Adventures in Oregon: Smith Rock State Park
One of the places that has been on my bucket list from the time we first set foot in Oregon is Smith Rock State Park. Located in Central Oregon, the park is home to some amazing rock formations and is a popular destination for climbers. A climber I am most certainly not – I enjoy having my feet on the ground, thank you – but all the same, I’ve been itching to check one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon out.
We crossed over Crooked River and took a left down the River Trail. Looking up at the rocks, I would catch little pops of color moving along the face and then realize with a jolt that those were people.
See that guy in blue?
It never failed to impress me to catch a glimpse of a tiny dot moving far above me and realize that was a human being.
See that rugged ridgeline above?
There are some tiny dots at the top of it.
And those dots are people…. people who are far braver than I.
We followed the river around, taking in the impressive walls of rock stretching up, up, up.
We even had our first encounter with a rattlesnake. Multiple people coming from the opposite direction informed us that there was a rattlesnake ahead near a big rock and that people had tried to mark its location to warn others. I immediately shortened Sasha’s leash, pulling her close to me. I’m sure if she could have rolled her eyes, she would have. We approached said rock and saw that someone had written in the dirt of the path “Rattlesnake” and drawn an arrow to the rock. We stood stock still and scanned the area but guess what? No snake. Sasha and I tiptoed through and I just as I open my mouth to say ‘Guess the snake left’ I hear SsssSsssSsssSsss (that’s the best rattle I can make with letters). I jumped in the air and took off running down the path, pulling Sasha along with me. I looked back and sure enough, there was the rattlesnake – a good distance from that darned rock, mind you – and I swear it was laughing. Andrew tossed a few rocks in its general direction and it slithered away, probably to go tell its snake friends that it had succeeded in scaring someone good.
We continued on our way (always vigilant for other snakes looking to get a good scare out of me) and saw plenty more climbers scrambling up the walls of rock.
We turned onto the Mesa Verde Trail and began climbing up.
Our upward trek revealed new, incredible views. We caught our first glimpse of Jefferson, magnificent in its snowy splendor.
Up ahead, Monkey Face loomed with a few brave souls scaling its features.
Mesa Verde transitioned into Misery Ridge and yes, the trail earns its name at times. This is mostly because there is no shade in the afternoon (and it gets hot!) and the ascent is pretty steep.
Luckily the views are almost enough to distract you from the effort of the steep, dusty trail.
Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington each vie for attention.
When we did this hike, I was about 12 weeks pregnant and still in the throes of morning sickness (or in my case all day sickness). About two-thirds of the way up Misery Ridge, I knew that I needed to sit down for a few minutes or else the nausea was going to get the better of me and well…. that’s not a very nice present to leave on the trail. So, we sat down for about 5 minutes and let my stomach get under control and my body temperature cool down. Those five minutes made all the difference. We set off again, stopping on occasion to watch in awe as people climbed up the side of Monkey Face.
We reached the top and soaked up the lovely views.
Then we hung out in the cool shade of a ledge to have a snack and give the dogs some more water.
Sasha would be mortified if she knew I was posting a photo of her resting during a hike.
After our snack break, we continued on, climbing even higher above Monkey Face.
This is our version of climbing 🙂
We finally headed down the other side of the summit and found ourselves in sweet, sweet shade.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the shade.
Our hiking totaled out just under 4 miles but I tell you the effort up Misery Ridge made it feel longer. It was absolutely worth it. I hope at some point in the near future, we can camp here – I would love to see the sun rising over these beautiful rocks.
Some tips if you plan to go:
- Bring plenty of water! This place heats up fast and the last thing you want to be without is hydration.
- Keep a sharp eye for snakes … they ain’t afraid of you.
- Keep your four-legged companions leashed. Pets not under control on a leash can lead to a $110 fine!
- Don’t put your chocolate-drizzled energy bar in the top pocket of your backpack where it will be baked (and reduced to a melted mess) by the sun beating down on you. You’re probably smart enough not to do this but for those also suffering from pregnancy brain, there you go.