The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., May 1, 1924, page 3


     One of the most scenic railroads in the state of Oregon is in Hood River county. It is the 17-mile logging road of the Oregon Lumber Co., extending 17 miles from Dee, the location of the company's big mill, to the headwaters of the West Fork on the northwest side of Mount Hood with the company is engaged in cutting the timber from a large block of ripe trees purchased from the United States forestry service in 1915 and from privately owned tracts.
     The unique rail line is strictly utilitarian, but occasionally parties are given the pleasure of the journey up from Dee to the highland logging camps, which nestle in a depression between Lost Lake and the great expense of base of forests that gather the snowfall below Barrett Spur and feed the West Fork of Hood river throughout the summer months. It is a ride that thrills and inspires. Last year more than 20,000 motorists traveled the Lost Lake highway and developed ecstatic speech when they beheld the waters of that placid lake mirroring the white surface of Hood's snows. The views from the logging road are far more exhilarating than any available from the motor road.
     The writer last Thursday, accompanying Prof. L.F. Henderson and A.D. Moe, had the pleasure of the journey over the logging road. The first few miles pursue a gentle ascent up East and Middle forks of Hood river. Then by a switchback the road climbs to the tableland of the Dee Flat orchard section, where some of the most fertile pear and apple tracts annually add to the valley's tonnage of fine fruit. After the cultivated area is left the logging road, at a level of several hundred feet above the grade of the Lost Lake highway skirts the range of hills that lie just to the south.
     When one leaves of the mill town Mount Hood, when the day is clear, and it is rare that a summer's day is not clear, unless forest fires fill the atmosphere with a smoky haze, appears a giant white guardian through a vista of the Hood river Canyon off to the south. As the snorting logging locomotive mounts the summit of the Dee Flat region, the towering head of Mount Adams is seen above all the intervening land of forests and apple orchards of the Oregon and Washington mid-Columbia. The Washington peak is lost after progress of some five miles up the West Fork canyon, but the passenger aboard the deck of a logging car has plenty to see. Silvery ripples of the cascading current of the West Fork reflect back the sunlight, as though one might be beholding an avalanche of diamond dust.
     When one motors through a logged off land, a depression is likely to steal over him at beholding the inroads of the giants of the forest. The Oregon Lumber Company's road traverses and skirts many old logging slashings, but the traveler aboard the train, rolling along the higher levels, has no time to concentrate on the logged off areas. He is at an altitude that enables him to view vast panoramas.
     Some six miles from Dee, above the confluence of the West Fork and Lake Branch, after the road has broken through a castellated rock formation it turns from a westward course off to the south. Just before this crest is reached another switch back has to be negotiated. Thence up the West Fork the railway is a kind of skyline route. At places it passes along cuts from near solid rock. At the other places it crosses trestles so high that one's head swims. Indeed, one may look overboard and downward for 1,500 feet, and you cannot help wondering, when the little cogwheel locomotive is coming down with its burden of logs what might happen should the engine and cargo lead the track. It would be a swift dash into eternity.
     At points the logging road breaks away from the more precipitous canyons and passes through vistas of tall young firs. Then it enters onto a hillside area of logs off land. Even now the visitor to the remote forests can comprehend that it is a land of potential beauty, for the rhododendron bushes are thick amidst the stumps and tangle of debris that was left by the loggers. In another few weeks these high stumplands will be a riot of glorious pink. Even at this early date the nooks along the railroad grade enlivened by hundreds of sprigs of wild currant blooms. At one place Prof. Henderson identified the blooms of a fuchsia-blossomed gooseberry, a flower of rare beauty.
     Prof. Henderson made the trip to the lumber camp, through the courtesy of the company, to gather specimens of the various firs, pines, hemlock, cedar and yew for a collection he is preparing for the high school. The journey was doubly interesting for him, for he was a member of a party which in the early 80s of the last century explored the wilderness forest and discovered Lost Lake. He was a pioneer of the valley and in 1884 he and his wife journeyed from Lost Lake to the snowline of Mount Hood.
     The summit of the lumbering railroad is reached about two-thirds of the distance from Dee to the camp. After that it descends sharply to the level flats along the Ladd, Jones and Clear creeks, which, with other streams, form the headwater tributaries of the West Fork. The timber of this section grows into magnificent stands, and the lumber company is expecting a heavy run. A large Mikado type logging train operates from the mill to the first switchback, carrying out a long line of empty cars from the woods. Two round trips daily are made by the logging train.
      The plant is manned and equipped to turn out a cut of 30,000,000 feet this year. The magnitude of the operations of the logging concern are not comprehended until one journeys to the mill and thence over the scenic logging road to the forests. At the camps over 150 men are at work. Nine donkey engines are busy hauling logs to the loading yards and lifting them to the cars with an ease that is startling.
     The lumber company has equipped all of its logging locomotives with oil burning grates, thus lessening to a material degree the danger of fire.
     After a ride over the scenic logging road one cannot help looking forward to the time when it will be abandoned following the utilization of the many acres of forest trees. What a magnificent highway it will make then. The road cost all the away from 25,000 to 40,000 per mile to construct. In time it may be feasible to convert it into a motor highway. It can be connected with a road through Lolo Pass and thence to the Mount Hood Loop highway in Clackamas county. It is but a few miles through a cleft in the range that lies between the West Fork and Lost Lake to the lake itself. What a magnificent loop route may be available for motorists in days to come. At the present time the logging camps of the lumber company can only be reached by way of the rail line.
     The journey to Dee last week was made in Mr. Moe's automobile. The party, after Prof. Henderson was picked up at his West Side home, toured throughout the West Side and up the middle road across the Odell country to Dee. The air, as a result of the late frost, had the invigoration of an autumn morning.
     Prof. Henderson spent the night in the logging camps. Mr. Moe and the writer, on the journey down from the camp, found passage perched on the locomotive cab. From this vantage point air was plentiful and one could get an eyeful of the magnificent view every second. Indeed, it was a wonderful trip.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer