Smith Rock

We played hooky from life at the end of last week, transforming a few weekdays into a weekend. It felt strange to be driving to Bend on Wednesday afternoon instead of a Friday, but I'm willing to switch things up when my college roommate and her husband are in Oregon for two weeks, from England. It's not a once-in-a-lifetime visit, I know, but this trip was a few years in the making, and Oregon really came through for them. After they hung out in Portland for 3 and a half days, they drove the entire Oregon Coast, even making it into Northern California, before swinging towards Ashland, Crater Lake, and eventually Bend, where we rented a house and enjoyed the outdoors.

In addition to hanging out in one of the beautiful Cascade Lakes and visiting a few breweries, the main thing we wanted to do was hike around Smith Rock. The rocks are composed of basalt overlaying ash and tuff, cut through magnificently by Crooked River. At the top of your climb, on a clear day, like we had, you have panoramic views of all of the Sisters Mountain ranges, Broken Top, Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Bachelor, Washington, and even Mount Hood.

Smith Rock in mid September was glowing with midday sun. It was hot, sure, but certainly not as steamy as it would have been just a month earlier. The hike took us hours because we couldn't help to stop, stare, and take in the 360 degree views (oh yeah, and I couldn't stop taking photos). The main hike around the park is very gradual, lulling you into complacency before a quad-busting climb (aptly named Misery Ridge) that brings you face to face with Monkey Face, a huge rock formation popular with climbers (look closely and you'll see a tiny climber hanging off). We spied climbers all over Smith Rock as well as slack-liners teetering high above, falling and then righting themselves.