September 11, 2007

The Naked Mountain

photo by Leslie Pugmire Hole/copyright Redmond Spokesman

For years now I have made plans to visit Mt. Bachelor in the summer, enjoying the idea of spectacular views on sunny days and a leisurely ride up a mountainside. Labor Day looming up this year made me realize that this adventure was once more going to pass me by if I didn’t grab the family and head for the lifts.

Having seen several movie versions of the novel “Heidi” about the little Swiss girl living in the Alps, I guess I thought the summer version of normally snowy peaks would be like that: verdant hills covered in wildflowers and lush grass.

As a first-time visitor to Mt. Bachelor last week I was greatly disillusioned. Bachelor, like the rest of the peaks in the Cascades, is a still-youthful (by geological standards) volcano, stark in its rocky blackness.

What did I expect, you say? In my defense, as the only non-skier in my family my experience with ski mountains is nearly non-existent.

For the rest of the family, however, seeing Bachelor bare of all its winter coverings was a revelation. Riding up the quad lifts to the Pine Marten lodge we passed the swaths of cleared hillside that in the winter hosts snowboarders and skiers. We passed the trees that divide the various runs, the now-dusty trough used by snowboarders for aerial tricks and signs warning of out-of-bounds areas. All of it looked new to them, and yet familiar, like a well-frequented river drained of water.

During the trip up the mountain views of the surrounding Cascades lakes area are as spectacular as anticipated. Sparks, Todd and Elk lakes area easily spotted, along with Dutchman’s Flat recreation area and the Cascade Highway, a mere ribbon of asphalt curving through the forest.

Pine Marten Lodge is sited just above the tree line and in the summer looks like a crazed real estate developer built a restaurant on Saturn. Sharp and glistening volcanic rock, occasionally broken up with a particularly tenacious pine tree or alpine plant, surrounds the lodge. Once off the lift hiking trails meander in every direction. The sporadic snow fields undaunted by the summer sun proved too tempting to the skiers in the family, who tried their hand at sneaker skiing with more success than I would have expected.

The café in the lodge is open in the summer, offering typical fare like hamburgers, pizzas, and salads. A patio that runs around three-quarters of the building is a perfect spot for relaxing, sightseeing or taking souvenir photos.

On weekends in the summer Bachelor features sunset dinner packages that include a lift ride up to Scapolo’s Restaurant. Reservations are suggested for dinner.

For all its barren blackness Bachelor is surprisingly full of life in the summer. Chipmunks beg for treats below the deck and humongous crickets compete for who can make the most noise. Hawks soar above and disc golfers scamper up and down the hills like mountain goats.

Golfers? Oh, yeah – Bachelor installs an 18-hole disc golf course on the mountain every summer. Think Frisbees instead of golf balls and metal baskets instead of putting greens and you get the idea. The course begins near the lodge and zigs and zags down the entire mountainside to West Village at the bottom of the Pine Marten lift. Devotees can purchase a summer season pass so they can ride the lift and run down the mountain as long as their lungs hold out. The skiers in the family made vaguely threatening plans to come next summer to play so I checked with the lift operators to ensure my pass would enable me to ride the lift all day while they played golf.

I’ll be back next year when the snow melts in July but I’m not likely to be found running down the mountain unless a bear is chasing me.

-- story by Leslie Pugmire Hole

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