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What’s up with the 2021 Oregon hiking permits?

April 6th is a new holiday in Oregon: Hiking Permit Day! Here is a quick link to day use hikes and information about overnight trips. Starting at 7am on Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 you can ensure your place on Oregon’s wilderness trails between Memorial Day and the end of September. Although some permits will be saved for last minute trips, this expanded system works much like making a dinner reservation, except instead of palatable bites, you will have breathtaking views unencumbered by the crowds.

Our Together Anywhere Driving Tours cover this new change in depth on our tour along the McKenzie Scenic Highway 242. However, as this drive is only open June-November each year, we have provided excerpts from our tour here in this blog post so you can understand a bit about the need for this massive change to the Oregon hiking landscape.

The map below links to sites featured in our driving tours around the state.

The black pins on the map locate the general area of the new hiking permit regulations.

Let’s set the stage for this wild area… imagine yourself curving up Dead Horse Grade in your Suburu (or other outdoorsy vehicle), catching glimpses of sun rays poking through the thick forest and smelling the recent rain mixed with Douglas firs from your half-down window. You are smiling, of course, because you know you are driving towards your favorite place: an adventure to the mountains of some of Oregon’s most pristine wilderness. And better yet, you are even more intrigued as you listen to these stories on your way, connecting you to the area as you travel towards your destination. You are not only immersed in the nature, you are connected to the history, the ancestors, and of course, you feel super intelligent because you also now understand why the expanded permit system is necessary.

Audio except: Ok friends, we have passed the gate and we are heading further into the woods and towards some of the best hiking in Oregon. We are going to dive deep into discussing hikes and the new permitting system rules for a bit but before we do, let’s talk about a murder at Alder Springs.

Many parts of Oregon’s wilderness areas are marked by thick, old growth forests.

We are traveling back to 1898 with two men, Claude Branton, and Courtland Green assisting John Linn with bringing livestock west over the pass. They stopped to camp for the night at Alder Springs and on the evening of June 15, Claude shot and killed good ole John with a revolver. The men buried John Linn and burned a fire on top of his gravesite, one playing the harmonica while the other sang hymns during this insincere funeral rite. Claude Branton was tried, convicted, and hung in Eugene less than one year later while Courtland Green was sentenced to life in prison but later pardoned. Ok who’s ready to go camping in the dark woods? Ha ha. Alder Springs is of course without incident these days and offers a rustic, tent only and free campground with just six sites!

Across the road is the trailhead to Linton Lake, a 1.9 mile trail to a beautiful destination with difficult to access but stunning waterfalls dropping into Linton Creek. Starting in 2021, only two overnight group permits will be offered for this site between Memorial Day and the last Friday in September each night.

In the 21st century, there is a new struggle facing this wilderness: overuse. The 1964 Wilderness Act made a first stand against overuse and protected these areas as places “where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man.” Like national parks, wilderness areas are federally protected natural areas where motorized and mechanical travel is strictly controlled to ensure its sustainability. The highway driving through the wilderness area is the exception. In 45 of Oregon’s 47 wilderness areas, hikers have generally had free reign, but that has left marks on the vegetation, wildlife, and terrain.

While many national parks and popular hikes in other states have permitting systems, Oregon has only ever had two trails that required permits to hike since the 1990s: the Pamelia Lake hike in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness and the Obsidian Trail hike up ahead. Conservation managers noticed how the two areas were being loved to death in the early 1990s and the answer was a permit system to allow the forest to recover, bringing back natural scenery and solitude. The success of the permitting system on those two trails is now being expanded as Oregon continues its growth as an outdoors and tourist destination.

A peak finder sits on top of Dee Wright Observatory. North and Middle Sister mountains are in the distance.

With up to 500 cars per day in the summer, the visitation of the Three Sisters Wilderness nearly tripled between 2010 and 2019. It is named Three Sisters Wilderness for the South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister mountains, two of which you will see from the Dee Wright Observatory. After 2021, all trailheads require permits for overnight use in the Three Sisters and Mount Washington Wilderness areas and 12 trailheads require permits for day use only. Permits will cost between six and ten dollars when you make your reservations on recreation.gov or grab one of the few same day or next day permits held back. The best way to stay informed of course is to visit the forest service centers during their open hours in McKenzie Bridge (Highway 126) or in the town Sisters (Highway 20/22). The fines for hiking without a permit are large and the low cost of permits makes them accessible to all, now with fewer people and more pristine environment. All we need to do now is plan a bit more in advance…not a bad deal to save these unique Oregon areas.

