|First light on the rocks|
This year's was better than ever, chock-full of gorgeous scenery. Flipping to January, I gasped at a stunning shot of snow-covered Smith Rock State Park. The photo was so amazing, it got the wheels turning in my brain. In late January, I was traveling to Bend to visit my brother. Smith Rock was on the way. Perfect opportunity to capture that image for myself!
|Lovely golden reflections|
Of course with the dismal winter we'd been having, there was no chance of seeing any snow at Smith Rock (thus, no chance of recreating that calendar photo). But I love visiting Smith Rock State Park. There's no shortage of great photo subjects here. The seed had been planted, and lack of snow wasn't going to deter me.
|A river of gold|
My grand plan was to leave super-early Saturday morning, and arrive in time to catch the sunrise. On the last day of January, I rose at o-dark-thirty, and left my home in Portland 'burbs. The drive was fairly uneventful, until I hit thick fog on the back side of Mt. Hood. The cloud bank stayed with me through the rest of my trip. I was beginning to get worried. What if Smith Rock was cloaked in this? Did I get up early for nothing?
|Steep trail to canyon's bottom|
Luckily, about five miles from the park turnoff, the sky miraculously began to clear, revealing a fast-brightening sky. Although it appeared I'd miss the sunrise, at least Smith Rock's incredible scenery would now be visible.
|Fog rolling in|
Reaching the parking lot by 8 am, I had my choice of spots. Trudging to the canyon's rim, I looked over and saw the rising sun illuminating the tall rock columns a bright golden-orange. Perfect!
|The sky begins to fog up|
Smith Rock State Park is a scenic canyon comprised of multicolored rock spires rising from Central Oregon's high desert. The towering rock formations were created from volcanic eruptions. Volcanic ash erupting under extreme heat and pressure, welded together to form "tuff." This tuff created a layer over a half mile thick, which over time, became eroded into tall, columnar spires of rock. The Crooked River makes a lazy loop through the center of these formations, creating some dramatic landscapes.
Besides jaw-dropping scenery, Smith Rock State Park is also a rock climbing mecca. The tall, nearly-vertical rock spires create perfect climbing walls. The park provides many defined routes, including the famous "Monkey Face."
|View from near the canyon bottom|
At the rim overlook, I set up my tripod and got to work. Although sunlight hadn't yet reached the canyon bottom, first light on the rock formations was too lovely to miss. The orangeish color from these rocky walls reflected in the Crooked River below. Although still in shadow, the river's reflections made an interesting subject.
|River reflections from the bridge|
Slowly, I worked my way down the steep path to the canyon's bottom. Every bend and switchback provided yet another perspective on the grand scene before me. As the morning sun climbed higher in the sky, more of the canyon became illuminated.
On the footbridge across the Crooked River, I stopped to admire the tall wall of rock before me. It's brown and green colors reflected nicely in the river's still waters.
|River view from bridge|
And the view from the bridge's other side wasn't too shabby either. Small, foggy clouds were beginning to drift over the far canyon. A mother Canada goose and her babies floated in the river's calm waters.
|Perfect morning light along the river|
A wide well-used trail led visitors around the tallest rock spire, following the river bank. I meandered along this path, stopping frequently when something photo-worthy caught my eye. Looking behind me, I discovered an amazing scene. The light was so perfect, the colors so vibrant, the reflections drop-dead gorgeous. It was here I captured my best image of the day.
|Following the trail|
Continuing on the trail, it led me through the heart of Smith Rock's deep canyon. Walls of multicolored rock rose from all sides.
|Looking up at these enormous rock formations|
Although the views down the canyon bottom were great, looking upwards from the trail also gave some interesting perspectives.
|Lots of Canada Geese here|
Wildlife abounded. Birds flitted about the river bank, chirping happy songs. A huge flock of Canada geese had apparently taken up residence in the park. Their chorus of honks filled the canyon walls. I wasn't expecting to see so much animal activity in the dead of winter.
About an hour after my arrival, people began streaming into the park. Large groups of rock climbers were continuously marching down the trail, ropes dangling off their backpacks. A few groups of trail runners sped by, and I encountered a good number of people out walking their dogs, enjoying this sunny January day. I wasn't expecting this place to be so busy in the dead of winter!
|More rock climbers (can you spot them?)|
I had fun watching some of the rock climbers, perched high on the canyon's walls. Multiple trails branched off this main one, each leading to a designated climbing route.
I hung out along the riverbank, watching both climbers and geese.
Foggy clouds started drifting back around the tallest rock towers. But instead of detracting from the landscape, they actually made for some interesting shots. At least I thought so.
|Looking back down on the Crooked River|
After trekking around the trail for a good two hours, my foot, although nearly healed, began to protest a bit. Carrying a bunch of heavy photography equipment, and the fact that this was the first "real" hike since my October surgery probably overtaxed it a bit. Listening to my body, I began the steep climb back out of the canyon to my car.
Oh, was I out of shape! The trail, although steep, wasn't very long. I was winded before reaching the halfway point. Oh well, good excuse to stop and take a few parting shots of this classic view of Smith Rock. Now about 11 am, it was interesting to see the difference midday light made on these rock faces. No more vibrant golden hues.
|The canyon in midday light|
Although I've visited Smith Rock in the summer, (see a past blog post here) this was my first winter trip. I was impressed by how beautiful this place is, even when all the vegetation is brown. And I was surprised by the crowds of people who flock here in the off season (when I returned to my car, the parking lot was packed!)
A good break in my journey and a wonderful way to spend a sunny January morning. Although I didn't capture the coveted calendar image, I did come away with a bunch of great shots. And maybe I'll get lucky and visit after a snowstorm next winter (I've already written off this year...)
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World and Good Fences.