Smith Rock: The Hike
Smith Rock State Park is located in the small community of Terrebonne, in Oregon’s high desert. When you’re heading north on highway 97 from Bend, you can see the large, color washed crags to the east, jutting out of the rather bare landscape. Smith is a sport climbers mecca. With over 1,500 set routes, climbers cam spends hours, days, months, and years trying out new walls and routes along the rugged walls and crags. We had two days to explore, so we started out early for a full day of adventure.
What is so cool about Smith is that every side is completely different. The rock formations change, the rock itself changes, and the landscape goes from pine to sagebrush to rock and sand. There are variety of plants growing throughout, even in the driest and highest of elevations. It is neat to see the diverse ecological environments all within the massive space of the 641-acre park.
I had no idea how much agriculture and farmland surrounded the park. One doesn’t normally think of green grass and farm crops when their driving through desert sagebrush and ponderosa pine. But I guess if there’s a will there’s a way (as long as you have the money, that is.)
Monkey Face, the star child of Smith, is a well known climbing spot for some of the most difficult routes available to climbers. At 350 feet high, this formation is accessible on all sides. At the angle I got, the face looks more like a curious child turning to face you. From the other angle, it looks like this.
You might not be able to see it in my picture, but there are climbers hanging out in the “mouth” of the rock, on the left side of the formation. My knees were shaking just from looking at their blasé attitude on the massive rock. I stood still for a short while before turning to move and then it happened — I was unable to take even one step. People started walking past me down the trail, and while I watched them hike down at a nice pace, I realized that my brain had a fight or flight moment and turned my body off. It wouldn’t budge and my whole back was stiff. I was literally frozen to the earth. It was the strangest feeling, and something I don’t really want to experience again.
After a minute or so, I nudged my foot a little bit. It was really hard to do. I slowly shuffled my way down the switch back to the next level spot where a couple stood watching me. I told them that I was glad I could provide a few minutes of entertainment for them, and they just chuckled. I was so nervous. It took me quite some time to build up the determination to go further but it came slowly and I knew I needed to catch up to the guys. While slowly shuffling down my next descent I began wondering how far they had gone. My eyes stayed tied to the ground until I reached the next level spot, which was only fifteen or twenty feet ahead. When I finally looked up, the boys were standing there, waiting for me. They had been waiting the whole time. I don’t know if three minutes had gone by or if fifteen minutes had passed, but I was thankful to see them. As soon as I reached them at level ground I felt my legs relaxing a bit and I began to loosen up. Whew!
After a full day of climbing, we headed down the dusty rock to the main, very walkable, tourist path. My entire body relaxed once we reached the base. Maybe it was the green grass, maybe it was the sound of the Crooked river and it rushed alongside me, or maybe it was the fact that I could see steady ground as I looked all around my person. I was instantly happy and relaxed.
My second set of photos will be full of climbing pictures. For those who get weak at the knees as I did atop the crag, I’m warning you now. 🙂