pleasant hill cemetery (pleasant hill)
Let’s just come right out and call a spade a spade (it’s a cemetery thing): Pleasant Hill Cemetery is up there with the best of the rural Oregon cemeteries. Among the best of the best. Not as vainglorious as Echo, perhaps, nor as proudly maintained as Adams nor as exquisite as The Old Scotch Church, but when it comes to epitaphs, the folks at Pleasant Hill can’t stop talking.
Pleasant Hill’s ecumenicism owes as much to current history as it does to its territorial beginnings. Proximity to two things, Eugene and Ken Kesey, sealed its fate. You can be sure the hippies knew nothing of Elijah. They did know of Ken Kesey. And as you can imagine, Kesey worshipers live in a world of their own. And happily too, I might add. In any event, it’s impossible not to feel their sway here. This is counterculture’s last stand. From here, someday, they will go forth again and reconquer the world. In the meantime, they wait and die around Pleasant Hill. Surely they die elsewhere in the southern valley and I’ll get back to you on them, but a large contingent has evidently chosen this charming cultural geography lesson on the side of the road. Unlike the MacKenzie route which lines the way with moss bedecked trout fishing villages and weathered log cabins watching the river pour past, Highway 58 beyond the cemetery slices up the Cascades in broad, sweeping curves unimpeded by human habitation. Only Oakridge, further up the valley of the Willamette, slows traffic any, and that’s not much. The ride out Hwy. 58 is dead straight past the cemetery (small pun there) and is driven with insouciance by the natives, so beware!
The cemetery, a good five acres or more in size with numerous of individual plantings and homemade memorials, is also home to one of the more extensive collections of white brass monuments in the state, the only sort of monument guaranteed to stay crisp in the moist valley clime.
Pleasant Hill High is across the road and just slightly east of the cemetery, more or less centrally located in this long valley of the middle fork of the Willamette (why can’t we think up more names for our rivers than “middle fork,” etc.? where’s the Tom McCall River or the Chief Joseph?), which culminates in a series of upstream reservoirs. What the valley lacks in charm, it makes up for in convenience. Besides, it has this incredible cemetery. (Not to mention Odell Lake in the far beyond.)
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