A couple weeks ago, I highly recommended the subdued stillness of Mount Rainier’s Paradise Inn for lovers in need of a weekend away from it all. Though the inn is less than two hours from Enumclaw, it’s an entire world removed from the hectic routine of our typical workday lives. (Boring routines can be pure poison to romance.)
Well, this week I’d like to offer another suggestion for couples seeking a night or two of bliss. Just over the Oregon state line, nestled in the snowbanks at the foot of Mount Hood, is the wonderful little hideaway just for you and your sweetheart. I’d even give Timberline Inn an edge over Paradise. I’ve sampled various alpine resorts all over the United States, from the Green Mountains of Vermont to the luxury of Aspen and the posh lounge in Grand Tetons’ Lodge, and I can honestly declare, without exception, that Timberline is the finest, most intimate and secluded upland resort this wandering columnist has ever run across.
But a word of caution: during the ski season, Timberline can get terribly crowded. However, in the summer, on weekdays, the place is relatively deserted. Though it offers year-round skiing, you’ll encounter only a few real, diehard summer skiers and they’re relegated to a single operating chair lift that will take them to the 8,000-foot level. (The lodge itself is at 6,000 feet.)
Timberline was constructed during the Great Depression, in 1937, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The project hired 350 workers at 90 cents an hour and was completed in 15 months. It was designed to resemble Swiss chalets that had been built even earlier in the century.
And what a charming, perfectly splendid structure it is! Those expecting the polished elegance of Aspen will be gravely disappointed because Timberline Lodge is decidedly rustic and primitive. The central lobby is supported by massive fir columns, hand-hewn into shape with axes and bound together by a blacksmith’s ironwork. It has simple and plain, thickly upholstered wood furniture. A huge stone fireplace keeps the place comfortably warm.
The rooms are carved in fir and pine and furnished with feather beds for that cloud-like feeling. Many have truly awesome views of Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters and the southern Cascade Range in general. And behind you are the snow-capped, majestic, soaring crags and sheer granite cliffs of Mount Hood itself.
The Cascade Dining Room offers a broad selection of excellent salmon specialties. For those who desire a drink or two, there’s the Ram’s Head Bar and the more secluded Blue Ox Lounge in the inn’s cellar. Yet, the atmosphere never gets particularly rowdy because the lodge enforces a quiet time between 10 in the evening and 7 in the morning.
If you’re seeking a more wild, boisterous crowd, drive a few miles to the little resort town called Government Camp, which boasts several restaurants, shops and taverns. Leave the rock bands and drunken buffoonery there. Timberline Lodge is for lovers.