I packed as it poured, not quite believing it would ease, and it didn’t. We went anyway. Stoic deliberately made a wrong turn to the trailhead and pulled into a mountain resort parking lot. Was I sure I wanted to do this? His expression was an open invitation for me to cave in. We can always come back, I reasoned. Off we went to the trail only fifteen minutes down the road.
Oddly, we arrived simultaneously at mid-afternoon with a group of three men and a dog. They quickly hoisted their packs and walked up the road, barely noting our existence. I have no idea where they were headed, some secret No Camping spot, I suspect. Stoic and I put on our rain jackets and set off upstream on the Salmon River Trail. It’s very popular, but we had it almost to ourselves on account of the continuous complimentary downpour. But hey, it was warm!
It was beautiful and, though I’d never been there, it looked and felt very homey. I grew up walking trails like this one, and my favorites are usually riverside. There were so many times I wanted to take pictures, even in the gloom, but I left my phone safely stashed in a heavy plastic bag in my pocket as Stoic demonstrated the benefits of having a small, waterproof camera.
There were campsites alongside us most of the way. I can’t imagine them all being filled, and wouldn’t want to be there when they are. I was thankful for the rain even as I wished it would stop. It didn’t, but we did. We’d only hiked for ninety minutes when we stopped at a cute, just-our-size little spot with nice hammock trees. We set up my little tarp, sat on our packs, and made coffee to go with our pistachios. It was five o’clock.
Even though we were alone in the woods and had crossed the wilderness boundary, I felt confined to the shelter of the tarp. We had escaped civilization, yes, but a sense of freedom hadn’t followed. We couldn’t escape the humidity or the updated weather report taunting us with rain all night. We were content, but not joyful. We decided to continue our hike upriver in the morning, when it would be clear and blue, and to set up camp now.
Except we didn’t. The pull of the luxurious resort was just a little stronger than my stubborn streak. I love backpacking. I love camping. I also love hotels. Tarp away, packs on, boots on trail, of course it stopped raining. This didn’t change our minds at all since it was likely a short break, but I was finally able to unsheathe my phone to take all those pictures on the return leg of what had become a fully laden day hike.
The misty Salmon River and dripping pink clouds of heuchera.
It was raining again. We made an attempt at looking presentable for the hotel restaurant. Our dessert of fresh berries with sabayon was wonderful. I may try making it myself. There was a pool, which we wanted to but didn’t use. There was a comfortable king bed and an amazing shower which we did. That’s backpacking decadence right there. We left the slider open all night for the air and slept in. Incredibly, the morning sky was a rich blue. I didn’t regret waking here rather than in the trees.
We had the whole day to play and a full tank of gas. We’d been missing our mountain and she was close, so after a delicious lavender vanilla latte at breakfast, we wound up to Timberline Lodge. Stoic had never been inside and we both loved all the carvings and old ironwork. We found a comfy green couch from which to enjoy the best view of Mt. Hood. It was so bright we could barely look, but we didn’t mind.
We had a beer at the Ramshead Bar upstairs (there were ramshead carvings and iron everywhere). I slathered my thick bread with good butter and pressed it into a bowlful of warm hazelnuts to make them stick. Mmm, crunchy.
We enjoyed the mountain lodge atmosphere, full of climbers, skiers, tourists, and us. We imagined how it would feel to stay here, what it would look like lit up at night. It’s a magical place of old timbers, iron, and big stone fireplaces where you can meet people from all over the world to talk about gear and adventure! I was fascinated by all the activity.
The lodge is calling and you must go.