keep it quiet.

 


Pending on your stance as a superstitious person or not, you may or may not want to read the following story as it may or may not cause you forever change your actions and look into circumstances as directly relating to those actions. If you live far far away from Oregon and Mt. Hood and have no plans on coming to visit ever... go ahead and read on. If you are an avid hiker, skier, boarder, climber, camper, or traveler here in the Pacific Northwest, proceed with caution. This is your warning.

I am not an overly superstitious person.

Well, aside from ALWAYS putting on my right sock and shoe first, avoiding walking under ladders and scaffolding at all cost and changing my direction or crossing the street whenever a black cat crosses my path, I would not consider myself to be a superstitious person at all. I mean, it's not like I hold my breath over bridges (have you ever driven the Mackinaw Bridge? Good luck holding your breath over that!) or past cemeteries, cross my fingers over train tracks or hit the ceiling as I pass through yellow signal lights. I do none of those absurdly silly things. However, there are somethings that I'd rather not tempt fate... and one of those is Silent Rock.

For anyone who goes to the Mt. frequently, it doesn't take many trips in the snow, sun or rain before you start seeing car crashes on the side of the road. Passing car crashes is always unnerving (esp as a driver) and even more so when you see cars overturned, snowboards shot out of windows and broken glass everywhere that makes you realize that these people, just like you, were out for a day of fun on the mountain. You try to take into consideration the road conditions, weather conditions, what kind of car they were driving, if they had chains on or not, and how fast they were going as to what caused their accident... but not having a data spread sheet in front of you, always just leaves you to wonder. That section of HWY 26 near Government Camp is always dangerous and I personally take every precaution possible to minimize my risk in that area and while recreating on the mountain, even if it means shutting up and turning the radio off as I pass Silent Rock.

It was just about a year ago when I first heard the legend of Silent Rock. There are many stories out there about how Silent Rock came to be known as "Silent Rock", In fact, i've heard just about everything from a bus load of nuns that went overboard and down the mountain side, to a bus load of elementary students, a ski team, and even old ancient indians that were thrown over the mountain at that point. There are even legends of a blasting accident that happened when they were making the road and also similar stories of a collapsing tunnel. Regardless of the legend, they all have one thing in common: when you pass by Silent Rock, you remain quiet by ceasing conversation and turning off your radio out of respect to those who have died. While I don't buy one particular story over another (though I find the nun story particularly tragic)... I do think the Mountain and those who have died or been injured reaching it or playing on it via one way or another, do demand respect, and if turning off my radio and pausing my conversation (which is most likely about putting tater tots or hashbrowns in your breakfast burritos) appeases the Mountain Gods and Sprits, than so be it.

And the funny thing is, prior to hearing the legend of Silent Rock, I probably jibber jabbed my way past it countless times and nothing happened. However, once someone shared the story with me and no longer am I naive to tempt fate. In fact, now it's more like.... SHIT, I have to be quiet now, cause well, the thing is... you never know. So these days, when approaching that disastrous bend in the road, I take every effort in my driving ventures to the mountain to not only shh myself and my radio, but make sure everyone else does too.

Take for example February 10 of 2009. This date was my birthday and I was celebrating that evening the best way I knew how... inviting my friends up to the Mountain for Ladies Night at Ski Bowl. This is also about the same time that I really started to get to know Sam, my girl friend. Anyways, Sam had made her way to the mountain in her SUV to join the festivities, but at one point en route she passed a car on the snowy road and lost control of hers. As a result, she crashed her car into a snowbank. And, if that tale wasn't horrendous and frightening enough, on the way home she hit a patch of black ice and skated across the highway into a guardrail going the opposite direction. Needless to say, A) she's glad the guardrail was there and B) that there were no oncoming cars. In speaking with Sam sometime after the incidents, she recounts that she was most likely listening to music as she passed Silent Rock. Case in point: never again is Sam going to A) drive to the Mountain in the snow or B) talk or play music past Silent Rock.


