Pilot Rockin’: Bike’n’Hike
September 20, 2010 by alexnberra
A sunny September Saturday morning called me to Pilot Rock, a beacon of rock I had not yet summited. It's the knob visible on the right third of the horizon. Sweet Melissa would get me to the trailhead, my hiking legs and climbing arms would do the rest...
I felt a little strange taking Sweet Melissa out for such a long stint on the paved road of Old Highway 99, though her springy front legs and big tires would prove invaluable on the three miles of rough car-eating gravel leading to the base of the trailhead.
The knob gets closer as I crest the Siskiyou Summit on Old Highway 99.
Like Captain Ahab keeping an eye to the horizon for the humped back of Moby Dick, the top of Pilot Rock tried to elude my two-wheeled harpoon boat...
Aargh! Thar she blows! Closer and bigger and as fierce as a large hunk of columnar basalt can be in the warm Southern Oregon glare.
Silky swath of single-track seducing my sweating brow to climb up, up, up.
Just how steep did it get? Well, if I had a slick little Garmin computer I could tell you exactly.
But I think my poor-man's Garmin (a.k.a. the amount of tilt to the fluid in the bottle) does the trick just as well and it doubles as a thirst quencher.
Behold. Be held. By the goal at hand.
Up to this point I needed only my legs to power me on my journey. However, it was time to recruit the help of my arms too. The route supposedly went up the dihedral gully, though the potential funnel of rock fall seemed unsafe to me, and I aptly named it the "Gully of Death", or G.O.D. if you will.
This is just one of the freshly fallen chunks of rock fall cast down from G.O.D. Notice its relative size to my shadow and layer of fresh silt on right hand side of chunk that is testament to its fresh falledness. And this is why I looked for a different path to the top.
In my attempt to avoid G.O.D. I skirted around the western chunk of the rock. Up a gentle slab and then to the right, and a small ramp leading me around the corner.
Where I promptly said my first big hello to Mother Shasta.
And realized the consequences of a mis-step on this pioneered path had just been upped a few notches.
I spent many days rock-climbing in high school and college, so I felt comfortable traversing along the exposed goat path.
But it was the first time I climbed in MTB shoes, They worked well to hike through some snow in the North Cascades this summer, but climbing on rock I would not recommend.
A little further I was looking up at this and thinking, "Well, if I had my climbing shoes and rope this would definitely work". Alas, my whale hunting gear this day included only lycra, clicky shoes, and a nice pair of shades. Which meant I was forced to retrace my steps and ascend via an intimate encounter with the G.O.D.
The sun was bright in my eyes as I tempted my fate with G.O.D.
Sacred geometry is abundant, wise and splendid in mother nature. If you haven't heard of sacred geometry do a Google search and check it out!
Mother Shasta, Volcano Blasta', Southern Oregon Masta', Life without Her would be a disasta. Looking south from the summit of Pilot Rock.
Looking northeast, easy to spot a bare Mt. McLoughlin, the more skilled eye will also spot Emigrant Lake.
Northwest view towards Mt. Ashland.
Sun-dried, local, organic, heirloom tomatoes! The return trip involved a tasty side trip to my friend Chuck's farm, Restoration Farm, and that deserves its own post.
After capturing the summit of my geologic Moby Dick I returned to the sea of Ashland to wash the dust of the day off in the cool clear water of the reservoir.
And finishing it all off with an amazing time with good friends, good food, laughter, smiles, numbers lucky and unlucky, and my first game of Catan that lasted until midnight. That's what I call a rockin' Saturday!