Timberline Lodge 'shines' in the snowy Northwest

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The music moans a slow, haunting undertone, quietly building as the TV screen displays an aerial view of a small road as it weaves between a thick forest of pine trees. Suddenly, a majestic, unique and rustic lodge splashes across the screen.

The beautiful lodge emanates mystery and terror. As the screen flickers, you're drawn into a ghastly story of an isolated winter innkeeper and his family, who are haunted by the ghosts of the previous lodge keeper, who was driven by the lodge's isolation to insanity and the ax murders of his family.

Your heart palpitates, your palms sweat and you swear you would never visit such a place! Who can forget Jack Nicholson in his famous "Here's Johnny" scene. Most people know the name of the film: "The Shining." What most people don't know is the name and place of the lodge shown in the opening scene.

The infamous lodge and historic landmark is Timberline Lodge, nestled in the back pocket of Portland, Ore., and a short 45- to 60-minute drive from the city center. I sat here for a good hour trying to describe the beauty on paper -- but it simply can't be done.

I travel around the world, and maybe I am biased, but there are few things as beautiful and unique as the lodge, and the view offered from the top of Mount Hood is simply breathtaking. I was literally looking down from what seemed to be the top of the world with a sea of clouds blanketing the Earth as far as the eye could see. In all fairness, the day I arrived was not a typical Oregon day. For one thing the sun was shining without a cloud in the Northwest sky. This clear winter day was hard to believe in this land where the average daily rainfall exceeds the monsoon season of any tropical island.

But I was thankful for the glorious day regardless of how rare the winter sun may be. Timberline Lodge is the only slope-side lodge of its kind in Oregon, and it was constructed of mammoth timbers and native rock in 1937. Everything about this resort is unique, down to her hand-crafted doors and rooms.

The brochure summed it up best, "Timberline Lodge is a tribute to the true spirited of the rugged Northwest." Hand-hewn stairs wind around huge stone fireplaces where you can seek your own special view and bask in the beauty. It is a place you just want to curl up and stay -- soaking in the mountain, the history, the world-class cuisine.

Here are a few facts that make a trip to Timberline Lodge a experience you'll never forget:

1. Where else is there a dog named Bruno? There has been a Saint Bernard on watch for generations. The lodge has had a St. Bernard as a symbol of mountain adventure since the beginning of its operation.

2. Where else can you ski year-round? On Palmer Snowfield -- that's where. The Palmer ski lift is located at the 8,500-foot level on Mt. Hood. It is a permanent snowfield that allows the staff at timberline to operate year-round. Shorts, tee-shirts and even swim suits can be the average dress for summer skiing! You had better be pretty good on those boards, because one fall and who knows where you'll get a "snow rash."

3. Timberline Lodge sits on an active volcano: Okay, there is no red-hot lava flowing (Go to Hawaii for that.), but I swear I saw some steam! Like most of the peaks in the Cascade Range, Mt. Hood is considered dormant. I hope this wasn't the same guy who said Mt. Saint Helen's was dormant. The fact is there are occasional slight tremors, and what I saw was called "steam vents," but I was assured there have been no eruptions for many, many years.

4. The lodge is filled with secret signs and hidden history: If you want to go on a quest to learn some pretty awesome history and wild decoding -- this is the place. Everywhere you turn there is a carving, wall etching, stone marking with a hidden meaning or deep secret. There is a historian or Forestry Service guide. But I found my best tour guide was Bruno, who drooled and grunted his way across the lobby, which I discovered lead to a side stair case leading to a underground lounge called the Rams Head, where I ordered a wicked cup of hot chocolate.

5. Cheap, cheap skiing. Tickets are $32 a day and night skiing just $19. Hey, I'd pay that just to see the view! A visit to Timberline Lodge is a haunting experience, but not the kind reflected in the movie "The Shining." Only the outside of the lodge was used in the movie, and no ghosts have been found lurking in the hallways. But I can promise you the most affordable skiing at a lodge you will want to visit again and again -- and did I mention the view?

Carolyn Kempf is president of Elite Travel in Cape Girardeau. (334-1234 or carolyn@elitetravelinc.com)

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