A couple quick highlights before I go:

Obsidian Limited Entry Area, one of the two original permit areas in Oregon since 1995. This limited entry area takes you through alpine meadows, crystal clear streams, volcanic lava and finally to the obsidian cliffs. Obsidian, or dragonglass if you are a Game of Thrones fan, is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that was important to Native Americans for constructing their tools. The Obsidian Trail is a difficult 12 mile loop intersected by other routes taking you to Scott Trail, Matthieu Lakes Loop, Linton Meadows, or, if you are up for nearly a week of trekking in this wilderness, the 50 mile Three Sisters Loop that encircles the large mountains found on the south side of the road. If you are interested in hiking here, don’t forget to plan in advance and please leave it better than you found it, following the ever important Leave No Trace outdoor ethics for us lovers of the outdoors. Also, as with any hike, make sure you have your Ten Essentials to be prepared for minor injuries, sudden weather changes, or unexpected delays.

Taylor Allen’s Scott Lake reflection.

If it is a clear day, I recommend taking a turn into Scott Lake area off of Highway 242 so you can capture the beautiful mirror imagery of the mountains being reflected by the lake. Found down this road, the trailhead near the lake also serves as the entry point for some Mount Washington Wilderness area hikes to Scott Mountain and Benson, Tenas, and Hand Lakes. Remember, if you are stopping here for a hike or backpacking, make sure to have those permits! The separate Scott Trail has a parking area directly after the turnoff from 242 and requires you to walk back over the highway to get started. Scott Lake, Scott Pass, Scott Mountain, Scott Trail, so who is this Scott guy? Well I briefly mentioned him before as the man who hired a team of over 50 men to build a trail for delivery of cattle into the gold mining populations found in eastern parts of Oregon and into Idaho during the early 1860s. While Felix Scott got all the name recognition, it was one of the men he hired, John Craig, who really got things going.

For more stories and to hear more about John Craig, make sure to download our driving tours that are expanded across Oregon in 2021 and beyond. Download the app on Apple or Google Play. Your adventure is ready with Together Anywhere.

Artwork pinned at the top of the page is by Taylor Allen of Eugene, Oregon. Find his artwork here.

Travel, grief and self-care: Reflections from a pandemic – Part One

“Try not to become a (wo)man of success, but rather try to become a (wo)man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

Together Anywhere launched it’s travel app in 2019, in the height of Oregon tourism and optimism. Travel to the state was at an all time high and we were excited to bring a new, innovative alternative to touring around this complex land, connecting travelers to its stories and bountiful nature. 2020 was going to be our year to really test and expand our product and then… well, we all know what happened. First, a pandemic, then racial justice movements (that were long overdue IMHO), an intense election year, and finally, wildfires completely transformed the scope of the Oregon travel landscape. But as a new business, in our minds, if we wanted to survive, we just couldn’t stop trying.

We really tried to move with the changing tides while trying to delicately promote our socially distant friendly app during the summer of 2020. However, all actions felt like one step forward and two steps back. Finally in September, after the wildfires, after many tears, much frustrations, and deteriorating mental and physical health, we gave up trying so hard. We succumbed to the beast of 2020 and settled in to the grief of losing what we so desperately had been trying to “save.” And we are not gone, just recovering and healing.

This post highlights the personal story of TA partner Christy as it feels important during this heightened time of mental health awareness, honoring the passion for this work we do. I (Christy) believe the connection to self-understanding and reflection is required for growth and movement forward. During the first six months of the pandemic, my attempts at perceived success had ultimately depleted my value of self-care. Now, one year later, I reflect on my own understanding of grief and what I learned as a new small business owner trying to survive amidst the grief of 2020. My next post (Part Two) will focus on the journey of grief specific to our changing business over the last year.

The three TA partners (Arnaud, Christy, Andrew) in June 2019 at our launch event on the McKenzie River tour (now much destroyed due to wildfires).

Part One: I’ve been studying grief for a long time. Rather, first I experienced grief, then studied grief, then experienced, then studied… play, pause, repeat. The losses incurred at a young age sent my teenage self into an existential crisis far too early and the search for meaning and purpose were launched, often resulting in self-destructive, then redemptive behaviors. You have likely heard the initial stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression… I bounced between the symptoms like a pinball for nearly twenty years. It was tiring.

