The Lodge in the Cloud

comments: 148


To get there, you drive up the mountain. Through the pine trees and snow drifts, you weave up and up. When you get to the lodge, the air is cold, the fog almost crystalline: There at the tree line, you're in a cloud.


For my birthday this year, we went to Timberline Lodge with our friends Josh and Keely. It had been a few years since we'd been there, but at Timberline that doesn't matter. At Timberline, it's like time stands still.


Built in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration project, the lodge perches on the edge of the south side of Mt. Hood, overlooking the valley of pine trees that stretches out beneath it. Crafted out of local timber and recycled iron; furnished with handmade tables, chairs, sofas, and beds; decorated with curtains woven from old Civilian Conservation Camp uniforms; dotted with paintings of wildflora and fauna found no further than a mile from its doors, Timberline Lodge was built by Oregonians left weary and destitute by the Great Depression. When the vast majority of the four hundred workers arrived on the mountain, they had no special building, carving, weaving, sewing, or ironworking skills. They were shown what to do by a few skilled designers, and they built the great lodge right out of the side of the mountain by hand, in eighteen months. When President F. D. Roosevelt came to Timberline to deliver the dedication speech on September 28, 1937, he said, "Now I find myself in one of our many national forests, here on the slopes of Mt. Hood, where I've always wanted to come," and when I sat in the little history room watching the video and heard him say it, I cried, remembering what it was like to sit in a wheelchair and want things, feeling what it is like, in that moment, to get them. I have always been very moved by this mountain, and by this place. I know from my own experience that making things with your hands can turn times of desperation and fear into moments of grace and peacefulness, and the objects that result have earned their sincere and soulful beauty. When I walk around Timberline, touching the banisters, I am so grateful that we've been given this gift. It's been a gift, in different ways, to so many people.


We arrived at noon.


Just in time for lunch.


And then we settled in. The head house is octagonal, with big windows on every side, and sofas set up by fireplaces. Early in the afternoon, there are lots of people visiting. I waited for an open spot by the fireplace and we moved in. Andy asked me how I'd scored the spot and I said, "Oh, I just walked up to those people said, 'Excuse me, it's my birthday and I was wondering if you could move so my friends and I could sit by the fireplace?' " And Andy said, incredulous, "You DID?!?" And I said, "Gotcha [wink]!" No.


I just bided my time like a huntress, and then we quickly set about the lounging.






Hours passed. Slowy but surely, the daytrippers cleared out. The windows turned blue, the inside more and more gold.


Evenutally, dinner.


So many perfect hours in a row.


Swimming outside in the hot pot near the frozen trees, and then to bed, hoping for snow.


In the morning, no new snow, but pearl-gray light: We get up early. A snow jogger trots past the window.




When I was a little girl, I had a book of Russian fairy tales. So I've been here before.




From where I sat at breakfast: Our rooms were somewhere in there.


After waffles and coffee, Keely and I headed upstairs for more sofas and windows, and Josh and Andy went snowboarding. Both nurses, we figured they could apply first aid lest one of them (the gangly one who hasn't snowboarded in twelve years and almost can't stand still [talking (rather adorably) from the second balcony at the top of his lungs] he is so excited to go) wiped out.


But everything went great. I was so happy.


Except that it was time to go.


And I didn't want to go.


"Headed down south, to the land of the pine. . . ."


A place and people I love: Lucky, lucky birthday girl. 


Beautiful perfection!!
Happy late Birthday....

What a beautiful place. Thank you so much for sharing.
My shoulders actually dropped when I looked at the pic of the tea -- isn't that the most beautiful way to enjoy the art of tea?

"When I was a little girl, I had a book of Russian fairy tales. So I've been here before."

I love this for so many reasons!

What a wonderful time you had. :-D

As always, you know exactly how and what to write. :) Glad you had a nice birthday!

what a beautiful place! happy birthday!

That is a beautiful place! So magical looking the pictures make everything look like it's glowing with firelight and fairy dust!

