Visiting Oregon whether it be the winter or summer is an unbelievable experience; from the breathtaking landscapes to the friendly people to the incredible weather; one really can’t go wrong. When I planned on doing some serious snowshoeing in Oregon, what I didn’t plan for was the lack of snow. I landed at Portland International Airport to green grass, sunny skies and people outside in their t-shirts; a little worried about the lack of snow. But Portland wasn’t where I was planning on strapping on my snowshoes so to Mt. Hood I headed. As I turned the corner on the highway the looming white mountain came into view and I had my first glance of snow in this beautiful state. Mt. Hood is the second most climbed mountain in the world, home to the “Mile High” chairlift and a mountain I had been begging to see for years. My home for the next two days was Government Camp, located just a short six miles from the mountain. As I ascended up to government camp, it got a little chillier but still no snow in site. I was sure glad I packed those hiking boots as well.
“This is NOT normal” was a phrase I heard over and over during my stay in the Mt. Hood area; concerning the weather conditions and lack of snow. Usually Government Camp has a base of about 10-15 feet in the middle of February but low and behold the year of 2015 was not cooperating. Lucky enough to stay at the Collins Lake Resort, I was surrounded by beautiful forests, heated outdoor pools and the great shops and restaurants of the ski village of Government Camp. I could literally picture it covered with snow; skiers and snowshoers milling about; drinking pints of beer at Mt. Hood Brewing, having breakfast at Huckleberry Inn and enjoying locally prepared meals.
Mt. Hood was the destination I was here for and after a delicious breakfast of Huckleberry Pancakes I was off to the mountain. The Timberline Lodge was where I headed; the beautiful lodge and ski area that was constructed in 1937 and has the longest ski season in the United States and sits midway up on Mt. Hood at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet. The building alone was worth the trip; hand carved ornate wood sculptures, hand-crafted furniture and hand weaved tapestries fill the lodge. After exploring the lodge I headed out to strap on my snowshoes and hit the snow. Timberline Lodge offers a lovely groomed trail about a mile long that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and canyons. I was fortunate enough to head out with a conservative education officer who spoke of the landscape, plants, and lodge itself. Visitors to the lodge can experience the guided tours by moonlight with one of the knowledgeable and comedic USFS rangers. Although the snow was less than normal; I still got a great little workout trekking around this trail and stopping to take amazing pictures. I found out the Pacific Crest Trail runs right through Mt. Hood and found myself daydreaming that one day I would hike that very trail…or at least part of it.
The most fascinating part of Timberline Lodge; besides the unbelievable history (which can be found by looking at the mini-museum inside the lodge) was Silcox Hut. At 7,000 feet sits Oregon’s highest hotel room; perfect for large groups, weddings, etc. This beautiful structure was once the end of the chairlift but has since been turned into a beautiful structure where groups can enjoy breathtaking views, fabulous dining and a restful night’s sleep. Getting to Silcox is the fun part and guests of the hut can choose to ride the infamous Mile High chairlift or head up in the Snowcat. I obviously chose the Snowcat; as who wouldn’t want to go barreling up the mountain in one of these? Although I came to Mt. Hood to snowshoe I left with much more than just a great snowshoeing experience. I left with the yearning desire to one day tackle this mountain; climb to the top and shout from the summit that I did it. I left with the hope that one day I can come back and experience the amazing wine dinners at Silcox Hut and the skiing from Timberline Lodge.
Next up on the agenda I was headed to Central Oregon; a road trip in which I would pass through towering green trees, high alpine deserts, through canyons and breathtaking rock formations and eventually land myself in the Bend area. The drive was absolutely stunning and what should have been a two hour drive ended up taking me almost four hours; due to the amount of times I stopped to take pictures. When I drove, it was became evident to me that this really was an exceptional year in Oregon where the snow was not falling and the only white stuff really was on the mountains. If snowshoeing in a t-shirt is what you are after, this is the place to be.
Mt. Bachelor was the first stop in Central Oregon where I prepared to strap on a pair of downhill skis; a sport I hadn’t done in over 12 years. They say it’s like riding a bike; a horrible analogy for yours truly who isn’t exactly the best bike rider. A big kudos to the rental team who did put me at ease and outfitted me with some pretty rad skis and poles. Fears aside I couldn’t wait to head up to the top; as this ski hill is one of the only ones in the Northwestern United States that has an abundance of snow. Standing at the summit at 9,000 feet preparing to ski down was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. To know that Olympic Athletes have stood here and have trained on this very terrain where I was standing gave me a sense of pride; a sense of hope and a sense of “holy crap now I have to ski down this big mountain.” And ski it I did. With 12 chairlifts and 88 total trails I spent hours exploring the largest ski resort in Oregon.
Mt. Bachelor is not just home to skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing though. It is where Oregon Trail of Dreams is located; a company that offers sled dog adventures. I was lucky enough to meet Rachel Scdoris and her husband Nick who run the company. Rachel’s story is incredible and as we raced through the trails in an actual Iditarod sled; Nick told me just some of it. In 2006 she became the first legally blind person to 1,049+ mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the U.S. state of Alaska. If that wasn’t impressive enough she has raced the race a total of four times and now is a mom to a beautiful baby girl. The story of how Rachel and Nick met is something you have to find out from Nick who is happy to share it with any visitor. The dogs; perhaps the most important part of this operation were incredible. Friendly, loving and excited; each with their own personalities, I was happy to pet them, talk to them and tell them what a great job they had done. An incredible company, an incredible story and incredible dogs makes me think that everyone needs to give this sport a try with Oregon Trails of Dreams.
Located just a short drive from Mt. Bachelor was my next adventure; a snowshoe hike up Tumalo Mountain which promised to offer spectacular views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor. I joined up with USFS Ranger Barton Willis to trek this mountain and couldn’t have asked for a better guide. Not only was he incredibly knowledgeable about the area but the passion for Central Oregon shone through in everything he said. The trek was moderate in difficulty and somewhat sneaky as it quickly gets steep as you near the top and we gained about 1200 feet in elevation. The views do not disappoint as you can see for miles upon miles; mountains, lakes, forests and more. A popular hike in both the winter and the summer, I can certainly understand why. As I stood on the top of Tumalo Mountain and relished in it, I understood at that moment why everyone I had met had said they would never move from Oregon.
I had a secret agenda when I came to Oregon; to explore the world of craft beers. Known all over the world for its incredible craft beer scene, my visit wouldn’t have been complete without visiting at least a few breweries. Central Oregon didn’t disappoint and the city of Bend itself offered more craft beers than I could even begin to try on my short trip. Legendary for producing IPA’s and offering Growler fill stations everywhere; I could have happily spent a month here. Unfortunately time was limited but I got a great feel and can understand why this state is so well known for its incredible beer. Check out some of the breweries I visited here.
From the incredible condo I stayed at from Discover Sunriver Vacation Rentals located just outside Bend to the welcoming nature of everyone I met in Central Oregon to the plethora of outdoor activities that await visitors; this is one area I will be returning to time after time. To find out more about the activities I did, the accommodations or restaurants and breweries see the list below.