Today is Saturday. I worked from seven to four in a bustling summer box store. It’s flower-planting season, deck-building season, and need-a-new-grill season. A very wet spring in Eugene, Oregon has finally surrendered to June’s vertical sun and the people have come out to get their due. I helped one after another with a sincere smile, but glanced frequently at the searing white light that poured through the front vestibules like the pigmented waters of some shattered baptismal font; it flowed across the floor and lapped at our ankles.
It’s now around 5:00 and I’m wiping sweat from my forehead on top of Mt. Pisgah. The suspicions I had during work were correct; it was a beautiful day for an afternoon hike. It’s one of the clearest I’ve seen in Eugene with sharp views of Diamond Peak and the Sisters from farther down the ridge. And even at this hour, the sun is still high in the sky.
The photons come like yellow freight trains with a cargo of heat, of light, of life. They explode on my skin and illuminate wildflowers; charge into my eyes and down optic nerve tunnels. They power each piece of grass with potent frequencies so the length of each blade displays a hundred shades of green.
On the way up, I was startled by a deer on the trail. The encounter was quick. She paused, glanced briefly, then glided into the tall grass toward a stand of oaks with incredible grace and silence.
I rest near the summit’s bronze topographic sculpture and take in the 360-view to the sound of wind fluttering through the tail of a kite. Two boys steer it through a variety of maneuvers– dives and sweeps and corkscrews. They laugh and cheer each other on.
There’s a girl sitting on the rocks below me. She’s looking east at picturesque agricultural land with snow-capped Diamond Peak as a distant backdrop. She watches the kite and smiles, then closes her eyes and turns her face to the sun.
Mt. Pisgah is located within the Howard Budford Recreation Area, a jewel of open space easily accessible from both Eugene and Springfield. The park includes 2,300 close-to-town acres and more than seventeen miles of trails for hikers, trail runners and equestrians. Located between, and near the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River, the park is also home to Mt. Pisgah Arboretum riparian forests, dense fir forests, and endangered oak savannas and prairies.
But hands down, the best thing about Pisgah is its accessibility. Get off work at four, take a sweaty, lung-busting hike, and be smiling on the summit by five. Fly a kite. Write a poem. Get your cardio. Do homework in the shade of a majestic oak or soak up some much-needed photons. Regardless of what you do, one thing is certain: Like everyone else up here, you’ll be smiling.
Visit www.budfordpark.org for more information and directions.