Eugene, Or. After dropping off my beloved eldest daughter Zoe at her Mom’s house, my friend Kevin and I headed for one of my favorite hikes – Spencers Butte, a two-thousand foot hill that feels more like a real mountain, especially when scrambled by its much shorter, albeit much steeper west side. Having lived in Eugene for 9 years, including for a time in a converted school bus at the eastern toe of the butte, I have hiked, scrambled, snow-plodded and climbed this wonderful little peak literally hundreds of times. I used to carry Zoe up to the top in a baby-pack at least two or three times each week. Sometimes before work I would make a quick run to the top, call everyone at Sweet Life, and then drive to work. I have had a long-standing love affair with this place, and, to be quite honest, it is the thing I miss most about living in Eugene, having the park so incredibly close. I may have vastly more outdoor opportunities here, but there is nothing like the Butte and its easy access. Since Kevin hadn’t had a chance to go yet, I was eager to introduce him.
When we arrived in the parking lot at around 10:30, there were only two other cars besides ours. Dense fog gave the trees a stately, solemn appearance. Moisture clung to everything, fat drops shaking loose from the trees with every gentle gust. We started out up the west side trail, filming a short bit at the start. A few hundred yards down the trail I set up the video-camera on a tripod and patiently waited for several groups to pass. In the video, you will hear their voices in almost every scene. We would film, then start walking, catch up to the group, wait for a bit, film, start hiking, catch them again, etc.
You certainly don’t get a wilderness feel on Spencers Butte, but considering that it is about a mile from the city limits of a 125,000 town, it is still, at times, a quiet, serene place. Of course, on a busy summer’s weekend, you could literally end up sharing the summit with hundreds of people.Nevertheless, it is a beautiful place, crowded or not.
Kevin and I reached the start of the rocky sections, filmed a stretch, then ended up overtaking the group ahead of us. As we rose a liitle higher into the clouds, we were treated to a beautiful display of mist and light. It was spectacular.
We used the tripod for the first time on this trip, and I have to say it looks much better that way. I would walk ahead fifty or so yards, set up the shot, start filming, walk back and do the hike over again. It may be more time-consuming doing it that way, but it looks much more professional. Too bad I didn’t realize how filthy my lens was, I ended up having to cut a lot of otherwise great-looking scenes. Lessons to learn.
In no time at all, Kevin and I reached the west -side crags that line that side of the mountain like some toppled ancient fortification. Some of the rocks are fairly vertical, and covered in moss, and we came upon a woman who had taken a wrong turn, so Kevin stopped to offer her hand, which she accepted gratefully. Her hiking companion, in the meantime, had pretty much taken off with his dog. I don’t know if he didn’t see her in trouble or didn’t care, but it was nice to see my friend being a true gentleman in that situation.
After we got her back down on the right path, we began scrambling up through a break in the rocks that reduces the scrambling to easy class 2 stuff, but its better than a trail, so we joyfully romped up the rocky path, and soon we saw that we were now above the clouds, giving that wonderful, sea of clouds effect. We took pictures and shot film, and in just a minute, we were on the summit ride, where a small crowd of hikers were enjoying the beautiful day. While down in the city below it was cloudy and cold, up here it was warm and sunny.
With only the final fifteen foot high summit block, we scrambled up a slightly more challenging variation, and ended up on the true summit at the same time as one member of the group we had passed. We spent perhaps fifteen minutes on the top, enjoying the weather and the superlative views. I called my partner, Brook, letting her know where we were and when we would be home. Then it was time to descend, and I headed down alone to film a long shot of Kevin walking down the craggy spine of the ridge that leads south from the summit.
We descended the so-called standard route, and I filmed a little bit more as we hiked out. Then we reached the parking lot, where the three cars we had left had become a parking lot with 20-25 cars. Quiet Spencers Butte is not, but worth every ounce of effort and every moment of time spent upon it. Go there, and see for yourself.