Mary’s Peak: Seasons in Natural Spaces
In August 2016, on the drive to go look at the house I would eventually buy and now live in, I drove west on Hwy 20, wondering if I’d be o.k. with adding on the additional miles to my daily commute. But at the top of the hill, before me was just layers of blue and green in the distance, showcasing Mary’s Peak and surrounding hills of the tallest peaks in the coastal range of the Mid-Willamette valley. I remember thinking, if my commute had views like this, it wouldn’t be so bad.
When I moved to Corvallis in August of 2014, I had my visitor’s guide letting me know of local hiking places and I set out to see as much as I could before I started my new job a week later. I drove to the top of Mary’s Peak with my dog, surprised by how long the miles seemed with the winding road to the top. That day, the valley below was foggy, but I was treated to some tall trees and wildflowers. Everything below me, Corvallis, the mountains in the Cascades, the friends I would meet, the rocks I would climb, were unknown to me then. But on the hike that day, it all felt like possibility. I had arrived in a place that already felt like home.
The next time I went to Mary’s Peak was February 14th later that year as a Valentine’s Day date with the guy I had been dating for several months. The day had been unseasonably warm, almost 70 degrees, and I hijacked our evening plans and suggested we drive up to Mary’s Peak with some picnic food to watch the sunset. The time on the windy road seemed short, as we shared more details about our lives. As we got to the top parking lot, we quickly realized the temperature is much different at 4,000 ft. and we just took a chilly walk to the summit instead. Despite the cold, we were treated to an amazing sunset with pink and purple clouds all around us. It felt a lot like love, not necessarily between me and the guy I was dating, but just from the world in all its’ sunset glory.
I didn’t get back to Mary’s Peak for a while, but this summer I hiked from Connor’s Camp the 3 miles to the summit on a crystal clear blue day. There were summer crowds, families having picnics and dogs, but I was enjoying being out in the woods along, hiking fast and finally could see the clear Mary’s Peak views of the mountains in the distance and the green valley below. It was warm and sunny and it felt like being alive.
I returned to Mary’s Peak this February, just a few weeks ago, this time hiking the North Trail with some friends, which is a 4.5 mile hike to the top. The switchbacks are mild and the tall trees make for a fun and quiet trail. We had some snow on some of the trail, and a snow covered peak on top. The entire world was just a quiet muted shade of white, around us and below us, as we went to the summit and back down to the comfort of the trees. The miles passed quickly as we chatted the entire way down before stopping at my house for soup and cornbread. It felt like friendship.
I can see a corner of Mary’s Peak outside my kitchen window every day. The more time I spend exploring the area, the more special it feels to me, like it’s watching over the city, watching over me, and reminding me of where I’ve been, all the places I have yet to go, and all the future seasons in natural spaces.