Early on, I found a modicum of healing through music, learning to connect and express my unspeakable feelings through the words and notes of others. In college, my path drifted towards helping others, as the altruism provided a needed distraction from my own, still much broken self. My healing was also supported by wonderful family and friends. But as anyone who has been depressed can tell you, our family and friends still can’t “save” us.

TA partners Andrew and Christy performing at Bear Creek in Scio, Oregon 2015. Photo by Judd Sawyer.

I have only recently determined that it was when I discovered travel – and really, solo travel – that I was able to begin learning how to connect with myself. In my reflection, I recognize that my angry youth and depressed twenties were interspersed with family, friend and group adventures to various parts of the United States, Canada and Europe, providing brief respites from my general apathy and unease.

Then, at 25 years old, I took my first solo cross-country trip I obviously titled my “Journey to the West.” A Midwestern worldview of the big, bad unknowns had kept me from taking the leap into the abyss of what I might discover on the road alone. After all, the world is scary, right? Fuck it. I was ready to be scared. After all, I had mastered the various stages of grief up to this point… denial, bargaining, anger, depression. Unbeknownst to me, a road trip that began as a post-breakup escape, would launch the final stage of the grief journey I had started so young: acceptance.

The digital camera dates this pic to 2005. Would I even stop to photograph commonplace pine trees these days?

When I think about this time, this trip, this birth of independence, I can only now frame it as the most important leap I ever took. Finally, nearly 16 years after that first transformative journey, I am starting to find the words to describe why it mattered so much to me. I guess I had always been programmed to think I was running from myself when, in actuality, I have been utilizing a resource for my toolkit of healing: travel. For me, travel not only fulfills my need to see beyond myself and my own story, it brings me into alignment with the beauty that I miss when I am stuck in the dredge of day to day existence.

My solo camping setup at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

After my “Journey to the West”, many more years of solo and group travel emerged, too many crazy beautiful stories to recount. This self-revolution would also lead me to relocate to Oregon at the age of 28. I love living in a place that can replicate a week long vacation in just a couple hours of drive time. It is my belief that Oregon is one of the most magical places on earth.

Through travel, I have found adventure, passion, growth through conflict and perceived fear, connections beyond my wildest imaginations, and yes, love. It’s a love for self, others, and the world that one does not get to see when in the throws of depression. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, through grieving yet another perceived loss, I had to do what I always do to discover these realizations: travel. Sure, it looks a lot different but it is still possible. More on that next post.

Looking back at these parts of my history, it now makes perfect sense to me why starting Together Anywhere is so much a part of my being. And I also understand why it has hurt so much over the last year. And I also understand why allowing the grief process to occur was necessary to experience in moving forward. The cloud has been lifting and I’m now emerging from my grief. I’m ready to again try hard but this time from a place of passion and purpose versus fear of failure. Yes, success matters but my value matters more. And I’m still traveling down the road, discovering what is next, moving forward with a healthy amount of tragic optimism… And we are still here together, anywhere!

On the road, somewhere in Wyoming, February 2021.

Apparently I’m not the first person to touch on this topic of travel and grief. For further reading:


https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/travel-in-mind/201202/why-you-should-vacation-while-grieving

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/travel-grief

https://eterneva.com/resources/traveling-while-grieving

On a break, on the road

As for most around the world, 2020 has been a long and winding road. As for Together Anywhere, a new, small travel business, we were a bit unprepared for a pandemic and the largest decline in the tourism industry. We slowed down, we learned, and yet, we continued moving forward.

In May 2020, tensions rose again as our attention turned to the continued gap in awareness of inequity in our state and country. And yet, Together Anywhere continued moving forward doing what we know how to do best: tell stories. We wrote stories of race in Oregon and highlighted the history that formed some of our shameful present.

By August, we released our Mount Hood driving tour and we thought the worst had passed. Our sights were set on our next tours around Oregon and picking up those final touches on the Cascades routes. Next, something no one could have ever predicted… Oregon was on fire.

September 8th, 2020, around 5pm in the afternoon in Salem, Oregon.

We chose to start a travel business because we love to connect to the places and the people around us. However, we realize that as of September 2020, this is a time for healing in Oregon, not promoting tourism.

After the fires, we decided to unplug for a bit. No social media, no undue pressures to meet deadlines. We are aiming to take care of ourselves, connect to earth, to ourselves, and heal. On September 25, we took to the road, reconnecting with our travel roots and reminding ourselves of the healing in nature, in the unknown, and in slowing down. We’ve seen friends, we’ve seen new places, we’ve seen ourselves. Our true selves, not the selves that are worn out and tired from trying hard to fight against nature.

