The definition of a ” Timberline ” (aka treeline) is the point/line up on a mountain where no trees can possibly grow. Trees diminish in size and die off, as they get close up to this line. The scientific reason for this is that there isn’t enough water, hear or air to keep a tree alive up there. If you think about the symbolism, that’s fitting for a horror story, to be trapped at the point where life dies! While hanging out at Mt Hood’s Timberline, I was in the Mt Hood National Forest, at the Timberline Lodge, getting chills (literally) just entering the place (over 80 plus years of history there). Just 10 minutes before going there, I was at the sign for Mt Hood at Panorama Point over the Hood River, looking across at Mt Hood, and it was cloudy out but clear enough to look across the land.
Then I noticed that Mt Hood was supposed to be visible from that location, but I didn’t see it. It had disappeared from view completely! Craziness was about to set in with the weather, and I needed to hurry it up to get over to the Timberline Lodge, and I’d possibly have to go into those fast moving clouds. I arrived in the parking lot of the Timberline and the whole place was suddenly bombarded by a snowstorm just starting up! Spooky!
The Timberline Lodge is famous for many reasons, but the most notable reason is that it was a hotel used in the 1980 film “The Shining“, by Stanley Kubrick, in the film adaptation of the book by Stephen King. The Shining is an American horror movie classic, which starred Jack Nickolson and Shelly Duvall as caretakers of the hotel who go crazy due to the isolation and evil there. When I got there, I realized that Kubrick didn’t just use this place when filming, but the exterior scenes of the movie were definitely shot at the Timberline Lodge (Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park, California and Stanley Hotel in Colorado were used for inside filming), which is located on the south side (6,000 feet up) on Mt Hood, in Clackamas County, Oregon. Stephen King stayed in the Stanley Hotel and was so creeped out by the haunting stories, and narrow hallways that he used it for the inspiration of writing the book version of The Shining. Photographer Ray Atkeson (check his archive here) was very well-known for large-format landscape photography of western landscapes. He took the famous masterpiece beauty, the scary shot of the Timberline hotel entitled “Mt Hood Timberline Lodge Moonlight“, a black and white photo using only moonlight for lighting. When Kubrick saw that photo, he immediately wanted to use the Timberline as the exterior. Kubrick and King were NOT in alignment with the creation of this film and constantly disrespected each other over it.
Built 1936 by the Works Progress Administration with the Civilian Conservation Corps, as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s kick-start of the economy out of the Great Depression, known as “The New Deal“. This put tens of thousands of people to work, earning the locals money, and since 1977, the Timberline has been a National Historic Landmark due to its contribution to helping to climb out of that hole! The New Deal’s directive to build the Timberline Lodge, built in only 18 months, ended up generating big money (as expected) and employed various artisans from the neighboring area to build the around and inside of the hotel. This helped sustain the local economy. These people had to be very smart about how to furnish the place because there wasn’t a lot of money to build it, so it had to be made with things like pine trees which fell in the woods, dirty wool blankets for curtains, and broken down parts from chains and such. Now the hotel is a major tourist attraction, and not just for the 365 days around skiing it offers, rather (like why I went there) to see the hotel made famous by the movie The Shining. Actually, “Hear No Evil”, with Martin Sheen and Marlee Matlin, was also shot at the Timberline Lodge, but that doesn’t compare to The Shining. Have you seen “Hear No Evil“?! No!? I didn’t think so. See No Movie!
Before the hotel was built up to what one sees now, around the time leading to WWII, “interesting” people frequented the hotel, and it turned into a brothel, gambling den, and speakeasy (that’s a prohibition-era ILLEGAL bar selling liquor, not today’s LEGAL, stylist hipster retro-bar). Prohibition was over (largely by 1933) by the time the Timberline was created, but American habits are American habits. That’s what Americans culture devolves into when there isn’t anything worthy to do in life: prostitution, drinking, and gambling, all of this is America’s roots. It’s as American as Apple Pie, as it has been since Settlers came to North America and their go-to’s were brothels and saloons (see DEADWOOD). So it was no surprise to me that the Timberline, when left unchecked in the woods, turned Americans back into their origins in the country. The Forest Service was just going to bulldoze it all and reclaim the land for the forest. You also have to understand that at its worst, this was also around when the US was forced into World War 2, so that also killed all hopes of that place being anything of worth, by that time. It became too seedy there, and ultimately, people deserted it so badly, it became overrun by wildlife and nature, forcing the Forest Service to step in and shut that it all down. It very well might have been as frightening as The Shining! In the late 1950s, it got life again due to the master-businessman Richard L. Kohnstamm turning it into the official hotel it is today, reversing the fortune, saving what would become a landmark. Thank God for Kohnstamm!
A major draw is a superstition and ghostliness surrounding the lodge. The rumors are that the lodge is haunted, they say there is a first aid room that is filled with ghosts of skiers, hikers, climbers whom went up on Mt Hood but were never heard from again, afterward. The older section of the hotel is also haunted, and to make your time there interesting, you can request that they put you in that section for nightly thrills. Speaking of thrills, you can even stay in the real room 217 (the book ‘s haunted room is 217 but the movie changed it to 237) if lucky enough to book it, it’s hard to get through, I tried. When the movie came out, the hotel management told Kubrick to change the room number from the book’s haunted room number “217” to fictional room number “237” because 217 is actually a real room in the Timberline Lodge, while 237 is not. The hotel felt that people would be too scared, after seeing the movie, that they would not want to rent, or be near, room 217. Well, it had the OPPOSITE effect, and room 217 is the most sought after room in the whole hotel! The hotel fully endorses the publicity about the film, today. If you want to watch The Shining, they’ll put it on for you just by you asking for it! The funny thing is that when I walked into the place, I quickly realized that the inside views of the fictional Overlook Hotel, in the movie, is NOT the inside of the Timberline Lodge at all. I walked in like WTF? This is a rustic beauty! The movie looks like this, but the Timberline looks like the adjacent pics I’ve posted here.
The Timberline is also some sort of an art gallery. I mentioned that local artisans were used to create the Timberline’s look, which explains that artwork that is still there. Works Progress Administration workers made that art as part of the Federal Art Project.
The WPA artists did draw a lot of inspiration from the Tenino Native Americans, so that’s why some of that art has a Native American look to it – they could have just used real Native American artists for this, instead of culture-vultur-ing their style, but this was Great Depression times so you know the deal with”Americans First” of that times. lol
If you look around, there is art all over the place like wood-carved animal heads, paintings of the workers who built the Timberline, the rustic look of the place, used local rocks to build things, lighting, metal scrap works, it has that tough woodsman look and feel, but is very pretty to look at. I parked myself at the various fireplaces and just enjoyed my drinks. I was high up in the clouds. You definitely need to head out to this place to experience it for yourself.