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. 


Oh how nice! I remember going to Timberline Lodge when I was a girl. I love how places like that don't change. My two favorite activities in a snow lodge: reading and knitting. Too.

Now - someone's been lucky. i think we're all secretly / openly jealous of your day. fantastic!

I love going on (virtual) vacation with you!

Looks like it was a magical stay... we had planned to be "day trippers" when we were up in December visiting our son and DIL but he got sick and well our trip to the Lodge was canceled. Next time!

Susan, Tsawwassen BC Canada says: January 12, 2010 at 10:35 AM

I read this while listening to classical music on the radio ... and it was pure poetry, Alicia. And what you said about "making things with your hands can turn times of desperation and fear into moments of grace and peacefulness ..." goes into my journal today.

Wow! What a perfect spot for a birthday getaway. Again, many happy birthdays to you Alicia! BTW, what are you knitting?

Clearly your a gal who knows how to celebrate a birthday! It looked wonderful!

what a spectacular birthday! best wishes!

JoDell Ricker says: January 12, 2010 at 11:07 AM

I loved the way you wrote about Timberline, it gives you such a warm feeling to be there. So glad you got to go with your husband and friends for your birthday. We live in Sandy so most days we have a great view of the mountain.

In the pic just above the "Russian fairy tales" caption, the two trees in the background look like a soldier dancing with a lady in a long dress. See it?
Thanks for posting these.

A fairytale indeed... sigh

So fun to read your post. My husband surprised me with his proposal at Timberline on a magical evening in 2009. Our 10 year anniversary this year! It was November and it had snowed as we were driving up and he engineered a private table by the fire for our romantic dinner. I also loved the snow falling as we celebrated in the hot tub and later by our fire. Thanks for your beautiful description - so many wonderful memories!

oops I meant 1999! Math is not my strong subject!

that was just beautiful -thank you! and the words from roosevelt were heart wrenching.

i'm thumbin' my way into north caroline......

(those cooler than cool boys were here last year (nz) and it was concert of the year for me - and i hear they are coming back in march!!!)

OCMS Lyrics! Yay!

And sofas and windows with a good friend sounds like a perfect birthday. amazing. You should write their advertisements...oh did. I've never heard of the lodge but its totally an obsessive dream of mine now...30 seconds after beginning your post. Truly dreamlike.

Happy Birthday!

hi alicia!
we are so blessed to live in the Pacific NW. there are so many beautiful lodges like Timberline. Mt. Rainier has a beautiful lodge built around the same time. and have you been to the Oregon Caves? the lodge there is beautiful! i haven't had the pleasure of staying there, but it looks wonderful!

Dyepotgirl says: January 13, 2010 at 03:25 AM

Happy belated Birthday! I just love your blog! Your pictures are just so beautiful, and they make me look at ordinary things in new and much more appreciative ways. They make me realize that everything looks beautiful and amazing when you look at it from the right perspective. I live on the opposite coast and I'm learning so much about the west coast that now I want to visit even more!
I'm a fiber and textile junkie, who found the fiber arts again after an injury and illness. I was very moved by your comment about wanting something so badly and then getting it. I had a different set of circumstances but I know exactly what you mean, and what that feels like. You put it so well.
So, I guess I'm now officially a fan. Your blog is very homey (I mean this in the nicest way!) and cozy indeed. It's one of my favorite places to visit. Thanks for the hospitality.

What a touching and beautiful post! I love Mountain Lodges! What a wonderful birthday. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Alicia...Just had the pleasure of seeing OCMS (for the second time) at the Ryman Auditorium on New Year's was one of the most amazing live shows I have ever seen!

My boyfriend and I have been talking about moving to Portland. He has family there and in Seattle. This lovely place and your beautiful pictures are giving me more leverage with him :) Beautiful and Happy Birthday!

Timberline is the perfect place to enjoy a birthday weekend! Warm birthday wishes to you!

That photo of Andy framed in the doorway made me gasp audibly. Just WOW! What a place to have your birthday. I hope this was every bit as happy as it looks, Alicia!

absolutely heavenly

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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