‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’

2013-02-17T21:15:00Z 2013-08-26T20:33:14Z ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’By Graham Kislingbury, Oregon Outdoors Albany Democrat Herald
February 17, 2013 9:15 pm  • 

A hike in the woods welcomes words of Martin Luther King Jr.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. ... And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

CORVALLIS — I began wondering if anyone would really show up for a hike on the gray, bone-chilling afternoon of Jan. 20. Wouldn’t it be a better day just to sit on the couch and watch the 49ers play the Falcons?

Those thoughts faded away when I pulled into a parking area of Peavy Arboretum. Two hikers were already there, gearing up for the 4-mile hike along the Section 36 Loop Trail and Powder House Trail.

Irene Schoppy introduced herself and her husband, Armand. Irene, the day’s hike leader, serves as the outings coordinator for Marys Peak Group, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club.

The chapter offers  a number of hikes every month for its members and the public.

The Jan. 20 hike marked the fourth Martin Luther King Jr. hike sponsored by the club. Hikers were invited to bring a quote or segment of a speech by the civil rights leader, whose 84th birthday was observed the next day.

I brought along the final paragraph of King’s “Mountaintop” speech, which he delivered in a Memphis church on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assasinated. I would read it on Peavy Peak midway through the hike.

In the parking lot, six more people showed up within minutes. Among them was Hilary White, who brought along several signs with quotes by King and one by John Muir. She displayed them for us at several  stops on the hike.

It was too cold to stand around, so we quickly started hiking into the winter wonderland. What looked like a dusting of snow on the firs and ferns was actually the frozen fog that blanketed much of the the mid-valley most of that week.

Looking at a map before I left home, I saw that highest point on our hike would be at an elevation of 550 feet, probably not high enough to get above the dense fog.

So we were all delighted when we saw the sun break through as we approached Peavy Peak.

“If you hit me and I hit you ... it just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. ... Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.”

From a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr.

Irene Schoppy read those words while seated on a tree stump in small clear-cut a little over halfway through our hike.

“It was so great we got up there to the sunshine,” said Schoppy, a yoga instructor and staff member at the OSU College of Forestry, which manages Peavy Arboretum and the McDonald-Dunn Forests. “It made it feel warmer.”

The Schoppys, who moved  to Corvallis from New Jersey in 2005, are avid hikers and backpackers.

In 2001, they hiked the entire 2,175-mile

Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. This summer, they plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Yosemite National Park to Lake Tahoe.

“We try to get out every Sunday for a hike and every summer for a long hike,” she said.

Each year, she looks forward to the Martin Luther King hike and brings a different excerpt to read each time.

“He’s one of my personal heroes who I look up to,” she said.

Schoppy encourages people who enjoy hiking to participate in any of the Marys Peak Chapter Sierra Club hikes. They’re listed on the group’s website — http://oregon.sierraclub.org/groups/marys_peak — and in the calendar on page 2 of Oregon Outdoors each month.

“Dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes that are broken in, bring water and a snack and check in with the hike leader

before the hike,” she said.

“Education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere. ... It is not enough to know truth, but we must love truth and sacrifice for it.”

From an essay Martin Luther King Jr. wrote when he was a student at Morehouse College.

Armand Schoppy read  the essay overlooking two familiar sites in Peavy Arboretum, the OSU Logging Sports Arena and Cronemiller Lake.

A few minutes later, we were back at the parking lot feeling invigorated and a lot warmer than when we started.

“That was a good hike,” said Pat Megowan, a Corvallis furniture maker, musician and soccer ref. “Having the readings added to it as well. Dr. King had a lot of things worth pondering.”

Megowan has hiked regularly since he was a kid, but only started going on the Marys Peak Group hikes in the past six months.

“It’s such a nice bunch of people that I’ve met going on hikes,” he said. “It’s people drawn together for something that’s inherently satisfying and enriching. It just attracts nice folks.”

Graham Kislingbury is the online editor for Mid-Valley Media. He can be reached at graham.kislingbury@lee.net or 541-812-6111

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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