Great Lodges of the National Parks
Pacific Northwest: Timberline
Among the region's native peoples, Oregon's tallest peak (elev. 11,235 feet) was called Wy'East. Within living memory the mountain had been an active volcano, and was viewed as forbidden territory.
The first Europeans to see the mountain, in 1792, were on a mapping expedition for the British Royal Navy. They named the peak after a naval hero, Alexander Hood, who would never even see the mountain.
Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to view the mountain. Clark's journal records the event on November 3, 1805, observing, ""A Mountain which we Suppose to Be Mt. Hood...about 47 miles distant."
Forty years later, Sam Barlow and Joel Palmer opened the first wagon route over the south side of Mt. Hood. They were also among the first three men to scale the mountain, on August 14, 1845. By the 1880s the mountain was attracting many recreational climbers.
Encompassing 1.2 million acres, the Mt. Hood National Forest has its roots in a forest reserve set aside in 1893. After numerous changes of name, boundaries, and administrative agencies, this edition of the National Forest was created in 1924.
The Forest includes over 186,000 acres of designated wilderness. A trail network of more than 1,200 miles offers woodland access for a variety of seasonal sports, from camping to climbing, skiing to biking.
Spreading across both the western and eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, the Forest takes in a wide variety of habitats and climates. Nearly 150 species of birds, and 40 kinds of mammals, make their homes in the Forest.
The Forest Service is in charge of this national treasure. Unlike the National Park Service, their mission is to manage resources, including water and timber.
People & Protection
The USFS is caught in the middle of an environmental conflict. On one hand, the Mt. Hood National Forest provides recreation for nearly 4 million visitors a year. On the other, the agency is charged with managing the resources within forest boundaries, including the sale of timber. In 2001, timber worth $1.4 million was removed from Mt. Hood National Forest.
While logging practices have come a long way since the days of clear-cuts, environmental activists oppose any harvesting of trees in the Forest. One concern is that logging can damage the area's streams and rivers, injuring fish stocks, and affecting the water supply of nearby Portland, Oregon.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 protected the mountain's summit area, and 3 more wilderness areas were added in 1984. Today, activists continue to lobby for more Forest protections.
While many national Parks owe their creation to political pressure from the railroads, the Mt. Hood National Forest is a creation of the automobile age. The Forest is easily accessible by road, and is located less than 2 hours from a major metropolitan area. As a result, the Forest gets heavy use as a recreational outlet.
In summer, the Forest provides pastoral retreats for hikers, anglers and campers. In winter, people come by the thousands to enjoy skiing and other winter sports.
Paved and graded roads traverse the region, and numerous hiking trails make it easy to explore deeper into the Forest on foot.
Because the main road system was established early on, and supplemented by primitive logging roads, a public transportation system has never evolved in the area. However, a ski shuttle service does run in the winter.