Making tracks on Mount Hood
For two dollars, anyone can ride the Mt. Hood Express bus service all the way to Timberline Lodge. As an added bonus along the way, you may just meet Alan McGuire-Nash.
He has driven for the express for three years, meeting several interesting people from a variety of places and getting to know the other drivers and transit employees. Most of Alan's jobs until now have been in customer service, and he enjoys the interaction.
"We are just one big happy family," he said. "I love the runs. It's two-and-a-half to three hours of beautiful scenery and different people."
The scenery, and available land on the mountain, is what really brought Alan and his husband, Dennis McGuire-Nash, to the area. The couple used to own a nursery in Seattle, but decided to move back closer to where they are from about three years ago and turned what was an old Christmas tree farm at 46870 S.E. Highway 26 into Hood View Gardens.
"We were trying to find the right property, and this property kept popping up," Alan explained.
When he's not driving, Alan works behind-the-scenes at Hood View Gardens. Dennis is the main face of the business, tending to the nursery plants and working with customers while Alan focuses his efforts on the bookkeeping and repairs.
Driving is just something Alan started to pay the bills, and has now come to truly enjoy.
"Money made from the nursery we use to make the business bigger or improve it," Alan noted.
He starts his days around 4:45 a.m., getting to the Sandy Transit Operations Center a little early to allow for a thorough pre-trip inspection of his bus before the first run at 5:15 a.m. Lucky for him, his commute is only about 10 minutes. During the early-morning inspection, Alan makes sure to check out the tire chains, which are much-needed tools when traversing up Mount Hood is involved.
Once the bus is prepped and ready to go, Alan will make three or four runs throughout the day, starting off by taking the diehard snow enthusiasts to an early start playing in the powder and ending by taking many of them back down the mountain.
During the winter, Alan shuttles more than 250 people a day. In the winter — and sometimes spring — those runs often require chaining up, something Mt. Hood Express drivers have to know how to do. Fortunately, Alan, a Washougal, Wash., native, is used to the snow. He said he has had very few close calls where the winter weather could have put him and his passengers in a dangerous situation.
"A year ago, when we had that bad ice storm, I had one of the night runs," he said. "I chained up before I even got to Brightwood."
Besides the out-of-towners, the Mt. Hood Express transports its fair share of locals, such as people who work up the mountain.
"You get to know a lot of the Timberline employees because you see them all the time," he said. "It's pretty nice. I like (this route)."