By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
“New year, new you!” “Start the new year right!” “Out with the old and in with the new!”
More than any other time of year, January shoves our head in a toilet bowl filled with cloyingly motivational platitudes and won’t let go while we desperately try to reach for the flusher and skip to February. Every advertisement, magazine cover and lifestyle show shames the behavior of the previous year so that customers will shell out money for exercise equipment or lock themselves into a gym membership.
Sure, you probably drank too much brew in 2015. Exercise may have slowly redefined itself as making laps in the grocery store beer aisle while deciding what to buy or carrying two growlers at a time to the car. It would be really easy to ignore the usual New Year’s calls to action and hunker down until June. After all, it’s cold outside. It’s dark. And there’s rain. But an abundance of options await when it comes to staying active this winter. You can then celebrate the effort it took to leave your home with a well-deserved beer — or several. The following is a guide to both in four categories: snow, ice, wood and rock.
Re-explore the hiking routes in the Mount Hood National Forest when they’re coated in snow. The sparkling, clear lakes and wildflower-filled meadows are gone, but the winter transformation is not any less engaging than the summer scenery. Water normally alive with swimmers and boaters has gone still with a layer of ice. Tree branches and trails are frosted in white. And when it’s snowing, the skies are a beautifully subdued shade of slate.
To really get an appreciation of the setting, though, shake off the crowds that congregate at Timberline and Sno-Park parking areas. Strap on some snowshoes and escape to the backcountry where the effort it takes to complete the trails tends to deter a lot of people. If you don’t have any gear, not to worry. Mt. Hood Adventure (88335 E. Government Camp Loop Road, Government Camp, 503-715-2170) located on the upper story of Ratskeller, has rentals for adults ($15) and kids ($10). That includes shoes and poles for 24 hours in case you can make an overnight escape and get a couple of treks in. The guy normally behind the counter is a wealth of information when it comes to where to go and what to do if you get lost or end up braving the elements overnight. He’s so passionate about winter recreation, he’s practically vibrating with excitement. To get you started, here are three snowshoeing routes in order of increasing difficulty:
Distance: About 5 miles
Difficulty: Riding a tauntaun through the snow in “Star Wars: Episode V”
Directions: From Portland, travel 31 miles east of Sandy on Highway 26 to about 2.5 miles east of Timberline Road. Follow the signs to Trillium Lake and turn right into the Sno-Park.
Some hikes are easy to knock to the bottom of your list because they’re not very challenging and often teeming with people. Trillium Lake meets both those criteria in the warmer months, but come snow season the path gets longer and a little more demanding. And about a mile in, you distance yourself from everyone who is just there to play in the snow — not complete the entire loop. The distance increases because you’ll be snowshoeing in from the Trillium Lake Sno-Park parking lot rather than driving in to a day-use area next to the water. Forest Road 2650 will be free of cars, so tromp along the wide, sloped path that’s blanketed with powder until reaching a fork about .5 miles in. Either direction curves around the lake, but going left gets to the scenic shore more quickly. Reward yourself by saving the best view for the end of the hike and take a right. Open prairieland that’s dotted with clusters of trees eventually gives way to a thicker forest that surrounds much of Trillium.
One place worth a pause is the Summit Meadows Pioneer Cemetery. The plot of land, not much bigger than a dining room table, is marked by a white picket fence, some tombstones and a wooden sign posted on a tree — if not all obscured by snow. You can take a moment to imagine what it might have been like trudging along the Barlow Road section of the Oregon Trail. Not long after that, though, the sight of a handful of cabins will snap you back to modernity and perhaps inspire a future weekend getaway. Soon you’ll start to spot small windows in the three branches revealing the lake. The best view comes after crossing the dam — a hill of pines arches up to one side of the lake, the vast expanse of water stretches out in front of you. On a clear day, Mount Hood towers over Trillium. When finished with selfies and scenery, continue the loop to return to the parking lot. When you reach the fork, there’s one hill to contend with — but rest assured you’re nearly done at that point.
Distance: About 7 miles
Difficulty: Getting chased by Jack Nicholson through a snow-covered hedge maze in “The Shining”
Directions: From Portland take Highway 26 east past the junction with Highway 35 to the Frog Lake Sno-Park.
If you’ve seen one lake in the Mount Hood National Forest, you’ve seen them all. It’s easy to sum up the beauty of these shimmering gems nestled around the peak with one camping trip, one hike, one Instagram photo. But after you start exploring more of the region’s lakes, you’ll begin to appreciate the subtle differences and hidden side trips only experienced hikers can reveal. What makes the Twin Lake trail unique is revealed in the name — there are two watering holes that, although similar, offer separate experiences.