Traveling in a global pandemic is surprisingly easy. We rent private Airbnbs, we cook our own food, we avoid crowded places (especially in places that don’t seem to know there is a pandemic happening… I’m talking to you Sandpoint, Idaho).

Pictures of our travel so far with more to come:

  • Rowena Crest on the Columbia River Gorge
  • An awesome dog park in the Tri-Cities in Washington
  • Our cute cabin outside Sandpoint, Idaho
  • Hiking around Lake Pend Orielle and visiting local spots in Sandpoint, Idaho
  • Conflicting political signs
  • Canyons on the way to Montana
  • Our Airbnb in Kalispell, Montana
  • Glacier National Park
  • Visiting with friends in Helena, Montana.

We will be back with more!

Boring to Wild(wood): A Mount Hood Highway Driving Tour

One of the most special drives in Oregon has to be the approach to Mount Hood. This drive provides the traveler with an experience of the best parts of this state we love: old growth forests, waterfalls, dramatic mountain views, and volcanic topography. And then there is the hiking… and biking… and stories! Did you know the Oregon Trail came right through here? And that it is one of the oldest tour routes in the state? Well I am going to have to break up this trip into multiple posts because there really is just too much to share, this first part will cover only 20 miles of the journey. I will be back for more later.

Intro to Mount Hood Scenic Byway Driving Tour

This segment and so much more is best heard and experienced on our GPS audio tour app of the Mount Hood National Forest. Together Anywhere has a separate app highlighting the Central Cascades of Oregon. Our interactive map below displays highlights of the various tours Together Anywhere has created. The maroon points on the top are the ones described here in this post.

A screenshot of the same area in the Together Anywhere app! No reading, just drive and listen.

Driving east on Highway 26, we cross into Clackamas County, named after the Clackamas Indians, who were part of the Chinookan people. Clackamas was one of the original 4 districts of the pre-state Oregon Country established in 1843. Clackamas County’s Mount Hood Territory contains many rivers, numerous lakes, 50 parks, and over one thousand miles of trails. I won’t have time to tell you about all that there is to discover here. But the website, MtHoodTerritory.com has in depth information on the abundance of year round recreation opportunities including several foodie and farm trails and an informative historic heritage trail app. My hopes are only to keep things from becoming boring, but if you like Boring, the town is just off the exit ahead. Boring takes its name from a pioneer settler whose family established here in 1856. Interestingly, the town sits upon a 2.6 million year old lava field and has nearly 80 extinct lava vents.

One notable place in Boring is the North American Bigfoot Center. The legend of Bigfoot has created intrigue, entertainment, merchandise, and controversy surrounding the fact or fiction debate for centuries. Have you ever seen the 100-episode show ‘Finding Bigfoot’ on Animal Planet? One of the four cast members, Cliff Barackman, known for his scientific mind and research skills, opened this gift store and partially free exhibit hall in 2019.

North American Bigfoot Center off Highway 26

It is located to the left after you take the exit ramp, near the Shell gas station. With his detailed displays of Bigfoot photos and data, you can finally, once and for all, determine for yourself, if the legend of Bigfoot is real.

Boring isn’t so boring after all, is it?

As we approach the city of Sandy, we will gradually slow down all the way to 25 miles per hour. After a few stop lights, I will point out a turn to a scenic overlook called Jonsrud Point. This is one of the best places to photograph Mount Hood on a clear day. If the skies are favorable and you have a few minutes to spare, I recommend a stop. I also have a story and some tips to share as you make your way to the viewing platform.

View of Mount Hood from Jonsrud Point

When the first emigrants happened upon the bounties of Oregon, there was no computer or internet, no phones, no light bulb, no antibiotics, no refrigerators, no cameras, and certainly no cars. So how did people get around? The Native Americans and early settlers went by foot, horse, and boats. In 1845, the first Oregon Trail families found a way to bring wagons around the mountain. I will tell you more of the famous, or infamous, wagon trail on our return trip as this paved the way for the road we travel today. Around one hundred years ago, automobiles took over the roads and in 1925, this highway was officially opened. Tourism only stopped briefly during World War Two. Since then, it has been on the rise and Oregon tourism now generates over $12 billion dollars a year. There are many positive and negative impacts resulting from increased visitation. More dollars mean improvements to the infrastructure and thriving businesses but it often brings with it overcrowding on roads and in parking areas, disturbances to the environment and ecosystem, and local frustrations.

