Thursday, July 28, 2011

Between a Rock and a Beautiful Place: Smith Rock State Park

"All sunshine makes the desert." - Arabian Proverb
This past weekend, the family and I packed up and headed to Central Oregon for a family wedding. The original plan had been to leave bright and early Saturday morning, but as always, our plans are subject to change--and our whims. After getting a late start Friday night, we opted to spend the night on Mount Hood, near Timothy Lake, and get an early start the next morning.
At daybreak we were awoken to the sound of crows (or mountain roosters, as I refer to them) cawing in the trees around us. We hit the road headed for the other side of the Cascades. About half way through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, the still snow-capped peaks started to become visible, and our ritual game of “What mountain is that?” began.
“No, that’s not Hood.”
“I think it is Jefferson….”
“Yeah, Hood is that way.” <pointing>
“You might be right….”
I have driven between the Portland area and Bend on numerous occasions though it is generally when I am in a hurry to get somewhere else like the Painted Hills or Crater Lake, so I have never taken much time to stop and smell the sagebrush, so to speak. Smith Rock State Park is one of those places I have wanted to explore.
Smith Rock and the Crooked River
Located between Madras and Bend, Smith Rock is a short detour from Highway 97. It is known as a rock climbing paradise. Based on the large number of climbers we saw readying their gear for the day at the campground, I don’t think that is an exaggeration. We proceeded to the day-use area at the end of the road and took in the views of the rock formations, Crooked River and Mount Jefferson (someone correct me if I am wrong) in the distance.
Mount Jefferson framed by a rock formation
The landscape here was a feast for my camera, drinking in the reds, browns and sage greens of the high desert as they stand against the bright blue of an Oregon sky.
My husband, Jon asked if I wanted to go hiking with the rattlesnakes and ticks, and this finally broke me out of the trance the beauty of the place had put me into.
(Depending on who you ask, I have either a very irrational or wise fear of ticks. Not sure where it came from, but I would probably prefer the snake to finding one of those little insects crawling on me.)
Within minutes, we were back on the road, headed to visit with relatives I haven’t seen in far too long and watch my cousin get married. Another Oregon “natural attraction” was checked off of my to-do list and thoughts of coming back to explore more were already entering my mind.
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