Climb the buttes that beckon you

Approx. read time: 3:10 min.

Steps near the peak of Spencer Butte

I start my hike up the Martin Street trailhead to the Ridgeline Trail in the south end of town. Immediately I notice how lush the forest has grown since I last was here.

Maples are out, filtering morning sunlight to a pale golden green. Himalayan blackberries, along with other forest vines, are coming back with vigor. The fresh morning air is alive with birdsong.

And I notice a long-held resistance within me start to give way.

It won’t hurt to try the northside trail to the top of Spencer Butte, a voice says.

The last time I climbed to the 2,000-foot peak of Mother Butte was in 2014. And I promised myself then, with each tortuous return step, that I will never ever climb this butte again.

Even thinking about a return trek was not allowed. That door was firmly shut.

But today, I notice that things are different.

Go ahead, I hear the inner voice nudge. At least go part way. You can turn back whenever you want.

I take this nudge as an invitation to just go beyond myself. Give it a try! It’s an invitation I cannot ignore.

About an hour into my Ridgeline hike I arrive at the butte’s north trailhead. I turn left at the marker, take one step upward and then another, and let the trail lead the way.

It’s all invitation! Isn’t this what I tell others? Go beyond yourself! Isn’t this what I say?

The intimate serenity of this less traveled trail enfolds me. The mature firs, the understory, the narrow trail itself, gnarled with tree roots, all speak the distinctive identity of this place. I feel a deep spiritual connection. 

Walking this trail on this sunny May morning feels sacred to me, an act of worship of the Creator of it all.

Each step, I notice, becomes a new invitation, a fresh beckoning.

This is remarkably beautiful, I say in hushed astonishment. 

The resistance I held within me for years now seems small, pitiful.

The birds, the wind riffling through the fir canopy, the shimmering sunlight, all agree.

Midway I pass a park bench nestled tight against the upward slope, and make a mental note: a perfect place for lunch on my way down.

On my way down? 

I’ve just made a solemn pledge, I notice, to press onward to the peak. My step feels light.

Now, at probably 1,600 feet, I enter what looks like a long upward-winding Avenue of the Giants—massive-girthed Doug firs with high swaying canopies.

I come now to an open level area where my north trail joins the more popular trail from the west trailhead. The marker points an arrow toward the peak.

Shall we go?

My feet respond to the invitation. I feel ready for the climb.

In 2015, the year after I swore that I would never ever again climb the butte, a stonecutter was brought in to design and install stone steps to guide the final steep ascent. It’s still not an easy climb, I’ve heard people say.

But I notice now that one footstep leads to another. I press forward, grateful for my hiking stick. Grateful to be outdoors, alive and free, on this day which is pure gift, all invitation.

When I reach the top I find a dozen young people enjoying what I am enjoying. I offer to take a group photo, and one of them hands me a phone.

Now they want to take my photo, and I hand my phone over to one of them. 

Click. Click. 

The hiker at the top of Spencer Butte, south end of town, Eugene, Oregon

And here I am, backgrounded by forested lands below and distant ridges beyond, standing where I swore I would never go again, yet unable to resist the invitation.

What I’m saying is: Notice the invitations. Climb the buttes that beckon you. Press beyond where you’ve been before. Watch your horizons expand.

Creation’s beauty is essential to the soul—especially in times of violence, grief, uncertainty, transition. You know, the times we’re in right now.

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