The parking at Timberline is inevitably crowded, especially on weekends, and no, not always with a line of Porsches.

If you have the chance, I encourage you try out the Mount Hood Express transit bus that runs seven days a week, multiple times a day from Sandy all the way to Timberline Lodge and back. The first hop-on point is on Champion Way turning right as you see a Fred Meyer. The free parking area is just across from the cinema. For just a few bucks a trip, or a little more for a day pass, you can explore the communities and popular stops along the corridor without contributing to the road and parking congestion. The busses are equipped with bike trailers and ski boxes for storing your recreational equipment as well. Another pick up location is at Centennial Plaza near the Sandy Historical Society building. However here, there are fewer opportunities to park a car for the day. Other car free initiatives include the carpool matching tool “Get There Oregon”, the Timberline Resort Shuttle running from Government Camp to Timberline, the Skibowl Village Shuttle, the Meadows Park and Ride and the Green Dream Bus from downtown Portland to Meadows ski area, in addition to various other charter services. The remainder of our drive today matches the route of the Mount Hood Express. I really hope you consider these options either today, or in the future, for contributing to a greener Oregon.

The Mount Hood Express travels in all weather… and during COVID with masks.

Here we are in Sandy, Oregon, also known as the Gateway to Mount Hood. The one way Pioneer Boulevard first passes the Sandlandia Food Carts, then several other outdoor and outfitter shops, the amazing Thai Home restaurant, multiple coffee stops, and eventually, Joe’s Donuts, the red and white checkered building that deserves a stop either now or on your way back from the mountain. The Sandy Mountain Festival is host to over 100 artists during the second weekend of July while seeing 30,000 visitors to this city of 10,000 residents. Sandy Area Metro is the city’s extensive public transit system, connecting all the way to the Portland TriMet’s Max light rail station back in Gresham. This, combined with the Mount Hood Express, means that travelers can go from downtown Portland or the Portland airport to Timberline for less than ten dollars. Public transportation at its finest if you ask me, and we can always use more of that. In fact, there is another pickup for the Mount Hood Express at the Centennial Plaza, on the left side of the road just near the beautiful cabin-like Sandy Historical Society Museum.

The museum in Sandy is FULL of interesting information about the area.

The museum is a great stop for history and tourist information. Sandy, named after the nearby Sandy River, is the last incorporated city on Highway 26 heading east for nearly 100 miles. Madras, in Central Oregon, is located on the other side of the Cascade mountains and has a drastically different climate and landscape ….which I’ll get into later. So stop in Sandy and stay for awhile unless you’re ready to dive into the Mount Hood National Forest. My introduction is just a few minutes down the road…and I can’t wait to share what I have in store for us!

Assuming traffic and weather are just right, it would take about 45 minutes to get to Timberline Lodge and Ski Area, nearly 6,000 feet up the mountain. However, I really urge you to take your time traveling down this stretch of highway. Not only is there much to do in this area, it is also one of a handful of safety corridors in the state. Typically, this means that the accident and fatality rate is over 150% of the average for a similar highway and extra safety measures have been taken. As the signs request, please turn your lights on and stick to the speed limit. This area has many unforeseen obstacles, like changing speed limits, changing number of lanes, pedestrians, bicycles, cars, trucks and buses turning on and off the highway, and of course, the impact of snow in high elevation areas.

As you approach Mount Hood, the chance for snowfall in winter increases exponentially.

Government Camp, less than 30 minutes away, receives 87 inches of rain and 246 inches of snow each year. Let’s compare that to Central Oregon on the other side of the Cascade mountains. Bend receives about 10% of that rain amount and only 8% of that snow. If you make it to the east side of the Cascades, you will notice a dramatic shift in the landscape. Different trees, different animals, and a very different climate. What this really means is that more than half of the year, there is some kind of precipitation happening on the mountain. This is a good thing for those who love the lush, green forests in the summers and super sick dumps to rip your way through the pow pow in the middle of the winter. No matter what the weather, I always find tripcheck.com to be a helpful resource when heading out on Oregon highways. Even with all of this precipitation, the summers can be quite dry. Every year, area residents and the forest services are on high alert for the threat of wildfires. Between lightning strikes, abandoned campfires, and other human events, the potential for wildfires is high during most Oregon summers. Initiatives like keeporegongreen.org and the US forest service’s famous 75 year old spokesman, Smokey Bear, do their best to educate visitors each year. “Remember… only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

Smokey the Bear and Otter the dog.

