Sunday Church

Linda Burton posting from Salem, Oregon – It’s just an old cinder cone, sprouting some juniper, and sage. But when you’re on the top of it, you get a 360-degree view of the world. The city of Bend lies below; look down at little house-boxes tucked between the trees; look across the high desert to the Cascades; snow-covered, glacier-frosted volcanic peaks that take your breath away. You simply have to stare. Pilot Butte was my first priority of Sunday morning business, but I wasn’t the first to arrive. Dick and Dee were already there. Karen too. So were moms and dads and kids and dogs and turtles. Well, one turtle, anyway. Water bottles, hiking boots, people dressed for Sunday morning joy, what better place to be? I looked around and deemed it “Sunday Church.” People had a happy look, pleased with themselves, pleased with the day. The “something” here is more than just a panoramic view.

Accomplishment, perhaps? Most everyone had walked up to the top; not me, I drove, straddling the center line on the narrow road; a wuss, afraid to venture near the edge. But standing firmly planted on the top, I was glad I braved it through. Pilot Butte is an extinct volcano, rising nearly 500 feet above the plain. Where else could I do this? I thought. How many cities have an extinct volcano right in town? And this place is more popular than Sunday morning pancakes. According to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department notes, almost a million autos went up (and down) over a two-year period. How many walked? Uncountable!

This 100-acre site was acquired by the city of Bend in 1927; Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint, nicely bricked, nearly covers the top of the butte. Take your water; there are no services at the top. And take your camera; the views of the Cascade Mountain Range are spectacular. Three Sisters are showing off today, sensational; just a little more than twenty miles away. According to the bronzed marker in the center of the viewing area, which gives the distance and the names of all the peaks, you can see Three Fingered Jack (7,844), Broken Top (9,175), Mt Bachelor (9,068), Mt Jefferson (10,497), Mt Washington (7,794), and Mt Hood (11,243), a feast of mountains, right before your eyes. Drink it in, it’s Sunday Church.

Elevation at Pilot Butte is 4,142. Those stunning Three Sisters were once named Faith, Hope and Charity; the names didn’t really stick, but seem appropriate today. North Sister (10,085), aka Faith, is the oldest of the three, and the most dangerous climb, due to its level of erosion. Middle Sister (10,047), aka Hope, last erupted about 50,000 years ago. It has lost its east side to glaciation; glaciers continue to cut into it. South Sister (10,358), aka Charity, is the youngest and tallest of the three.

I have to leave. Down the curving narrow road to the hotel; load the car, collect the cats, continue on, from Bend to Salem next. Not far to go in miles, but quite a change of scenery. Past the town called Sisters, past Black Butte and burnt-out forest all around Mt Washington. Up and over the pass between those snow-covered peaks to the west side of the mountains; the wet side of the mountains; the summer-pleasant northwest clime.

There’s Sweet Home, and then Lebanon; into the Willamette Valley where I see woolly-haired sheep grazing in the fields. There’s the Salem sign, I’m here, and looking forward to the stay. Church was good, today.