Heritage Tour of Mt. Hood and The Gorge

February 4, 2015

The Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge region is bursting at the seams with stunning natural beauty, but the cultural history of the area is as colorful and diverse as the landscape. Many of the early pioneers to Oregon found the journey around Mt. Hood to be some of the most arduous and perilous of the entire Oregon Trail, so they would probably be quite envious of the ease in which it is possible to visit so many historic sites in a single day. The ardent historian, the art enthusiast, and the Cliff Notes-cultural connoisseur can all craft their ideal itinerary. To fully explore regional heritage, covered wagon speed and plenty of time is recommended.

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Our day of discovery begins with an overnight stay at McMenamins Edgefield, a sprawling 74-acre destination resort heavily infused with personality. Built in 1911, the facility has undergone a number of transformations, its most recent providing a tranquil campus of vineyards, gardens, restaurants, and resort amenities. But the halls still emanate with stories of the past, which makes it the perfect place to plan a historic expedition over a cup of coffee and breakfast.

Before heading out, we can’t resist a visit to The Gorge Glashaus on the Edgefield estate to witness the magic of glassblowing. The artisans at work masterfully guide us step by step through the fascinating process of creating beautiful glass sculptures. Point out a sample on the shelf and they’ll make it right before your eyes.  Watch the process, feel the heat, and you’ll never look at grandma’s glass serving dishes the same.

A short drive away is Philip Foster Farm, which in the 1840s was a welcome sight for weary homesteaders on the final stretch of the Oregon Trail. Today, the contemporary pioneer can relive some of those celebratory moments that the end of a 2000-mile covered wagon journey was sure to evoke. Crank out your own glass of apple cider, plow some soil, or earn your wood cookie souvenir with the crosscut saw. A few hours at the farm and our respect for the industrious and determined spirit of the early Oregon settlers is cultivated.  What better way to express that admiration and amuse some costumed interpreters than with a rousing attempt at swing dancing?

Retracing the old Barlow Road section of the Oregon Trail up toward Mt. Hood yields no shortage of scenic and cultural detours, but our destination is the historic crown jewel of Mt. Hood: Timberline Lodge. Regally perched on the southern face of Oregon’s highest peak, Timberline Lodge is nothing short of breathtaking.  Built in the late 1930s, this National Historic Landmark is a masterpiece of imposing stone masonry and craftsman woodworking. The construction is second only to that of the grand mountain peak outside, whose view is enjoyed out the window over a glass of wine and dinner.

Our tour along the final leg of the Oregon Trail reveals a history book much more comprehensive and inclusive than the few brief highlights of our day. The heritage and culture of the region traces back thousands of years amd is abundant with stories, legends, and remarkable legacy. Of course there is no way to fully encapsulate this rich history in one day, so in the spirit of Lewis and Clark, feel inspired to design your own explorative itinerary.

Explore more Oregon heritage in Mt. Hood and the Gorge:

Troutdale Historical Society

Maya Lin’s Confluence Project: The Bird Blind

Sandy Historical Museum

Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum

Cascadia Center for Arts & Crafts

About The
Author

John Waller
A native Oregonian, John Waller has dedicated his life to exploring and discovering the natural beauty that the world has to offer. The founder of Uncage the Soul Productions, John has spent more than two decades producing and directing films, from commercial shorts to award-winning adventure documentaries. If he’s not behind the camera or in front of the editing screen, he can be found exploring the Oregon backcountry, summiting a local peak or planning the next globetrotting adventure.

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McMenamins – Edgefield
Philip Foster Farm