The leaves are changing colors, and the weather is getting chilly. It’s time to unearth the sweaters and boots, grab a large cup of coffee, and relax in front of a crackling fire in a beautiful lodge to soak up the season. Lucky for us, there are plenty of lodges close by for a quick trip.
Timberline Lodge is more than just a big building. Anchored in Depression-era grit and determination, the historic structure creaks and groans like a living thing. Located at 6,000 feet above sea level on the flanks of Oregon’s Mount Hood, the iconic timber and stone structure was commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 and finished in less than a year. Every day, anywhere between 100 and 500 workers labored for less than $1 per day hewing logs and cutting stone. Everything about the place is super-sized, from the massive timber beams to the 800,000-pound central fireplace. Many of the decorative accents were products of necessity — the drapes made from former workers’ blankets, the brown-faced skunk in the entry mosaic because they ran out of black tiles. Even the chains in front of the fireplaces started their looped-and-linked lives attached to the trucks hauling supplies during construction. Now they jingle melodically every time an employee adds another log to the fire, like they’re tickled to be useful even in what amounts to chain retirement.
Before the Kohnstamm family purchased the lodge in 1951, it fell into serious disrepair and was abandoned to the natural elements for a time. More than once, “burn it down” was lobbed into the conversation. But the Kohnstamms endured and restored, and eventually Timberline was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
The “fire solution” is now confined to the snap, crackle, pop of logs in the lobby fireplace, where winter skiers warm their hands and guests sip hot chocolate while reading a book or chatting with friends. Upstairs at the Ram’s Head Bar, the après ski crowds sip Oregon wines and craft beers, huddled around ramekins of fondue. On weekends and holidays, the Blue Ox Bar opens on the first floor. A former speakeasy, the Blue Ox — named for the stained-glass mosaic of Paul Bunyan’s trusty companion — now serves as a cozy watering hole famous for its hand-tossed pizzas and semi-secret vibe.
The lodge’s main restaurant is the Cascade Dining Room, where “Lodge Chef” Jason Stoller Smith showcases Oregon’s bounty with a sustainable farm-to-table menu. Stoller Smith pioneered the lodge’s proprietary beef program: Each year, it purchases 52 head of cattle that are fed and managed to specifications on an eastern Oregon ranch. Between the six restaurants on the property, the culinary team utilizes one cow per week as part of the gate-to-plate model for burgers in the cafeteria, braised beef for the tacos at Phlox Point Cabin, and steaks and French onion soup at the Cascade Dining Room.
Guest rooms feel like miniature cabins with honey-colored wood-paneled walls, comfortable beds, and a variety of arrangements to accommodate families.
Stories, spooky and tame, abound at Timberline from its construction onward, but its spookiest claim to fame is that it was used to film the 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, standing in for The Grand Overlook Hotel. I had fun taking sinister-looking photos down the hallway corridors and even got to hold the commemorative ax emblazoned with “Here’s Johnny” (while practicing my murdering rampage face — who knew it came so naturally?). “Halloween is off the chain here,” noted one employee.
But for the most part, Timberline Lodge radiates comfort with happy families hanging out in the lobby wearing pajamas and borrowed slippers, couples snuggling in for a romantic weekend getaway, and friends hanging out after a day on the slopes. The heated outdoor pool and hot tub soothe sore muscles, and the sauna eases away any remnants of chill.
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Hit the Slopes Early
Timberline Lodge keeps skiers and boarders cozy when they come off the slopes from Timberline Ski Resort, where beginners to diehards can enjoy the longest ski season in North America. The season is in full swing by November and lasts all the way through May, and the area even opens for snowy weekends in September and October.
Discover Haunts from ‘The Shining’
The Shining’s haunted Room 237 doesn’t actually exist in Timberline Lodge, which was used in the film to portray the outside of The Grand Overlook Hotel. The original room number from Stephen King’s novel, however, is 217, and it has become the most highly requested room in the hotel. If you can’t get the room, rest assured that older parts of the hotel are said to be haunted with the spirits of climbers and skiers who went exploring on Mount Hood and never made it back.
Sit Back and Relax
Not into ski sports or spooks? Don’t worry: The Mount Hood area still has plenty to offer you. Settle in at the Y’Bar in the Wy’East Day Lodge, and get ready for some cozy cocktails. Winners of past menus include Hot Buttered Rum — Timberline Lodge’s original recipe, made with Bacardi rum and served with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick — and Paradise Peak, a mix made with cranberry, rosemary, cinnamon, and hot cider. Pair these delicious libations with access to a pool, hot tub, and sauna, and you have a perfectly relaxing fall retreat to chase away the rainy blues. — Zoe branch
Alderbrook Resort & Spa
Soaring ceilings supported by exposed timber beams and a huge stone fireplace cause newly arrived guests to look up when entering the lobby of this lodge set on the eastern shore of Hood Canal, but a furry leg rub by one of the resort’s cats — Alder or Brook — brings the gaze back down. In the corner, a game of chess is underway; musical instruments hang on the wall awaiting talented fingers to coax out a song.
The resort was originally built in 1913. At that time, there wasn’t even an access road; visitors had to arrive by boat. The property went through a series of owners over the years and fell into disrepair before former Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes and his wife, Tricia purchased the resort in 2001. Restoring Alderbrook was a labor of love, spurred on by Tricia’s fond childhood memories of vacationing along Hood Canal.
The L-shaped lodge features a variety of guest rooms, many with views of the water and hills beyond. Adirondack chairs line the lawn facing the Puget Sound while more lounge seating circles around fire pits, ideal for a late afternoon nap or an evening glass of wine while watching the sunset. Down at the dock, rent water equipment like SUP boards, kayaks, and Hydrobikes as well as motorized watercraft. The resort offers daily narrated excursions on its yacht, the Lady Alderbrook.