Sam's car....

In another event last year, I was not driving, but riding with my friends Jaleah and Christopher to put in a day at Timberline. After only a few runs in, we went up to Magic Mile.... the highest lift on Hood that takes you right to the Palmer Glacier. One third of the way down the run, Christopher lost control of his skis in an effort to avoid a rocky patch and wiped out, slamming his shoulder into the hard snow pack. In much pain, we had to call for ski patrol and it was determined that he dislocated his shoulder. Needless to say, Christopher's ride back to Portland in an ambulance put an early end and a damper to our day. Recalling the drive-up, I don't think we had the radio off past Silent Rock.

In another, less sever account but also as troubling, just the other week I went snowboarding with some friends and they drove. As we approached the rock, I and everyone stopped talking (once again... we were most likely discussing the state of potatoes in breakfast burritos) however, the radio remained on. As we passed the rock and the radio continued playing, I grimmaced and looked at Sam sitting next to me.... not really wanting to tempt fate that day. I sighed under my breath and hoped for the best. As the day progressed... I kinda forgot about not turning off the radio thing as I made turn after turn in the sweet snow. At one point though, my friend Amy, who is learning to board, took a nasty spill that caused her to crack her face against the groomed trail and pretty much call it quits for the day. Then, my other friend Julie had a little feminine issue that I won't mention exactly (cause I don't want to embarrass her) but it sucked ass. Around noon I went in meet the two of them in the lodge by the fire and enjoy a pleasant lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers. Then afterwards, we decided to give the slopes another go and went out into the snow and cold to grab our boards from the corrals. I went to where I had last left my board only to find a vacant, empty space. A quick glance around told me what I had already feared... not that I had misplaced my board, but that it had been stolen. Prior to going in for lunch, I had set it on the last row of corrals next to some suspicious guy who was shiftedly, fiddling with bindings on a board that did not appear to be his own (case in point: that when you get an odd feeling about somebody, it's best to remove you and your possessions away from them.... not set them down right next to them and walk away to go warm up by a cozy fireplace somewhere.)

I know that my stolen snowboard is my own fault. Stolen gear is one reason why God invented Ski-Check. However, hardly anyone seems to check their gear at Mt. Hood Meadows. At Timberline, yes... but it's also free there. At Meadows, ski check costs a dollar - which isn't spendy- but most people would rather spend that money on beer and they also prescribe to the "trusting vibe" of the mountain. Much like young dudes hitching a ride to the slopes or the top of Alpine Trail, folks commonly leave their stuff out with the understanding that you're not going to jenk their gear if they don't jenk yours. However, it being Thanksgiving weekend, there were many out of towners on the slopes and probably a few folks who aren't exactly as trustworthy as the regulars. I figured, someone got a little Black Friday Five Fingered Discount at my trustworthy expense.

More than anything, I was at a loss for words. By no means did I have the coolest or most rad board on the mountain, and with all due fairness, my bindings were a POS and held together by hardware screws... but I loved my board dearly and never in all my runs on a mountain anywhere... did I see someone with the same board. It was illustrated by a guy who lives down the street from me that I had met on occasion and it made me happy to look at it (you can read about my board here, I was kinda obsessed with it.) The security staff at Meadows did a great job at spreading word around the mountain that my board had been lifted and checking craigslists and ebay afterwards... but I figured that the board was long gone. So, needless to say, that put a damper on my day and came to be known as my own personal worst day on the mountain. True, I didn't get in a car wreck or injure myself and it's only money... but what a major buzz kill. Add that in with Amy's faceplant, and Julie's issue... no one in our car really had a good day. I blame Silent Rock.

So, if you have always driven to Mt. Hood on Highway 26 without knowing the legend and the consequences of Silent Rock, I hope that you can still pass by unscathed in all your future voyages. If you are cursing me for causing you to be superstitious about yet another thing, well.... you can never be too careful. And for everyone else, just remember folks, pay respect. Keep it Quiet.

 

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