Sunshine at Smith Rock
What do you do when the Central Oregon weather forecast calls for 60 degrees in February? Well, just about anything, actually, as long as it’s outside. But for a sunshine-and-hiking junkie who just happens to have the day off like me, you head straight for Smith Rock.
That’s what my husband and I did two weeks ago, when on a Wednesday the skies split wide open and the sun shone down with promise. Smith Rock is known primarily for rock climbing—internationally, in fact—but it’s just as gorgeously perfect of a destination for those of us who prefer to keep our feet on the ground.
We set out at a fast clip for the Burma Road, which climbs to the top of the eastern end of the impressive tuff formation. Smith is a spiritual place to some, and it isn’t hard to see why once you get up close to the rock. The steep walls pierce the sky and vary from blonde to orange to red to blue depending on the angle and light. There is something magical about the trees, too—Ponderosa pine both amazingly thick-trunked and thick-branched anchor the trail around the base.
We were warm enough to shed a few clothing layers by the time we reached the summit, which boasts incredible views of the Cascade Range. For a moment during the descent, the trail looks as if it’s going to fly right off of the top of the world, require you to literally take a leap of faith. But then it continues, steep but reliable and, soon, arrives back at the bottom. We found ourselves on an easy trail along the river, looking up again, this time at Monkey Face—such a crazy, tall, top-heavy shape of stone as to seem unreal.
Even more unreal are the climbers—at least to me. All along the hike back around the base, we watched them scale the walls fearlessly. I admired their grace and wished not one iota to try it myself. Then it was back up the steep hill out of the canyon to a picnic table for lunch with a killer view, our reward for our two-and-a-half hour, six-mile hike. As we settled at a picnic table we were shocked to feel an ice-cold wind pick up and see a tall and downright scary-looking fog bank rolling its way over the rock spires, looking for all the world like it was determined to engulf the whole area in its bitter embrace. We’d timed our hike just right. Just another reminder to seize the sun while it shines.
Nationally-published writer Kim Cooper Findling grew up on the Oregon Coast and has lived in Central Oregon for nearly fifteen years. She loves to explore every corner of her home state, usually with her husband and two daughters in tow. Her work has appeared in many publications over the last decade, including Travel Oregon, Horizon Air, Oregon Quarterly, Sky West, The Best Places to Kiss NW and High Desert Journal. Kim’s first book, Chance of Sun: A Perfectly Imperfect Oregon Upbringing, will be released this year. See www.kimcooperfindling.com.
about author Kim Cooper Findling
Kim Cooper Findling grew up on the Oregon Coast and became a Central Oregon girl in the mid-90s, taking in the sunny skies and never looking back (except a few wistful glances at the ocean). She is the editor of “Cascade Journal” and the author of “Day Trips From Portland: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler” and “Chance of Sun: An Oregon Memoir.” Catch her around the state sampling microbrews, hiking river trails, revisiting the ocean, taking silly pictures with her iPhone and hanging out with her family.
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