From the Frog Lake Sno-Park, head toward the picnic table and turn right onto the Pacific Crest Trail. Upon reaching an intersection, veer right to continue onto Twin Lakes Trail No. 495. It’s a gentle climb under the thick boughs of old growth weighed down by snow. The first lake comes into view after you amble down a ridge about 2 miles in. A fairly expansive campground provides plenty of places for a pit stop, complete with luxury log seating. The frozen patch of water is ringed by towering evergreens that look like they’ve been iced by a giant cake decorator.
The path to the Upper Twin is narrower and steeper. This is where you’ll start stripping off some of those layers because slogging through the snow headed uphill is enough to keep you warm. At times, you’ll come near a stream that slashes a black, jagged stripe through the white snowbanks before reaching the second lake, which is smaller and shallower. Unless clouds are in the way, Mount Hood’s tip will be peering over the crowd of trees surrounding Upper Twin’s perimeter.
Trail No. 495 links to Palmateer Point via Trail No. 482, but only continue if you’re a skilled hiker/snowshoer and have navigating equipment, as the snow tends to get thicker farther up. To call it a day, simply turn around at Upper Twin and go back the way you came. For those who’ve heard the mysterious Camp Toilet might exist along the route — it’s true. But wait until summer to seek it out. Not only is it probably buried in snow, a white lid is also mighty difficult to spot this time of year.
Frog Lake Butte
Distance: About 6 miles
Difficulty: Liam Neeson running through frozen Alaska while punching wolves in “The Grey”
Directions: From Portland take Highway 26 east past the junction with Highway 35 to the Frog Lake Sno-Park.
You wouldn’t know it when whizzing by on Highway 26, but the Frog Lake Sno-Park parking area is bustling with activity. Of course, you’ll find people crouched over to secure snowshoes or cross-country skis, but the lot is also shared with dogsled teams and toy haulers that contain the leaf blowers of recreational gear — the snowmobile. Even though they’re despised by some outdoor enthusiasts for their incessant drone and malodorous motor, it’s best to keep your cool and play well together. You won’t see much of the snowmobilers once you’re out on the path, but the noise never completely comes to a halt.
Begin by heading right on Forest Road 2610, which is spacious to accommodate vehicles in the summer. This is no flat stroll, however, as you’ll become painfully aware of about a half mile in. Take the steep and unforgiving Frog Lake Butte Road for 2,000 miles straight up. Poles are your pal on this snowshoe. There’s not much to describe in terms of scenery on the way. You’ll be too focused on lifting one foot in front of the other on the grinding course to appreciate it anyway. And that’s what the summit is for. At nearly 5,300 feet, there’s a whole lotta view. Mount Hood soars above rolling hills dotted with lakes like Timothy and Clear. Mount Jefferson is also visible on the horizon. The flat, open butte can get blustery, so find a grove of trees and catch your breath. If you packed a growler, toast your ascent before heading down.
Thaw Out Beers
Everyone loves a ski chalet after a long day on the mountain because they’re cozy and feature the most enjoyable way to warm up: alcohol. Mt. Hood Brewing Company (87304 Government Camp Loop, Government Camp, 503-272-3172) fits the bill on both accounts and it’s just off Highway 26 near all of the recommended snowshoe trails. There are at least six house-brewed beers on tap and several beer cocktails. A fireplace nook to the left of the entrance with oversized leather chairs and a large coffee table is the place to relax if you can snag it. When occupied, grab a table in the back or a stool at the bar, where there’s a frosty strip embedded in the countertop to keep pints cold. No matter what, you’ve got a better seat than any of the suckers crawling along 26 to Portland in the never-ending line of homeward-bound ski traffic.
Remember when all it took to entertain you as a kid was a rink, a little music and some flashy lights, along with the possibility you’d hold your crush’s hand during the partner skate? Return to the thrills of middle school at the Sherwood Ice Arena (20407 SW Borchers Drive, Sherwood, 503-625-5757), where they turn off the fluorescents, start spinning the disco balls and pump up the Top 40. Public skate sessions are held throughout the week, but the mood lighting and DJ are only available on Fridays from 7:35-9:35 p.m. The dark also provides some anonymity to those wall clingers who spend more time on their tailbones than up on skates. But after a few wobbly laps, your Rollerblading experience from the ‘90s should kick right in like you haven’t missed a day. Admission and skate rental for two costs $20. The arena offers a date night special, which includes mini pizzas and medium drinks for five bucks more, but eating concession stand food in a lobby that smells like a hamper full of musty gym socks isn’t worth the extra dough. Instead, drink like an adult before you play like a kid and order pints at NW Growlers (21025 SW Pacific Highway, Sherwood, 503-822-5426) just across the street.
