Flora Huber, Native Oregonian and Lifelong Mazama

by Rick Craycraft

The family roots of Flora Bertrand Huber in this area go back to before there was an Oregon. In 1809, just a few years after Lewis and Clark had explored the land, Flora’s great-great uncle, Etienne Lucier, moved north from California to a territory occupied by French and English settlers and the various First Nation tribes of the area.

This same man was present in 1843 at the Champoeg Meetings in the French Prairie area of the Willamette Valley. There a group of settlers voted to align themselves with the United States (instead of Canada) and formed a provisional government that a few years later would become the state of Oregon.

Two generations later Flora’s father was born in Portland to a family whose business was building sternwheelers to navigate the local waterways. On a trip to Washington state in 1930, he met his future wife and Flora’s mother-to-be on the Quinault reservation on the Olympic peninsula. She describes her father as French, Chinook and Cowlitz and her mother as English, French, Cree, Quinault, and Sioux. The couple returned to Portland and settled on the Willamette River, on the west bank across from what is now Swan Island. Flora was born there in 1935.
She grew up in a Portland far different than we know today. Bordered by the river in front and Forest Park out her back door, the natural world was Flora’s playground from an early age. She hiked the trails of the park, took the family rowboat out on the river to explore, hunted, dug clams, and picked “hundreds” of trilliums.

She entered Lincoln High School (according to her, the only high school on the west side of the Willamette at that time) in 1949 and came under the influence of iconic Mazama member Margaret Obertueffer, who was her English teacher. At that time Lincoln had a ski program and students would go to Mt. Hood en masse to enjoy the slopes. Flora was part of that group for the duration of her high school stay. Eventually though, she got to looking up at the upper reaches of Mt. Hood and wondered, “What would it be like to climb up to the top?” Already under the tutelage of “Miss Obie,” and now friends with the Obertueffer family, Flora had that question easily answered. On July 18, 1954, Flora joined a Mazama Acquaintance Climb (67 people!) led by Harold Scharback. Later she also attempted Mt. St. Helens (“when it had a top”) but was forced to turn back when her kapok sleeping bag proved to be inadequate for bivying.

Flora enrolled in the Portland State Extension Center (now Portland State) with an interest in chemistry and enjoyed strolling downtown to the Mazama clubrooms, then in the Pacific Building at 5th and Yamhill.

Her future husband was the best man at her sister’s wedding and they married in 1958. Thus began a long hiatus in Flora’s hiking and climbing career with the Mazamas. She and her husband had five sons and Flora introduced all of them to the outdoors and especially to skiing. She was a Cub Scout leader for 16 years and received an award from the state for her efforts. She drove both the school bus and the ski bus for a living for a while, introducing hundreds of young people to recreation on Mt. Hood.

Flora finally returned to climbing in 1992, making it up Mount Adams on a Ray Sheldon-led climb. From then on it has been gung-ho. Flora estimates that she has participated in at least 40 successful Mazama climbs and received her Guardian Peaks award in 1992. She became a hike leader in 1996 and is on the schedule several times a month to this day. One of the benefits of joining Flora on a hike is that she draws from a lifetime of experience in the woods and has extensive knowledge of the plants and trees of our bio-region.

In the Mazamas Flora has served on the Trail Trips committee, First Aid Committee and currently leads the Classics in their many activities. She is also a proud recipient of a 50-year membership pin.
But Flora does not just rest on her climbing and hiking laurels. She has volunteered at the information center at Multnomah Falls Lodge for twenty years, and knows more about ice hockey than any 83 year old woman you’ll ever meet, having had season tickets to various local teams since the 1960s.
And Flora is very proud of her Native American background. She is considered an Elder (“that just means you’re old” she says) in the Quinault tribe and travels to the reservation with regularity to attend events there.

Climber, hiker, skier, native Oregonian, mother, nurse, naturalist and adventurer, Flora Bertrand Huber has led a rich life in the Northwest.

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