I hope it is one of those sunny Oregon days when the mountain is out. There are just too many great views of Mount Hood on the drive to direct your attention there each time. Plus, if it is snowy or raining, me talking about a mountain you can’t see behind the clouds would just be mean! I’ll leave the mountain view excitement to you in the car and instead tell you what I can about the Mount Hood National Forest, a great destination for all types of weather… if you have the right gear with you. The 1.1 million acre Mount Hood National Forest is one of the most visited forests in the United States welcoming over 4 million visitors annually. The national forest sits in six Oregon counties, offers numerous recreational opportunities, and provides drinking water for over one million Oregonians. There are eight Wilderness areas within the Mount Hood National Forest covering over 30% of the land such as the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. These Congressionally designated areas attempt to reduce the human impact on the land and wildlife, by prohibiting access to motorized vehicles and equipment. Outside of the wilderness areas, you can find one hundred developed campsites, navigable forest roads, motorized boating opportunities, and unique places like Timberline Lodge. The lodge is actually owned by the United States government and the facility is leased on a continual basis.

The federal government controls all the land around Mount Hood. They (we) even own Timberline Lodge!

Fun fact: Oregon has more forest roads than any other state with almost 71,000 miles belonging to the National Forests. That amount is three times the circumference of the earth! The next closest is California with 26,000 less miles to worry about. Maintaining roads is a difficult task for any state but when there are tens of thousands of miles, the amount of work is enormous. Forest roads are notorious for downed trees, road washouts, and rock falls in the spring and summer. In the winter and early spring, I wouldn’t even risk the chance of getting stuck or lost and, thankfully, most roads are blocked off and closed during these times of year. No matter what the weather, I really recommend that you check with rangers at the Zigzag Ranger Station if a forest road adventure or wild camping trip is in your future. If you are planning on spending any time outside of commercial entities, like going on a hike or visiting any national forest designated area, you should have a Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Annual Pass in your vehicle. And between November 15 and April 30, You are required to display a valid Sno Park permit behind the windshield of your vehicle when parking at designated winter recreation areas like Timberline Ski Area or any sno park.

There are 23 sno-parks (A-W) in that circular area above!

At this point in the drive, the Mount Hood Highway is right alongside the Sandy River. This river was shortened to be called “sandy” after it was named “Quicksand River” by the famous explorers Merriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805. They noted that the bottom of the river was unable to be walked across, as it had sand deposits at the mouth. This was the result of 18th century eruptions that had flowed all the way to where it joins the Columbia River. Along with the Salmon River, the Sandy River is one of the two nationally designated Wild & Scenic Rivers and originates from the glaciers on Mount Hood. Both rivers are the focal points for many hikes, waterfalls, fishing trips, whitewater boating, and camping. The two rivers meet up ahead in Brightwood near the Sandy Salmon Bed and Breakfast Lodge. You will notice on the map that we will pass through many small communities with names like Brightwood, Welches, Wemme, Zigzag, and Rhododendron.

A suspension walking bridge outside of Rhododendron.

Since 2006, the former towns have been collectively known as the Villages of Mount Hood. This designation allowed the local residents to form a quasi-government that gives more direct control over the issues that affect them like zoning, transportation and recreation. In fact, they are known as the ones responsible for the establishment of the Mountain Express, now known as the Mount Hood Express shuttle system. On the westbound tour, I will tell you more about the history of these communities. Two notable experiences are located on the other side of the Sandy River after crossing the Marmot Bridge off East Sleepy Hollow road. First is the Barlow Wayside Park, a one and a half mile trail system with a self-guided natural history brochure, an informational kiosk, and interpretive panels. This park receives about twice the annual rainfall amount of Portland and is full of a moisture rich habitat of trees, plants, and wetlands. The park connects to the Sandy Ridge Trail System, with a parking area just a bit further down East Barlow Trail Road. This mountain biking paradise has over 15 miles of multiple loops accessible year round. These two areas are part of the original Barlow Road and, if you don’t already, you will know all about what that means if you are joining me on the return trip down westbound Highway 26 in the future.

You won’t be surprised to find mountain bikers as hitchhikers along this stretch of road. Here is some guy we picked up on one of our trips.

