A Brief History
In 1979, Dhammadasa David Branscomb was gifted by his family with five wooded, undeveloped acres in the woods of Castle Rock, WA. His initial intention was to build a small home and to live on this property. In those early days, he had no plan for this property to become a retreat center. However, he had discovered Buddhism during his military service on Guam during the Vietnam war, and had come home with an aspiration to practice the Dharma.
He put the skills he was developing as a builder to use by constructing a small house (which now forms the central core of the main building). He began to invite his circle of meditator friends from the nearby town of Longview out to his house to meet and meditate. Trying to accommodate meditation, sleeping, showering, cooking and eating in the main building was a bit of a challenge. As he was able to afford building materials and to find time outside of his work as a carpenter and builder, he began to construct additional buildings. During these early years, Misthaven was built to serve as the first dedicated meditation hall on the property. Alder Lodge also came into being to serve as the first sleeping building.
The year 1984 is considered to be the year of Cloud Mountain's birth as a retreat center. It was in that year that a small Zen group from Seattle heard about this little place in the woods that was suitable to hold retreats. They had been trying to hold their retreats in a Seattle neighborhood with limited success, and welcomed the opportunity to move their practice out to a simple facility into the woods.
From 1984 until 1989, Dhammadasa and his wife at that time opened up Cloud Mountain to more and more groups, hosting Zen, Tibetan and Theravadin retreats by many different teachers. They provided all the logistical and practical support needed to run retreats and participated in most of the retreats that were offered.
In 1989, Cloud Mountain's existence as a full-time retreat center was clear. A year-long Tibetan samata retreat was organized and offered by Cloud Mountain in conjunction with Alan Wallace. This retreat was led by a respected Tibetan lama, Genlam Rimpa, who came over from Dharmasala. Many of what are now the major buildings at Cloud Mountain were constructed to accommodate this retreat, including Diamond Hall, the Teacher's Cottage, the Founder's Cottage and the Showerhouse. Full-time staff members were brought on to help provide the support needed to sustain the needs of the retreat.
Several different non-profit organizations were formed over the years to operate Cloud Mountain and organize retreats: Dharma Friendship Foundation, Northwest Dharma Association and Friends of Cloud Mountain (FOCM). FOCM was formed in 1997 with the sole purpose of running Cloud Mountain, and continues to be the retreat center's administrative non-profit.
Cloud Mountain's development as a Dharma center has been very organic. Its unfolding has been grounded in being responsive to the needs of the Northwest community of meditators. It is the hope of those who guide its operations that this kind of organic unfolding continues on into the future to benefit generations to come.