If it’s too much of a stretch to get to the suburbs for a spin around the ice, embrace a classic by going to Lloyd Center (953 Lloyd Center, Portland, 503-288-6073). The rink was the first of its kind to open in a mall in 1960 and its legacy is inextricably linked to Oregon’s infamous figure skater Tonya Harding. Given that the slab of ice isn’t really the main attraction here since it is a shopping center, the space is small and feels like it, both on the ice and in the waiting area where you’ll fight for a seat with 6-year-olds while the Zamboni does its thing. Be warned that the skating here isn’t cheap. Sure, $17 on a Sunday covers skate rental and access to the rink all day. But let’s be honest — no one is going to do laps here for eight hours. It would be forgivable if you took that $17 to the food court instead. However, you may want to get your time on the nostalgic rink while you can. Lloyd Center says it’s planning an overhaul in 2016 that will improve rink aesthetics, but shrink the size.
While there’s nowhere to grab a beer in the mall proper, two walking-distance options should satisfy your thirst. Upright Brewing (240 N. Broadway #2, Portland, 503-735-5337) makes four lovely saisons year-round that you can enjoy at tables tucked away in a dimly lit basement surrounded by brewing equipment. To get to the bottom floor, go to the very back of the building and press on through a labyrinth of halls and staircases that lack signs. Order a sampling tray before hitting the ice, but be sure to bring cash or a check to pay. Since Upright has limited hours and no kitchen, Broadway Grill & Brewery (1700 NE Broadway St., Portland, 503-284-4460) is another option. It has eight of its own craft beverages, a book for a menu and stays open longer. Either way you go, the combination of beer, blades and ice would surely get you grounded if your mom had anything to say about it.
In 2000, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam introduced the thesis that civic engagement in the U.S. has been declining since the 1960s. To illustrate the argument, he used a vivid, empirical phenomenon — plenty of Americans were still bowling as a form of recreation, yet few did so in leagues as they once used to. This was one example used to highlight the importance of social capital and how joining networks gives one a sense of stake in community. Perhaps what further drove bowling to become a more isolated activity was the subsequent rise of the casino-like alley: fast-paced video screens, pop music and booths swaddled in black leather. The experience has become more about being stimulated by the atmosphere, and it’s also a hell of a lot more expensive to knock down some pins in these newfangled palaces of play.
Fans of old school alleys will appreciate those that are left and remain untouched by the frills of the 21st century. Although you’re not likely to work up a sweat, it’s still a way to burn more calories than spending an evening disappearing into the living room couch. AMF Pro 300 Lanes (3031 SE Powell Blvd., Portland, 503-234-0237) is one place to get the ball rolling on the wood. It features 36 lanes, plastic seats, a lounge and zero pretension. Prices top out at $5.19 per person, per game. Just because the building is dated, doesn’t mean the beer is. Craft is on tap, including at least one beer, appropriately, from neighboring Hopworks Urban Brewery (2944 SE Powell Blvd., Portland, 503-232-4677). After your 10 frames, cross the street for a burger and more beer, making it a 1950s-kind-of bowling night that would do Putnam proud.
Maybe you’ve seen the REEL ROCK Film Tour and felt inspired by those adventurous athletes or overheard conversations about the amazing grip strength developed by bouldering. Whatever the motivation, you decide you want to give one of those climbing gyms a try since all of the outdoor rocks are wet and slippery in winter. The Circuit has two Portland locations (410 NE 17th Ave., 503-719-7041 and 6050 SW Macadam Ave., 503-246-5111) and one in Tigard (16255 SW Upper Boones Ferry Road, 503-596-2332) with drop-in day passes for $14 and $4 shoe rentals. All locations are also located next to beer. The business has even gone a step further by partnering with Base Camp Brewing Company (930 SE Oak St., Portland, 503-477-7479), Culmination Brewing (2117 NE Oregon St., Portland, 971-258-2808), Migration Brewing (2828 NE Glisan St., Portland, 503-206-5221) and NW Growlers (6141 SW Macadam Ave., Portland, 503-245-4509). Look for price breaks at any of those locations after climbing or falling because you haven’t yet developed that superhuman grip. At least the floors are padded.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.