Pilot Rock - October 4, 2008
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

Last April, Ray and I hiked to Pilot Rock in snowshoes. We navigated by looking at the rock and surrounding peaks as any existant trail was well hidden underneath the snow. But curiosity remained as to what the trail actually looked like so when we had to change our destination from Cougar Butte due to hunting season opening, it seemed an opportune time to revisit Pilot Rock.

Because of the weather, I figured I might be hiking by myself as rain, lots of it, was in the forecast. But there was 10 of us beginning the hike under threatening gray clouds. 

The first portion of the Pacific Crest Trail meandered though woods and brown meadows, climbing gradually to a bench below a radio tower. It wasn't raining but our legs were wet as we knocked water off of the surrounding vegetation as we passed by. At a crest about 2 miles into the hike, we were rewarded with vistas of the valley containing Hilt (CA) and of Pilot Rock itself, still kind of far away. The vegetation was tres eastern Oregon with rabbitbrush in bloom and jumipers growing on the exposed slopes.

The PCT countoured around a slope to a dramatic view of Pilot Rock lording over a dry grassy hillside. Wild strawberry leaves were turning red in the grass, autumn is just about here. The trail then headed away from Pilot Rock for a little bit causing everyone to wait for me, disconcerted. But a left turn brought us to the Pilot Rock Trailhead. Actually you can drive a car here and hike less than a half mile to the rock, but where is the glory in that?

From the trailhead, the trail got icky steep and with lots of groaning, we ended up at the base of the rock where we all sat down to eat lunch. There was some talk of maybe climbing up to the rock or maybe going up a little bit further "just to see". But Mother Nature took care of things in the guise of a bitterly cold howling wind with sleet and rain. The temperature felt like it dropped nearly 10 degrees within minutes and it really felt like it could snow. The conditions sent us all delving into our packs for our weather accessories and we hightailed it away from the rock.

Once off the rock, the weather was more stable although the rain and cold continued for a while. On the south slopes we were buffeted by wind and rain but once we entered the woods, it was just occasionally wet. At one point the clouds dissipated, the skies were blue, and the sun warmed our very souls. But only for a minute or two.

I figured the distance to be around 9.2 miles but the pedometer toting crowd said it was more like 9.7. Despite the (at times) harsh conditions, the hike was eminently enjoyable and worthy of a repeat visit.


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