Story and photos by Charles Chandler
I’ve met many people during my close to 7 decades of taking up room on this planet and none have I valued more than a good storyteller.
It's always intrigued me how you can take the same series of events and have them told by any number of different people and if one is a gifted narrator their rendition outshines all others.
Charles Chandler is a good storyteller. Onewe have been privileged to occasionally host in our pages.
The next few days we will feature an autobiographical saga wrought from an earlier time in his life. It is indeed a story worth telling and CC does it well.
It's not a short read but as we said, it'sa good read. We’re presenting it in four parts beginning with Part I today. We will add Parts II, III, and IV in the coming days.
This is a long and winding story about an event that happened in another lifetime. Now because of the Pandemic and my senior status I, like many similar scared souls, have been restricted to quarters. This current event has finally given me time to tell this story. It is about a seminal event that had a profound impact on my personal spiritual beliefs. The events and details are as I remembered them. This story rambles and digresses a bit but stick with it because that long tread will be one of the more relevant points at the end. Like many stories, they all have a starting point.
Why not start this one with a girl. a A pretty, well to do brunette, from Padre Island on the Texas Gulf Coast? I was unattached at the time and attending a singles party in Tulsa Ok. Jeanne was up visiting the hostess of the party and after some conservation, it felt like we getting along. I found it extremely interesting that she had a condo on Padre. If you are a Texan Padre Island is the equivalent of the French Rivera. Even better because there is good fishing and you can get Lone Star Beer and great Mexican seafood. Before the evening was over Jeanne had invited me down for a weekend at the Padre condo. We made the date and my visions of sun, beer, and seafood burritos began.
A week or so before the trip down to south Texas my National Geographic Magazine arrived. In this edition, there was an interesting article about Mt Hood in Oregon. Being a flatlander, I found this big pile of rock and snow in the Cascade Volcanic Arc fascinating. Nothing would do but to go and see this geological wonder. Armed with as little foreknowledge and experience as possible I set off the next weekend to see Mt Hood. I was well equipped for my conquest. My gear matched my total lack of mountaineering experience. I had borrowed a cotton sleepover bag and a small L.L. Bean dome tent. I wore my Harris Teed Sports Coat because I read those early British mountaineers wore Tweed jackets.
Wait a minute.
What about Jeanne and the condo and the beer and burritos? That idea had cooled down. Especially after the hostess of the party, also a good friend of mine mentioned that the reason Jeanne was well off and owned the coveted condo on Padre was that she had recently buried her second husband. It was rumored that numbers one and two had passed by fatal accidents.
The challenges with this Mt Hood trip began compounding as we made our descent into Portland Airport. I had my first look at the mountain out the porthole of the AA 727. It was bigger than the images in National Geographic. It was black and white and big and foreboding. When making arrangements for this trip I had called Avis and requested a hatchback. With this model car, I could drop the back seat down and sleep in the car in the event the cotton sleeping bag didn't work out.
On arrival at the Portland Avis counter, I requested my hatchback. The young agent in a very pleasant voice told me it wasn't ready and it would be about 30 or so minutes.
It appeared that this was a very popular car and the only one at the Agency was in the service bay. While waiting we had a nice conservation about why I was in Portland and where I was from. That last bit of information proved problematic. When the young agent found out that I was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the home base of the great TV evangelists Oral Roberts he lost his mind. He was one of the faithful followers and his dream was to attend the famous Oral Roberts University. He immediately went to his computer and stated that I was going to get an upgrade. Nothing would deter this zealot, regardless of how much I complained, I was upgraded. Walking out to the lot, I found my number and stuck the keys in the door of a land yacht, a brand-new Lincoln Town Car. Armed with an Avis counter road map I headed the yacht toward Mt. Hood. The sleeping in the hatchback option was now off the table.
It was late in the day and I was in need of some camping grub. I soon came to a small community store that advertised firewood. Creature comforts were at hand and it was here I met my first Pacific Coast native of Swedish descent. She had braided blond hair, blue eyes, a plaid shirt tucked into overalls and hiking boots and was about six feet tall. I would meet more like this hardy outdoors person. She asked what I needed and I told her my reason for being there and that I needed a couple of bundles of firewood. While shopping for grub she went outside to get the firewood. Back shortly she asked me where I wanted the firewood. We looked at each other and I said in my car. We walked outside and opened the trunk of the Town Car. She looked at me without batting her blue eyes and said: "on principle, I will not load firewood into a Lincoln." I loaded the wood. The Swede informed me that all the parks and camping sites were closed for the season save Sherwood Campground on HW 35. She said they leave that one open for hunters. Also, there was a nice hiking trail along Cold Spring Creek that would take me up to Tamanawas Falls. Stocked with firewood, a quart of chocolate milk, a couple of honey buns and some jerky it was off to find my campground.
Sherwood was appropriately named as it was in the woods, deep dark woods. When I wheeled the Lincoln in the park there was only one other camper. Two scruffy looking guys with beards were out by an old pickup with a slide-in camper frying bacon at their fire pit. They were either deer hunters or serial killers on the run from the FBI. Sliding out of the big blue Lincoln and I tried to act with purpose and intent. I did that Oklahoma western nod with your chin and said howdy. No reply, but they did watch as I put on my Harris Tweed Coat, and began trying to work the tent pole jigsaw puzzle. It was getting dark so I started the fire in front of my tent to deter the serial killers. I also gathered up some baseball-sized rocks and took them into my tent. This was for personal protection and also seemed to interest the bacon eaters.