We just passed the Sandy-Salmon River merger I spoke about before and crossed over the Salmon River. In just a few minutes, the speed limit will slow to 45 mph and remain low until we pass the community of Rhododendron. Just as the speed limit drops, look out for the Wildwood Recreation Site on the right side of the highway. Here you have a wonderful opportunity to explore the Salmon River’s calm lower section at this day use area maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. Restrooms, picnic areas, a playground, athletic fields, group shelters and kitchens, summertime swimming, fishing opportunities and hiking make this a popular year round destination. The Wildwood Wetland Trail is an easy, wheelchair accessible interpretive boardwalk and gravel trail that highlights the stories of a field naturalist. The Boulder Ridge Trail is a difficult half to full day adventure into the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness and connects to a larger network of trails towards four thousand foot Huckleberry Mountain. The crown jewel of Wildwood Recreation Site is the Cascade Streamwatch Trail, which features a unique below the surface level viewing chamber where you can observe native fish in their natural habitat of the Salmon River. What kind of native fish, you ask? Salmon of course! There are seven species of Pacific salmon and five of them can be found in North American waters. Can anyone name a few? I’ll tell you in just a minute.

Once you make it to Wildwood, you can choose your own adventure!

Even though the Cascade Streamwatch Trail is a short walk and also wheelchair accessible, I would plan to spend over an hour here as you sit and wait for the elusive salmon to arrive. The fall is your best opportunity when the spawning salmon, like the coho, make their yearly run. While you are at it, maybe you’ll see some wildlife like a beaver or river otter or one of the many bird species in the area… but more on this later. Wildwood’s online information indicates that it is open March through November but I was here in January with no indication of it closing for the season. Don’t forget to have your national park pass in the car or be ready to pay the daily use fee. Did you figure out the fish? The five types of North American salmon are: coho, chinook, chum, sockeye, and pink. Now you know… or maybe you already knew all five. In that case, well done.

Well, that is about it from Boring to Wild(wood). I will pick it up here next time. Happy adventuring and take us along with you next time by just downloading the app!

A painting of Mount Hood by our friend Taylor Allen.

Origin stories: Oregon craft beer, hops and the Brewpub Bill

Did you know that the modern beer scene in Oregon is less than 40 years old? In this post, you can learn why.

But first, some news. We are uploading our Mount Hood tour to the app store TODAY!!! The one hour drive from downtown Portland to Timberline Lodge and back gives us more of what we love: old growth forests, waterfalls, dramatic mountain views, and volcanic topography. And then there is the hiking… and boating… and biking… and stories! Ok, let’s just get to it!

Thirsty? Taste & believe at Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon.

We had so much fun, and put in a lot of research time, figuring out this story of Oregon beer. It is our longest narration yet at nearly 7 minutes long. And we share it here free! This is only one point of 88 on our new tour. Here we go:

You can listen to the text here while you scroll the pictures.

(Imagine you are driving west on I-84 toward Portland) Sticking with me all the way to the end? I knew I liked you. Provided there is little traffic, we have about ten minutes until we reach downtown Portland. There are so many interesting stories of this area to tell but I’m going to have to save most for another time. This upcoming story speaks to a passion of mine, especially post road trip: drinking beer. A quick warning, If it is one of those low traffic days and you are speeding down the highway, you might not get to hear the whole story.

Oregon has come a long way since being the first place in the US to instate prohibition laws.
In 2019, (state agency) Travel Oregon and Deschutes Brewery partnered to create the “Slightly Exaggerated IPA”.

Mmm…Mmm… I love a good Oregon beer. 

As we learned on our journeys to the Oregon wonders today, the history of this area is complex and riddled with disease and death, settlement and land rights and governmental chaos. The story of beer and other alcohol in Oregon is no different. The Oregon Territory, first settled by white Christian missionaries, is known as the first place to enact prohibition laws in the United States starting in 1844. However, it is likely that the harsh living conditions had the increasing amount of settlers wanting the escape offered by ‘spirits’, and that short lived prohibition was repealed just one year later. 

Then again, five years before the national prohibition in 1919, popular vote in Oregon restricted sales, advertisement and manufacturing of alcohol, including beer and wine. This ban led to the death of every successful brewery, except for one: Henry Weinhard’s. The website for Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve tells us: “Henry Weinhard left Germany in 1856 with nothing but a recipe, a copper kettle and a thirst to share his beers with the people of America.” He is fondly remembered for offering to pump beer into the Skidmore Fountain downtown at its dedication in 1887. His story was one an American immigrant’s dreams are made of: take an idea, find a place to plant it, and watch it grow. By the end of the 19th century, Henry Weinhard’s beer could be found across the United States and across the Pacific Ocean in Asia. He passed away one year before Portland hosted the World’s Fair, also known as the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Weinhard no doubt passed away knowing he was leaving behind a lasting legacy… and then everything changed. Thankfully, Weinhard was not alive to witness the near collapse of his beer empire during Prohibition. 

