My friend teases me about my fascination with Mount Hood, a rather larger-than-life character of the Pacific Northwest that is visible from many locations in and around Portland.
From my early visits to Oregon, long before moving to the state, I always enjoyed the sudden surprise I’d get when I’d spot the snowcapped mountain from far away, driving across a bridge or into Portland after visiting family outside the city, or heading to the airport for a flight home to Southern California. Its majestic beauty never failed to brighten my day.
During my first year of living in the state, I took two friends visiting from Southern California on a scenic day trip to Multnomah Falls, another well-known landmark that is an easy day trip outside the city. The falls are a natural wonder that are spectacular to experience up close, and my two friends and I enjoyed a lovely afternoon of nature appreciation.
“Which way is Mount Hood?” asked my friends innocently as we headed back toward the city. I wasn’t sure, but was too embarrassed to admit it. What kind of tour guide would that make me? But what I did know from my own experience is that if they saw it, if only from afar, they, too, would be awestruck. So, with me behind the wheel, we exited the highway here, and then there, and then way over there, laughing often about our unplanned hunt for Mount Hood.
Finally we found it. Eureka!
My friend jumped out of the car, excitedly grabbed her iPhone, and snapped pictures of Mount Hood. A few minutes later, we learned from a young man at the drive-through where we stopped for coffee that she had actually photographed Mount Adam, in neighboring Washington State.
As the highest elevation point in all of Oregon, Mount Hood, which rises approximately 11,200 feet above sea level, reigns supreme in the state’s culture. You will find its familiar pointy, jagged profile etched on t-shirts, ball caps and businesses that link their identities to the recognizable mountaintop.
Now that I live in Oregon, my enjoyment and awareness of the mountain vista continues to bloom. Initially, there were times when I forgot it was there, off in the horizon, blinded by life’s everyday distractions that can make us overlook a beautiful rose blossoming right in front of us. In fact, I lived in the city for a couple of months before one day, when I pulled back my kitchen window curtain and realized I had a view of the fabulous Mount Hood.
I absolutely love the mountain as a metaphor. From afar, I see strength in its broad shoulders, and feel inspired by its lofty elevation. In life, we climb and stumble, get back up, continue. When we make it to the top, it’s then that we can take a precious moment, twirl around, survey our progress, and ask ourselves, "Was it worth the effort?"
Late last year, two of my sisters, a nephew and I headed up to Mount Hood to celebrate the season’s first big snowfall. We had a blast. Savored the views. Played in the snow. Shivered.
And we snapped away with our camera phones. My big sister loves to photograph nature. and most of the shots included in this article were taken by her from various viewpoints at Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark on the south side of the mountain with an elevation of about 6,000 feet.
I’m happy to say that the next time my SoCal friends return for another visit, I feel confident that I can show them the real, the one and only, Mount Hood.
Above four photos by Victoria Serorian