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Joe Miller’s blue eyes sparkle when he talks about Adolph Aschoff’s settlement of Marmot, established in 1883. Marmot was once a lively village with a hotel, store, post office and cabins to rent for travelers. The town was located along the historic Barlow Road mid-way between Sandy and Welches, along a high ridge known to the emigrants as “Devil’s Backbone.” The route, following native Indian trails, was the main road east to Mt. Hood until the late 1920s when highway 26 was built. Once traffic was diverted away from the ridge, Adolph’s famous traveler’s oasis declined. The post office was closed in 1930.

Joe Miller and his wife, Amy, bought their acreage from Adolph Aschoff in the 1940’s. By then, there was barely anything left of the town. Today, there are few who could locate it. Joe, though, at age 94, remembers.

“Adolph was quite a character and he liked exotic trees,” says Joe, pointing out some of the trees that Adolph planted along Marmot Road near his homestead. A huge beech, a couple of chestnut, some quince, and many Hawthorne trees are scattered among the native Douglas fir, western red cedar, maples, and alder. A cluster of daffodils hidden in the woods attests to a former cultivated site.

“That’s where the hotel was,” Joe explains. “Behind that beech.” He shows me where, across the road in a tangle of brush, blackberries, fern and moss, an old cabin and a few other buildings were located. Joe finds the old post office site and pulls out some photographs of deteriorating buildings that he snapped in the early 1950s.

“I wish Amy were here,” he says. “She’d really enjoy this.” Amy died twenty years ago, but Joe keeps her spirit with him, delighting in showing off what for more than half a century has been their domain.

“We moved here because we wanted to feel a sense of history,” he says. He tells me to climb up a roadside berm to locate wales left by thousands of wagon wheels, now hidden in the woods. I disappear and find the ridges and depressions still visible. “Can you feel it?” he yells. I can’t see him, but know those blue eyes are sparkling.

Joe Miller passed on in 2008. He is missed.

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