Yesterday, 04/11/16, I hiked Pilot Butte, a cinder cone butte (extinct volcano) in Central Oregon. This was my first time hiking “the Butte” since issues with my foot last Fall.
It felt like a great accomplishment since at times during my recovery, I struggled with just returning to regular walks around my neighborhood, much less being able to hike again.
My History with the “Butte”
Prior to my foot injury last fall, I regularly hiked Pilot Butte. In addition to hiking Pilot Butte, I had started going to short runs around my neighborhood. I felt in really great shape.
Central Oregon is a volcanic region (no active volcanos) and its geography is peppered with remnants of its volcanic origins, such as Pilot Butte.
Pilot Butte, according to Wikipedia, has an elevation of 4142 feet above sea level (rising 500 feet from Central Oregon which is 3500+ feet above sea level). From the top of Pilot Butte, the entire city of Bend, Oregon is visible, as are several of the major peaks of the Oregon Cascades Mountain range (Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mount Bachelor, etc).
When I moved from Seattle, WA to Central Oregon over 10 years ago, I had to adjust to the high altitude (Seattle is at sea level). Central Oregon’s climate is called the “high desert” and resembles areas of Colorado. In the late Spring, Summer, and early Fall it can be very dry and dusty. (Central Oregon averages about 12 inches of rainfall per year, the US average of rain is 37 inches according to Sperling’s Best Places).
When I lived in Seattle, I walked a lot and considered myself in fairly decent shape for long walks. I also went hiking and biking in Seattle. After moving to Central Oregon, I remember my first time to hike Pilot Butte – I was so thirsty (the very dry air) and was easily fatigued. I was not used to the altitude!
Persistence pays off and in time my body acclimated to the altitude and I got better at hiking Pilot Butte. Before my foot injury last fall, I could hike Pilot Butte without stopping for any breaks. The hike is only 1 mile up and 1 mile down but there is a gain of 500 feet of elevation, most of it fairly steeply uphill. Area athletes use Pilot Butte for training and there is even an annual competition of fast run up and down the Butte.
The views are amazing, you wind around a continually elevating 360 degree loop until you get to the summit.
My right foot was a disaster last Fall, and my left foot was beginning to have difficulty. After several medical appointments (including an urgent care appointment as I thought I had a stress fracture when I work up one morning and could not walk on my right foot), I was diagnosed with Plantar fasciitis and a Morton’s neuroma.
Suddenly I could no longer hike, go on runs, or even walk my dogs. I ended up in a walking boot on my right foot for a couple weeks. After getting orthotics, home physical therapy exercises and starting on slow short walks, eventually I was able to return to walking my dogs.
I was even able to go on a long fairly flat hike with a friend. However I was scared to return to Pilot Butte.
I woke up on Monday morning 04/11/16 (I have Mondays off from work) and decided just to do it.
I was going to return to hiking Pilot Butte, even if I was the slowest, saddest looking hiker going up the Butte. I had to start somewhere.
I am not sure if I was the slowest, but I was fairly slow, stopping as I needed for breaks. One guy on his second of third time looping past me (he was running the Butte), told me to “hang in there”.
I timed myself and it took 50 minutes, which is not bad as when I was in better shape, I could go the up and down hike in 35 – 40 minutes.
Postscript: Audiobook Inspiration
While hiking the Butte, I listened to the audiobook Become Who You Were Born to Be by Brian Souza. This book is filled with wonderful, inspiring stories of individuals who overcame unbelievable obstacles to achieve their dreams.
One of the stories the author shares in the audiobook, is that of the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his team’s survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas in the early 1990s. He and members of his team successfully hiked 32 miles over frozen mountainous terrain in 36 hours (if they stopped to rest they would die of hyperthermia) to make it to a whaling station to be rescued.
I figured I could hike a mile up and back down a “miniature mountain” on on a beautiful Spring day after listening to that story!
This audiobook was a very inspirational listen as I convinced myself to continue to the top of Pilot Butte!
“By endurance we conquer.” – Ernest Shackleton