That was one long night, I burned up all the firewood and the cotton sleeping bag did not work out. I spent most of the night thinking about the zealot and that hatchback. The next morning the two guys across the way had pulled out. I guess they probably were deer hunters after all or maybe my stash of rocks had deterred their plans to kill me in my sleep. After a wonderful breakfast of chocolate milk and a honey bun, it was off to see Tamanawas Falls.
And beautiful it was. After that short hike it was pack up and go take a close up look at Mount Hood.
Traveling up Timberline Drive to the huge Lodge was a magical trip. The Lincoln did not corner well on the mountain road and at one point there was an incident that almost put me over the edge. Finally arriving shaken but safe at the huge Timberline Lodge and my first good look at Mt. Hood the brush with certain death was forgotten.
The Historic 55,000 square foot Timberline timber lodge was built in 1937. The Lodge sits in a pristine alpine landscape at around 6,000 feet. It is still a magnificent functioning ski lodge and retreat. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is a magnificent moment to the rugged spirit of the Pacific Coasters and the folks that built the facility. I spend most of the morning admiring Mt Hood. There are very things in my world that are awesome but our Cascade Volcanoes are just undeniable awesome. Hiking a little way up the mountain this flatlander quickly realized that reaching the summit on this geological giant would require many things that I did not yet process.
I met some mountaineers in the Lodge parking lot that had been or were getting ready to hike or climb the mountain. The ones that had been up to the summit and back looked like they had been in a car wreck and were surprised that they had made it through. There were no whooping and high fives. They were exhausted, smelled and wanted very much to be somewhere else. I looked closely at their gear, the packs, clothes, ropes, ice axes, boots, and crampons. The ones that were heading up the mountain, were tight and tense, clothes clean, talking quietly in small groups or rechecking packs, and gear. I would know both those before and after feelings in about a year. I also learned that my hands would also begin to sweat and my throat would tighten when hearing one of these hardy mountaineers say "It is a straightforward climb with a few technical pitches."
Before leaving the Timberline lodge, I stopped in the Cascade Dining Room and had the grilled lamb chops paired with an excellent local wine for lunch. While there I found a bulletin board and pulled the small business card of a local mountaineering guide.
I began tacking the big blue land yacht around the curves and down the mountain toward the Hood River valley and on to the great Columbia River Gorge. I had a Hilton Hotel at the Portland Airport reserved for the night. But before that dreamy luxury, I wanted to see the great river that carried Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Coast. My bucket list destination was the Bonneville Dam that Woody Guthrie had made famous in his depression-era folk ballads. Little did I know that my five minutes of fame would be waiting at that Bonneville Dam. It was a beautiful but distracting drive down the Hood River Valley. Every few miles that were another apple orchard with a roadside stand selling, different varieties, and sizes of beautiful and sweet-smelling apples. After several stops to taste and purchase some of the as advertised prize-winning apples I finally came to the town of Hood River. Here I had my first look at the gorge and the mighty Colombia River. Breathtaking, startling and unimaginable as to how the Lewis and Clark expedition paddlers made it down this mighty boiling river in flimsy wooden dugouts. The wind in the gorge was strong enough to create white caps on the river. Much to the delight of the windsurfers as they flew back and forth across the wide river on their brightly colored sailboards. Soon Woody Guthrie's song Roll on Columbia began tuning up in my consciousness and it off downriver to see the Bonneville Dam and my five minutes of fame.
A few miles down the river I arrived at the Bonneville Dam and pulled into the parking lot. I sat in the car looking at this massive structure thinking about the struggles and engineering feats that it took for these depression-era men and women to dam this huge river. There were a few cars and vans in the parking lot and after a minute I noticed a large group of people gathered near the dam overlook. They had movie cameras set up and were moving about or standing in small knots. It was then that I saw one individual standing off to the side that I knew so very well. No one has a mop of hair like the distinguished entertainer and songwriter Arlo Guthrie.
The son of Woody Guthrie whose ballads had sparked my quest to see this huge structure in front of me. I pausing a moment to think about synchronicities and how strange life is sometimes before sliding out of my tank and heading over to chat with Arlo Guthrie. I have found that nice people are nice wherever they are and if you are nice to them, they will generally reciprocate. I introduced myself and told Arlo that it was Woodie's songs that pulled me up from Oklahoma. The reason that he was there was because the BBC, that group of people around the cameras were doing a documentary on Woodie's Life. He was there with that project. Woodie was born in Okemah Oklahoma and Arlo is considered an adopted son by the Tulsa music culture. He appears to enjoy performing in Tulsa's famous music venues as well. I was particularly interested in hearing the story about his musical collaborations with my favorite blues musicians Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Our conservation was soon terminated when Arlo was called over by some rude Brit. I thanked him for his kind conservation and mentioned that I hoped to see him in his next performance in Tulsa.
Walking back across the parking lot I was intercepted by harmless looking man. He was a reporter for the Oregonian the local Portland paper and had tried to get the scoop on the BBC Woody Guthrie project. He had been rebuffed and wanted to know about my conversation with Arlo.
After the chat with the reporter, it was time to roll on down the Columbia and make my date with the Hilton Hotel by the Portland Airport. There I would finally be able to dump the ostentatious blue Lincoln Town Car. When checking out of the Hilton the next morning, I picked up a desk copy of The Oregonian and stuck in my bag to be read later. After boarding my AA Flight back to Tulsa and settling in my window seat I was once again able to see Mt. Hood. It was a rare clear morning the other massive black and white mountains lined up down the Cascade Arch. I promised to be back for a more intimate look but also knowing there was a lot of work to do before that date. After the flight attendant served morning coffee, I fished out my copy of the Oregonian and there in front of me was an interesting and factual article in the edition about my encounter with Arlo Guthrie at the Bonneville Dam.
To Be Continued...
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