Other activities include an indoor pool and hot tub with views of the water, a series of hiking trails located behind the resort, and hitting the links at Alderbrook Golf Club across the street. Don’t miss a sumptuous dinner featuring fresh seafood and local wines at the resort’s restaurant.
Other dining options in the Union area include the kitschy Robin Hood Restaurant Pub, treats at Union City Market, delicious Mexican cuisine at Dos Margaritas, and surprisingly awesome milkshakes at the nearby Texaco station. If time permits, drive around the south end of the canal and explore the western shore. Lunch at Hama Hama Oyster Saloon is a must — fresh and roasted oysters, clams, incredible crab cakes, even the grilled cheese sandwich with onions is fantastic. Pair with a local beer or wine and a view that won’t quit to make for the perfect afternoon combination.
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Grab your jacket, boots, and a hat and bring your appetite to Hama Hama Company, a fifth-generation, family-run oyster farm. Here you can see the farm, listen to sea lions bark in the distance, and learn all about those briny beloved bivalves that are harvested
Pull up a chair at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon — open-air huts added in 2014 that resemble 1920s-style logger bathhouses — and slurp and sample some of the freshest seafood as the salty air blows on your face. The menu is always changing, but expect to find things like oysters that are roasted and served with fancy butter sauces, and ice-cold oysters on the half shell, as well as steamed clams; crab cakes; and local brews to wash it all down with, like Finnriver Cider. They even have peanut butter and jelly sammies for the less adventurous in your group. Speaking of groups: If you are bringing more than 10 people, give them a heads-up.
If oysters intimidate you, check the website for classes, where they will show you how to shuck and eat them! Super oyster fans will enjoy the store, where they can take oysters to-go or buy cool oyster fan gear — like Hama Hama trucker hats, oh yeah. hamahamaoysters.com
Is Fruity Wine Your Jam?
The Hoodsport Winery is a must stop anytime you are in the area, especially if you love fruit-forward wines — try the apple or blackberry wine. It also has gourmet jams, chocolaty-boozy truffles, and a selection of gourmet coffees. Get good ole merlot, chardonnay, and other less-fruity wines, too. Hoodsport Winery was one of the first in the state, opening in 1978. hoodsport.com — Lisa Patterson
Located at the tip of the mile-plus Semiahmoo Spit, the V-shaped sunny yellow lodge overlooks Semiahmoo Bay with beautiful sunset views to the west and the Canadian town of White Rock to the north. The spit is just over a mile long and at its narrowest around 200 feet wide. Rocky beaches strewn with driftwood in places line its perimeter. Parents can relax in an Adirondack chair on the resort’s expansive lawn while the kids hunt for colorful rock treasures. Patio games, like giant Jenga, will you help you wind down with a nightly bonfire, complete with s’mores materials.
The lodge features a library stocked with board games, an indoor hot tub, indoor/outdoor pool, pickleball courts, a fantastic fitness center, and a spa offering massages and other pampering services. Work on your golf game with the onsite golf simulator — it can accommodate up to six people at one time. On weekend nights, catch a kid-friendly movie on the “big screen” in the theater room. Guest rooms are simple and comfortable; many have balconies overlooking the bay.
Watching my teens navigate a tandem bike was almost as much fun as the guided bike tour along the spit. Bikes, kayaks, and SUP boards are available for rent at the Beach Activity Center, along with lessons and tours.
Dining options are few and far between outside of the resort, so stick around and enjoy a bite with a view at Packers Kitchen & Bar, featuring fresh seafood like oysters on the half shell, locally sourced produce, charcuterie boards, pub favorites, and elegant entrees (breakfast and lunch are also available). The bar has a casual seaside vibe and a seasonal outdoor patio.
More to do
You haven’t truly experienced the quaintness of Bellingham unless you wander over to the Fairhaven neighborhood. Grab a bite to eat at Skylark’s Hidden Café and then experience the shops in this easily walkable district. If you’re ending your day in this area, we highly recommend The Archer Ale House, discreetly located down a steep set of stairs on Tenth Street where you can order excellent pub food and sip a vivacious cocktail. Also nearby is Boulevard Park, which is a lovely way to take in Bellingham Bay, rain or shine.
Bellingham Pumpkin Ales
The city of Bellingham, just south of Semiahmoo, is home to numerous local craft breweries. During your excursion, we suggest you tour the local beer scene and compare the various pumpkin ales to choose from. Our favorite is the Horseman’s Head from Kulshan Brewing Co., but we’ll let you be the judge.
Scenic Drive Along Chuckanut
One of our favorite winter activities is simply taking in all the changing colors. We suggest driving down the famous Chuckanut Drive for unbeatable scenery, especially during this time of year. Take Chuckanut, or state Highway 11, into Whatcom County on your way up to Semiahmoo. The road weaves through ancient forests and along the beautiful Bellingham Bay, unveiling nonstop picturesque scenery along the way. Instead of simply passing through Larrabee State Park, park the car and take one of the many hiking trails to really get face-to-face with all those reds and oranges we can’t get enough of.
The Sweet Side of The Season
Is it really even winter if you aren’t shoveling pumpkin pie into your mouth? Barb’s Pies and Pastries in the town of Ferndale is a vacation indulgence you can’t pass up. If you’re not a fan of pumpkin (crazy, in our opinion), there are plenty of other options to choose from, including blackberry, peach, pecan, and raspberry rhubarb. If you call ahead, you can have Barb make your pie gluten-free for only a couple extra dollars. This family-owned bakery uses fresh, local ingredients in every bite, and you can tell the recipes have been passed down for generations. — Melissa McCarthy