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On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peakby Jon Bell
Some 50 miles southeast of Portland lies the highest peak in the state of Oregon: Mount Hood, a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano. The fourth tallest in the Cascade range (around 11,240 feet high), Mount Hood is currently rated fourth by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in terms of "size and potential damage of an eruption." There is, of course, far more to Hood than its latent explosive power, as Jon Bell's intriguing book On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak makes abundantly clear.
Light on the science and heavy on the personal anecdote, Bell's often charming book explores nearly every facet the mountain has to offer. On Mount Hood's brief chapters cover everything from the peak's geological history, its glaciers, and its pronounced effects on local weather to the history of its early summits, the storied Timberline Lodge, and details about its many climbing fatalities (nearly 140 since records have been kept). Bell also dispels some of the long-held myths regarding Mount Hood, most notably that Portland's drinking water is fed by the mountain's glacial runoff (in fact, none of the city's drinking water originates on the mountain — nearly all of it comes from the nearby Bull Run watershed).
Jon Bell's affection for the mountain is evident, and his enthusiasm for its wonder and beauty is easily shared. On Mount Hood is a great general-interest book on one of Oregon's most recognizable (and influential) landmarks. From its foothills to the timberline to its snow-capped summit, Bell provides an interesting firsthand glimpse of Hood's many striking characteristics.
Whether hiking or climbing or skiing or camping on it, gazing longingly at it from an office window, sipping a pale ale with its countenance on the label, enduring the rain it wrings from the air, following a story about climbers lost on it or massive trees about to be cut on it, Hood has a story that inevitably becomes a part of your own. The mountain's presence is undeniable and iconic, always there, whether you can see it or not. It is a paragon of alpine beauty, but also in its entirety much more than that. Mount Hood is sunshine and storms, forests and fauna; it is snow, ice, and water; it is history and tragedy, mystery and glory.
Recommended by Jeremy, Powell's City of Books
Synopses & Reviews
On Mount Hood tells the story of Oregon's greatest mountain, a mountain that has shaped the very land of the Northwest. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, it draws millions to its textbook beauty every year; it paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s, its forests provide some of the purest drinking water in the world, and its snowy peak captures the attention of the nation almost every time it wreaks fatal havoc upon climbers seeking the summit.
Through a mix of first-person narrative, including an epic trip around the mountain on the storied Timberline Trail, and the stories of countless climbers, scientists, historians, and overall characters who have helped make Mount Hood the lively feature that it is, On Mount Hood builds a compelling story of a legendary mountain and its impacts on the people who live in its shadow every day.
Chapters throughout On Mount Hood cover everything from climbing, skiing, and weather to forest activism, Hoods retreating glaciers, unique flora and fauna, Native Americans, early pioneers, and more. Among those whose stories are shared as a result of one-on-one interviews within the pages of On Mount Hood are: Andrew Canfield, the para-rescue jumper who was hurled from a PAVE Hawk helicopter during a dramatic rescue and crash on Hoods south side; Tre Arrow, a forest activist who free-climbed the U.S. Forest Service headquarters building in Portland in his bare feet to protest an old-growth timber sale in the Mount Hood National Forest; and Willie Scott, the USGS geologist whos spent years mapping Mount Hood and assessing its volcanic threat to the entire region.
On Mount Hood comes at a perfect time for Northwesterners who have grown up with the mountain and for countless others who have come to know it by moving to or visiting Oregon in the past few years. The mountain and its surrounding forests, lakes, and rivers continue to be an inspirational and functional landscape for the region; yet Hoods is a landscape that is under pressure to accommodate greater populations and a multitude of uses. Not only do Oregonians and others recreate on the mountain in a range of different ways, but many count on it for water, power transmission, timber, and other natural resources. Future development threatens the slopes of Hood yet also stands as the only answer to the growing number of people who head to it for enjoyment.
"It took more than a decade, but Mount Hood now has a book to rival Mount Rainier's." The Oregonian
"Jon Bell shows you that no matter what you think you know about Mount Hood, there's more to learn. He's the author of the recently published On Mount Hood, a beautiful work that weaves the personal, historic, geologic and newsworthy tales of the mountain into an entertaining, enrapturing book." Localite with Jon Compton
"On Mount Hood tells the story of Mount Hood in a way that's surprisingly never been done before." Oregon Lakes and Rivers
On Mount Hood is a contemporary, first-person narrative biography of Oregon's greatest mountain, featuring stories full of adventure and tragedy, history and geology, people and places, trivia and lore. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, and paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s. Its forests provide some of the purest drinking water in the world, and its snowy peak captures the attention of the nation almost every time it wreaks fatal havoc on climbers seeking the summit. On Mount Hood builds a compelling story of a legendary mountain and its impact on the people who live in its shadow, and includes interviews with a forest activist, a volcanologist, and a para-rescue jumper.
About the Author
An outdoor enthusiast and wordsmith, Jon Bell has been writing from his home base in the Portland, Oregon, area since the late 1990s. After growing up in Mansfield, Ohio, Jon got a bachelor's degree in history from Michigan State University, then traveled extensively across the American West before landing in Portland. His first published pieces were about some of his backpacking and climbing excursions in the Northwest, including countless weekends on Mount Hood. His work has appeared in Backpacker, The Oregonian, The Rowing News, Oregon Coast, and many other publications. He is also co-author of the climbing guidebook, Ozone, and a former president of the Ptarmigans Mountaineering Club. He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with his wife, two kids, and a black Lab.
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