After that 'side trip' we began our descent down the mountain toward home. One final stop on the side of the mountain challenged our legs, our hearts and our lungs but it was worth the climb to see a spot that is beyond my imagination. Laurel Hill is named after the native rhododendron foliage that resembled laurel leaves. Laurel Hill was the horrific descent off the southern slope of Mount Hood. Oxen were usually able to anchor the wagons on most declines, but they could not withstand the strain of this hill. Wagons had to be lowered by ropes tied to large trees and lashed to trees and stumps to slow the descent. Some of the pioneers dismantled their wagons and sent them skidding down the chute like a sled. I can't imagine the fear this must have caused in the hearts of the travelers who had chosen this route through the mountains rather than the more treacherous route on the Columbia River where they would have to deal with many fierce and swift rapids before arriving in the valley beyond.
The pathway to see the chute begins with carefully laid steps up a steep incline to the trail above. Once at the top of the steps we walked along a section of the old, now-abandoned Columbia Loop Highway. Asphalt is still in place on part of this trail and, if you look closely, you can see a bit of the old yellow line peeking through.
Farther down the trail we came to the site of a chute where the wagons were lowered from far above our heads to the forest floor far below where we stood. You may be able to see the top of the chute where the sky shows through the trees. It is hard to capture the full impact in a picture. We opted out of the chance to hike to the top of the chute by way of another upward trail. Instead we found large flat rocks where we sat to rest and eat the snacks we had carried up the hill with us. Crackers, cheese, fruit and water taste much better on the side of a mountain while enjoying the fresh, open air! Returning to our car we were thankful for the wonderful highway with a gradual slope that helped us descend the mountain safely. One last look at the mountain brought the same response from each of us: "We had a good time - it was such a good day together!"