wending road toward Timberline it’s now 42, 38, 36, (holy crap, let’s remember this southern belle is wearing sandals, shorts and no sleeves), 34…..

After what was a definite accent heavenwards, sans any view due to the fog–which may have been all for the best, we pull into the parking lot at the top of the snaking upward, wending, fog encased road, the gauge reads 33 degrees!!! My husband blankly asks “is that snow?” “Yes, yes I believe it is” is the only response I can muster as we both stare at a snow shower in progress accompanied by howling, yes howling winds. It is June 19th, I’m from Georgia and it’s now blowing snow—what is wrong with this picture???? “Suitcases, we’ve got to get the suitcases—I have clothes, jackets….yes the suitcases”….

But first I’ve got to exit the car. Humm, sandals = bare feet—barefeet treading through frozen slush..hummm… Oh did I fail to mention that the ground is covered in snow? Like this is the middle of January somewhere up north kind of snow. Like this ain’t ever melting 9 feet deep snow kind of snow…….and yes I know Oregon is up north but it’s June for heavens sake—I’ve been to Alaska in June where there was no snow….who knew??? But I’m secretly liking this—it’s so foreign and a bit dicy…living a bit on the edge….yes, I know, sad but true, snow in June is living on the edge for me—I can’t help it, I’m getting old 🙂

We make our way inside to the check-in desk. Stepping suddenly in to what seems like a different era—dark heavy wooden beams and large stones make up the walls…it is dark with a welcoming fire roaring in the massive stone fireplace. The check in lobby is on the first floor with the main “gathering lobby, one floor up. As I check-in the girl behind the desk asks if we plan on skiing—“are you kidding me??” ruminates in my head… Who the heck skies in June? Oregonians that’s who!! I politely tell her no as I’m practically apologetic for the way I’m dressed—-everyone has on jackets, sweatshirts, toboggans and I’m looking as if I’m off to the beach. She laughs.

We make our way to our room—a full fledged wood burning fire place is in the room–complete with a fresh cord of wood. Now that’s hard core preparation for cold—remember I’m from Georgia…a good to go fireplace in December, yes…June, not so much…..our window faces “the mountain”—what mountain, I can’t see a mountain it’s too foggy and now it’s snowing too hard. “what”–it’s snowing too hard?” “dear Lord”………..

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The view out our window actually would allow us a view of the mountain’s massive summit and the ski slope runs past, allowing for us to catch a glimpse of the brave souls who have come to Timberline to take advantage of the in-coming fresh snow. They snow year round at Timberline except for two weeks following Labor day when everything shuts down for required maintenance. Folks back home are water skiing and folks here are snow skiing—wow!

I am suddenly aware that I’m hearing a constant groan of engines…”what in the heck is that?” as I peer out the window into a fog and snow shrouded landscape. I suddenly see some headlights whipping aroung and around….snow plows working on the “slopes”….hardcore in June…

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As ours was but a whirlwind visit to Oregon, cramming in as much as possible in a week’s time, the following morning we were off, headed south…ooo south, sunny and warm..but that wasn’t happening as we were headed to Crater Lake and they had snow, and what I surmised later looked like even more snow, but more about that later. It was just as well to depart Mt. Hood as the weather was not in our favor—hanging out at the fire was pretty much on tap for us. Of course we could have ridden the ski lifts to the top of the slopes but lacking any view, we opted against that little jaunt.

As we departed the skiers and snowboarders were arriving in droves…June 20th, two days until the official day of summer and I’m in the middle of winter….so very odd….

But as happens in life, two days following our departure from Mt. Hood, a family tragedy began to play out with the sad confirmation coming yesterday. A dentist, from Salem, Oregon, an avid climber and outdoor enthusiast, Kinley Adams, was prepping for a climb in Nepal. He has climbed Mt. Hood many times, being very familiar with the mountain. I didn’t realize this but at this time of year, as the snows are melting somewhat due to warmer temps (who says it’s warming but I digress), the snow is wet and has the potential for whole sheets to shift and slide, running the risk of avalanche. It is not uncommon for climbers to begin a trek in the middle of the night when the temperatures help the snow to firm up, not being so wet—which is what Dr. Adams had done on June 22nd.

His was to be an assent up and then back down, returning to the Lodge by late afternoon. However Dr. Adams did not return by the designated time. The weather played against a search and rescue, halting efforts on and off for the following days. This past Sunday, an army helicopter spotted a body at almost 9000 feet which was presumed to be Dr. Adams.

It took rescuers over 15 hours to recover the body, tenuously and slowly making the sad journey down to the lodge and Dr. Adams’ waiting family. As of this morning, news reports do not know the cause of death, as to what went wrong. Was he caught up in the sudden snow storms, did he lose his bearings, did he slip, have a heart attack…??? We may never know. He was experienced, having climbed Denali, Rainer, El Capitan—-he was no stranger to the mountains….he had been up and down Mt. Hood….but…..

And that seems to be the way with the mountains—they sweetly whisper your name, calling you to come, higher and higher…just one more turn, one more step upward—rewards are massive…but risks are ever greater….The one thing that has stuck with me from all of this is the comment that Dr. Adams’ brother-n-law made to the media Sunday before the body had been spotted—Kinley Adams was a strong Christian believer whose faith was such that it was indeed just that– faith…”Faith is not about knowing your future, it’s about knowing who is in charge of your future.”……

and that is all any of us has—we don’t know the future, but Someone greater does…………