By JOHN FORTMEYER
MOUNT HOOD — As pioneers made the long and hard trek into the Oregon Country those many years ago, a specific path around the south side of this mountain was certainly followed by people who looked for strength beyond themselves, Jerry Herrmann believes.
“It was quite an accomplishment to make that journey with a great deal of faith,” said Herrmann, a Portland-area resident who for years has arranged tours of Northwest rivers and other historic and geologic sites.
“I’m sure the pioneers read a lot of Scripture along the way to build their faith, so we can take a lot of lessons from that, can’t we?
Herrmann’s love for the Northwest’s natural beauty and compelling history is combining with his own faith in what he envisions as a series of tours that acknowledge the role Christian-ity played in the region’s founding. One such tour took place in late September as members of the Second Wind seniors ministry at New Hope Community Church in Happy Valley spent a generally rainy Saturday making stops by bus to learn about the famed Barlow Road around Mount Hood.
Built in 1846 by Sam Barlow and Philip Foster, with authorization of the Oregon Territory’s provisional government, the Barlow Road was the last overland segment of the Oregon Trail. Its construction allowed covered wagons to cross the Cascade Range and reach the Willamette Valley, which had been nearly impossible. Even so, it was the most harrowing 100 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile Oregon Trail.
The New Hope tour began at the church and then essentially traced the Barlow Road backward from the Portland area. Within minutes the trip was given a scientific focus, as Herrmann commented on the cinder cones that make up the Mount Talbert and Holcomb Hills formations in the Clackamas and Oregon City area. When the bus crossed the Clackamas River, which Herrmann described as the state’s second strongest in terms of current (the Rogue is first, he said), he was quick to point to the Creator.
“God’s power is witnessed in this very powerful river,” he said.
In addition to visiting points where remnants of the original Barlow Road are marked with signs, the group either drove by or stopped at such related sites as the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City; the Baker Cabin log structure built by pioneer Horace Baker in the Carver area and the nearby Pioneer Church; and the Philip Foster Farm National Historic Site in Eagle Creek, named after a settler who helped fund, build and operate the Barlow Road.
Although not part of the Barlow Road saga, a different chapter in Mount Hood history also was explored as the bus travelers stopped at a fog-enshrouded Timberline Lodge at the 7,000-foot level. There they ate lunch and heard from Thelma Haggenmiller of Slowpoke Tours the story behind the famed lodge, built as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression.
As the bus headed back toward Sandy and then Clackamas, the group heard Tim Miller, a young and aspiring tour guide, read an essay on “The Faith of the Founders.” To cap off the trip, Jerry Schmidt, one of New Hope’s founders and its pastor of administration, recited Romans 1:20, a scriptural reminder of the divine force behind creation.
“We have many reminders of our Heavenly Father in His creation that we can remember in the days ahead,” Schmidt concluded.
For more on tours that look not only at the region’s history, geology, geography and economy but also its spiritual heritage, contact Herrmann at 503-260-3432.