How you can become a Mount Hood steward...

It's easy to become a Mount Hood Steward! Simply adopt one (or all) of the six paths to stewardship described below. You'll be making an important contribution toward the protection and restoration of Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, and you will feel great doing it!

1. Become an expert on National Parks: the average person knows little about the ecosystem protections and improved recreation that national park status brings. This includes conservationists, who often have an outdated view of national parks as overdeveloped theme parks, when the track record of the National Park Service shows just the opposite to be true.

You can help reverse this trend by learning more about the national park legacy. Start with the National Parks vs. National Forests primer and FAQs, then check out the National Parks Conservation Association, the nation's premier advocates for our national parks, monuments and preserves.

2. Become an explorer: most who visit the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood start at the most popular spots -- Multnomah Falls or Timberline Lodge. One way to become a Mount Hood steward is to make a point of exploring a new trail or landmark at least once a year. This will help you gain a broader understanding of the unique treasures that exist beyond the popular stops, and the hidden risks that threaten the mountain and gorge.

A good starting point for exploring these lesser-known places is the Portland Hikers Field Guide, an online community resource built and maintained by volunteers that can be tailored to your interests and abilities.

3. Adopt a trail: while exploring the lesser-known trails around the mountain and gorge, you will see that many suffer from neglect, thanks to poorly funded Forest Service recreation programs. Indeed, most of the trail work done here is carried out by volunteers.

You can become a trail steward in a couple of ways. The easiest is to informally adopt a trail and visit each year with clippers or bow saw in hand to perform the light maintence of clipping encroaching plants. If you'd like to really dig in, consider a day with with the Trailkeepers of Oregon, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping our trails open.

4. Adopt a special place: another benefit of exploring the lesser-known corners of Mount Hood and the Gorge is that you'll discover places that could use a friend -- usually from misuse. You can adopt these places informally by simply making a point to go there each year, and caring for the land by carrying out debris. For help in how to do this, contact Oregon's SOLV, a non-profit organization that provides free kits for cleanup projects.

You can take a more organized approach to a cleanup by becoming a project leader for a group of volunteers. SOLV will help you organize your own project, or even adopt a river.

5. Adopt a cause: Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge are the focus of dozens of volunteer efforts, but two organizations are at the forefront in proteting the mountain and gorge, and warrant your support.

BARK is a young organzation that monitors timber sales and other forest threats to Mount Hood, and has emerged as the most hands-on conservation group in the region. Friends of the Columbia Gorge has been working for decades to protect the Gorge, including recent efforts to acquire private lands and build new trails. For a complete list of advocacy groups working to project Mount Hood and the Gorge, check out this directory.

6. Support the communities: Among of the important ingredients in a successful national park campaign are healthy mountain and gorge communities, supported by tourism. You can become a steward for these communities by simply stopping when you travel through, and supporting their businesses and civic events.

These communities include the towns of Cascade Locks, Hood River, The Dalles, Dufur, Sandy and Estacada, the Hood River Valley villages of Odell, Parkdale and Mount Hood, and the villages of Mount Hood, stretching along the loop highway from Alder Creek to Government Camp.