Shortly after the founding of The Trails Club of Oregon in 1915, a group of members conceived a lodge home for the Trails Club on their own property. While gathered around the camp fires and at weekly luncheons, they talked about a home for the club. Because the Trails Club had its inception on the summit of Larch Mountain, this territory was selected as the logical place for a mountain home. More than a year was spent searching the area before the spot in the Columbia River Highlands upon which Nesika now stands, was found. The property then 120 acres, was purchased for $500 from Evelyn Nicolai, a club member.
The following memoir was written by Fern Anderson, a club member since she was 3 years old in the 1940s. She is still an active member and has continued to visit Nesika faithfully every month.
By Fern Anderson
Nesika Lodge, home of the Trails Club of Oregon, was originally built in 1923 and is located on the club’s own property in the Columbia Gorge at approximately the 1800 foot elevation, just east of Multnomah Falls about one mile as the crow flies.
My father, Melvin Becker, joined the Trails Club about 1929 and instantly bonded to this place in the Columbia Gorge. When he and my mother, Martha, married in 1933, his wedding gift to my mother was her membership in the Trails Club, which she held for over 50 years (but more on that later). My mother had been introduced to the Trails Club by my father when they were courting and she also felt drawn to the location in the Gorge.
Even though the official name was “Nesika Lodge”, in those days in our household, the word “lodge” held a kind of connotation of a secretive society, so we mostly called it the “cabin” in the gorge, even though the building was a pretty large rustic log structure. On the 120 acres that the Trails Club owned at the time also stood two dormitories, one for men and one for women, as well as various outbuildings such as outhouses, tool sheds, power plant and woodshed.
My parents talked often of the cabin and went up there whenever they could. One of the many interesting facets at Nesika is the register book, which has been in existence since the first building was dedicated in 1923. Everyone who visits the lodge is urged to sign the book each time and many people keep track of the number of visits by numbering them. The cabin is accessible year round, but I say that with qualifications. Only in the late spring, summer, and early fall, can it be accessed by road and then not all the way in. The rest of the year, the trail up Multnomah Falls and through the Multnomah Basin is the access route; and then, if there is a lot of ice in the Columbia Gorge, even that may not be feasible. My father made many hikes to the cabin, often in the winter months, some in very treacherous conditions, taking hours longer than usual. Mom went along on the trips up there after the weather moderated, but when I first heard of the cabin, I was too small to go and was left at home with my Grandma. I heard my parents talk about their trips up there and early on formed a mental picture of what the place looked like. And oh, how I wanted to be a part of their good times up there.
You see, they talked of not only just hikes up there for the day with their lunches, but work parties–what’s a work party?– and big parties. And they had so many good times with their friends up there, I sure wanted to be in on all that. However, there were several criteria I would have to meet before I could make that first trip.
Since no one could drive right to the cabin, there was some hiking involved. My parents needed to know that I could hike the distance from where they parked their cars into the cabin property without any trouble. This hike was on a good established trail, but there were some definite ups and downs and often little animals of the forest liked to make big holes right in the middle of the trail, which would make quite an obstacle for a little girl. Of course, this was in the time much before kid-carrying backpacks were even thought of! Since it was a distance to hike, my parents thought it best that I be prepared to stay overnight on my first trip and that entailed being completely potty trained, so they didn’t need to fool with diapers (again, disposables were yet to be invented).
I so wanted to go along with my parents and not have to stay home with Grandma that I begged and cajoled my parents into taking me for long walks so I could show them that I could hike real good. I also worked real hard on the potty training part, but since I didn’t even walk until I was two years old and was pretty conversant at that time, that criteria was the least of my worries.
Finally, in August 1938, my parents decided to take me up for the Old Timers Chicken Dinner Party. I remember very little of the actual party, but I do remember how tired I was after hiking in from the car. Actually, it wasn’t our car, but my dad’s cousin Ed’s, because we didn’t own a car yet. And Ed’s wife, Freda, came along also. Little did I know at the time that Freda very seldom accompanied Ed up to the cabin, but she felt this was a special occasion since it was my first trip and maybe my mother, Martha, would need a little help with me.
Many times I have looked at the entry in the register book for my first trip, written, of course, by my mother with the big number “1″ by it. In looking back through the register, I never saw another entry for an Old Timers Chicken Dinner Party before or after that one. It must have been a memorable occasion.
We did stay overnight and I thought it was great to be sleeping in that big room in the women’s dorm with mom and all those other ladies that were having a good time with my folks.
I’m sure I fell asleep in the car on the way home, because I know I always did later on as I was growing up. I was glad to get home to tell Grandma all about the good time I had.
For more on the history of the new lodge, check out the Nesika Timeline