ENDING TALK, BEGINNING ACTION


“When are you going to stop talking about the hike and actually do it?”  Dave, one of the hiking club’s officers, was ribbing me about a hike I was planning to do in Eugene.  We have two major mountains of sorts, Spencer Butte in South Eugene, which rises 1700 feet from the valley floor to about 2200 feet, and Mt. Pisgah to the east, rising 1000 feet to about 1500.  Most people in Eugene are either Pisgah lovers or Spencer Butte lovers.  I am firmly in the latter camp.  The Butte has better woods, more significant climbing, and better views of the Cascade and Coast Ranges.

The Butte also is part of the Ridgeline Trail System, which is about 6+ miles east to west, with three spur trails leading to city roads for easy access.  Pisgah has more trails but more difficult access.  I can take the bus to trails that lead to Spencer Butte and the Ridgeline system; I have to drive to Pisgah to hike its savannah-like trails.  Or do I?

Dave had recently led a hike from the Ridgeline into Suzanne Arlie Park, an area that has some power lines and buried natural gas lines, but also a 1920s ruin of a homestead, and a nice oak forest, too.  More importantly, during that hike, I saw Pisgah many times, and when we exited at Lane Community College (LCC), much closer to Pisgah, I got the germ of an idea. We usually hiked one mountain or the other.  Sometimes, the full Moon evening hike up Pisgah coincided with our conditioning hike up the Butte in the morning, so we hiked both, several hours apart.

I had something larger in mind: I wanted to hike both the same day without driving between them.  It’s part of a grander scheme I have of seeing the Eugene to the Pacific Crest Trail completed, so one can hike from Eugene to the PCT.  There is a sign in Eugene: “Waldo Lake, 94 miles,” but there is no trail between Eugene and Lowell, about 14 miles to the east.  Mt. Pisgah is far enough outside of Eugene to allow one to see to Lowell, and if one could walk in town to a trailhead to the Ridgeline, then to Pisgah, well, there might be hope for other trail segments.  Dave, who does a lot of trail maintenance in the Cascades, has an interest in this trail as well, and kept asking me when I was going to do both summits in one day in one hike.

I figured I would do it eventually, climbing Pisgah, descending, walking the busy country road back to a frontage road, crossing I-5, going through LCC, picking up the trail through Suzanne Arlie Park to the Ridgeline, and eventually finishing.

One night, lying awake at 2 am, the idea hit me.  I was leading two hikes on New Years’ Day, maybe a Club first.  I would lead the hike up Spencer Butte from the west side, split off from the group going back to the cars, and then hike the Ridgeline west, the opposite direction to what I had planned, to Mt. Pisgah, then lead the hike up it in the afternoon.  The more I thought about the idea, the better I liked it.  I figured the mileage between 16 and 17, the starting time was later than usual, which was good, and the full Moon’s rising that night was early, since it was New Years’ Day, and winter full Moons rise earlier. I thought I had enough time to walk from one to the other but not so much time so that I would wait long.  I had been through Suzanne Arlie Park only once, so I took my GPS, mostly to let me know where I was in relation to LCC.

Two days before, I led a difficult conditioning hike up the Butte, and the day prior, I was on my feet 3 hours leading a walk through the riverwalk’s 1:1 billion solar system model.  I had been standing and walking more than I had wanted, but I was still planning to go.  The night before, Steve, one of the newer members, wanted to know if he could join me.  I wanted to do the hike myself, but Steve was a solid hiker and it would be good to have a second person along.

At 8 am on New Years’ Day, I left my car at Pisgah, and a friend drove me to the other side of town to start the hike up the Butte in foggy conditions.  We summited at 10, joining 30 other Club members, and after 15 minutes in bright sunshine, Steve and I left the group, hiked down to the Ridgeline Trail, and arrived an hour later at the poorly marked trail into Suzanne Arlie Park.  We hiked downhill in deep fog, through the woods, breaking out in an oak savannah.  With a little effort, we found our way through the park, and after 3 miles, reached LCC.  I had some food and we then walked out of the college’s parking lot, across I-5, stopping at a Shell station.  It was cold, foggy, and windy.  Ahead of schedule, we spent about an hour there, off our feet, getting warm, then left and walked the road to the Pisgah trailhead.  After 13 miles of hiking, we were at the base of the second mountain, needing only to wait for the group hiking Pisgah to arrive.

After they did, we started up.  Climbing again after climbing, descending, walking, and sitting, is not easy, but Steve and I both felt remarkably good.  Pisgah is a steeper but shorter hike than the Butte, and we were at the fog line on top, where I could see across to Spencer Butte, over a line of thick clouds.

Right on cue, the full Moon rose near Middle Sister far to the east, then everything was obscured by fog.  Our group of 20 had enough, and we headed down to the cars.  We had done the hike between the mountains and up both.  It was 16.3 miles, had 3000’ vertical, not difficult, and showed that it was possible to cross Eugene mostly on trails, and safely well off a road.

I’m not sure how we’re going to get to Lowell and to do the other hikes necessary to connect to the PCT, but I’m going to start looking.

Spencer Butte from Mt. Pisgah

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