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Heritage Heroes
Michael Dryden
Encapsulated building.
Encapsulated building.
When the Gnarl Ridge wildfire recently swept over 3,000 acres of Mount Hood’s east slope in the Mt. Hood National Forest, it seriously threatened the historic 119-year-old Cloud Cap Inn. But thanks to the leadership of Michael Dryden, the fire swept past the inn, leaving it and other historic buildings in the Cloud Cap – Tilly Jane Recreation Area Historic District virtually unscathed.
For his leadership efforts, the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office has given Dryden a Heritage Steward Recognition Award.
“While coordinating fire protection measures for historic buildings is within his job description, Dryden’s extraordinary diligence in the case of the Gnarl Ridge fire went above and beyond the call of duty,” said Roger Roper, the state’s deputy historic preservation officer.
In between shifts as a fire-lookout, Dryden worked night and day coordinating with everybody from tree-fellers to air reconnaissance crews in their efforts to keep the fire away from the historic buildings.
Dryden and his team employed traditional fire protection measures, initially wrapping the most significant buildings in fire-retardant material. Later, air tankers bombarded the buildings with fire retardant as the outlook for saving the structures grew grimmer and grimmer. The fire reached within 60 feet of the irreplaceable Cloud Cap Lodge. Burning pine cones fell on the wood roof of the Tilly Jane Guard Station but did not ignite the building. Through the worst of the fire, Dryden, blocked from the buildings by flaming snags across the road, could only watch from his lookout as the fire raged through the historic district.
In the end, most of the buildings were spared, including Cloud Cap Inn. Dryden’s work is not done, however. He and his team are busy with careful cleanup efforts, knee-deep in ashy mud, hand-scrubbing pink retardant off the historic buildings and trying to control erosion caused by the loss of trees surrounding the property.
Dryden is an archaeologist for the Hood River Ranger District, but his responsibilities and expertise extends to the ranger district’s historic buildings as well. Of particular merit in his purview is the historic Cloud Cap Inn. Built in 1889, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The inn was included in the later Cloud Cap-Tilly Jane Recreation Area Historic District designation, along with the Tilly Jane Guard Station, several cabins, stable, sites, roads, and huts dating from between 1885 and the late 1930s.
The Heritage Stewardship Recognition Program was initiated by the Heritage Programs Division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to raise the profile of Oregonians who go the extra mile in protecting the state’s heritage. The State Historic Preservation Office is one of several agencies located within the Heritage Programs Division.


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