|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Beacon on the horizon

    Tips for exploring one of Southern Oregon's most recognizable landmarks — Pilot Rock
  • Pilot Rock offers a unique combination of a nearby hike and a strenuous workout that pushes almost, but not quite, into the realm of technical rock climbing.
    • email print
    • Pilot Rock geology lesson
      By Daniel Newberry
      for the Mail Tribune
      As you step from your vehicle at the Pilot Rock parking area, look at your feet. You'll notice two main rock types, both volcanic in origin.
      The li...
      » Read more
      X
      Pilot Rock geology lesson
      By Daniel Newberry

      for the Mail Tribune

      As you step from your vehicle at the Pilot Rock parking area, look at your feet. You'll notice two main rock types, both volcanic in origin.

      The light, white rocks are tuff, formed from the debris flowing down the sides of a former volcano. Look closely and you'll see black specks. These are fragments of wood, indicating that this was a hot debris flow that incinerated wood and brush in its path.

      The other rock type is basalt: dark red or brown and lighter on the inside. The darker coating is due to the oxidation of iron, a form of rust.

      The tuff is lighter, in part, because it lacks iron. Basalt is formed from flowing molten rock rather than from a debris flow.

      At the far end of the parking lot is the trailhead sign. Notice the nearby boulders the BLM has used to block vehicles from entering this old road to Pilot Rock. The boulder on the right has large black streaks embedded in it. Look closely and you'll see that these streaks are burnt, fossilized wood.

      Pilot Rock stands at the intersection of three important regions: the Cascades to the north, the Siskiyous to the south and west, and the Great Basin to the east. You'll find traces of all three in the trees along this trail, from Douglas fir to Ponderosa pine and incense cedar to juniper.
  • Pilot Rock offers a unique combination of a nearby hike and a strenuous workout that pushes almost, but not quite, into the realm of technical rock climbing.
    You will sweat. You will have to really focus to find trustworthy hand and foot holds. You will have to think it out as you ascend the steep part of this volcanic neck. You will be challenged to the edge but — if you are reasonably fit — not past the limits of your strength and ability to clamber upward on rock.
    Then, at the top of this 5,910-foot prominence (only an 800-foot gain in elevation), you will want to sit on the flat places, take in amazing views of Mount McLoughlin, Mount Ashland and Mount Shasta, eat your lunch — and talk with your friends about life and how small humanity feels up here.
    "We're a tiny speck on the landscape, and this rock feels huge," says Sophia Borgias, one of a group of four recent Ashland High School grads who clambered joyfully up to the top, took a lot of pictures, did headstands, told jokes and saw how fast they could run over the many uneven flat spots atop a bunch of columnar jointed basalt.
    Climb leader David Chambers, who works at the Outdoor Store in Ashland (and has climbed the nearly sheer south face), says, "It's a good place to test and push yourself. It's where a family can come — and if someone isn't comfortable going up the hard parts, they can stay below and enjoy the view."
    "When I see something like that lone pine growing out of solid rock, the only living thing up here, well, it's a pretty cool entity," says Torrey Johnson. "And this is a pretty cool spot. Being here is conducive to your well-being."
    "Just getting out in nature up here does it for me," Julian Sherr concurs.
    The climb will give you the feel of rock climbing, but without the need for technical knowledge or exposure to falls, says Chambers.
    "It's really accessible for people who don't do technical climbing," he says. "It gives people the thrill of pushing yourself to get to the top of something steeper than your casual hike."
    "It's not a walk in the park," Borgias adds. "It's a scramble. You get your heart rate way up and that makes it better to be up here on the top. You feel you accomplished something when you get up here — and it's about the most spectacular view you can get in the valley with this short a hike."
    The hike offers maximum enjoyment and fun with friends without having to worry about ropes and helmets, says Chambers, adding that the scramble up the iconic Rogue Valley landmark often leads people to start lessons at places like Rogue Rock Gym and start tackling some of the steeper rock climbs in the area.
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
Reader Reaction

      calendar