Life on Misty Mountain Installment #4:
The towns on Mt. Hood are small and dispersed. On its western slope, where we have spent most of our time, there isn’t really a central “downtown” like you might see in Aspen or Tahoe or Mammoth or even Big Bear. The closest you can get is Government Camp (aka “Govy). Up at 4,200ft, it has a small strip of restaurants, bars and a few inns. But compared to most resorts, it wouldn’t be considered truly developed. Very few people actually live up there year-round (under 180!). It is populated mostly with seasonal workers and tourists.
Misty Mountain is 12-miles and 2,500ft below Govy, in a cluster of little unincorporated hamlets, each with a population of under 2,000 – Brightwood, Wemme, Wildwood, Welches, ZigZag and Rhododendron. Our mailing address is in Rhododendron (aka “Rhody), but we technically live in ZigZag. Why is this, you might ask (as we certainly did)?
Fun fact! Your mailing address has to include a town that has a physical post office in it. ZigZag doesn’t have one, so we get to claim Rhody officially. But if someone from the Mountain asks us where we live, we’d better say ZigZag to be considered a credible local.
ZigZag consists of a pizza parlor, a cafe, a Subway, and as of the beginning of 2021, a Dollar Tree (exciiiiiiting stuff, right here, kids!).
For one day this summer, however, ZigZag was THE place to be in all of Oregon. Apparently, Netflix was doing a marketing campaign for its series of stand-up comedy specials called “Netflix is a Joke.” As a part of this effort, they were finding the funniest named city/town in every state and offering free lunch to the residents there. Lo and behold, they chose ZigZag as their Oregon winner! (Here is the official article write-up.) Thus, on August 12, 2020, the tiny ZigZag Mountain Cafe was inundated with folks trying to score their comp’d meal, including Steve and I.
We headed down at 12:30p thinking we’d grab some chow for a quick picnic, but after we placed our order at the counter to the obviously beleaguered owner, he said, “OK. Come back in… let’s say, 3-hours, and it should be ready then.”
3 hours! This poor mountain establishment had certainly not been prepared for the onslaught of deal-seekers and the power of free food. They were understandably overwhelmed.
I showed back up at 3:30p to grab our now afternoon snack, but was told it would actually be ANOTHER 3-hours before it would be set for pick-up. So at 6:30p we made our final journey to the Cafe, and that is the story of how we got a free DINNER courtesy of Netflix in the middle of the woods.
(I sure do hope Netflix used its Pandemic windfall and compensated this local restaurant well. They certainly earned it. They usually close at 2pm, but that day they kept cooking well past to make this little publicity stunt possible.)
Despite this hullabaloo created by an obviously city-centered corporation, ZigZag and the neighboring villages enjoy their relative obscurity and quiet ways. Most people wouldn’t even know when they passed through or jumped from one town to another. As of now, there isn’t much new construction, and the limited shops and restaurants inhabit decades old buildings organized with no obvious rhyme or reason.
One could say this is how the area keeps its charm. But I think it’s how it keeps its peace. There is no conquering nature up here. And there is no point in trying to impose civilized order. It is too wild and windy and wet and unpredictable. The best you can do is dig out a small plot amongst the trees, hunker down, and pray your, always tenuous, relationship with electricity lasts long enough for you to finish your latest Netflix binge. It’s less a way of life, than just life’s way.