I have to ask, wheelchair friendly? Still stuck, well, forever stuck in my chair I am always looking for magical places that transcend where I sit. Happy Birthday!

Oh my....I am SOOOO putting this on my list of places to visit....It is VERY much like Lake Quinault Lodge in Washington State.....Roosevelt visited there too....No snowboarding as it's in a rain forest, but it's just delish. I can relate to the wheelchair experience as well. Tough time.

I'm so glad you had such a wonderful visit.

Warm hugs,

Having been fortunate enough to visit Timberline a few times, I can't imagine a more wonderful place to spend a January birthday! The beautiful photos brought back great memories and I'm glad you had such a wonderful time.

happy birthday alison -- if you ever stop crafting (I know, I know, unthinkable), you could have a career as a travel writer -- love the pix, text, everything

i suppose it is your birthday gift to US.

What a beautiful post. My husband's grandfather was a key player in Timberline's iron work. You can also see his work in a restaurant in Northeast Portland ... I can't remember the name ... It's a McMenamins and it used to be a funeral home. Anyhow, he was a talented ironworker. I can't wait to show your post to my husband.

That looks like a magical place to be, so picturesque.

Looks like a wonderful place! I love old rustic lodges up in the woods. Very cozy and old world. Coincidentally...I just posted about a lodge in Keene, NY up in the Adirondacks that we visit. I hope you get to take a look.

When I was in elementary school I learned the Oregon state song, "Oregon, My Oregon", I believe it's called. "Land of the empire builders..." is how it starts out and it's now running through my head. I love Timberline Lodge. I love Oregon and think that a big part of my heart will always live there. Thanks for sharing your life and Oregon tidbits on your blog. And, happy belated birthday!

Gasp! Do I see Andy in a shirt that is not plaid?!

A belated happy birthday to you. I am so glad you got to spend it in such a spectacular way. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

The birthday trip of my dreams!! Must show my husband this post, my birthday is in a in a few short weeks...hmmm..x

I am so doing this for my birthday next year... Thanks for inviting us along!

What a BEAUTIFUL place! Reminds me so much of the Awahnee in Yosemite. Happy Birthday!

You are lucky indeed. I love Timberline. My brother lives in Portland and he has taken me there several times. I miss OR, and your blog is a lovely reminder of the times I spent there. Thanks for sharing!!!

What a lovely place to spend your birthday. We just visited our daughter and family in Eugene over Christmas (we're from Upstate NY) and we drove up to see Mt. Hood but we didn't get up to Timberline -- wish we had!! Happy belated birthday!

Happy Birthday Alicia! (late)... What a way to spend your celebration. I always am so inspired by your photography and writing about the places you visit. I'm so glad that there are people in the world like you who appreciate these places.

Thank you so much for posting your lovely pics of the lodge. I can never get enough. I live in Portland and Timberline Lodge is like my second home. As a child, I spent every Christmas there, but my favorite trip of all time was the romantic 10th anniversary stay with my husband. There was a wonderful lightening storm (the first I had ever seen in the thousands of times I had been there). Truly a magical place to spend your birthday. Lucky you.

Hi Alicia!
I just realized that the reason you seemed familiar at Josh and Keely's "let's make it official!" wedding thingy, (Which was awesome, I just don't know exactly what to call it!), is that I really like your blog! Funny. I am not as consistent on the internet as most people, so it took me a bit to figure this out. Well, anyway. I would love to share with you some of the awesomes that I finished for christmas and are working on now. Yay for crafting and friends who craft!!
(ps- the blog that my comment is linked to is shared with my sister, or rather it's her blog and sometimes I pop up with a sneaky post, again, I'm not as consistent on the web!)

Thank you for this post, which brings back such happy memories of this wonderful place. My husband and I spent our honeymoon here last September, after years and years of wanting to visit from Scotland.

I hope one day we get to visit again, but in the meantime, your photos and words instantly transported me back.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at