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 place and what a wonderful way to spend your birthday! Do they still have those two enormous St Bernards?

What a beautiful way to spend your birthday. Gorgeous, just gorgeous!

What a wonderfully magical looking birthday! I love to discover the places that dreams are made of...and although my birthday wont be nearly as delightful I will do my best to dream :)

wonderful is right...your writing, the photos & timberline...i might need to make some reservations...

so glad you had such a beautiful deserve it ;)

happy birthday - looks like an amazing place - love your boots?

So beautiful! I always love your photos - and this Inn looks so lovely! I love WPA and CCC built things (except in my area there are no inns....just national parks and trails) - thanks for sharing with the rest of us! :)

Beautiful - I'm jealous - I want to be tucked up on that sofa with my knitting and a roaring fire. Happy birthday.

Wow, I almost felt that I was there. It was very fairy tale like, Harry Potter too. Really magical. What a nice birthday gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Awwww, thanks for sharing your super cozy birthday! What fun!



enchanting! what a great way to spend your bday!

Just perfect. I hope your whole year continues to unfold as wonderfully as this birthday.

Beautifully written, Alicia! My heart felt a tug about F.D. Roosevelt in his wheelchair, it also brought to mind the story you wrote in the Feb/March 2008, Hallmark magazine, which also was so beautifully written (I cried). My youngest Daughter spent some time in a wheelchair when she was a child. I remember, as her Mom, seeing that same heartache you described. I am so glad your wish came true! :) Lovely photos too!

what a wonderful birthday present! Loved your words about the lodge - it looks and sounds incredible...if I ever see Oregon I'd love to go there.

Oh, forgot...I made your ice skate ornament for my daughter's therapist who used to be a competitive figure skater & she was floored...she loved it! :)

oh wagonwheel! this was such a fantastic post to read and I could just feel it all.

thanks for sharing!

I love Timberline lodge. We were lucky enough to have friends who lived in a magical cabin on Mount Hood, just down the road from the lodge. I never visited in winter though. Gorgeous!

Sounds like a perfectly beautiful time. :)

i. want. to. go. there.
(the lounging by the gigantic fireplace sounds especially fantastic.)
what a perfect birthday gift!

What a magical time and place!

& Thank you for sharing the story of the lodge with us - I love all the stories of the WPA and seeing the things that were accomplished. (I wish we could resurrect it now!)

Happy week to you!

What beautiful photographs!!! I am so impressed with that lodge! You portrayed it magnificently!

Bliss. Glad it was yours to enjoy.

As I was reading this, I just happened to be listening to the instrumental version of "Christmastime Is Here" By Vince Guaraldi. It was the perfect back drop to your story.

Ah, winter, the time of reflection and drowsiness by the fire. I'm so glad you got to have such a serene and happy birthday in such a beautiful place.

Happy birthday Ms. Posie- may all of them be serene.

That sounds so perfect...I miss living on the West Coast!

Wow. Wow! I will go here one day. This is exactly what I've been craving. Thank you for sharing your birthday.

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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