What would you have done during Prohibition Era? This one’s for you Judd Sawyer.

Henry Weinhard’s company, and legacy, weathered the Prohibition Era by selling non-alcoholic products like syrups, sodas, fruit juices, and popular for the time: ‘near beer.’ After Prohibition, the company merged, became Blitz-Weinhard and kept brewing beer in downtown Portland until 1999. Only one signature beer, ‘Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve’, can still be bought today… from MillerCoors. Some of the factory buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and can still be found at the original site, now known as the Brewery Blocks.

After the Prohibition Era ended in 1933, alcohol production and consumption was monitored by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, or OLCC. They set up laws with strict requirements which made it difficult for individuals to enter the industry. For fifty more years, beer drinking in Oregon was limited to production from large distributors like Blitz-Weinhard, Olympia and Rainier. Under the OLCC restrictions, home brewers were sharing their creations with friends and family while bootleggers were illegally selling. Not until the mid-1980s did the McMenamin brothers, the Widmer brothers, the Ponzis of BridgePort Brewing, and other beer stakeholders received legislative support for their ‘Brewpub Bill’. This concept of brewpubs finally allowed independent brewers the chance to sell their beer to the public. Now, there are a lot of things to love about the 80s, but the beginning of Oregon craft beer? That has to be my favorite!

Without the Brewpub Bill, places like Chatoe Rogue would not exist.

Let me first answer the question: what exactly is craft beer? Well, craft beers are usually created by small, independent brewmasters who place an emphasis on the quality and flavor using a variety of ingredients. 

Craft beer is now known for its’ creative marketing. In 2015, The Rachel Maddow Show covered a story about an Attack Owl in Salem and made signs for the city park as a joke. Salem played along and put them up. Vagabond Brewing then made an Attack Owl IPA.

Finding fresh hops for the recipe is an important step in creating craft beer. The hop plant, very closely related to the cannabis plant, is used as a preservative and balances out the sweetness of the grain, lending many beers their signature flavors and aromas. For instance, the popular India Pale Ale, or IPA, has an extreme abundance of hops to alter the taste towards bitterness. The symbiotic relationship of Oregon grown hops and brewing has had just as much of an impact on craft beer as did the Brewpub Bill.
For a while, there was friendly competition in pursuit of the hoppiest beer ones taste buds could handle. Oregon craft brewers were hoppy, I mean, happy, to participate, especially since many of the most sought after hops, like the Cascade and Willamette hops, are found in the lush fields of the Pacific Northwest. The Cascade hop plant, named after Oregon’s beloved Cascade Mountain Range, was developed at Oregon State University in the 1960s and has been a large factor in the transformation of the craft beer industry.

A hop field in Independence, Oregon.

Before the Brewpub Bill, there were only around 100 breweries in the United States. By the turn of the 20th Century, that had gone up to one thousand. In 2018, the craft beer industry had grown by over 750%. That’s right; nearly 8,000 breweries! 

Getting thirsty and looking for a taproom suggestion? Well, there are just too many to name and I really don’t like to play favorites, especially since I kind of like them all.

As of 2018, the Portland metropolis was home to over 100 craft breweries and over a third of all the breweries in the state. Just one year later, the saturated market saw multiple closures. Most notably was Bridgeport Brewing that had been Oregon’s oldest microbrewery, going back to when it’s founders helped pass the Brewpub Bill in 1984. Their flagship IPA should also forever be remembered as influential in starting the hop revolution.

There is nothing like hop field harvest in the fall.

A good place to learn about Oregon beer is to visit Oregoncraftbeer.org. Of course, a Google map search will probably show you a multitude of brewpubs just a couple minutes away. And while you enjoy sipping your pint of Oregon beer, may you rejoice in the impact of the Brewpub Bill, the craft brewery explosion and the hop revolution. Cheers!

This segment and so much more is best heard and experienced on our GPS audio tour app of Mount Hood and Timberline. While it isn’t out just this second, the app should post any day. In the meantime, you can check out the Oregon Central Cascades Driving Tour between Salem, Eugene, and Bend.

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