Friday, December 27, 2019

Mount Pisgah


In essence, Mount Pisgah is an urban hike even though it's out in the rural McKenzie Valley farmlands surrounding the small towns of Pleasant Hill and Goshen. The combination of Pisgah's scenery with its proximity to the large city of Eugene predestines it to be in heavy use by the thundering hordes. However, if you go on a dark and dreary day, then you can actually enjoy some quiet moments here and there.

Lichen thrives on an oak twig

The route from the Main Trailhead to the Mount Pisgah summit is a smallish 3.5 mile round-trip hike which in part, explains Pisgah's popularity. But since it's a two hour drive from Roseburg, I needed to make it worth the long drive by figuring out a way to make the route longer. With the help of some online maps, I cobbled together a route involving Trail 17, Trail 7, Trail 3, Trail 4, Trail 1, Trail 6, Trail 56, Trail 3, Zig Zag Trail, Upper Plateau Trail, Jette Trail, Incense Cedar Trail, Quarry Road Trail, Pond Lily Trail, and finally the Tom McCall Riverbank Trail. There'll be a pop quiz in the morning, kids. Needless to say, a good map is essential to precisely navigate the dizzying array of trail junctions. 

Some of the Trail 7 ups and downs

The weather was wet and drizzly, but never quite morphed into out and out rain. Pisgah's summit was hidden in the low clouds so it stood to reason fog would be a large part of my hike, particularly as the route gained enough elevation to enter the mist blanketing the mountain summit. I grabbed Trail 17 not only because it's a prime number but mostly because it connected with Trail 7, also a prime number. The path charged up the hill and within several minutes of hiking, the views were already fantastic as the path overlooked the rural farms, wetlands, and woods situated between the Coast Fork Willamette River and the small town of Goshen.

Still life with leaf and water drop

As stated, the weather was wet and drizzly and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to take the perfect photograph of water drops hanging on twigs, branches, and tendrils of moss and lichen. After a short uphill walk on Trail 17, I grabbed Trail 7 which went both up and down at a rather rigorous rate. The slopes here consisted of dried grass with leafless oaks etched stark against the gray sky. The valley bottom, dotted with wetland ponds glistening in the dreary air, was spread out like the largest picnic blanket ever. I couldn't really stare at the scenery and walk at the same time, for the trail was muddy and slippery as it undulated up and down on the grassy slopes.

Moss rules the forest

Trail 7 dropped down to the North Trailhead and then began a charge uphill to both meet Trail 3 and to get out of the open slopes and into the forest. Trail 3 was a muddy track that met Trail 4, which commenced the forested portion of this hike. This part of Pisgah probably sees a lot of drizzle moisture, judging by the thick layer of moss covering all that does not move. I made sure to stay in constant motion, so as to avoid becoming just one more indistinct green lump on the forest floor.

Silent woods but for the drip, drip, drip

Here, the woods were mysterious and misty, the trees resembling ghostly spirits from the netherworld. Thick seines of branches strained water from the mist and the resultant drip, drip, drip was a constant accompaniment to what little sound I was making as I labored around the mountain. This was probably my favorite part of the hike. I probably made a little more noise when the trail rounded the mountain and began a pretty good climb up to Pisgah's summit, causing me to breathe more heavily and to mutter invective with ever increasing feeling and frequency.

The clouds begin to lift over Goshen

From the summit, one can allegedly see all the way to the Cascades but on a cloudy day with the summit socked in by fog, not so much. However, neatly coinciding with my arrival at Pisgah's summit apogee, the clouds began to lift and thin out, offering me something to look at besides gray mist. I hung around on the summit for a bit, totally entranced by the ethereal and evocative dance of clouds vainly attempting to retain their misty grip on the lands below the mountain. Little by little, the surrounding farmlands, pastures, and wetlands began to make an appearance. Since I'm old enough to remember tube TVs, the simile is that the landscape gradually swam into focus like a television set warming up.

Mud run on Trail 6

Trail 6 dives off the south side of Pisgah and when it's wet and muddy, it is eminently slippery and on more than one occasion hands and hiking poles were put to use in order to maintain me in my customary upright and erect position. From there, a reunion with Trail 3 took a longer route across the grassy slopes on Pisgah's west side. The trail was rough, rocky, and at times kind of sketchy, and it felt like home.

Trail 3 was rough and rugged, and I liked it

After a couple miles of Trail 3's rugged love, it was time to enter the Mount Pisgah Arboretum trail system. Most of the trails are short little loops or connecting trails that wander about the oaken woods of the aboretum. I grabbed the Upper Plateau Trail only because it had the words "upper" and "plateau" in it. Can't say it was as mountainous as the name suggested but it was a pleasant walk through some oak savannas and a grassy meadow. 

Weathered wood on a rustic water tower
The network of arboretum paths gradually dropped down to a series of swamps, ponds, and the Coast Fork Willamette River before closing the loop near some working farm buildings at the trailhead. By using the combination of trails cited earlier, this hike wound up being a respectable 7 miles long and was well worth the drive from Roseburg.

Scene from the winter of our content

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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