Timberline Trip: Terry Gets His Birthday Wish

by Terry Morse 11/1/1999

When Mary asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I of course said I wanted to go skiing. But since my birthday is in October, that limits the choices of venues considerably. Never one to deny me my birthday wish, she agreed to a weekend trip to Mt. Hood in Oregon. Oh boy, an early season ski/snow fix for this addict.

After digging through the garage, closets, drawers, and suitcases for several hours, I had cobbled up enough gear and clothing to outfit us both. And because I just couldn't find a waterproof shell for yours truly, I bought myself a little birthday gift of a new Helly Hansen shell. With all the gear gathered up and bagged, we flew into Portland on Saturday for a hopeful two days of skiing on the famous Palmer Snowfield at Timberline. And a little cuddling at the lodge, of course. The weather report was for partly cloudy skies both days, so it looked like good skiing weather. As a kicker, we got a room at the famous and romantic Timberline Lodge. Things were looking up.

When we got to Mt. Hood Saturday afternoon, the sky was blue and my hopes were high. Even though it has snowed the day before, the temperature was in the 50s, and the lodge was surrouned by soggy oatmeal snow. The mountain peak was shrouded with some orographic clouds, but the rest of the ski was an intense blue (a welcome sight after leaving the smoke and haze of Portland). Tomorrow promised to be a great ski day.

After checking into our room, a typical cozy mountain lodge room [here's Mary pointing out the room], the only thing left to do was go exploring. Some nice gentleman stopped to take a picture of us sitting on the wall outside the lodge. [Here's the happy couple]. Then we wandered around on the hillside above the lodge. [Here's Mary showing us how big the mountain is] [Here's Terry feeling cocky in his birthday jacket] As you can see from the photos, it was warm and sunny. Once we had explored enough of the mountain, we started heading back through some pretty deep and wet snow. Since we were in our travel clothes, they got pretty wet fairly quickly. Mary began to complain about sinking down to her knees and getting cold and wet. [Here's what Mary looks like when she's wet and cold]. She mentioned to me that I wasn't nearly as wet as she was, so I found the sloppiest snow I could and rolled around in it for a while. That picked up the mood, making the rest of the descent more enjoyable.

Nothing tops off a soggy hike through oatmeal snow at altitude like beer, so we headed to the bar for a couple of pints. The local brews on tap were pretty tasty, and they did wonders for our moods. Some experts suggest not drinking alcohol when first arriving at altitude. I don't know why. [Here's what Mary looks like afer a couple of pints].

After a nice dinner and a bottle of cabernet that we'd brought with us (a bottle that we had cellared for 10 years), we managed to stumble into bed and quickly fall to sleep. That lasted until about 3 AM, when we were awakend by violent winds and blowing snow. Our room was on the third floor, and we could actually feel the massive wooden lodge shake in the wind gusts. Pretty fun. At dawn the wind had lessened, but the snow was still falling hard. Needless to say, the lifts didn't open that day. Bt by about 1 PM, the snow had stopped, the winds were down to about 25 mph, and the clouds had lifted from the lower mountain. With nothing else to do, it was time again to go hiking. Since it was still cold and windy, we donned our shells and headed towards the Silcox Hut, a mile away and 1,000 feet above the lodge.

To avoid the winds as best we could, we hiked up a gully that had been dug out by snow and water. [Here's Mary in the gully] [Here's Terry in the gully]. The gully had been groomed the day before when the snow was wet, and it had frozen hard overnight. This made walking a bit slippery, to say the least. When we got to the Silcox Hut, we found a group of people there who didn't appreciate our invading their territory. So we downed some water and headed back down. As were were leaving, a snowboarder wearing a huge grin passed by on his way up. He said he was heading to the top for fresh tracks. As it turned out, he would be getting the only tracks that weekend.

Maintaining an upright stance on the groomed ice proved to be a bit of a challenge, so I suggested we try sliding down on our butts (where we were spending much time already). This proved to be a pretty entertaining diversion. Nylon on ice is very slick, and we managed to get up some decent speed. The only casualties were a couple of full-on wedgies, a bruised hip and elbow when I tried to show how easy it is to walk on ice, and some very sore laugh muscles. [Here's Mary in the throes of a laughing fit].

Further down the mountain, we found some groomed snow that hadn't frozen overnight. This was an ideal spot for our "across the snow" exercise. The goal here is to do a traveling dance step as best you can, across the snow. I fortunately captured Mary on video as she attempted a "pas de bourre, step, jete, brush hop" combination in some Cascade Cement. [Click here for the QuickTime video]. Like any professional, Mary know that an audience won't notice mistakes if you smile a lot. [Here's that professional smile as she manages to stop "dancing" inches away from the nervous cameraman.]

After all that revelry, we stopped in for a couple more pints, plopped in the hot tub to soak our sore laugh muscles, and called it a night. Since there was skiing to be done the next morning, we needed our rest. But once again, the mountain gods would have some fun at our expense. We were awakened in the middle of the night by gale force winds. All we could see out our window was snow blowing horizontally. Maybe it would die down before morning. No such luck. The dawn brought just more wind, so we headed down for some coffee and waited for the restaurant to open. We met up with Scott Abraham, an old ski buddy who we hadn't seen in many months, in the lounge. He had made the drive down from Seattle the night before to visit and hopefully get in some skiing. No such luck on the skiing part, so we chatted, drank lots of coffee, enjoyed the Timberline breakfast buffet, then headed home.

No skiing was had on this trip, but I'm okay with that. Just being in the mountans and the snow with The Sweetest Gal On The Planet™ was a pretty great birthday gift. And the chance to renew an old friendship was a bonus.

But when will the season begin for real? I can hold out, I know I can. Stay tuned.